SDP Press Conference 02 Sept 2015

September 2, 2015
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

Dr Chee Soon Juan transcript:

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan characterised the SDP’s alternative policies as one of “tax and spend” and that they will lead the country to bankruptcy. He did not, $CUT$however, cite any specific policy but merely said that the SDP had copied policies from “other parts of the world”.

Dr Balakrishnan should be looking at his own party’s record on such practices. 

Experts cite the low interest rates of the CPF (even though the government claims its ROI is high) as an implicit tax. In addition, the slew of taxes, fees, and levies open up for the PAP government large streams of revenue. 

All this has resulted in our large reserves which are handled by the GIC and Temasek Holdings. In 2008, the two sovereign wealth funds admitted that thay had lost between $120 billion to $140 billion in failed investments in Western banks such as Merril Lynch, Citigroup and UBS.

If it had not been for the intervention of the US government in the form of bailout out money under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), these banks would have collapsed, and our reserves would have been irretrievably lost.

Given such a record, Dr Balakrishnan should be looking at his own party’s track record when he talks about policies of tax and spend. 

On a related noted, the criticism from Dr Balakrishnan is reminiscent of the one he made in the 2011 GE about the SDP’s proposal to raise taxes for top earners (those in the top 1 percent) closer to the 30-percent mark.

He said then: “If you had to choose between the opposition parties who would be the most middle-class unfriendly of them, (the SDP) would certainly be in that shortlist.” 

In 2015, however, Finance Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that the Government would raise taxes for the top 5 percent earners. It seems that Mr Tharman did exactly what Dr Balakrishnan attacked the SDP for. 

This is not the only instance that the PAP has at first criticised the SDP ideas only to adopt them later. Other examples are:

Minimum wage
SDP proposes: Minimum wage in 2001.
PAP criticises: Minister Lim Swee Say criticises that Minimum Wage will erode Singapore’s competitiveness.
PAP copies: Government introduces the Progressive Wage Model where some low-income workers are paid a minimum wage of $1,000.

Universal healthcare
SDP proposes: Individual healthcare risks are pooled.
PAP criticises: Mr Lee Kuan Yew said: “…nobody derails the idea of having individual accounts for CPF and Medisave. Whatever you earn, it’s yours.”
PAP copies: Medishield Life now says that “everyone shares in the national risk pool”.

Singaporeans first policy
SDP proposes: Employers must try to hire Singaporeans first before considering employing foreigners.
PAP criticises: Senior Minister of State Amy Khor said that such a policy will not work.
PAP copies: MOM introduced the Fair Consideration Framework which “require employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass holders.”

 

Dr Paul Ananth Tambyah transcript:

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan made some rather perplexing statements yesterday

http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/ge2015-sdp-policies-will-set-spore-on-the-road-to-greece-says-vivian-balakrishnan

First of all, he alleged that the SDP had copied policy prescriptions that had failed elsewhere. He does not provide any evidence to support these assertions and in fact, his assertion contradicts the World Health Organization which ranked the French Healthcare system which is probably closest to the SDP’s National Healthcare Plan as the best performing healthcare system in the world (http://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper30.pdf). The SDP healthcare system is benchmarked against the best healthcare systems in the world unlike the Greek social support system which has ignored the advice of international experts.

Second, according to the ST report, he selectively attacks parts of the SDP economic policy specifically raising taxes on the top earners and increasing social spending. Oddly enough, those are precisely the features of the 2015 budget proposed by Finance Minister Tharman (http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-budget-2015-personal-income-tax-for-top-5-of-earners-to-be-raised-says-tharman). I do not think that Minister Balakrishnan seriously believes that Minister Tharman is setting Singapore on the road to Greece. The SDP economic policy goes further than Minister Tharman’s budget proposals which we welcome – we also advocate a minimum wage, retrenchment insurance, and increasing transparency and accountability in social services including housing and healthcare.

Finally, it appears that the Minister has an incomplete understanding of the Greek crisis. The Greeks actually spend below the OECD average on healthcare (http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Briefing-Note-GREECE-2014.pdf) and have levels of social spending far below the Nordic countries or even Germany. The reason for the Greek crisis is thought to be primarily a profligate approach to spending. This is quite different from the SDP proposals which are well thought out and balanced. We do not believe in uncontrolled overspending. In order to implement our policies, we need to be elected to parliament so as to help make those policies a reality for the good of Singaporeans.