Residents of Aljunied GRC, my fellow Singaporeans, good evening! Salam Sejahtera! Da Jia wan shang hao! Vannakam!
It’s great to be here in Aljunied today, deep in the heartland of Singapore’s empowerment.
Please allow me to speak briefly in our national language, Malay, and then Chinese before speaking in English.
Today I want to talk about our economy.
Friends, we live in a First world economy but not every one of us lives in First world conditions.
It is a common saying that we Singaporeans feel rich when we go to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. But when we Singaporeans stay in Singapore do we all feel rich? I don’t think so.
My friends, walking about East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC, I have come across many, many stories of middle-income Singaporeans. Stories that leave me troubled. They may be professionals, managers and graduates but they are living with insecurity and anxiety over precarious living standards and ever harsher competition at work and at their kid’s schools.
One lady in her 30s approached me outside Bedok MRT a few days ago and told me that she had struggled for a year to find a job as there was too much competition in the job market for professionals, including those literally applying for the same job from overseas. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on her face. It was the look of someone who felt betrayed.
She is far from the only professional I have met who has celebrated their 1st anniversary of being unemployed.
More than one middle-income family told me that, with COEs and ERP, they simply could no longer afford a car. They had to sell their car and take public transport. So they were affected by the MRT breakdowns.
I know many of us here tonight are middle-income Singaporeans. Many of us get up early to drive our kids to school because we work some of the longest hours in the world and we know we may not get to see them at night. At work, we risk being retrenched in our 40s and 50s and then having to struggle to find a job. At night when we return home after a hard day’s work, we go back to a home where the average floor area has shrunk over the decades while the price has gone up. About one fifth of us have domestic helpers, who have to squeeze into the same shrinking space. And for the 80% or so with no helper, more work is waiting for us at night– housework as well as coaching our children in schoolwork. But at the end of this long day when we switch on the TV, we see endless news reports about our high GDP. Does this make you feel better?
The Workers’ Party plans to speak up about these issues. In our manifesto we have constructive solutions. We propose measures to reign in property prices including for 4-room and 5-room HDB BTO flats. We want to strengthen child-care and infant care. We want to increase child-care leave because we know that if your child falls sick at kindergarten or childcare center and you have no helper, you have to apply for urgent leave, and depending on your employer, that may put your job at risk one day. We have proposed unemployment insurance so that you do not need to feel sick with worry that you will get retrenched and have to draw down your savings like a ticking time bomb. Our unemployment insurance gives you 40% pay for up to 6 months.
I want to talk about our local business owners who have suffered from high rentals, from staff turnover and many other challenges.
I myself am an entrepreneur, heading an international consultancy. I understand these problems. I know what it means to fight to keep revenue over costs. I know first-hand that many problems remain for our local enterprises – like lack of funding and high and unpredictable rents.
We recommend measures like managing land sales so as to keep commercial rentals at not more than inflation. We suggest the government develop a dedicated capability to support micro-businesses. And we suggest lifting the cap on PIC grants for key platform technologies for specific industries, to allow firms to make that breakthrough investment to push their productivity up and assure their company’s future.
If you look at the PAP Cabinet, how many of them have ever been entrepreneurs and business owners? Hardly any. Most have been civil servants all their lives. When they make economic policy, is it grounded in the realities that local businesses face?
Friends, the Workers’ Party’s message to you on the economy is that we need more confident Singaporean citizens and local businesses.
Too many of us struggle to make ends meet from day to day. Too many of us worry about being retrenched, about not being able to retire.
All this wears down our spirit, drains our energy. Then we will have nothing left with which to dream, to create, to innovate, which is what a 1st world economy needs in the 21st century. We need to reach for the stars knowing that if we fall, the safety net will help us spring back up. The price of failure must not be so high.
The countries with the most dynamic economies and the greatest companies – like USA, Japan, Europe, Korea, all first world countries – mostly have the things that we are calling for, like unemployment insurance and EXIM (export-import) Banks for local enterprises.
We need an economy that serves us and a politics that serves us, not the other way around.
We need a strong, responsible Opposition to ensure that the government’s economic goals are your goals, not their goals.
Vote for the WP. Empower your future. Thank you.