On Wednesday evening (1 July) representatives from three alternative parties who fielded the most number of members for the upcoming GE – SDP, Workers’ Party (WP), and Progress Singapore Party (PSP) – along with the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) debated on a wide range of issues concerning Singaporeans during the one-hour live programme of “Singapore Votes 2020 – The Political Debate” that was broadcast on national TV.

The political representatives that participated in the debate were PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan, WP’s economist Dr Jamus Lim, SDP’s chief Dr Chee Soon Juan, and PSP’s Francis Yuen.

During the first segment of the debate, they were asked by the moderator – CNA Digital chief Jamie Ho – on how their parties would deal with rising unemployment, create jobs for Singaporeans young and old, as well as improve the lives of Singaporeans despite the bleak economic outlook in Singapore and across the world.

PSP’s Francis Yuen: A lot of foreign PMETs working in Singapore, yet more than 100,000 of local PMETs are out of jobs

In response to the question, Mr Yuen, who is the PSP candidate running in Chua Chu Kang GRC, emphasized that Singaporeans need assurance that they are prioritized when it comes to employment. He explained, “A lot of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) working here (about 400,000), yet more than 100,000 of local PMETs are out of jobs.”

Despite noting that foreign PMETs are needed in Singapore to complement the way things are, he asserted that Singaporeans also believe that “there is opportunity for us to slow it down”.

In order to ensure employment opportunities continue to be available for the younger people, Mr Yuen pointed out that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – which employ 70 per cent of the country’s workforce – have to “continue become a strong engine of growth, the backbone of our economy”.

He also stressed that job training opportunities need to be provided evenly for everyone in order to properly move forward to the new normal.

WP’s Dr Jamus Lim: The idea of raising GST at this time of economic contraction will be “very counterproductive”

Meanwhile Dr Janus Lim, who is the WP candidate contesting in Sengkang GRC, mentioned that raising the GST amid economic contraction caused by COVID-19 pandemic will be “very counterproductive”.

“It is critical that we do not hamper the economy anyway by raising taxes. We understand the plan to implement GST will come after the pandemic, but if we believe this contraction will be prolonged, then I think the idea of raising taxes at this time, will be very counterproductive at the segregate perspective,” he remarked.

Dr Lim went on to say that it is insufficient just to have jobs, adding that the WP firmly believes that workers are seeking for a good job that enables them to work with dignity.

Thus, the WP representative iterated that his party has presented a number of proposals that they believe will improve the quality of work.

According to Dr Lim, the WP has called for the national minimum wage of S$1,300 per month for full-time work and pro-rated for part-time work, so as to help the lower income Singaporeans meet their basic needs.

Also, with the Redundancy Insurance Scheme which costs S$4 per month, he noted that retrenched workers would receive a payout of 40 per cent of their last-drawn salary for six months after being made redundant.

Dr Chee Soon Juan: SDP’s retrenchment benefit allows the retrench workers to come together to “build a viable business plan”

Dr Chee Soon Juan concurred with the opinion of Mr Yuen on the issue of large number of foreign PMETs in Singapore.

“We’ve got to stop this foolishness of continuing to bring in foreign workers, especially PMETs when we have more than 100,000 unemployed people in Singapore at this moment,” the SDP chief remarked.

Dr Chee, who will be contesting at Bukit Batok SMC, stated that his party has proposed the retrenchment benefits to look after the retrenched workers.

By receiving the retrenchment benefits, he assured that the workers will be able to come together to “build a viable business plan”.

“This not only bring this people back into as productive member of economy, but also encouraging an entrepreneurial class and get Singapore to be a truly innovative society,” said Dr Chee.

According to the SDP’s 4Y1N campaign for GE, the party is calling for the retrenchment benefits to be paid to workers who are retrenched due to COVID-19.

“Under the SDP RESTART (Re-Employment Scheme and Temporary Assistance for the ReTrenched) programme, if a worker is retrenched, the government pays 75% of his/her last drawn salary for 1st 6 months, 50% for 2nd 6 months, and 25% for the final 6 months (capped at the median wage),” the campaign’s statement read.

Local unemployement rate increased 0.1% from 3.2% to 3.3%; PAP’s Dr Vivian Balakrishnan says it would have been far worse if without emergency measures in place

Last but not least, PAP candidate for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Dr Balakrishnan asserted that the COVID-19 crisis is the “greatest crisis of our lifetime”, adding that it is not merely a global health pandemic but “in fact a deeper depression than even in the 1930s”.

Stressing that the central focus of his party’s campaign is about jobs, he said that in order to save jobs for Singaporeans in the immediate term and to provide them with immediate relief, they have launched the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), and COVID-19 Temporary Support to help Singaporeans tide through this period.

“If you look at the bulk of almost hundred billion in the successive budget that we have now, most of that is really focus on keeping company afloat. Why? Because we need to keep jobs opportunity available for Singaporeans,” Dr Balakrishnan remarked.

He also cited the local unemployment rate, which has increased from 3.2% to 3.3%, saying, “It would have been far worse if we didn’t have these emergency measures in place.”

Looking beyond these emergency measures, Dr Balakrishnan hinted that the “only way” forward is increasing productivity, upgrading skills, and seizing jobs of the future.

“That’s why we launch the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. We formed the National Jobs Council led by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam,” he noted, adding that it is “all about creating job opportunities. It means jobs, it means training, it means attachments”.

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