“We are Paul Tambyah and Alfred Tan from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Ask Us Anything!” was the title of the thread on Reddit’s Singapore community page. Professor Tambyah is the chairman of SDP, while Mr Tan is a member. 

Answered from 5pm – 10pm on Thursday (25 June), both members tackled questions mostly centering on the Covid-19 pandemic and the party’s policy manifesto. The general response was commendation for the party’s creativity for utilizing Reddit to reach out to the voters. 

When it came to the questions, Singaporeans were keen on how Prof Tambyah would capitalize on his broad medical expertise on infectious disease to handle the health crisis if he was elected member of parliament. He was the first Singaporean to be elected president of the US-based International Society of Infectious Diseases.

“Hi Prof Tambyah, how would having you as an infectious diseases expert in parliament benefit Singapore’s Covid approach?” was one such question fielded.

Prof Tambyah said that “ideally, it should not take an infectious diseases expert in parliament. The politicians should take a back seat like in SARS and let the experts communicate with the public and guide policy. In SARS, the ministerial committee worked in the background and let the infectious diseases and public health experts deliver messages which were based on science. This time round, it appears that the ministerial committee is calling the shots. The consequences have been devastating especially for the migrant workers who build our homes, clean our estates and repair our roads. The impact on our economy has been considerable too.”

A second user followed up on this question with a more in-depth query on his thoughts on current situation and government management on the pandemic. “Since healthcare is going to be a hot topic of this election, what are your views on the current COVID-19 situation, do you think the current government is doing an acceptable job and what other ways would your party do additionally as elected MPs to help?”

“Singapore has some of the world’s best doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. The main problem with our healthcare system is that it is unaffordable primarily because it is run as a business like in the United States. Similar to the US, there are a multitude of complicated schemes to finance healthcare such as Medisave, Medishield Life, Medifund and now Careshield. These schemes are expensive to administer and complicated for ordinary people. The SDP healthcare plan is a much simpler, single payer scheme which cuts down on admin costs and focuses on ensuring that evidence based healthcare is affordable for everyone,” said Prof Tambyah. 

Mr Tan, a businessman and entrepreneur with years of international banking, corporate finance, business management and industry experience, took on questions relating to GST and current fiscal policies.

“How do you intend to fund the initiatives in your plans to Suspend GST, Pay retrenchment benefits, and to provide retirement income?”

Mr Tan commented that “the GST suspension is for the COVID period when the economy will need assistance to get back on its feet. This will be similar to a continuation of the COVID mitigation budgets.

The additional funding for our programs can be raised through reinstating estate duties and asset and capital taxes. Prudently adjusting the presently conservative 50% NIRC stance by another 10% can comfortably provide our programs.

We can also better scrutinise the government budget and seek to reduce waste and imprudent spending. Looking at how past projects (e.g., Founder’s Memorial, $800,000 bin centre) had been approved and implemented, there should be better debate and justification for expenditures and capital spend. And as I had also mentioned earlier in another reply, we will need to cut accordingly to our cloth, and not insist on spending where the situation does not justify.”

But another user asked for the party’s plans on “how (they) intended to find the revenue after reducing the GST to 0%?”

To this Mr Tan said that “the suspension of GST until the end of next year is a response to the prevailing COVID environment. We don’t see the economy and society recovering to its pre-COVID levels so soon, especially given the global pandemic nature. Liken it as a natural extension of the COVID mitigation budgets. This approx. $10B package could be funded from our reserves, similar to the ongoing COVID responses. How much reserves we actually have unfortunately is still a mystery to policy makers of the land.

The suspension of the GST will put money back into the people and businesses. In turn, this will help kick-start the economy, something that is productive as well as pushes back deflationary pressures.”

We are Paul Tambyah and Alfred Tan from the Singapore Democratic Party, Ask Us Anything! from r/singapore

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