Budget 2022 — speech by Faisal Manap

Sir, there are two parts to my speech. First, I will cover the topic of ‘Caring and Inclusive Society’ which I will deliver in English.  For the second part, I will speak on a couple of issues related to the Malay-Muslim community, in Malay.

Sir, a constant feature of almost every budget tabled in this chamber has been the efforts to build a caring and inclusive society. This year was no different.

With this in mind, I would like to use my speech to invite the government and every member of this house to reflect on the issues that are faced by certain segments of our fellow Singaporeans who may still feel marginalized. For those who belong to these segments, the phrase “caring and inclusive society” may provoke anger and disappointment rather than any joy or pride.

Sir, let’s start by identifying who these people are and what are the reasons for their discontent. They are the ones who face challenges in their respective lives due to certain existing government policies. I want to highlight the difficulties they face and make some suggestions that could alleviate the hardship these citizens face.

The issues that I am about to cover are not new – rather, they have been discussed before and have been raised repeatedly by many members from both sides of this house, including myself.

Sir, the first marginalized group I wish to highlight are our fellow countrymen who are low-income earners and are low-income motorcyclists who depend on motorcycles to support themselves and their families.

In November 2021, I put forth an adjournment motion on the ever-increasing issue of motorcycle COEs. I had proposed some suggestions which I felt could reduce the burden on motorcyclists and motorcycle owners. In responding to the motion, the transport ministry agreed on how the high COE prices burdened motorcycle owners, especially those belonging to low-income segments. The ministry said they would monitor the situation and would assess what were the best measures that could be taken to address the matter.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask the transport ministry whether it has any updates to share with the house relating to this matter, about four months after the adjournment motion. Sir, the COE prices for motorcycles have already crossed the ten-thousand-dollar mark. I would like to know whether the government considers this situation to be an appropriate one and what are the steps that have been or are being considered so that those who depend on the use of motorcycles to make a living do not face even deeper troubles as a result of this situation.

The second group of citizens are those whose spouse is not a Singapore citizen. The difficulty they face is, in obtaining a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) or Singapore Permanent Resident (Singapore PR) status. I believe that I do not need to elaborate at length as this matter has been raised repeatedly in this chamber. However, I want to emphasize the negative implications, stemming, from the situation whereby applications for Long Term Visit Pass and Permanent Residents are rejected many times. I personally know some of my residents who face such situations – the implication of which is separation. This is very sad because it is far from demonstrative of a caring and inclusive society that every budget claims to want to achieve. On this issue, WP has been specifically calling for foreign spouses to be given priority for citizenship naturalization if they apply after 5 years on the LTVP+, on condition that they have been married to their current Singaporean spouse for 3 years or more and they have at least one child together.   

Another stressful situation faced by individuals married to foreign spouses is the cost of schooling for the children of their spouses – that is, their step children. They have to pay high school fees because their stepchildren are Student Pass holders. For low-income earners, this is very heavy burden. Many such individuals are desperate and find themselves out of options and solutions for the financial problems arising from the high school fees. Many of these individuals have already sought to obtain Permanent Resident status in the hope that their children would not be subject to such high fees. However, many of those that have applied have been unsuccessful. As a concern for Singaporeans experiencing such a situation, I would like to ask the government to re -evaluate our immigration policy in order to provide relief in this situation.

Alternatively, I recommend that the ministry of education consider establishing a subsidy scheme for such students, especially for those from low-income families and where their stepfathers have legal guardianship status over them.

The next group who feels marginalized are divorcees, single mothers or fathers, and also unwed single parents. This is about finding a roof over their heads. This issue is an old issue. However, many still suffer from failing to find a place to live. Although there are reform measures taken by the government such as allowing single parents to buy subsidized flats without having to go through a debarment period and also allowing unwed single parents to purchase up to a 3-room flat in a non-mature estate from HDB, or a resale flat but I think more flexibility can be exercised to reduce the difficulties of this group. It is worrying that there are still many restrictions in our Public Housing policies for unwed single parents as they and their children do not meet the criteria of a family nucleus under existing rules. I and many other MPs have expressed our concerns on the matter and have been calling to abolish this unfavourable ruling and, at the same time, to extend the public housing benefits to all single parents regardless of their marital status. I hope this issue can be given due attention and will result in more positive changes to HDB’s existing housing policies.

There are two other concerns I have voiced in recent years, which I feel can have a positive impact in our effort in continuing to reinforce caring and inclusive values if they are addressed.

One is with respect to the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS). I have asked on several occasions in this chamber to have this scheme extended to students from low-income families who attend kindergartens run by non-profit organizations (non-profitable organizations) such as charities, VWOs and religious entities such as mosques and churches. This is because parents who wish to send their children to a kindergarten of their choice for certain reasons should not be sidelined or deprived of their opportunity to obtain financial assistance schemes. I don’t think this is in line with inclusive values.

Full-time madrasah students may also feel excluded from society in some ways. While the move to provide all full-time students at madrasahs with Edusave accounts is a welcome one, I note that the Edusave awards which are presented to students who have performed well or shown good improvement in the mainstream schools remains unavailable to the madrasah students. I would like to once again request that the Ministry of Education take additional inclusive measures by extending the Edusave award to full-time Madrasah students. Sir, the recognition of the Ministry of Education through the Edusave award should not be limited to school students under the administration of the ministry. Such awards should be extended to every Singaporean student to further strengthen efforts to inculcate inclusive values in our society, especially students.

Sir the last category of individuals which I wish to highlight are those whose nationality is classified as ‘Unknown’ or ‘Stateless’.  I have raised this matter in this house previously citing two individuals who had sought my assistance on their dilemma being ‘Stateless’. Both of them were born, bred in Singapore and have never left this country. As a result of their nationality status, one of them has to bear a heavier financial burden due ineligibility for medical fee subsidy and the other is unable to access the ComCare assistance. Having stayed in this country for the whole of their life and after giving their youth and energy to the building of this nation, they were repeatedly told of their unsuccessful applications and appeals for citizenship. Other members of this house have also separately filed questions relating to the plight of the stateless. According to the Minister for Home Affairs, as of end November 2020, there were 1109 stateless individuals in Singapore, of which 76% have obtained Permanent Resident status. That still leaves another 266 individuals. I also note that the Minister for Manpower had said in January 2021 that there were no regulations preventing the employment of stateless persons. However, I note that there are several steps that prospective employers of stateless persons need to take before employing them. Sir, I understand that the immigration authorities take this issue seriously and have to assess each application for Permanent Residency and Citizenship in detail before issuing their decision on whether to approve an application. I hope that the authorities will consider formulating a streamlined policy to resolve the status of the stateless in Singapore.

Sir, (MALAY)

I will now deliver the 2nd part of my speech in Malay.

Saya akan membawakan beberapa isu yang berkaitan dengan masyarakat Melayu-Islam dalam debat Belanjawan dan juga debat Jawatankuasa Perbekalan.

Dalam perbahasan hari ini, saya akan menyentuh dua perkara yang perlu dititik-beratkan dan diberi perhatian sewajarnya demi kesejahteraan kehidupan masyarakat Melayu-Islam Singapura, (i) soal pemilikan rumah dan (ii) soal pendidikan.

Setelah hampir 57 tahun merdeka, Singapura telah meraih pelbagai pencapaian yang membanggakan. Kecemerlangan yang kita kecapi ini adalah hasil kesedaran, kerja keras, yang dibasahi aliran keringat dan air mata, selain didorong semangat, tekad, iltizam, kesungguhan dan kesepaduan warga negara ini berbekalkan wawasan dan impian. Kita sebagai rakyat Singapura yang berbilang kaum menyedari hakikat, bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh. Hasilnya dapat kita lihat sekarang, di persada dunia, Singapura makin dikenali sebagai jenama yang unggul dan berprestasi.

Kita adalah sebuah negara yang jauh didepan dalam banyak bidang – baik dalam soal keutuhan ekonomi, pentadbiran awam, pendidikan bermutu, khidmat kesihatan cemerlang, anti-rasuah dan lain-lain lagi.

Tuan, seperti Anggota Dewan maklum, kejayaan cemerlang Singapura hari ini telah menjadikan warga kita lebih berpelajaran, berkemahiran dan berkeupayaan.

Bagaimanapun, masih ramai belum mampu mengakui mereka telah mandiri. Ini kerana kita berdepan dengan cabaran dan permasalahan yang sangat getir, dihayun gelombang ‘kemajuan’ atas nama ‘pembangunan’, ‘kejayaan’ dan ‘kesejahteraan’.

 Cakap ringkasnya, kita semua menghadapi tekanan kos sara hidup yang sangat tinggi. Lihat sahaja teras inflasi (core inflation) pada Januari lalu yang meningkat 2.4 peratus dari tahun-ke-tahun, mencapai paras tertinggi dalam masa sembilan tahun, yang didorong oleh inflasi lebih tinggi untuk makanan, elektrik dan gas, selain rentak penurunan lebih perlahan bagi kos runcit dan barangan lain, kata Penguasa Kewangan Singapura (MAS) dan Kementerian Perdagangan dan Perusahaan (MTI) dalam kenyataan bersama bertarikh 23 Februari lalu.

Di Dewan yang mulia ini, saya ingin menyatakan dengan terang dan jelas: Kenaikan harga barangan memberikan kesan buruk kepada kemampuan sara hidup rakyat.

Di dalam suasana kehidupan yang mencabar dan semakin menekan ini, masyarakat Melayu adalah golongan yang paling terjejas. Banci Penduduk jelas menunjukkan jumlah isi rumah Melayu yang tinggal di flat sewa satu dan dua bilik telah naik lebih seganda dalam tempoh 10 tahun, dari sekitar 9,100 pada 2010 kepada 18,600 pada 2020.

Ini, Tuan Speaker, bukan kemajuan tetapi kemunduran. Jika setiap flat sewa ini dihuni sekeluarga empat orang, bererti 74,400 orang Melayu sekarang hidup dalam keadaan sempit, tertekan dan terhambat. Ini membentuk hampir 15 peratus keseluruhan masyarakat Melayu Singapura.

Jadi soalan saya kepada pemerintah ialah:

  1. Apakah yang sedang dilakukan Pemerintah sekarang bagi membantu meningkatkan keupayaan orang-orang Melayu membeli flat sekaligus keluar dari flat sewa?
  • Berapakah jumlah orang Melayu yang tinggal di flat sewa HDB pada 2021?
  • Apakah pelan jangka pendek dan sederhana Pemerintah bagi mengurangkan jumlah orang Melayu dari tinggal di flat sewa satu dan dua bilik?
  • Apakah sasaran Pemerintah dalam mengurangkan jumlah orang Melayu tinggal di flat sewa pada 2030?


Melanjuti perbahasan saya ini, saya ingin mengetahui secara lebih jelas akan pelan dan perancangan Pemerintah dalam soal pendidikan anak-anak Melayu – terutamanya menyangkuti soal Bahasa Melayu. Saya berasa sangat prihatin bila melihat semakin ramai anak-anak Melayu kita lebih senang berbahasa Inggeris. Ini akan mengakibatkan penguasaan Bahasa Melayu sebagai Bahasa Ibunda akan terhakis. Memandang ke depan, paling tidak, sedekad lagi, rata-rata orang Melayu Singapura akan berasa canggung untuk berbual dalam Bahasa mereka sendiri.

Menurut perangkaan Banci Penduduk 2020, terdapat 38,668 anak Melayu lelaki dan perempuan berusia 0 hingga 4 tahun. Anak-anak pada usia ini berada di tahap genting dalam pembangunan tumbesaran mereka. Dengan keadaan golongan dewasa yang telah berumahtangga sibuk menyara keluarga, sebahagian besar anak-anak ini ditempatkan di taman jagaan kanak-kanak atau tajaka sebelum dimasukkan ke tadika.

Asuhan dan pengajaran Bahasa Melayu sama ada di rumah atau di tajaka adalah sama penting.  Namun, saya mendapati daripada jawapan Menteri Pembangunan Sosial dan Keluarga pada April 2021 bahawa 350 tajaka menyediakan pendidikan Bahasa Melayu mulai tahun ini, sedangkan di peringkat nasional terdapat lebih 1,800 prasekolah di sini. Ini bererti hanya 19 peratus sahaja prasekolah di sini menawarkan pengajaran Bahasa Melayu. Ini sangat jauh daripada mencukupi.

Saya akui pentingnya rakyat menguasai Bahasa Inggeris, dan dasar dwibahasa yang diterapkan Pemerintah harus dipastikan keseimbangan bagi kesemua Bahasa Ibunda, termasuk Bahasa Melayu, dan dalam hal ini, saya bimbang jika usaha bersungguh-sungguh tidak dilakukan, sebahagian besar daripada 38,668 anak-anak Melayu kita ini akan mengalami masalah memahirkan diri dengan Bahasa Melayu, apalagi fasih dengan Bahasa ibunda.

Apatah lagi, keputusan Peperiksaan Tamat Sekolah Rendah (PSLE) menunjukkan tanda sangat jelas di mana peratusan anak-anak Melayu yang meraih gred A* hingga C bagi Bahasa Melayu telah merosot. Peratusan terendah ialah 97.5 peratus pada 2020 dan trend penurunan ini –bermula sejak permulaan dekad alaf baru pada 2001. Masyarakat Melayu tidak boleh membiarkan kemerosotan terus berlaku. Ini adalah tanda awal yang jelas menunjukkan suatu langkah penting mesti dilakukan untuk menangani masalah ini daripada menjadi lebih buruk. Mungkin akan ada sesetengah yang bertanggapan bahawa penurunan adalah sangat kecil atau ‘negligible;

Jadi dalam hal ini, saya ingin mengajukan beberapa soalan kepada pemerintah berhubung isu pendidikan melibatkan anak-anak Melayu. Ini bagi membolehkan masyarakat mengetahui dengan lebih jelas kedudukan dan pendirian Pemerintah dalam memastikan anak-anak Melayu tidak terhindar dari peluang mempelajari Bahasa Melayu dari usia muda lagi. Bak pepatah, melentur buluh biar dari rebung.

Tuan, Saya ingin mengajukan soalan-soalan berikut kepada pemerintah.

  1. Apakah langkah pemerintah dalam menangani soal kekurangan prasekolah yang menawarkan pengajaran Bahasa Ibunda? Apakah Pemerintah akan menyediakan peruntukan lebih besar untuk menarik lebih ramai karyawan menyertai sektor perguruan prasekolah untuk mengajar Bahasa Melayu?
  • Apakah pelan dan perancangan Pemerintah dalam menambah jumlah prasekolah yang boleh menawarkan pembelajaran Bahasa Melayu bagi memenuhi keperluan majoriti 38,668 kanak-kanak berusia 0 hingga 4 tahun, yang ketika ini hanyalah 350 prasekolah sahaja dari keseluruhan sekitar 1,800 prasekolah yang ada?
  • Apakah langkah segera yang akan diambil Menteri Bertanggungjawab bagi Ehwal Masyarakat Islam dan Yayasan Mendaki bagi meningkatkan kemahiran berbahasa Melayu di kalangan murid sekolah rendah yang akan menduduki Peperiksaan PSLE. Umumnya kita mengetahui Kelas Tuisyen Mendaki tidak menawarkan bantuan tuisyen untuk Bahasa Melayu.
  • Apakah matlamat Agensi Pembangunan Awal Kanak-Kanak (ECDA) untuk tempoh terdekat dalam mengatasi kekurangan kelas pembelajaran Bahasa Melayu di prasekolah  menjelang 2030?

Tuan, apa yang saya bentangkan ini adalah sebahagian daripada beberapa isu utama yang perlu ditangani Pemerintah dengan jawapan yang terperinci. Masyarakat Melayu sering dimaklumkan tentang pencapaian dan kemajuan dan apabila meneliti perangkaan yang ada, kita melihat adanya kelemahan ketara dalam masa 10 tahun kebelakangan ini. Apa yang diketengahkan ini harus ditangani sekarang dengan lebih jitu dan bernas.

Pada masa yang sama, kami juga meminta pengertian dan kefahaman pemerintah untuk meneliti soal kehidupan masyarakat Melayu yang semakin ramai mendiami flat-flat sewa. Ini perlu ditangani dengan segera demi menarik masyarakat kami keluar dari lingkaran dan kepompong kemiskinan, dan permasalah sosial yang berkait dengannya. Terima kasih.