During the fourth day of the parliamentary debate on President Halimah Yacob’s address, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung addressed the concerns raised by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Workers’ Party (WP) and Progress Singapore Party (PSP), saying that the government does not dismiss their concerns.
Mr Ong acknowledged on Thursday (20 Apr) that many MPs, including WP MPs, have raised many ideas in parliament, and where appropriate, the government takes those ideas in while formulating or reviewing its policies.
He noted a “fundamental difference” with the WP’s ideas on the Budget, as the party has not supported the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system, which is essential for funding their proposals.
Following Mr Ong’s rebuttal, WP MP Leon Perera defended his party’s views on the government’s lack of fostering a strong sense of participation in democracy.
Mr Perera asserted that the WP does present concrete ideas and alternatives, but said there is a need to strike a balance between current and future generations.
He asked Ong to acknowledge that the WP puts forward “concrete ideas” that are alternatives and that there is a balance to be struck between the needs of the current and future generations.
In response, Mr Ong reiterated that in his view, the balance is best struck when the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) is equally apportioned. He asked for clarification on whether the WP is opposed to GST or includes the tax in its alternate Budget.
Mr Perera replied that the WP accepts “the reality of a GST at 7%”, but opposes the tax hike to 9%.
During the parliamentary debate, Hazel Poa, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from the PSP, clarified that the party’s motion on foreign talent policy was not targeting any particular race.
She explained that the party had pointed out that the growth rate of foreign manpower from a particular nationality is growing at a much faster rate than other nationalities, and that this was a factual observation.
Mr Ong responded by reminding the PSP NCMPs that “how we raise issues matters a great deal,” and emphasized the need to preserve a harmonious society. He called on the opposition parties to explain how their proposals will be funded and to take a principled and consistent approach to making alternative proposals.
Editor’s note: Despite his statement in Parliament, Ong Ye Kung failed to offer specific information to refute the claims made by the WP and PSP. Although he stated that data was provided upon request, the information provided during his and Dr Tan See Leng’s Ministerial Statements in 2021 was presented in a way that was difficult to understand. In fact, Mr Leong had to ask additional questions during subsequent parliamentary sessions to obtain more information. Despite this, the data was still insufficient to paint a comprehensive picture of the labour situation.
Read: Ong Ye Kung offers no evidence of how FTAs and CECA benefit S’poreans, says Lim Tean on ministerial statement