Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) Bryan Lim pointed out the “irony” of People’s Action party (PAP) Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam saying last week that the government may consider rolling out unemployment benefits if there is high structural unemployment over time.
Mr Lim contrasted this to a remark Mr Shanmugaratnam made back in the 2016 Bukit Batok By-Election when he said that SDP is pushing for “populist policies” such as the party’s Re-Employment Scheme and Temporary Assistance for the ReTrenched (RESTART).
In a Facebook post on Monday (27 July), the SDP politician then raised several questions on the matter, starting with the definition of populist.
Sharing a screenshot of the definition which he looked up online, Mr Lim said, “I must say, our Party should be absolutely proud to be a populist political party for our values have always been: People before profit, rights before riches, and wisdom before wealth.”
He went on, “In fact, this is the foundation for whichever policy papers we have crafted out- be it education, healthcare, population, climate change, economy, housing, retirement income or unemployment benefits.”
Mr Lim said that the SDP has “always been championing for social, economical, and political justice,” adding that the party chairman Dr Paul Tambyah has often quoted in his speeches that the party’s vision is to “build a Singapore based on justice and equality”.
The second question Mr Lim raised was: “How “high” should structural unemployment be before the PAP presses the panic button?”
He then posited, if the specified figure is between 5 to 10 percent, what happens if the actual rate is 4.9 percent. He asked, “Does it mean that these unemployed citizens will never get their retrenchment benefits because structural unemployment isn’t “high” enough?”
In answering these questions, Mr Lim called for the PAP to “come clean” and tell the public what is the “trigger point” before it decides to implement unemployment benefits.
He demanded, “Define what is considered ‘high over time’ because the words ‘high’ and ‘time’ are such vague quantifiers. Tell our citizens if it’s 5% over 12 months or 10% over 6 months.”
“This isn’t the time to build castles in the air or fly hot air balloons,” he slammed.
Mr Lim went on to say that the PAP should also explain to the public how their unemployment benefits are “not populist” and how it differs fundamentally from the SDP’s earlier proposal.
“For it seems that the pot has always been calling the kettle black in our Party’s 40 years of existence,” he added.
Finally, Mr Lim linked readers to an article as well as an SDP Facebook post explaining his party’s RESTART scheme. In essence, RESTART is a retrenchment insurance to be paid to workers who have been retrenched as a result of COVID-19 where the government pays 75 percent of their last drawn salary for the first six months, 50 percent for the second six months, and 25 percent for the final six months, capped at the median wage.
In his post, Mr Lim said, “The SDP believes that if unemployed citizens band together in a co-operative with their lump sum of benefits and come up with viable business ventures, it not only creates jobs, spurs innovation and entrepreneurship but also boosts the SME sector.”
“In fact, this is the best time for the GLCs to take a few steps back for our SMEs to flourish,” he added.