Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan delivers the SDP's video response to PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech. Dr Chee points out that the announced changes do not tackle the root cause of our people's problems.
Friends and fellow Singaporeans,
We have just celebrated our 48th National Day. We take pride in what we have achieved in past decades which has been no mean feat. Through hard work and sacrifice, we have built up a country worthy of praise.
But just as we take stock of how far we've come, we must be mindful that our country has arrived at a stage where without change we face a bleak future and all that we have worked for will be lost.
Already we are seeing signs of things going wrong. Our economy has been registering disappointing GDP growth this year. Last year, we managed only 1.3% compared to our neighbours who averaged 6% GDP growth.
Our workers have seen their real wages diminish even though they work the most number of hours. Income inequality continues to widen. Among advanced economies, Singapore has the widest gap between the rich and the poor.
All this has made us the unhappiest people in the world. A global survey of 148 countries showed that Singapore ranked last in terms of happiness.
Last year, we recorded 467 suicides – a 30 percent jump from 2011, the highest number in 20 years.
How did all this come about?
A major factor is that the Government continues to be more interested in keeping up the image of a Singapore that is doing well than tackling the problems that confront ordinary Singaporeans. In his National Day message, PM Lee said that many countries admire Singapore. That's because the world only sees the glitter of the casinos and the billionaires that we attract from other countries. It doesn't see the negative effects of these policies on our people.
Still, the SDP commends the Prime Minister's announcement in changes to policies regarding housing, healthcare and education. We are happy to see that some of these changes are aimed at helping Singaporeans who are in need. It is a step in the right direction.
Our concern is that these changes are piecemeal and they don't address the root cause of our problems.
For example, Mr Lee conspicuously avoided talking about the Government's white paper of pushing our population to 6.9 million, a policy that Singaporeans vehemently oppose. He said nothing about curtailing the excessively liberal intake of foreigners which is causing our island to be overcrowded and the unfair competition for our jobs.
The SDP, on the other hand, has proposed an alternative plan. We want to:
- Introduce a points system which will rate the qualifications of foreigners, especially PMETs, who wish to work in Singapore.
- Singaporean employers will then be able to hire these professionals but only if they demonstrate that they have made every effort to employ a Singaporean first but cannot find a local with the required skills.
It this way, we ensure that foreigners do not take away jobs that Singaporeans can do while, at the same, not depriving employers of the foreign workers they need. In addition, we can maintain our population at a manageable level and enhance the quality of life and happiness of our people.
In the area of healthcare, we welcome the Government's attempt to make the system universal, an initiative that the SDP announced last year. But we are concerned that the Government will still make Singaporeans pay the bulk of their healthcare expenses, a financial burden for the elderly and those who face chronic and catastrophic illness.
In 2012, we drew up our National Healthcare Plan:
- In it, we proposed that Medisave, Medishield and Medifund be scrapped and the funds in our Medisave accounts be returned to our CPF for our retirement.
- In its place, we want establish a national health insurance scheme into which working Singaporeans pay an average of $40 per month taken from our CPF.
- In the event that we are hospitalised, we pay only 10% of the bill. The remaining 90% will be paid by the Government through the insurance scheme.
- To make this scheme work, the Government must assume more of the responsibility by increasing its healthcare expenditure from 30% to 70%.
The SDP's healthcare plan ensures that everyone, rich and poor, can afford quality healthcare in Singapore and, equally important, that Singaporeans will not go into debt as a result of high medical bills.
As for housing, the Government has proposed changes which do not address the real problem – which is the unaffordability of HDB flats and whose prices are causing a dangerous housing bubble that, when burst, will wreak havoc on our economy.
In the SDP's housing plan, we propose two types of flats: Non-Open-Market, or NOM, flats and Open-Market flats. NOM flats is where the Government sells flats without including the land cost.
This will make our flats substantially cheaper: about $150,000 for a 4-room flat compared to more than double the amount presently. However, NOM-flat owners cannot sell their flats in the open market. They have to sell them back to the HDB.
For Singaporeans who do want to sell their flats in the open-market, they can still purchase HDB flats at current prices.
The advantage of the SDP's housing policy is that Singaporeans have a choice of whether to buy an NOM or OM flat. Opting for an NOM flat would mean that owners won't be saddled by huge loans and will have enough CPF to retire on or to make other investments.
In addition to these policies we are currently working on our National Economic Plan to further enhance job security for Singaporeans and to ensure that our workers are paid fair wages. We will also be publishing our paper on the education system.
The SDP has been working hard over the years to come up with alternative policies because, as I pointed out, things are not going well for Singapore and we need a better set of polices to make our future more secure and happier, a future that is centred on the people.
The Singapore Democratic Party will do our part to make this future happen. We will continue to work to be the competent, constructive and compassionate opposition that you want to see.
Thank you and I wish you and your loved ones the very best.
(22 Aug 2013)