SPP: Empathy in a competitive global environment 

Singapore People’s Party’s response to the President’s Address, 16 May 2014

Last night, President Tony Tan delivered his address in opening the second session of the current Parliament.

We agree with the President that empathy should be a core value of Singapore. But we face a tough uphill task in this. How do we help youths develop empathy in the face of tougher job competition internationally and in their homeland? This is in a context of a more protectionist world.

The President addressed the need for more opportunities for Singaporeans to realise their dreams and aspirations. Currently, many Singaporeans feel that they are priced out of their aspirations for cars, houses and higher education. Let’s tackle this one step at a time. Perhaps we can first think about better and fairer ways to allocate scarce resources such as car licenses.

The international environment has indeed changed. Global economic competition has transformed. No longer can we sustain our economic competitiveness through resource-heavy projects. How do we address the transformation of our economy? How can we measure the effectiveness of our economic tools? These are the SPP’s concerns. We are less concerned about GDP growth per se – we believe the quality of growth for Singapore is more important at this stage of our development.

CPF – there are alternatives to raising minimum sum

The SPP also agrees that enhancing retirement is key. Raising the CPF minimum sum is not the only way – it makes retirement tougher. Many Singaporeans are also deeply unhappy about the compulsory annuity CPF scheme. We need alternative retirement schemes to build an inclusive society. Singapore needs a complex mix of policies, such as alternative investment options to ensure a sufficient pool of funds in CPF.

A stronger social safety net?

It is important to provide more opportunities for those who fail in school, business or in life. We need to think carefully how to embrace failure and provide second chances for Singaporeans. This may include providing a stronger and less complex system of a social safety net for Singaporeans.

Tougher questions regarding the localisation of our workforce need to be addressed soon. We are aware that more than 50% of jobs in Singapore are not held by Singaporeans.

Different voices in Singapore

The President shared that we must add substance to voice. After Our Singapore Conversation (OSC), the SPP urges the government to continue launching more nation-wide conversations – regardless their political inclination. After all, we are all working for a better Singapore. Controlling the discourse online, such as through the new MDA internet regulations last year, is counter-productive and self-defeating.

If the government is sincere about hearing people’s voices, the SPP urges them to take an even-handed approach in reviewing the Broadcasting Act in the remaining term of Parliament before the next General Election, as they have slated.