WP Secretary-General Pritam Singh reviews key events in 2023, sends New Year’s wishes to Singaporeans
2023 in review
The news cycle has been disquieting throughout 2023, both internationally and locally. The war in Ukraine has dragged on for close to two years now and the eruption of the conflict in the Middle East threatens to create far-reaching global implications if a political solution is not reached. Meanwhile, inflation and the cost of living are the daily reality of people across the globe as the world adjusts to post-Covid disruptions to supplies of goods, services and labour.
In Singapore, the rise in the GST and increases in the prices of public goods and services, including bus and MRT fares, water and electricity, have added to the impact of inflation on our residents, creating a cost of living crisis for many.
The Workers’ Party firmly believes that implementing robust checks and balances across all our institutions, including the highest echelons of government, is crucial to prevent potential issues and ensure accountability. To this end, we have used our platform in Parliament to engage the government on matters of public interest, scrutinising its actions and ensuring the government is answerable for its decisions.
Better Policy Outcomes for Singaporeans
The view that political checks and balances are good for Singapore does not seem to be shared by the current government. During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s address to PAP cadres at the party’s convention in November, he declared that “having more Opposition MPs does not necessarily make for a better government” as he saw the government and the opposition having to “expend more energies debating one another, manoeuvring for political advantage, rather than tackling national issues”.
The Secretary-General of the PAP also expressed confidence that the PAP would “sooner or later” succeed in winning back the Workers’ Party-held constituencies of Hougang, Aljunied and Sengkang. If he gets his wish, it may reverse the democratic progress Singapore has made and revert our Parliament to a single-party one.
The Workers’ Party firmly believes that a vibrant democracy thrives on the diversity of voices and ideas. Through constructive debates and diligent responsiveness to inquiries, this diversity can contribute to increased clarity and, ultimately, result in improved policy outcomes that benefit our people.
On our part, we have worked hard towards effecting policy change in 2023, raising two full motions in Parliament. The first on re-imagining sporting success in Singapore took place in July; and, in November, we debated the cost of living crisis and how we need to look at structural reforms to mitigate the pace of inflation.
Earlier in February, we debated the government robustly on housing and called on the government to intensify its efforts to meet the demand for affordable and accessible housing
In her adjournment motion in September, Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim urged the government to hold banks responsible for losses incurred by vulnerable customers, following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and to protect consumers from scam losses, including the introduction of more safeguards for bank accounts. She also urged the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to adopt regulatory guidelines to prevent banks from making settlements that were “onerous and one-sided”.
Our Impact in 2023
The government has started to look into some of our proposals made over the years.
Back in 2016, the Workers’ Party published a policy paper on Redundancy Insurance. We reiterated our call in our 2020 General Election Manifesto and during the Budget 2023 debate. We are glad to note that in his 2023 National Day Rally speech, PM Lee announced that the government will provide retrenched workers with temporary financial support so that they can focus on upgrading their skills for a better long-term job.
During Budget 2023, it was announced that paid paternity leave will be doubled to four weeks for new fathers from 1 January 2024. The issue of shared parental leave of 24 weeks in total was explicitly mentioned in the Workers’ Party’s 2020 Manifesto, where we advocated for a minimum of four weeks of leave for fathers. Sengkang GRC MPs Louis Chua and Associate Professor Jamus Lim had also repeated this call in May 2022 during the debate on the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development.
In November 2023, two years after Sengkang GRC MP Louis Chua identified the key problem in the housing market as the “severe shortage of HDB rental flats in its various forms today, and (that) supply (was) simply insufficient to meet current demands”, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee announced that “we need to maintain a healthy rental supply to cater to those who need to rent” and that MND will pilot long-stay serviced apartments at three sites in 2024. We believe this will bring some relief to young people seeking a place of their own to live in.
Come January 2024, Parliament will seek to pass amendments to the Stillbirths and Births (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which proposes amendments to the law to allow parents to register the births of their stillborn children and to enable the name of a stillborn child to be entered in the register of stillbirths. This matter, which is deeply personal and of great significance to parents who have suffered such a loss, was brought up by Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim three times, in May 2022, September 2022 and November 2023. We are glad the government is finally acting to bring closure to bereaved parents.
New Year’s wishes
As we welcome a new year, the Workers’ Party will continue to work hard and make an impact on policies and policy changes for the betterment of all Singaporeans.
I wish to extend my gratitude to all our residents, volunteers, supporters, donors and Party members who have kept faith with us in 2023. Thank you for your belief, energy, time and ideas. I welcome you to continue to walk together with us on our journey in 2024. There is much to do for Singapore and its people as we continue the advance towards a more balanced political system.
I wish all Singaporeans and your families good health. Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!
Secretary-General, The Workers’ Party
Leader of the Opposition
MP for Aljunied GRC