The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) presented its manifesto for GE2020 today (29 June) via a virtual press conference, a day before Nomination Day.
The manifesto focuses on three broad segments: economic, social, and political development and was presented by Hazel Poa.
Also on the panel was party Secretary General Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Assistant Secretary General Leong Mun Wai, Kumaran Pillay, Taufik Supan, Michael Chua and Francis Yuen.
Economic development: Review CECA, jobs for Singaporeans, and reduce dependence on foreign labour
On the first aspect of economic development in a post-COVID-19 Singapore, PSP says it is aiming for a bolder economic stimuli and stronger support for local SMEs and Singaporeans. The four-pronged approach to economic develop includes giving Singaporeans priority in the job market, introducing a quota for employment passes, and lowering the quota for S Pass and Work Permits. The party also intends to review Singapore’s existing free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India.
This ties into the party’s push to reduce dependence on foreign labour by curbing the easy supply in order to push employers to invest in equipment and processes for higher productivity and move toward a higher-wage model.
On the question of whether this proposal will discourage MNCs from setting up in Singapore, Mr Leong said that he doesn’t think it will, commenting that MNCs are more likely to understand that the government needs to control the number of migrant workers in the interest of their local workforce.
As for local SMEs specifically, the party’s manifesto stresses investing in them and encouraging cooperation as well as providing direct support to SMEs in their efforts to take their business to the world stage. The manifesto also notes prioritising local SMEs in public sector procurements and reducing business costs steps to assist this sector that employs about 70% of the country’s workforce.
Finally, the party is also looking at increasing the amount of Workfare (SUPPLEMENT) and the case portion to 80% for now as the economic reels from the impact of the global pandemic. However, when the situation stabilises, the party is looking to introduce a living wage to all sectors.
Social development: Living wage, peg HDB prices to income level, not tax increases
On the social development front, the party is championing for a stronger safety net to help Singaporeans through this COVID-19 crisis by improving the financial assistance given to those who have been unemployed due to the outbreak as well as increasing ComCare payouts.
The party is also addressing the strong concerns over the HDB lease decay by proposing en-bloc redevelopment be extended to all old flats as well as pegging the prices of new flats to income levels. The party is hoping to lower the cost of housing to free young Singaporeans to pursue entrepreneurship.
Ms Poa elaborated that new flats prices will be pegged to different income levels. For example, a 4-room flat would be pegged to the median income level to that both flat prices and income level will move in tandem, ensuring that flats remain affordable regardless of changes in economic situation or income.
Mr Leong added too that the PSP has also considered the effects of this on the HDB resale market. This is why the PSP is also proposing the expansion of en-bloc redevelopment rights for all old HDB flats, which he says will “provide some support” for the resale market.
Apart from that, the party is also proposing an increase of the CPF withdrawal quantum at 55 to S$50,000 and for Medishield Life premiums to be paid for by the governments instead of individuals.
To further reduce the cost of living, the party is also proposing a freeze on tax and fee increases for the next five years and exempting basic necessities from the GST.
On this point, Mr Chua noted that the government’s argument that this would significantly reduce GST revenue from the wealthy in society is “fallacious”. He argued that exempting basic necessities from GST would benefit lower income individuals, adding that the wealthy pay more in GST on big purchases like luxury cars than they do on basic necessities.
On how the PSP plans on funding its proposals, Mr Leong explained that government spending can be more frugal and that the party is confidence about savings that can be generated by cutting down the government’s current operating budget.
Another source of revenue for the government would be to proactively deploy the net investment return contribution from the country’s reserves, said Mr Leong. He pointed that the there is a justification for this return of investment to be spent more proactively each year.
Political development: Deny 2/3 majority, peg ministerial salaries to median income, relaxing media and arts regulations
The final segment of PSP’s manifesto deals with political development. Specifically, the party’s priorities include creating stronger alternative voices in parliament to reduce the over-dominance of a single party. It also stresses the independence of key institutions and appointments by expanding the Presidential oversight over more key public appointment.
In terms of those in the public service, the party proposes cutting ministerial salaries and pegging them to the median income. On the argument that high ministerial salaries are to prevent corruption, Ms Poa suggested that if ministers are going to be corrupt, they are in the wrong job.
Mr Chua added that the party believes that pegging ministerial salaries to the median income would create a tremendous incentive for ministers to find ways to raise the median salary by coming up with better policies that would benefits all Singaporeans.
In its manifesto, the party also proposes that public spending should be frugal and that big projects be subjected to greater scrutiny, adding that public services such as public transport and utilities should not be profit making. Some projects that the party suggests it would reconsider are the Changi T5 terminal given the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation and tourism industries.
Finally on the subject of freedom of speech and expression, PSP is pushing to allow people to speak up without fear or favour and encouraging diversity of views. In order to accomplish this, it suggests relaxing the regulations pertaining to media and the arts as well as reviewing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).