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SDP manifesto tackles major issues

Jewel Philemon, additional reporting by Elliot A. Pictures by Jeremy Philemon

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) unveiled its election manifesto, “The SDP Solution”, on Wednesday at a press conference held at 22 Marshall Road.

The SDP is the only party which has released its manifesto exclusively on the Internet. The Party Secretary General, Dr Chee Soon Juan, said that, “(Having our Manifesto) online means our reach will be much wider as opposed to printing hardcopies which is just plain expensive and won’t reach everyone.”

Dr Chee said that the SDP Solution is a coherent and workable alternative to the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) manifesto which was released last week. He also added that the SDP Solution is “easily digestible” and a “concrete proposal.”

After a year of extensive research and feedback from the ground gathered by the SDP team, the SDP Solution was born. Aimed at addressing issues that confront the average Singaporean citizen, the manifesto tackles the issues of the rising costs of living, foreign workers, rising HDB prices, CPF, healthcare, income inequality, GIC/Temasek, Education, National Service, Political Rights, Transportation, Environment, Special Needs, Women’s Rights and the Media.

Dr Chee said, “We are not only talking about problems, but we’re also giving solutions.”

Excerpts of the solutions the SDP’s manifesto:

Rising Costs of Living and Influx of Foreign Workers

Rising costs of living and the increasing influx of foreign workers are two major issues which the SDP is focusing on in the course of the General Elections (GE).

The SDP Solution proposes to curb the rising costs of living by:

- Reducing the Good and Services Tax rate (GST) from 7% to 3%

- Abolishing GST for essential items such as rice, oil, medicine etc.

- Lowering Public Utility Board (PUB) bills by at least 50%,

- Making sure that our public hospitals reduce charges and to stop making a profit from Singaporeans,

- Bringing down bus and MRT fares by at least 20%

- Ensuring that the government increases public expenditure for the poor.

In light of the issue of increasing influx of foreign labour, the Manifesto also intends to introduce:

- A Singaporeans-First Policy

- Legislate minimum wage

- Democratize the political system

- Rely less on Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) and GLCs.

Rising Housing Development Board (HDB) Prices

Rising HDB prices are becoming a reality in Singapore today and the SDP intends to deal with this issue by making transparent HDB’s building accounts, extending the 99-year lease and advocating a zero-profit venture policy.

Central Provident Fund (CPF)

Many Singaporeans worry that they will not be able to enjoy the full benefits of CPF in old age. With the many other problems that arise with this issue, the SDP plans to address this cause of concern by:

- Reducing the cost of HDB flats

- Reducing CPF contribution rates

- Ensuring that the government undertakes its share of responsibilities

Healthcare

The Singapore Democratic Party holds that ‘a closer examination of Singapore’s healthcare systems reveal gaping holes as far as financing goes.’ They elaborate further that ‘under the PAP-engineered system, healthcare costs have become a deathtrap for many.’ The manifesto promises to increase cost subsidies instead of market subsidies and to stop the commercialization of healthcare in an effort to aid the people.

Poverty and Income Inequality

The SDP Solution also addresses the issue of poverty in Singapore by offering five solutions. They are:

Re-calibrate our tax structure

- Introduce minimum wage

- Expand the Public Assistance Scheme

- Pay retrenchment entitlements

- Adjust the CPF system.

GIC/Temasek

The SDP also cites Singapore’s reliance on MNCs and GLCs as a big issue. The party said it hopes to “help Singapore avert this economic mishap and lead our country to greater and a more meaningful progress.” It hopes to achieve this by letting SMEs develop, scaling back GLCs and by empowering the workers.

Dr Chee says, “We should invest in our people rather than losing them overseas.”

Education

Dr Chee used his 12-year old daughter as an example saying that she has around 12 hours of schoolwork in a day including homework and supplementary lessons. Mr Tan Jee Say, a SDP candidate in the elections, also said that he feels very concerned, as a father, over the workload thrust on his children. The SDP Solution tackles this issue by:

- Rethinking the philosophy of education

- Reducing the class size

- Reducing content and rote-learning

- Introducing single-session schools.

National Service

The manifesto also takes on Singapore’s compulsory army conscription. It offers solutions to the issues of reservist training and conscientious objectors while vowing to reduce the two year full time service and increase volunteer army recruitment. It also questioned the transparency and openness of the government’s use of National Service.

Political Rights

The SDP which is a strong advocate of political rights for many years also highlights issues surrounding these rights and has declared that it will reform the election system, respect freedom of speech, assembly and association and abolish the Internal Security Act.

Transport

“The existing system is highly unsatisfactory and in dire need of an overhaul (because)  it pits those who are financially powerful against those who are not and it must be realized – and emphasized – that traffic congestion is not caused by people who own cars but rather by the amount of usage of the cars,” says the SDP Solution outlining the issue of transport. It proposes to introduce separate categories for COE bidding, reduce the road tax, and abolish the ARF and set up an independent PTC to monitor the ERP System.

Environment

The SDP said that it is concerned with environmental issues as well. The party hopes to “create new green jobs in a high-tech, low-carbon economy by investing in green technologies, energy efficiency and public transport.” This will include implementing fair utilty bills and energy efficient homes and efficient public transport at reasonable fares among others.

Special Needs

Rights for the disabled are advocated for through the manifesto which pledges to provide equal services to the disabled, allow disabled people to lead organizations and to provide proper infrastructure to the disabled to be able to function independently.

Women’s Rights

The SDP has worked extensively with AWARE in drawing up nine solutions to issues faced by women. They include:

- To adopt legislation guaranteeing equal pay for work of equal value so as to narrow and close the wage gap between women and men.

- To ensure that paid family, maternity and paternity leave is guaranteed to all employees in the public and private sectors so as to ensure the equal sharing of family and work responsibilities by women and men.

- To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the development of a network of child-care facilities among others.

The Media

“A free press may make democracy very difficult, but it makes dictatorship impossible,” says the SDP Solution as it highlights the issue of “suppressed media” in Singapore. The manifesto vows to free the media and introduce the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which, it says, will solve this problem.

Dr Chee Soon Juan reiterates, “The SDP Solution is by no means exhaustive. (It comprises of) some of the more important issues to bring out to the voters.” With all the hard-work and dedication poured into drafting such a comprehensive manifesto, Dr Chee and his team believe that the SDP Solution will be well received by voters.