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In his May Day Rally speech Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong assured Singaporeans that the Government will “uplift low-wage workers”, adding that wages must rise with productivity. NTUC chief and minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say reinforced this message saying that such a goal “can be done”.
Yes, we know that it can be done. The SDP has been saying it for years. The question is: What has the Government been waiting for all this time?
In the last decade at least, Singapore’s low-income workers have been seeing their wages stagnate. When one factors in inflation, their incomes have actually diminished.
All this time, our productivity has plunged because the Government insists on bringing in foreign workers by the millions and in so doing depressed wages.
Now in 2012, PM Lee tells us that the he wants to uplift low-income workers when it is his party’s policies all these years that have made living for our poor a living nightmare.
Yes, we know that it can be done. We can raise the wages of our workers without sacrificing productivity and the SDP has clearly laid out our alternative policies on how to do this.
For example, we must move away from using the GDP as the sole index of our economic progress. Real development, including productivity, comes with a host of other indicators including the psychological and social well-being of our workers.
Increased productivity also comes with innovative thinking. This necessitates the loosening up of political control in Singapore which has bred a conformist mindset antithetical to independent thinking.
Introducing a minimum wage law as well as a Singaporeans First policy when it comes to employment will help level up society. A country that is more equal and egalitarian is also one that is more productive and less of a drag on the economy.
The Prime Minister has stubbornly refused to carry out such economic and political reform and introduce necessary legislation to remedy the problem. Such lack of action makes his latest statement just more empty words to placate the public.
But most importantly, paying our workers decent and fair wages is not just a means to achieving higher productivity. In and of itself, every Singaporean must be valued not because she is a producer of economic gain but because she is a human being worthy of respect and dignity.
If we genuinely care for the well-being of our workers, economic development will follow. Our society will be more balanced and together we will lead more meaningful and happier lives.
This stance was well projected by our speakers at our recent May Day Rally at Hong Lim Park. Unfortunately, the state media chose to blackout the event and the SDP’s message of reducing income inequality in Singapore continues to remain largely unknown to the Singaporean public.
This is how the PAP has been able to control the political narrative all these years and lead Singaporeans to think that they have no alternative.
Singapore can do better than what the PAP is offering. Words like “can be done” are meaningless when the Government has had decade after decade to do it but chosen not to.