People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Vivian Balakrishnan stated that some of the proposals suggested by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have “very big holes” in fiscal deficits. As such, he asked the alternative party’s chief Dr Chee Soon Juan to explain this during a live TV debate yesterday evening (1 July).
Titled “Singapore Votes 2020 – The Political Debate”, the live TV debate was moderated by CNA Digital’s chief Jamie Ho. It saw candidates 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 PAP debate on a wide range of issues.
During the second half of the debate when candidates were given a chance to ask each other questions, Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Chee went head-to-head on a number of issues, including SDP’s fiscal spending as well as PAP’s goal of reaching 10 million population.
In one of the questions raised, the PAP candidate wanted to know from Dr Chee how much it would cost to implement all the different schemes that SDP is proposing, as well as how it would be allocated to the taxpayers.
“I think my voters want to know what the total size of the bill is, and who bears it,” Dr Balakrishnan noted.
“Some of your proposals have got very big holes, in term of fiscal deficits, so please enlighten us,” he asked.
To this, Dr Chee brought up two of SDP’s proposals – a retrenchment benefit scheme and giving out monthly income for the elderly.
“We’ve put these two together, we’re talking about an annual budget of about S$5 billion dollars,” he said.
Dr Chee added, “Now compare that to what you’ve signed off this year, nearly S$100 billion dollars. Even if the Government did not take in any more revenue, it will take us 20 years for us to spend all that the Budget that you have allocated for just the next year or so.”
SDP’s election campaign for the upcoming GE is “Four Yes, One No” or 4Y1N Campaign, which is the party’s vision for Singapore in a post-COVID future.
Under the Four Yes, the party is looking at suspending GST, providing retrenchment benefits for those who lost their job due to the pandemic, offering income to retirees over the age of 65, and putting people first. As for the One No, SDP rejects the plan of 10 million population.
Increasing population to 10 million
As for Dr Chee’s question to Dr Balakrishnan, he mentioned that the labour productivity and GDP were on the “same downward trend”, while unemployment in Singapore was on the rise. He added that this has been happening even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
He went on to highlight that the number of S-Pass and Employment Pass holders are also increasing.
“And over and above all this, Mr Heng Swee Keat then comes up to say, in an interview, toys with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million,” Dr Chee noted.
He continued, “Singaporeans are deadly worried about this proposal. Will you categorically tell Singaporeans right now that your party has no intention of raising our population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners—especially foreign PMETs—into Singapore to compete with our PMETs for jobs?”
As a reply, Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had issued a statement “advising people like you not to indulge in falsehoods”.
To that, Dr Chee interrupted and hinted that it was Mr Heng who mentioned about the idea of having 10 million population, adding that he would even cite the interview that he was referring to.
Dr Balakrishnan refuted his point, saying that it was a “cheap shot”.
On Wednesday, the National Population and Telent Division (NPTD), Strategy Group in the PMO released a media statement explaining that the Government is not planning to increase the population to 10 million, reiterating that the statements that have been circulating online is not true.
“Let me state for the record. We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million,” Dr Balakrishnan stressed.
“The Government doesn’t have a target for the population. What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves, and able to stay as a cohesive whole.
“It is not a target, and it is certainly not 10 million, and you are raising a false straw man. That is a false statement. And we have said so and we will say so again,” he remarked.