Meet PSP: Dr Tan Cheng Bok & co. on expanding SERS, implementing unemployment benefits, and pushing for transparency

On (11 June) night, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) held its third meet the party session on Facebook Live to discuss the party’s policies, answer question and introduce some new faces. The session also included PSP chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock, assistant secretary general Leong Mun Wai, as well as party treasurer S Nallakaruppan.

To start with, Mr Leong noted that people in Singapore should be concentrating on spending time with their loved ones and trying to get through the pandemic together, but that the government is constantly reminding people it is necessary to have a general election.

“In our opinion, there’s no need for a general election right now. At this stage, the lives and livelihood of our fellow citizens are far more important than politics,” he said.

“But if the election comes, we will have to fight it,” he added, stressing that if the election is called soon, parties will have to rely on technology to campaign as physical rallies won’t be possible.

On unemployment in the post-COVID world

The two-hour session addressed many of the party’s stances and policies including how the party would address unemployment in a post-COVID Singapore.

On this, Mr Nalla stressed that Singapore is facing a tough situation now with the pandemic affecting the livelihoods of many Singaporeans especially professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) in their 30s and 40s who were also being displaced before COVID-19 due to the rise of the gig economy.

Explaining the party’s stance, he said, “As a party, we believe that first, we have to look after these people,” adding that those who have been displaced should receive unemployment benefit for up to six months to help them out in the short term.

As for the long term, Mr Nalla noted that beyond just providing more training, “we must get them jobs”, suggesting that those without jobs may be employed first before being sent for training which is subsidised or paid for in full by the government.

“The future is we have to move up the value chain and provide decent jobs and decent income for Singaporeans,” said the party treasurer.

Adding to that, Mr Leong outlined the three steps that PSP has in tackling the employment problem, starting with a review of arrangements Singapore has with other countries, particularly with India under the free trade agreement.

He said, “I think given that the COVID situation has cost us a lot of jobs, it is inevitable that probably we have to recoup some of the job losses. We have to take some of the jobs from the current market from some of these foreign PMET.”

Second, is to accelerate training programmes for Singaporeans to ensure that graduates are trained with the right skills for the new digital economy. Third, Mr Leong said, “PSP has a full-fledged plan to build a new or to create a new economy around technology and around SMEs.”

PSP’s plans for HDB related issues

During the session, question was also asked on how the party plans on addressing the HDB issues, in particular the falling prices of old HDB flats.

Mr Nalla stated that the party’s policy is to expand the selective enbloc redevelopment scheme (SERS) to include all existing HDB homes. He explained that if someone owns a 30 to 40 year old HDB flat, they can have the option for it to be redeveloped or they can sell away that option for about S$100,000 to S$150,000 which they can then use to top up their CPF retirement account.

He emphasised that almost 50 percent of Singaporeans cannot meet the minimum CPF retirement sum, so this plan could boost people’s retirement planning.

Expanding further on SERS, Mr Leong added that currently the government says only about 4 percent of all HDB flats will be redeveloped under SERS, leaving another 96 percent without this option. However, he emphasised that the PSP thinks that this can be extended to all other existing HDB flats.

He continued, “From the political angle, the government has actually given the impression that HDB flats are a permanent asset. That means it will last forever as an asset. So because of that, we think that the government has a responsibility to at least guarantee the value of the second hand and the existing HDB flats through the SERS programme. So if they promise to do SERS for all the HDB flats, then the older HDB flats prices will not collapse.”

Mr Nalla later added that the party is also proposing a policy to make housing more affordable, especially for first-time buyers, via a rent-to-own scheme which would allow people to rent a property for the first five years with the option to buy it later or continue renting.

On other opposition parties, transparency and if Singapore is ready for a minority to be Prime Minister

On the question of how PSP seeks to approach other opposition parties contesting in the next election, party leader Dr Tan merely stated that everyone is free to take part in the elections. He emphasised that the important thing is for their motivations and objectives to be good, stressing that they should put the country and the people first.

At some point during the session, Mr Nalla addressed a question on whether Singapore is ready for a minority to become Prime Minister. He responded, “It’s about time, Singapore, after 55 years of independence, we should move away from race and be identified as a Singaporean.”

He added that general feedback from the ground indicated that many Singaporeans would like Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam to be the next Prime Minister as he is a “capable and totally honourable” man.

During the session, Mr Tan also described transparency as the “cornerstone” of his thinking when starting the PSP.

“Because I was there in the early days with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the first generation leaders. We placed a lot on transparency, accountability. These are the important things.”

He went on, “These form the fundamental pillars of what forms a good government because these will create trust with the people, and if there’s trust with the people, you can go about developing policies and doing a lot of things because there is a lot of commitment by the people o support it.”

He noted that back then, the government embarked on some “very very tough” policies such as the Graduate Mothers Policy which people supported. However, he acknowledged that they realised later that it was a “lousy policy” and were “prepared to remove it for the interest of the country.”

You can watch the full session here:

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