Responding to the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech, People’s Voice Party (PVP) leader Lim Tean took to Facebook in 9 minutes video in which he berates the ruling party for the high cost of education in Singapore and calling for pre-school, primary, and secondary education to be made free.
The caption of the video said: “How damning that in a first-world rich nation like Singapore (with over $1 trillion in reserves) we do not have free education.”
Policies that fail Singaporeans
In the video, Mr Lim quoted what the Prime Minister said in his speech about how students from less privileged backgrounds must not be deterred from pursuing a university course just because of money. The PM said, “this is fundamental to maintaining Sg as an open meritocracy.”
However, Mr Lim countered that the PAP government haven’t given Singapore’s youth a meritocratic landscape at all, but instead have created a new reality: the Graduate Poor. Many young people, he says, work hard but end up unemployment for months due to “disastrous employment policies designed and implemented by this government.”
“Policies that make it easy and economically preferable for employers to hire cheaper foreigners than to invest in local hire employment. Policies that have resulted in 16% of those driving Grab and Gojek being aged 30 and below,” he chided.
In his NDR2019 speech, PM Lee had announced lower university fees and increased bursaries for students in the coming years. Mr Lim asserted that this was only announced “because of widespread disgust among Singaporeans after they learnt that this government spends almost a quarter of a billion dollars every year on foreign students coming to study in our local universities.”
He continued, “This government even had the cheek to tell us that what they are spending on foreign students now is only half of what they spent a decade ago. It means that 10 years ago, this government was spending more than half a billion of taxpayer dollars on foreign students studying in our unis, when many of our Singaporean students were unable to fund a local university education or parents were having to dip into their CPF or borrow in order to fund their children’s local university education or foreign university education.”
He questioned, “Why did the Prime Minister only announce lower tertiary fees and increased subsidies now when it is clear we have had the means all this time to help Singaporean students?
He also pointed out that 30% of university places are taken up by foreign students and questioned why local students are deprived of the opportunity. He went on to suggest that the quota for foreign students should never exceed 10%.
Mr Lim then highlighted the Education Minister Ong Ye Kung’s statement in the past where he said that it was the PAP’s policy to have no more than 30-40% of Singaporean adults having university degrees.
“This is shocking,” said Mr Lim, “and it shows how myopic the PAP government is in its vision for the future of Singapore.”
Comparing that to other countries, Mr Lim pointed out that “some of the most innovative countries in the world have a higher percentage of graduates”, such as Canada (56%), (Japan and Israel (50%), South Korea (47%), and the US and UK (46%).
He then quoted the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Justin Trudeau who said that Canada depends “not only on what is grown on our soil but also on what is in the heads of our people.”
“Yet here in SG, we have a government that tries to limit the potential of Singaporeans by telling our young people there is no need to go to university,” he chastised.
“And they do that because they have no idea of how to grow the economic pie in this new world. All they are capable of is to repeat the mantra of globalisation and free trade when the world order changed a decade ago after the 2008 financial crisis.”
This is the reason for Singapore’s economic woes, according to Mr Lim, noting that even though Singapore is in the fastest-growing region of the world (ASEAN), it is ‘regressing’ while all other major ASEAN countries are progressing.
“And all that the PAP and mainstream media (who are their mouthpiece) can give as a reason is that there is a trade war going on between America and China,” he added, calling it a “lame excuse”.
Mr Lim reiterated that this shows that the PAP has been unable to bring the Singapore economy up to speed despite all its talk of restructuring the economy for the past three decades. Here, he pointed out the comments of PAP’s former member of Parliament Inderjit Singh who remarked that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Committee for Future Economies Report was nothing but a rehash of old ideas.
“One of the consequences of the PAP’s myopia is that many of the lucrative jobs which can only be filled by university graduates will now go to so-called foreign talent when the government should be ensuring that it is Singaporeans who get these good-paying jobs.”
Almost free is not good enough
Mr Lim then moved on to the government’s policy on pre-school education. Mr Lim reminded people that the wellbeing of a child begins and is developed at home. Unfortunately, that development can be affected if the family is under financial stress.
Here, Mr Lim pointed out several examples of how young families are “squeezed and burdened financially” under the PAP government due to moves like the30% water hike, over 5% electricity hike, the significant increase in transportation costs and the impending 2% GST increase.
“So when we are talking about preschool development of a child it’s not as facile as simply creating more preschool places,” Mr Lim pointed out.
Moving on to the cost of pre-school itself, Mr Lim mentioned that PM Lee in his NDR2019 speech had recited an anecdotal story of a young couple paying S$560 per child per month for pre-school. This, Mr Lim berated, is disgustingly high even for a middle-income family.
He then asserts that pre-school education should be free. “The beneficiaries of free education are not just the children and their families but each and every Singapore alive today and in the generations to come. And we should be investing in our next generation’s future from the first day they start school.”
Mr Lee has also talked about how once the child is in primary school, the costs will be a lot less and in many cases, almost free. Mr Lim counters, “Almost is not good enough. Almost free, almost democratic, almost thinking about it. The almost party.”
Mr Lim asserts that “primary school education should be absolutely free in a rich first world nation like Singapore”, adding that almost is not good enough when talking about the future of children.
More than that, Mr Lim insists that primary and secondary should be free as well in a country like Singapore.
“In a first world country, which Singapore is and has been for many years, it should be a given that preschool, primary and secondary school are all free. And it’s quite damning that we are one of the very few first world countries where that is not so.”