SDP’s response to Budget 2012: How can we trust the Government?

At the core of Singapore’s economy is the participation of foreign workers.
Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said that without such guest workers, our economy would collapse. Additionally, he indicated that in 2010 “we’ve grown in the last five years by
just importing labour.” (emphasis added)

Given such a scenario, it is to be expected that Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in releasing the 2012 Budget, has focused on the subject of foreign workers and the issue of productivity.

Sadly, however, he has said nothing new. In calling for the foreign-workers levy to be used to boost productivity levels, he is in effect repeating the Budget he presented in 2010 which called for a gradual increase in the levy to reduce our dependence on foreign labour.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew added a time frame for it: “The next five years, we have decided we will tier down our need for foreign workers.”

This, however, was not carried out.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in November 2011, barely two years after the policy was introduced, that “the more you tighten the inflow [of foreign workers], the slower growth is going to be and that’s something Singaporeans will have to understand.”

And so in 2011 the Government did a U-turn and increased the intake of foreign workers from
53,000 in 2010 to
85,000 in 2011.

This accounts for the plunge in productivity levels to 1 percent last year from 11 percent the previous year. The
Ministry of Trade and Industry has said that this was due to a weak economy in 2011. This is not true. The real reason for the drastic reduction in productivity is the huge intake of foreign workers.

The real question is: If the Finance Minister said in 2010 that we would increase the foreign-workers levy to reduce our over-reliance on foreign labour and Government did the exact opposite the following year, how do we know that the policy would be adhered to this time? This is especially significant in light of PM Lee saying that we would need to raise the number of foreigners coming in to Singapore with a weakening economy.

How does one trust a Government that says one thing and then does the exact opposite?

The SDP will present its Shadow Budget on 20 February 2012 which will address this issue as well as other areas of our national expenditure. This year’s Budget is nothing new and without significant re-allocation of our expenditure, our economy will continue to remain unstable and prone to wild swings. As a result, Singaporeans will continue to hurt and their socio-economic problems will not be addressed.

Vincent Wijeysingha


Singapore Democratic Party

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