National growth should not be done at the expense of jobs for Singaporeans and ailing infrastructure, said Singapore People’s Party chairman and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Lina Chiam, who has issued a response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally last evening.
Citing issues with low birth rates, public transport woes, population growth and Singapore’s place in international economics, Mrs Chiam, who will be re-contesting in Potong Pasir SMC for GE2015, indicated that the government needs to first take care of the interest of citizens.
“While we must ensure a sustainable immigration policy, we continue to ensure our low birth rate does not erode our base of work force,” she said. “As an opposition NCMP, I am fully aware that Singaporeans want better jobs. I also want to put Singaporeans first in policies. We do want to sustain a favorable business environment. But we must also try to improve the skill sets of Singaporeans, and improve the productivity of our local workforce.”
She agreed with the PM about having sight on global challenges, particularly in a weakening region where Singapore has a stronger role to play, and she is not focused on local issues like transport to the exclusion of these issues, but hopes instead to “work with the next group of leaders, PAP or otherwise, to tackle long term issues”.
Mrs Chiam is also confident that SPP has the talent within the party to contribute to policy-making and challenge the ruling People’s Action Party on core national issues.
SPP has thus far announced Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Ravi Philemon as candidates for the coming General Election. Both Chong and Philemon have been instrumental in handling policy proposals during their time at the National Solidarity Party.
Mrs Chiam’s response to PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech is appended in full below.
There were many issues raised by the Prime Minister in his national day rally speech. He was also campaigning for his party in his speech, dishing out more goodies to Singaporeans. In a way, it seems to be an election speech.
By far, the most important topic was the tradeoff between economic growth and our need for foreign workers. This seems to be a permanent feature in every rally. While we must ensure a sustainable immigration policy, we continue to ensure our low birth rate does not erode our base of work force. As an opposition NCMP, I am fully aware that Singaporeans want better jobs. I also want to put Singaporeans first in policies. We do want to sustain a favorable business environment. But we must also try to improve the skill sets of Singaporeans, and improve the productivity of our local workforce. Singaporean employees want less foreign competition, but Singaporean firms have been asking for relaxation of foreign worker quota. As a politician, my aim is to balance two sides of the equation, for the benefit of both sides.
There are two ways to combat the economic challenges of low birth rate. We either maintain a more open immigration policy or we increase the working life of our work force. In the latter, I support the PM’s call to increase working life to 67. I also think we need a better balance between the two methods.
Our population policy and low birth rate will continue to be an issue for Singapore. In a bid to increase our economic competitiveness, the government increased the population planning parameters. Downstream, our transport capacity was stretched. The role of the Transport Minister is now critical for Singapore. I suggest the PM or the DPM themselves assume the role of Transport Minister, to take charge of this vital portfolio.
I also agree with the PM that we need to look beyond Singapore. We have destabilizing forces around the region. Malaysia is weakening as a nation. For Singapore to grow, we need our region to be strong as well. After all, they act as our hinterland and are strong trading partners to Singapore. A country like Indonesia can afford to close their doors because of their size. Further north, China is competing with Singapore for our core financial businesses. Yes, I get it that MRT breakdowns are frustrating. But I hope we can work with the next group of leaders, PAP or otherwise, to tackle long term issues.
At the SPP, we focus on building a strong pipeline of talent. Unlike other parties, it is not our interest to push these talented individuals put prematurely. We want to contribute to policy and we think we have the talent to compete with the PAP on core issues.
Mrs Lina Chiam, NCMP
Chairman, Singapore People’s Party