SINGAPORE — During the May Day Rally at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on 1 May, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong highlighted Singapore’s economic transformation, the significance of lifelong learning, and the critical role of tripartism and the People’s Action Party (PAP)-National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) partnership.
Rehashing the points about the increasingly dangerous and troubled world, he said that Singapore’s competitiveness is being tested amid rising protectionism, shifting investment flows, and massive subsidies for strategic industries by major economies.
He urged union leaders to understand and communicate these challenges to their members, stressing that the country cannot afford to outbid major economies to attract multinational corporations’ investments.
Mr Wong underscored the importance of the PAP-NTUC partnership and tripartism in Singapore, asserting that it is a competitive advantage for the nation.
He said, “Tripartism – that’s our secret recipe, our secret formula. It is one of our greatest and most sustainable competitive advantages.”
NTUC is currently headed by Mr Ng Chee Meng, a member of the PAP Central Executive Committee, who lost against the Workers’ Party’s team of new candidates at Seng Kang GRC in the General Election 2020.
He shared his personal ties with the union, which began over 15 years ago and pledged his continued support to the Labour Movement.
Mr Wong expressed his gratitude to union leaders and promised, “You can always count on my support and friendship as we chart our new way forward together.”
“Come what may, we will always be there with you, for you, and we will always have your back,” DPM Wong said before he was closing his speech.
DPM Wong again assured that the 4G team is fully committed to looking after workers, protecting their interest, and helping them earn a better living and live a better life.
Netizens hesitant to trust PAP’s promises
However, comments from Singaporean netizens on mainstream media outlets, such as CNA, The Straits Times, and Mothership‘s Facebook posts, indicate that many are sceptical of the ruling party’s promises and hesitant to trust them.
Numerous netizens have expressed doubts about DPM Wong’s pledge, citing a pattern of broken promises in the past where citizens continue to suffer from rising costs of living, housing prices, and GST.
One netizen pointed out that DPM Wong’s promise may not hold true, as the government has historically increased taxes and costs for middle-class citizens.
A netizen commented in Mandarin, wrote:
“Who is pushing the price of HDB flats to a new high in the open market (can Singapore citizens afford it?) We all know it in our hearts. Regardless of speeches and songs, the cost of living is now outrageously high. We hear the government talking about increasing fees every day. Will our lives get better? (Unbelievable) It sounds better when said than sung.”
Some netizens cited difficulty finding work and struggling to make a living
While DPM Wong talks about up-skilling and creating more jobs, some comments also pointed out the reality on the ground is that many Singaporeans are struggling to make ends meet.
Some cited personal experiences with difficulty finding work and struggling to make a living as a delivery driver and called for more concrete actions and real solutions to address the challenges faced by ordinary Singaporeans, rather than just empty promises.
A netizen also raised a valid concern by asking about the welfare of retirees, youths, and individuals with little or no income.
One netizen confessed his four-year job search experience
A netizen shared his four-year job search experience. He reveals that he had gone for interviews with Workforce Singapore (WSG) and e2i (Employment & Employability Institute), but his experience with the agencies was bitter.
He alleged that they told him to “migrate best,” which left him feeling discouraged. Frustrated with his job search, the netizen said he is considering moving to Taiwan, which he believes cares more for its people.
Netizen questioned if government has a clear strategy to transition away from a reliance on cheap foreign labour
A comment raised concerns about the government’s approach, questioning whether there is a clear strategy in place to transition away from a reliance on cheap foreign labour, or if the country is continuing to expand this type of economy.
Another comment highlighted the issue of upskilling, pointing out that it may be ineffective if the government does not prioritize local workers over cheap foreign labour when it comes to employment.
“Reduce our dependence of foreign labour”
A netizen suggested that DPM Wong should focus on helping ITE and polytechnic graduates take on essential job roles that require new technology.
As more jobs are being displaced, especially office-related jobs, it is crucial to reduce Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour and modernize these job roles further.
“Trust is not what you say, it’s what you do”
It’s hard not to recall what Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan said in 2019, reminding Singaporeans that broken promises by the ruling party indicate that “trust is not what you say, it’s what you do.”
DPM Wong’s May Day rally speech seemed more like an election rally speech, as he covered various topics such as being there for the people, reskilling and upskilling, better job opportunities, and living a better life.
However, the speech left out crucial issues such as the increasing Goods & Service Tax (GST), Built-To-Order (BTO) flats and rental prices, the rising cost of living, and higher utility and transport rates, which opposition parties have consistently raised concerns about as a burden to ordinary Singaporeans.