SDP calls out out-of-touch and out-of-ideas PAP ministers

Singapore Democrats

Things are too expensive? Buy cheap infant milk formula. Meals too costly? Eat at hawker centres instead of food court. Transport fares too high? Walk.

This is how callous the PAP is with regards to the difficulties with the high cost of living of ordinary Singaporeans, SDP CEC member Damanhuri Abas said.

Mr Damanhuri, who stood as an SDP candidate at the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC in 2015, was speaking at a public forum held by the SDP this afternoon. The forum addressed three hot-button issues: rising cost of living, depreciating value of older HDB flats, and the out-of-the-world ministerial salaries.

“The present PAP leaders have abandoned the sacred contract of serving the people,” he said, taking issue with the heartless attitude of PAP ministers. He cited the example of PAP MP Vikram Nair who recently said that increased cost of living “is actually a good thing”.

Quoting government statistics that show that prices have outstripped wages, Mr Damanhuri said that many households in Singapore are having a hard time making ends meet.

“The narrative that every citizen will partake of the Singapore Dream somehow got lost,” he said, “Overtime, PAP leaders began singing a different tune – Singapore Inc. became PAP Inc.”

He assured Singaporeans that the SDP would fight to lower cost with initiatives like abolishing the GST for basic necessities, fighting for minimum wage legislation, and introducing the Singaporeans First policy where locals are hired first and retrenched last.

His fellow speaker, Mr Alfred Tan, spoke on the anger of Singaporeans over the issue of the 99-year lease of HDB flats.

Mr Tan, an entrepreneur and international banker, reminded the audience of the promises PAP made to the people that HDB prices would continue to rise. The reality is that HDB values would fall until they become zero at the end of their lease.

“After seeing senseless market speculative activities,” he pointed out, “the present Minister for National Development had to declare the obvious truth – that these HDB flats will be of zero value to the leaseholders at the end of the term.”

But Mr Tan said that the PAP still refuses to acknowledge the policy blunder. He said that one of the key basic disciplines in problem solving is admitting that there is a problem. Only when there is an admission of misjudgment can the first step be taken towards a real and meaningful resolution and rectification of the problem.

“Is the PAP government prepared to man up and admit this misstep?” Mr Tan asked.

But instead of acknowledging the error, PM Lee further digs the hole by coming with suggestions like the Voluntary Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) and the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) 2.

The government has not provided any details. It will only say that it is still working on the idea which will only be implemented 20 years from now.

“What have they been doing?” Mr Tan queried. “We need some clarity now. The market needs to know what will happen to the flats. Now. That is the responsible way of running this country. That is responsible policy making. The longer this takes, the more uncertainty and volatility there be in the market. That will not serve anybody any good.”

Mr Tan raised some policy ideas to remedy this problem. One of them is to reduce the lease to 50 or 60 years. This will lower HDB prices. With shorter leases, he pointed out, HDB can better plan the recycling or rejuvenation of older precincts. It will also discourage unnecessary speculation on public housing.

Another idea is the SDP’s Non-Open Market scheme where people buy and sell flats only with the HDB. Under this scheme flat prices are calculated minus land cost. Mr Tan indicated that this would drastically reduce BTO prices and allow CPF savings to be retained for retirement. (Read SDP’s proposal, Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies for Affordable Home).

“Public housing is meant to put roofs over our heads,” he reminded, “not let people speculate with subsidized and public-funded leases.”

Another speaker was SDP Treasurer, Bryan Lim, who said that the ministers have failed to justify their million dollar salaries with one disastrous policy after another.

He also cited Minister of State Edwin Tong who had the temerity to complain that his $40,000 monthly salary is not enough to feed his own family, parents and in-laws.

“It makes you wonder if we actually live on the same planet,” he lamented.

Mr Lim then raised the SDP’s proposal to reduce ministerial salaries published in our policy proposal titled Ethical Salaries for a Public Service Centred Government.

Among other ideas, our policy proposes that ministers stop paying themselves bonuses, especially bonuses linked to the GDP. Instead, SDP’s idea ties ministers’ salaries to a formula based on the average income of the lowest 20 percent of wage earners in Singapore.

MPs would be paid 10 times this amount, ministers 3 times an MP’s allowance and the prime minister 4 times. Under this formula, the PM’s salary would work out to be approximately $56,000 and the ministers about $40,000.

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