Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I first entered politics and stood in the by-elections at Marine Parade, my counterpart was Mr Teo Chee Hean who was also making his first foray into electoral politics.
During the campaign, Mr Teo said that “The opposition only knows how to throw stones, they don't come up with alternatives.” Somehow that struck me and remained with me. One had to admit that he was not totally wrong because up until then there was a dearth of alternative ideas coming from the opposition.
And so after the elections, I got my colleagues in the party together and set out to draft an alternative vision for Singapore and taking pains to propose ideas to the problems that beset our country. The result was Dare To Change.
Since then, we have published numerous reports that highlighted ideas that we felt were necessary and desirable for Singapore. In recent times, this came in the form of our economic manifesto It's About You which we launched in 2010 before the last elections. Dr Vincent Wijeysingha led us by putting down on paper the Shadow Budget.
We do all this because we are very conscious of the fact that we must not become a Party of No. Instead, we must be a Party of thinkers, a Party proficient in the provision of solutions, a Party of not just ideals but also of ideas.
The SDP National Healthcare Plan that we are launching today fits into this mould. It is both an extension as well as an emphasis of what we are about – a constructive opposition party in our nation's politics.
But it would be remiss of me if I did not also emphasize that this alternative healthcare plan is more than just a policy paper. It is a fully developed programme, comprehensive and detailed enough that it can be implemented by a government. It identifies and analyzes the many features of the existing healthcare system that have been tried and found so desperately wanting, it proposes a model that is based on a completely different philosophy compared to the uncaring and moneyed one adopted by this Government and, equally important, it shows how the new plan is paid for.
It is to the eternal credit of the members of this panel that they have applied themselves to this urgent issue of healthcare reform in this country, one that impacts the lives of so many. Their scholarship and erudition is richly reflected in the paper; their dedication to which they have brought to bear on this massive undertaking is without peer. Above all, it is their moral clarity that stands out. Because of this it is both a pleasure and an honour to work with men and women of such distinction.
Ultimately, any healthcare system must address three main issues:
1. Is the system universal, that is, does it take care of all the people?
2. Is it affordable for those who are able to contribute to it?
3. Is the programme financially sustainable for the state?
We can confidently answer all these questions in the affirmative. In other words, the SDP Plan – unlike the current system – is universal, affordable, and sustainable
In addition, our Plan provides the following strengths: It is easy to manage as it has only one level of administration instead of the present complex Medisave, Medifund and Medishield schemes; it is transparent and accountable as it does away with questionable subsidies that the government claims to give; and it minimises the use of our Central Provident Fund savings which we need for our retirement.
And the icing on the cake is that it didn't take $860,000 to produce.
Singaporeans have known for a long time that healthcare in Singapore is expensive and unaffordable for many. This is why someone came up with the saying: Can die but cannot fall sick.
After the mirth subsides, we are faced with the grim reality that indeed in Singapore, you had better not meet with a catastrophic or chronic illness, for that will ruin you financially if not medically.
This is the first time that an alternative has been produced, one that gives Singaporeans an idea what the PAP has been doing, not for us but to us, all these years. More importantly, it gives everyone hope that if we want to we can have a caring healthcare system that treats us like people, not customers; one that cares for us, not makes from us.
The SDP has a plan. It is a good plan because it is a caring and financially sound plan. But we want to make it an even better plan. For that we would like to invite you to weigh in on it because ultimately we want it to be your plan. We will post the entire paper on our website so that you can study it and give us your input.
As for Mr Teo, he has since risen up the ranks and become Deputy Prime Minister. Even he would agree that the SDP does not throw stones but we come up with realistic and workable proposals to overcome the many problems that his party has created.
The irony is that they are now copying and echoing what we are doing. When they do we hope that they will have the courtesy of acknowledging their sources.
And so without further ado it is with much pride that I call on our distinguished panel to present, on behalf of the Singapore Democratic Party, The SDP National Healthcare Plan.