A spike in poverty among elderly Singaporeans and a rise in living costs are among the signs that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has broken its previous election promises, said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s secretary-general Chee Soon Juan at the party’s pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park last Sat (19 Oct).
Showing a clip of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech during PAP’s 2015 election rally, in which PM Lee assured that elderly Singaporeans “deserve peace of mind in their golden years” and “to live out their years with dignity”, Dr Chee cited the observation of Ng Kok Hoe, Assistant Professor at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and an expert on ageing and poverty:
“The poverty rate for elderly persons in the workforce has increased dramatically.”
Dr Chee also referred to a CNA report from 2017, in which it was stated that “23 per cent of elderly Singaporeans in the workforce are paid S$1000 or less a month”.
“The number of seniors who work into their senior years is growing too, especially for the lower-income group, for whom retirement is an alien concept,” he added, citing another CNA report from the same year.
“Are you surprised, then, that in 2017, that the number of suicides among the elderly was at an all-time high? What “peace of mind” is he [Mr Lee] talking about? What “dignity” is he referring to?” Dr Chee charged.
“Trust is not what you say, Mr Lee. it’s what you do,” he said.
Dr Chee also raised the issues of the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, as well as an increase in fees such as those paid to town councils, education fees such as university fees and kindergarten fees and transport fares.
Citing Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli’s announcement of the 30 per cent water price hike “just months” after the 2015 GE, Dr Chee pointed out that the previous Environment Minister said that no price adjustment for water is needed.
“When he was Environment Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan said in August 2015 … that there is no need for an adjustment of the water price,” said Dr Chee.
“Trust is not what you say, it’s what you do,” he reiterated.
SDP not advocating total ban of foreign labour into S’pore, but foreign labour influx should not be at the expense of S’pore PMETs: SDP chief Chee Soon Juan
Dr Chee also highlighted the issue of the influx of foreign workers under PAP in his speech on Sat.
Contrasting what Mr Lee had reportedly said as far back in 2003 — namely that the Government will ensure that foreign workers will “complement” their local counterparts instead of displacing them — Dr Chee quoted then-Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s statement on the matter, who said in 2012 that “Our increasing dependence on foreign workers is not sustainable”.
“If the Government had carefully managed the inflow of foreign workers as Mr Lee had assured us in 2003, why did Mr Tharman contradict him by pointing out that dependence on foreign PMETs has become unsustainable?” He questioned.
The “most damning indictment” of Mr Lee’s assurance, however, according to Dr Chee, is a recent report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which revealed that the percentage share of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been increasing over the past nine years.
“Not only that – the rate of these retrenched PMETs re-entering the workforce is persistently much lower than other sectors. Yet PAP continues to sign more agreements with other countries like India to have more Employment Pass and S-Pass holders, forcing many of our PMETs to drive Grab cars,” he added.
While he stressed that the SDP is not calling for a complete halt to allowing foreign labour into Singapore, Dr Chee questioned as to why PM Lee’s government does not appear to have put in place the necessary controls to manage the influx of professional foreign workers into the country, at the expense of their Singaporean counterparts.
“The SDP is not saying that we close our doors completely to foreign workers. We need construction workers and domestic helpers for sure. But why is Mr Lee indiscriminately letting in foreign PMETs and breaking his promise?” Dr Chee questioned.