Issues that matter to S’poreans: SDP replies

Below is the Democrats’ reply to a letter published in the ST Forum (see letter following). It was submitted to the ST today. Let’s see if the ST will publish it.

SDP focuses on issues that matter to Singaporeans

What exactly does Mr Ang Gim Huat mean when he says that the Singapore Democrats has failed to focus on major issues and criticizes only small and meaningless matters? (ST, Oct 30, 2004)

Is he referring to the SDPs on-going campaign to fight for:
minimum wage to pay workers fair wages for their work,
retrenchment entitlements to protect workers if and when they are retrenched,
the Singaporeans First Policy where foreign workers will only be employed if no locals are available for the job?
These issues were central to the SDPs campaign message in the 2001 elections.

It takes someone very bold (or very partisan) to suggest that these are small and meaningless matters.

It is also important to note that the writer did not dispute the figures about the widening disparity between the super-rich and the middle-class/working-poor segments in Singapore. He simply asks what the SDP proposes to reduce the gap.

I believe the measures cited above are a crucial first step in helping to reduce poverty and hardship levels in Singapore. It must be remembered that wage levels do not just measure wealth, it goes a long way to ease the financial burdens of everyday life in this country. With record levels of low birth rates, bankruptcies, divorces, mental breakdowns, and even suicides all driven by the disparity between the high cost of living and low levels of wages in Singapore is it not time to take the SDPs proposals seriously?

It was recently reported in the Straits Times (Oct 28, 2004) that a mother of three was struggling on a salary of $600 a month. Do we stop to ask how a mother with three children survives on $600 a month – and in a country where ministers help themselves to salaries of $100,000 a month?

As for Mr Angs comment about the issues brought up by the Singapore Democrats being subjective rather than objective, it is worthwhile noting that that three years after the SDPs campaign, National University of Singapores Associate Professor Hui Weng Tat studied the recent economic recession and pointed out that Singaporean workers need to be protected and assisted. He made the following recommendations: Apply positive discrimination in favour of residents, tighten eligibility rules for employment pass holders, and introduce minimum wage.

If these sound familiar, it is because the SDP has been focusing on them.

Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party

SDP fails to focus on major issues
Oct 30, 2004

I REFER to the various letters published under the heading, ‘Opposition parties have to win people’s trust’ (Insight; ST, Sept 25).

It occurred to me that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), to a large extent, fails to focus on major issues and criticises only small and meaningless matters – which most citizens do not bother with – in an attempt to discredit the governing party.

The opposition party fails to draw the line between being objective and being subjective. Sometimes it even gets personal.

On its website, the party said that between 1998 and 1999, the average monthly household income of the poorest 10 per cent of the population decreased by nearly 50 per cent from $258 to $133.

In the same period, the incomes of the richest 10 per cent increased by 2.6 per cent, from $15,053 to $15,451.

The following year, the average household income of the poorest 10 per cent fell by another 54 per cent, from $133 a month to $61.

In the same period, the incomes of the richest 10 per cent increased by another 8.8 per cent.

In view of this, what would the party do to reduce the gap if it were governing Singapore?

Ang Gim Huat

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