The key message of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) is to “progress with compassion”, said party assistant secretary general Leong Mun Wai on the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) online series, Inconvenient Questions with former Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan.
In the episode, Mr Leong explained that “progress with compassion” means conducting the country’s economic policies with compassion.
He said, “By putting compassion back into the centre of our economy and society, we will be able to achieve much better results, in our opinion, because if you pursue the economic growth alone, it is likely as we have seen already, to lead to a fragmented society.”
When asked about what changes the PSP is hoping to implement that is different from current policies, Mr Leong noted that the most important policy would relate to jobs.
“We think that the current policy pursued by the government is actually denying a lot of our local Singaporeans, especially the PMET (professional, managers, executives, technicians) Singaporeans, of jobs,” said Mr Leong.
He continued, “So we think that this policy of quite free and uncontrolled foreign PMETs coming into the Singapore job market ought to be controlled, and ought to be reviewed and control immediately.”
He later added that the party also wants the Ministry of Manpower to be “more serious” about screening foreign PMETs more strictly to ensure that there are no Singaporeans who can do the job.
Drawing on his experience, Mr Leong said, “We have enough information and experience, because I’m a company owner myself, that the check on whether enough consideration was given to a Singaporean when considering a job offer, that part is actually not done a very strictly at the moment.”
He later added that while it is difficult to piece together statistics to show this “uncontrolled” entrance of foreign PMETs into the country, anecdotal evidence and indirect analyses based on employment figures leads the PSP to think that many Singaporeans are concerned about their jobs even before COVID-19 started due to existing policies.
Easing off ComCare and introducing a minimum living wage
Moving forward to the political aspect of PSP’s message of compassion, Mr Leong said, “I think compassion basically will lead to more motivated citizens, and that is the key to economic development going forward, real economic development by our people and for our people, because people are the most important economic input in the economic development process.”
He noted that the PSP also intends to for increasing ComCare payouts as well as introducing a minimum living wage to take care of needy Singaporeans in the bottom 10 to 20 percent of income.
On ComCare specifically, Mr Leong said that the party thinks that those already on ComCare should be eased off receiving the aid when they secure employment instead of being cut off immediately as they are now.
As for the minimum living wage, the PSP assistant secretary general explained that in a city-state like Singapore, people do not have the option of moving to the countryside when city-living becomes too expensive, which is why the PSP strongly recommends implementing a minimum living wage.
Mr Leong was then questioned about his thoughts on the government’s personalised approach to social aid, which he said is a “major objection” the party has in how social welfare is dished out in Singapore.
He said, “We think that the way the government is doing it at the moment by handing out a short-term relief does not allow Singaporeans to do more long-term planning. Whereas if you have a plan in place and say that at the moment you slip below this [point] don’t worry, we’ll have been there to help you so that you can take your time and then bounce back.”
“So I think that sort of certainty and long-term plans would allow our citizens, our fellow Singaporeans to plan better.”
Using the current COVID-19 situation as an example, Mr Leong criticised the government’s approach of handing out short-term relied in the form of three-month payouts. He said that the government should be more “bold” in its approach given that it already acknowledged that the COVID-19 virus will be around for a while.
“So then you should have that resolve and we are not we are not a country without those financial resources, but you must use those resources in a very clever way,” adding that the government should not only give out money but instil confidence, which can be done if the payouts are more long-term.
Switch to a bottom-up approach to economic development
On the matter of politics specifically, Mr Leong criticised the “top-down” approach of the government which he says needs to change.
“Even without political change, as long as the political system allows this change by allowing a more bottoms-up approach to economic development—what we call the blossoming of a thousand flowers—and the same time, rather than waiting for the CEO to give instruction each time, that is very important for the development of a more balanced and vibrant economy going forward,” said Mr Leong.
As such, he stressed that there is a need to have a more credible voice in parliament from alternative parties in order to push the government towards a more bottoms-up approach.
He explained, “So the opposition or the alternative camp, although they will still not be able to make the decisions or implement the policies, as long as they are credible voice with enough numbers of seats in Parliament, I think it would make a major impact on the next direction that the government is going to take.”
You can watch the full episode here: