The Workers’ Party is pleased to note that the Prime Minister has addressed several areas of concern to Singaporeans, namely housing, education, jobs, healthcare costs and social safety nets.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that infrastructure programmes, especially in the areas of housing and public transport, could not keep up with the rate of increase of our population. With respect to housing, the decision to raise the household income ceiling from $8,000 to $10,000 will be a welcome change for many middle-income earners. However, we note that this will add to the current high demand and hence more Built-to-Order (BTO) flats will need to be built to ease the current supply crunch. Nevertheless, the affordability of flats continues to be a concern, and Workers’ Party remains of the view that the government needs to review the formula of pricing new flats and the recommended length of HDB housing loans.
In addition, the Prime Minister has also acknowledged that there are distressed families who have lost their homes for various reasons. The issue of homeless families is real and has severe ramifications, with possible cross-generational effects. The pending government review into those who are rendered homeless should look into some flexibility of criteria to qualify for rental flats and more than two concessionary loans.
As for education, the increased spaces for Singaporeans to pursue university education locally appears to be in line with earlier announcements by the Ministry of Education to increase the cohort participation rate entering university to 30%, up from the current 25% (approx). Regarding Special Education (SPED), the government’s announcement of more resources and places will partially alleviate the stress on parents of children with special needs. However, as pointed out in the Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011, more can be done to put such children and families on an even keel vis-à-vis other children, especially having fixed rather than means-tested fees, and better career development opportunities for SPED teachers.
Concerning jobs, the Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011 had pointed to the need to calibrate the inflows of foreigners at all levels and by industry, taking into account the suitability of Singaporeans for those industries, productivity targets and sustainability. To this end, the announcement that the government will review the eligibility criteria for Employment Passes is a step in the right direction, especially since a larger proportion of our local workforce is now tertiary-educated and will compete at these levels. At the same time, there is a need for the government to provide more support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to cope with the rise in manpower costs and rentals.
Finally, the government has rightly acknowledged the inadequacy of our current social safety nets, as some initiatives to strengthen it were unveiled. The Workers’ Party had in Parliament over the last few years called for extension of the Primary Care Partnership Scheme and highlighted the plight of families of the elderly sick facing high costs of medical care and drugs. The Workers’ Party welcomes the government’s attention to these matters. It remains to be seen how affordable such medical necessities become after the review.
In the wake of a landmark General Election, which has seen the Workers’ Party increase its Parliamentary representation, the Party will continue raise issues of concern to Singaporeans and hold the government to account for its promises and the performance of its programmes.
The Workers’ Party
16 Aug 2011
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Mr Gerald Giam
Chair, Media Team
Mr Pritam Singh
Vice-chair, Media Team