The Singapore Democratic Party cautioned the government that yielding to populist political instincts in policy making is a “dangerous” approach to economic management, particularly in the vulnerable period likely to appear in 2012. The SDP unveiled its second annual
Shadow Budget entitled Securing Our Future at a press conference held yesterday at its office.
Arguing that policy making must keep both eyes firmly on long-term fundamentals, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, SDP’s Treasurer, said that the Government’s social measures announced by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Parliament last week signaled “insecurity following its performance in the General Elections last year.”
Dr Wijeysingha acknowledged the view widely held before the Budget that the Finance Minister was likely to introduce measures to give the appearance of responding to citizens’ concerns aired during the elections but which, in substance, represent only minor changes to overall policy.
One such issue, highlighted by Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan, was migrant workers. Dr Chee noted that despite the government’s claim (including in last year’s Budget statement) to reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign labour, the number of foreigners recruited has, in fact, significantly increased.
He also cited former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who had admitted that “we’ve grown in the last five years by just importing labour.” (emphasis added) This clearly shows that PAP’s policies have failed our economic.
Dr Wijeysingha argued in his hour-long presentation that the nation’s Budget must not only represent “the financial policy for the year ahead [but] the most important values that we as a nation hold to be true. It showcases the approach of government and imagines the future we envisage for our nation.”
The SDP’s Budget outlined a series of measures which is based on a realistic assessment of deep-seated challenges, the promotion of “efficient, productive, people-focussed and creative approaches to the developmental issues of our time” and anticipating a vulnerable global economic outlook ahead.
The deep-seated challenges include slowing economic growth to developed nation levels, increased social need accompanying rapid development over the last half century, high income disparity and low social indicators.
The Shadow Budget unveiled what Dr Wijeysingha referred to as a ‘troika’ of agencies designed to provide the inputs that would propel the Singapore economy on an invigorated Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Sector.
The Economic Development Board will be joined by a Singapore Enterprise Agency and Spring Singapore.
The troika will work alongside three new Funds administered from a massively-augmented Trade and Industry budget of almost S$6 billion to provide the capital inputs for industrial development: a Developmental and Exploratory Fund, an Invention Fund and a Youth Enterprise Fund.
A long list of potential future enterprise leaders were outlined, including consumer products in the eco-friendly sector; media, conventions, advertising and publishing; service and consultancy sector areas such as the Social Services Training Institute and a new Economic Development Board Consulting agency; and fine art and tourism.
In addition, Shadow Budget 2012 outlined measures to reduce the costs of doing business, including business training and travel grants. These include Corporate Ezlink Cards and the removal of ERP for business vehicles.
The SDP Budget reiterated the party’s call for a graduated Goods and Services Tax and a Property Sales tax for foreign, non-resident property buyers while in the social welfare sectors outlined measures to enhance the quality of education and public transport.
Anticipating the party’s National Healthcare Plan, which will be unveiled during shortly, Dr Wijeysingha also set out proposals to make healthcare genuinely affordable to ordinary Singaporeans.
He noted that the Government’s increase of $4 billion in the healthcare budget over five years in fact amounts to $12 per person per month, allowing for population increase but not for inflation. He also noted that the Government’s commitment to increase hospital beds comes in the wake of a net reduction over the last ten years.
Summing up his presentation, Dr Wijeysingha outlined four guiding principles for financial policymaking. Budgeting must
- genuinely cultivate an inclusive society alongside the active economic participation of those who can;
- be founded on a community approach that ensures a good living standard to every Singaporean;
- discard the outdated assumption of leaving the welfare of individuals to the responsibility of their family;
- and develop a positive approach to the domestic SME sector as a key engine of continued growth in the period to come.
Acknowledging his team drawn from the party’s Policy Unit, headed by Dr James Gomes, Dr Wijeysingha thanked them for their hard work over the last three months as well as Mr John Tan, Assistant Secretary-General, who were also actively involved in the development of Shadow Budget 2012.
To download Shadow Budget 2012: Securing Our Future, click here.