Singapore

Parties zoom in on bread-and-butter issues in political broadcast

This article is more than 12 months old

Jobs, housing, immigration, GST and CPF take centre stage

With a worst-ever recession looming for Singapore owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, housing, immigration, the goods and services tax, and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) were the focus of the seven parties in the first party political broadcast for the July 10 General Election yesterday.

In his 13-minute speech, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat called for voters to give the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) a clear mandate "to lead Singapore through the storms ahead".

Mr Heng, 59, said: "Our urgent priority over the next few years is to protect lives and save jobs. Through four Budgets, we have injected almost 100 billion dollars into this effort."

Aside from highlighting the struggles faced by Singaporeans, the six opposition parties called on voters to give them the mandate to provide checks and balances in how the country is governed, with Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock pointing out that the status quo, where the PAP "ownself check ownself", is not enough.

Former Ayer Rajah MP Tan, 80, noted that "for the past 20 years, the PAP has had a strong monopoly. However, prosperity has not flowed to all Singaporeans".

He pointed to unemployment among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) - said by the Ministry of Manpower to be 39,000 as of June last year - and their jobs being displaced by foreigners.

National Solidarity Party secretary-general Spencer Ng and Peoples Voice's Michael Fang also raised the issue of foreign labour, with the former saying that foreigners competing for jobs has "depressed our wages".

Mr Ng, 40, said: "We want a country which considers all Singaporeans first. We want a government that ensures our people have the priority for quality jobs."

Peoples Voice is calling for all S Passes to be frozen and employment passes to be reduced significantly, said Mr Fang, 43 , so that Singaporeans can have the best-paying jobs.

In his speech, Mr Heng said the PAP has delivered what it promised during the last election in 2015, adding: "We have begun transforming our economy to create good, fulfilling jobs for our people.

"We are also providing wage subsidies to help businesses keep Singaporeans in their jobs. And we are creating many new jobs - in both the public and private sectors - for both fresh graduates, as well as those who are seeking employment."

But Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, 57, said the PAP has not kept to its 2015 election promise to "lessen the burden of our cost of living".

He said that water prices, town council fees, healthcare costs, among others, have gone up, with the GST set to follow. He also pointed to the declining value of Housing Board flats.

Reform Party's Charles Yeo, 30, said it wants "substantial government spending" to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, 43, said his party will provide "a contrast of voices" and question the PAP when needed.

"By discussing governance, we help you to keep the Government accountable," he said.

"By raising bread-and-butter issues, we remind the Government of the things that it may forget or ignore."

Closing out the broadcast, Mr Heng said: "To work together effectively, we must all pull in the same direction. A strong and capable government will help us achieve this, even more so during a crisis."

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GENERAL ELECTION 2020