On 18 June, the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) introduced its first slate of candidates for the upcoming election in an online press conference which included founding member and party treasure Mr Sri Nallakaruppan.
In introducing Mr Nalla, PSP secretary-general Dr Tan Cheng Bock praised Mr Nalla for his financial trainig, having graduated NUS and is a chartered accountant with about 26 years of experience in stock broking.
Dr Tan also noted his praise for Mr Nalla’s diligence in managing the party accounts, extolling his sincerity, honest, and frankness.
In his introduction, Mr Nalla, who describes himself as part of the “Majulah Generation” shared that his intends to raise issues in parliament that close to his heart.
Sharing an experience from his past, Mr Nalla recalled a time in 2014 when he and several of his peers within the financial industries were concerned over the lack of confidence in the market as companies were going bust and some companies being fraudulent.
Mr Nalla said, “So we felt that something must be done to the market. So me and a few others, we took the courage and we actually prepared a letter and wrote it to then-DPM Tharman who was then also the Finance Minister.”
This, he said, was unprecedented as they managed to get over 1,200 signatures on several recommendations for the government on how to rebuild confidence in Singapore’s markets. The group—which had 100 years of experience between them—even met up with some policy makers give these suggestions. Unfortunately, these suggestion were not taken up at the time.
The thing is, five years down the line, policy makers “backtracked” and decided to implement the suggestions that were presented by Mr Nalla and his peers.
Drawing from that experience, Mr Nalla emphasised, “So that is the story that we are facing now, you know. Sometimes when they implement policies, we understand sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned. But at least they must have the honesty to admit it and then rectify it. But the problem now is when they have that, they implement the policy and it falls flat, they keep quiet and then quietly withdraw many years down the road but so much damage would have been done.”
Looking at the current COVID-19 crisis, Mr Nalla said, “Just like the recent COVID-19 crisis when initially they said we don’t need to wear masks when in fact there were not enough masks that’s why probably they suggested this policy that we don’t need to wear masks. Now a few months down the road they say we must wear mask. If you don’t wear masks, we impose a penalty. So there is a complete 180 degree turn.”
Mr Nalla stressed that the government should be honest and frank with its citizens, adding that “people will understand”.
During the press conference, TOC asked a question about whether the economic impact of the pandemic has levelled the ground for both opposition and ruling parties in propose post-COVID economic models.
Mr Nalla responded that he thinks Singapore’s economy has to transform completely and start focusing more on small and medium enterprises.
He said, “In the 60s, 70s, and 80s we are more multinational focused. And now I think it’s about time we have to focus more on our SMEs. We must create conducive policies for them to operate, funding options and also our start-up.”
The chartered accountant described SMEs as the “backbone” of the country’s economy with about 70% of employment coming from SMEs. He also went on to explain how the relationship Singapore has with multinational companies have changed over the years.
He elaborated, “Also, you know, when we try to get multinational companies back in the good old days when Phillip Yeoh did a fantastic job bringing a lot multinational companies, but now the multinational companies say if I come to Singapore what can you offer?”
He added, too, that many countries are becoming more protectionist, meaning it is now time for Singapore’s economy to be led by its own SMEs.
“We need to give them the adequate funding support, adequate policies to for them to try and one day they can be our Google or Alibaba or Apple of the world,” he emphasised.
Mr Nalla noted that the biggest costs for SMEs here is labour and rent. Addressing rent specifically, the politician noted that rentals go up by 5 percent each year, which can become a burden on SMEs.
“A lot of SME businesses have folded up because simply they can’t bear the rent. Although the government is subsidizing on the labour front, but the rentals are still there and many of them just can’t cope financially,” he said.
On that note, Mr Nalla said it is time for the government to review rents in Singapore or offer facilities with less exorbitant rental rates.
Furthermore, the PSP founding member went on to also note that there is a need to transform the education system and teach youths about risk-taking and creating a conducive environment for them to succeed.
He said, “So the education where we, you know, encourage our graduates or Polytechnic diploma holders to start up small businesses and all that to take risks, try out ventures. Then we create real incubation where the government can provide some sort of small funding that they then venture and then some of them will become successful.”