WP’s Pritam Singh reviews key debates in 2022, sends New Year’s wishes to Singaporeans
2022 in review
The year 2022 was the year that much of the world, including Singapore, started living with Covid-19. It was to be the return to the days before the pandemic, yet it was not meant to be. Supply chain disruptions that exacerbated when countries opened up were further stressed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the energy and food supply crises that ensued. The world was left with inflation not seen since the 1970s and the cost of living became severely impacted across the globe.
The Workers’ Party believes that the struggle for dignity is common to our humanity and thus the voices of the people must be heard. In 2022, we have strived to improve the lives of communities that we serve and of all Singaporeans by speaking up in Parliament on key issues of concern to them.
In Parliament, the WP MPs brought up the related issues of inflation, higher interest rates and rising cost of living arising from dearer public services such as utilities and public transport, and what may be done to mitigate its impact or stay ahead of the situation. We objected to the GST rate hike as being ill-timed against this inflationary backdrop and proposed other ways to generate government revenue such as a wealth tax and making corporate tax more progressive.
Our counter-inflationary proposals included strengthening the Singapore dollar in real terms to make our imports cheaper, selling long bonds to dampen speculative investment and keeping a lid on asset prices, spending to support — for a temporary period — those among us that are hurting the most and financing this by rebating any windfall tax gains, as well as a moratorium on further increases in fees and fares that the public has to pay to government and its agencies.
Another area we have voiced concern about is housing, where a crisis of sorts has emerged. We argued for more housing options, such as an expanded public and subsidised rental scheme for the wider population to support the diverse needs of Singaporeans and to lower the age singles may buy BTO flats to 28 from 35.
As HDB resale and BTO prices headed upwards well into the second half of 2022, WP MPs probed the reasons for the sky high resale flat prices and asked HDB to reveal the costs of developing new flats. Even when told that some of the data we asked for would not be “meaningful”, we pressed on. We did so because Singaporeans have a right to know more details behind one of the biggest financial outlays in their lifetime.
Jobs, retrenchment, re-employment and livelihood issues were also addressed by the WP in Parliament this year. We scrutinised the Minister for Manpower on the new schemes that were introduced to regulate and encourage the hiring of foreigners, including what benefits these schemes will bring for Singaporean employees. We proposed enhancements to the Employment Pass (EP) framework as well as issuing fixed-term EPs that cannot be renewed once they expire. This way employers will be better incentivised to hire and train Singaporeans to fill those positions before the EPs expire and there will be more knowledge and skills transferred to Singaporeans.
Initiatives for our community
While giving voice to Singaporeans’ concerns and aspirations in Parliament, we also sought to galvanise our community of residents and volunteers through various grassroots initiatives.
Our National Day Dinner 2022 held on 13 August 2022 was memorable as our first big dinner event since the General Election in 2020, organised for the residents of all the WP-held wards. We hosted nearly 1,400 people at the dinner, including representatives from churches, temples, mosques, family service centres and community organisations based in Aljunied, Hougang and Sengkang. On that night, all of us were bonded together by our love for our country and comradeship with one another.
In September, the Party’s Youth Wing and Policy Research Team jointly held the WP Youth Wing Policy Challenge 2022 for Singaporeans aged 40 and below to submit a one-page outline of their proposed speech in Parliament, consult MPs to fine-tune their proposals and then defend and debate them in a public session. Nicole Seah, President of the WP Youth Wing, said that this initiative was launched to provide our youths with a platform and to try their hand at parliamentary work. We were heartened by the response from many young Singaporeans, which augurs well for the future of our nation.
Another initiative that we supported to benefit our residents was the Handyman Subsidy Scheme which provides a modest subsidy for household repairs to help residents who live alone in WP wards. The scheme covers general handyman work in homes, beyond just electrical and plumbing repairs.
New Year wishes
As we welcome a new year, I wish to extend my gratitude to all our residents, volunteers, supporters, donors and Party members who have kept faith with us in 2022. Thank you for your belief, energy, time and ideas.
I hope you look forward to your journey with us in 2023. Wishing all good health, be safe and well. Happy New Year!
Secretary-General, The Workers’ Party
Leader of the Opposition
Member of Parliament, Aljunied GRC
31 December 2022