In a speech live-streamed on the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Facebook page yesterday (7 Jul), Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam proposed how Singapore can tackle inequality and ensure security through every stage of life – from early childhood to working life to the retirement years (‘Singapore GE2020: Tharman sets out plans for a more united Singapore‘).
“The aim of all our strategies, economic and social, is to have a more fair and just society, where young people have hope, regardless of what social backgrounds they come from… where everyone can advance in their careers regardless of what qualifications they start with, and where our seniors can look forward to living life fully in retirement, and living life with a sense of security,” said Tharman.
“This is about real programmes – real programmes that we keep improving, learning over time what works. Never perfect, but constant improvement.”
He said the Government is levelling the playing field with plans to double expenditure in the pre-school sector over the next few years. The Government will ensure every child, no matter how poor, has access to broadband Internet and a computer at home. This helps children to level up from less fortunate families earlier in their lives, he said.
For the working Singaporeans, the Government would ensure “a massive infusion of skills at every stage of one’s career”.
He took the opportunity to criticise opposition politicians who make “very nice-sounding promises” on what should be done to help seniors, including for CPF payouts to start earlier or for the Government to pay more of Singaporeans’ healthcare costs, such as by subsidising MediShield premiums.
But many of these measures will only end up hurting the very people they are trying to help, he added, resulting in higher tax rates for middle-income households. “Some promises look appealing, but they actually lead to greater inequality over time,” he said.
He also asked Singaporeans to play their part, to find ways to help others, whether they are the elderly, the less privileged or the less educated. He urged the younger Singaporeans to be more involved in their neighbourhoods and in society, and take part in the Singapore Together movement, which was launched by the Government last year.
“We can emerge from Covid not more divided, but with a more cohesive society,” he said.
Prof Koh: We don’t want more Singaporeans to become Grab drivers and angry voters
Meanwhile at the Singapore Bicentennial Conference last October, former Singapore’s UN Permanent Representative Professor Tommy Koh cautioned the 4th generation PAP leaders that one of their priorities should be to make Singapore a more equal society.
These include looking into allegations of discriminatory hiring practices and working to make Singapore a classless society, he told the audience.
“We should not abandon the displaced workers because we don’t want more and more Singaporeans to become Grab drivers or, worse, to join the ranks of the angry voters,” he said.
“Remember this: It was the angry voters who helped to elect President (Donald) Trump in the United States. It was the angry voters in the United Kingdom who voted to leave the European Union.”
Indeed, many Singaporean Grab and taxi drivers are already feeling frustrated with the PAP government.
Former PMET turns cab driver
One good example is former PMET James Lim who regularly blogs about his cab driving experience. He became jobless in his fifties. With a family to support and unable to find a suitable job, he was forced to become a cab driver. He wrote that he blogs so as to make his dull job “a bit more interesting”.
In one of his write-ups, Mr Lim got so frustrated with the policies of the government that he advised young Singaporeans to emigrate if they could.
He said, “With unabated hordes of foreigners still coming in to depress their (Singaporeans’) wages or even displace them at the workplace, reduce them to second-class citizens and a minority in their own country, how much loyalty and love can we expect from local-bred Singaporean for this country down the road?”
“If you’re a young and educated Singaporean family with valuable skill, I would encourage you to migrate to another country,” he added.
At the end of last year, the number of foreign PMETs (Employment Pass and S Pass holders) hit almost 400K at 393,700. This was the largest increase at 3.3% since the last general election in 2015: