Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan delivers the SDP’s video response to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech. Dr Chee points out that the announced changes do not tackle the root cause of our people’s problems. (Please turn on “Captions” for English or Chinese subtitles.)$CUT$
Friends and fellow Singaporeans,
We have just celebrated our 48thNational Day. We take pride in what we have achieved in past decadeswhich has been no mean feat. Through hard work and sacrifice, we havebuilt up a country worthy of praise.
But just as we take stock of how farwe’ve come, we must be mindful that our country has arrived at astage where without change we face a bleak future and all that wehave worked for will be lost.
Already we are seeing signs of things going wrong. Our economy hasbeen registering disappointing GDP growth this year. Last year, wemanaged only 1.3% compared to our neighbours who averaged 6% GDPgrowth.
Our workers have seen their real wages diminish even though they workthe most number of hours. Income inequality continues to widen. Amongadvanced economies, Singapore has the widest gap between the rich andthe poor.
All this has made us the unhappiest people in the world. A globalsurvey of 148 countries showed that Singapore ranked last in terms ofhappiness.
Last year, we recorded 467 suicides –a 30 percent jump from 2011, the highest number in 20 years.
How did all this come about?
A major factor is that the Government continues to be more interestedin keeping up the image of a Singapore that is doing well thantackling the problems that confront ordinary Singaporeans. In hisNational Day message, PM Lee said that many countries admireSingapore. That’s because the world only sees the glitter of thecasinos and the billionaires that we attract from other countries. Itdoesn’t see the negative effects of these policies on our people.
Still, the SDP commends the Prime Minister’s announcement in changesto policies regarding housing, healthcare and education. We are happyto see that some of these changes are aimed at helping Singaporeanswho are in need. It is a step in the right direction.
Our concern is that these changes are piecemeal and they don’taddress the root cause of our problems.
For example, Mr Lee conspicuously avoided talking about theGovernment’s white paper of pushing our population to 6.9 million, apolicy that Singaporeans vehemently oppose. He said nothing aboutcurtailing the excessively liberal intake of foreigners which iscausing our island to be overcrowded and the unfair competition forour jobs.
The SDP, on the other hand, has proposed an alternative plan. We wantto:
Introduce a points system which will rate the qualifications of foreigners, especially PMETs, who wish to work in Singapore.
Singaporean employers will then be able to hire these professionals but only if they demonstrate that they have made every effort to employ a Singaporean first but cannot find a local with the required skills.
It this way, we ensure that foreigners do not take away jobs thatSingaporeans can do while, at the same, not depriving employers ofthe foreign workers they need. In addition, we can maintain ourpopulation at a manageable level and enhance the quality of life andhappiness of our people.
In the area of healthcare, we welcome the Government’s attempt tomake the system universal, an initiative that the SDP announced lastyear. But we are concerned that the Government will still makeSingaporeans pay the bulk of their healthcare expenses, a financialburden for the elderly and those who face chronic and catastrophicillness.
In 2012, we drew up our National Healthcare Plan:
In it, we proposed that Medisave, Medishield and Medifund be scrapped and the funds in our Medisave accounts be returned to our CPF for our retirement.
In its place, we want establish a national health insurance scheme into which working Singaporeans pay an average of $40 per month taken from our CPF.
In the event that we are hospitalised, we pay only 10% of the bill. The remaining 90% will be paid by the Government through the insurance scheme.
To make this scheme work, the Government must assume more of the responsibility by increasing its healthcare expenditure from 30% to 70%.
The SDP’s healthcare plan ensures that everyone, rich and poor, canafford quality healthcare in Singapore and, equally important, thatSingaporeans will not go into debt as a result of high medical bills.
As for housing, the Government has proposed changes which do notaddress the real problem – which is the unaffordability of HDBflats and whose prices are causing a dangerous housing bubble that,when burst, will wreak havoc on our economy.
In the SDP’s housing plan, we propose two types of flats:Non-Open-Market, or NOM, flats and Open-Market flats. NOM flats iswhere the Government sells flats without including the land cost.
This will make our flats substantially cheaper: about $150,000 for a4-room flat compared to more than double the amount presently.However, NOM-flat owners cannot sell their flats in the open market.They have to sell them back to the HDB.
For Singaporeans who do want to sell their flats in the open-market,they can still purchase HDB flats at current prices.
The advantage of the SDP’s housing policy is that Singaporeans have achoice of whether to buy an NOM or OM flat. Opting for an NOM flatwould mean that owners won’t be saddled by huge loans and will haveenough CPF to retire on or to make other investments.
In addition to these policies we are currently working on ourNational Economic Plan to further enhance job security forSingaporeans and to ensure that our workers are paid fair wages. Wewill also be publishing our paper on the education system.
The SDP has been working hard over the years to come up withalternative policies because, as I pointed out, things are not goingwell for Singapore and we need a better set of polices to make ourfuture more secure and happier, a future that is centred on thepeople.
The Singapore Democratic Party will do our part to make this futurehappen. We will continue to work to be the competent, constructiveand compassionate opposition that you want to see.
Thank you and I wish you and your lovedones the very best.