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Jeremy Chen, Jagwinder Singh and Clarence Zeng
We, as members of the Young Democrats, would like to share with you a little about our party, its principles and what they mean to us.
One might say that principles are boring, and that it would be better to talk about policy proposals as those speak directly to important bread-and-butter issues. But while pocket book issues are what most Singaporeans are concerned about, it must be noted that policies flow from principles, and outcomes on bread-and-butter issues, in turn, depend on policies. Therefore, the issues that affect our everyday living stems very much from principles that a party adopts.
We joined the SDP and remain actively involved in it because of what the party stands for: Civil rights/human rights, democracy and the well-being of Singaporeans. Let us clarify what each of the three mean to us in greater detail.
1. Civil Rights/Human Rights. Our party is committed to upholding the civil and human rights of our people, meaning that we respect the constitutional rights of the individual citizen. Without civil/human rights a government can objectify Singaporeans and use them as economic/security digits to support goals that may not be in the interest of Singaporeans. Safeguards against the abuse of power must be institutionalised and not be left to the whim of rulers. Only then can Singapore become a truly democratic society.
The commitment of the SDP to civil and human rights goes beyond mere words. A number of our party members have been willing to stand up for these values even at risk of personal loss. The SDP is a party that walks the talk and we are honored to be in the same party as these men and women who are true patriots.
2. Democracy. This means that Singaporeans should have a strong say in national policies and the policy-making process. Democracy is not the tyranny of the many over the few. (This is consistent with the first principle.) Should Singaporeans disagree with a government policy, the onus is on the government to convince the people.
To this end, there must be space for the public to air their concerns and criticisms on policy proposals. Reactions based on intelligent assessment and well thought through arguments must not be dismissed out of hand. This is especially important because Singaporeans are becoming increasingly informed on national matters.
3. Well-being. As demonstrated through the policies that we have advocated, the SDP believes in ensuring the well-being of Singaporeans as well as the viability and dynamism of the Singapore economy. In addition, the SDP wants to level up society by investing in human capital and raising the country’s competitive advantage. It is important that the Singapore economy steadily moves up the value chain so that Singaporeans can be employed in better paying and more meaningful jobs. This will raise not just living standards but also the quality of life of our workers.
The well-being of Singaporeans cannot be achieved, however, if the interests of policy makers are misaligned with those of Singaporeans. To ensure that this does not happen, Key Performance Indices (KPIs) must account for the people’s well-being on multiple dimensions. (We deal extensively with this subject in our Population paper as well as earlier publications such as It’s About You: The SDP’s Alternative Economic Program.)
In contrast, however, the PAP Government’s KPIs are fixated on GDP growth, which, alone, has been shown to be hopelessly misaligned with the general well-being of Singaporeans. Only when policies are attuned to the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans can we be assured that our well-being is safeguarded and enhanced.
On the economic front, our well-being is dependent on the level of entrepreneurship and innovation in society. A society can only succeed in the long term if there is a strong middle class that has the capacity to take risks and the assurance that they will be able to enjoy the the gains from taking those risks.
However, risk-taking capacity is greatly diminished in Singapore. This is because the majority of citizens are saddled with massive debt from all sorts of loans including study loans, car loans, housing loans, etc. On top of this, there is the need to save to hedge against catastrophic medical emergencies. A reduction in risk-taking capacity at a household level reduces the propensity to entrepreneurship. This translates into problems for an economy that needs to re-generate itself.
The SDP seeks to make necessities like housing and healthcare affordable. (See our policy proposals on Housing and Healthcare.) That would reverse the aforementioned damage, ensuring Singaporeans basic security and providing a sturdy base upon which our society can stand. It will also provide Singaporeans a greater capacity to take risks in business ventures or, more generally, to apply themselves to actualize their aspirations and pursue one’s dreams.
This is what the party’s principles mean to us and many of our fellow party members. These values have informed our party’s actions, and shaped our policy recommendations. And these will be the values which SDP representatives will, with your support, champion in Parliament.
We hope that by sharing these values with you, our fellow Singaporeans, that you will better understand the SDP and the people in the party. If you find these principles to be worthy and you wish to learn more, feel free to write to us ([email protected]) or to attend one of our events.
Read also: What We Stand For
Jeremy Chen, Jagwinder Singhand Clarence Zeng are members of The Young Democrats.