You know an election is coming when you see high-ranking politicians in coffee shops, especially during a pandemic.
With Polling Day less than two weeks away, parties are unveiling their manifestos and slogans for the the 2020 General Election, hoping that voters would be seduced by their words and promises.
PAP already launched their manifesto, announced by PM Lee himself.
In it, PAP says they will focus on saving jobs, restarting the economy, and migrant worker welfare.
Now, PAP’s strongest adversary The Workers’ Party (WP) has presented its own manifesto, with “Make Your Vote Count” as their campaign slogan.
So, what are their aims and proposals?
No More GST Hikes
Walk past enough Singaporeans on the street and you’re bound to hear “Wah, things are so expensive now”.
As you know, the incumbent government to increase the GST from the current 7 per cent to 9 per cent by 2025.
This won’t go down well with many Singaporeans who are already reeling from the economic effects of the coronavirus.
In their manifesto, WP proposes scrapping the GST hike, saying it will be “yet another burden on hardworking families who are already struggling with the high cost of living in Singapore”.
WP added that there are “alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the GST”.
They also called upon the government to release its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the upcoming decade for the public to make a more informed decision on raising GST.
Lower CPF Payout Age & Relaxing of CPF Transfer Rules
Other than MAGA, no other initialism sparks as much debate as CPF.
The Central Provident Fund (CPF) payout eligibility age and CPF Life eligibility age, which is currently 65, should be lowered to 60, says WP.
This will empower elderly Singaporeans to “make an informed choice of when to start drawing down their hard-earned retirement savings”.
WP says that the government should also relax rules on the transfer of CPF funds before the age of 55 (including Medisave).
This, provided the Minimum Sum has been met, will allow Singaporeans to transfer their CPF funds to older relatives in one’s extended family.
WP says that those who have CPF balances that exceed their CPF Minimum Sum should also be allowed to withdraw “a reasonable percentage of their excess CPF balances during times of crisis such as this”.
Implement a Minimum Wage
The debate on whether to implement a minimum wage in Singapore is one that has raged for a rather long time.
According to the Ministry Of Manpower, whether wages should increase or decrease is “best determined by market demand and supply for labour.”
WP, however, thinks otherwise.
WP proposes a national minimum take-home wage of $1,300 a month for full-time work, which can be pro-rated for part-time work.
They claim that there are more than 100,000 Singaporeans who earn a take-home pay of less than $1,300 a month while engaged in full-time work.
This is what the average four-person household in Singapore would need to spend each month on basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, they said.
Address the Gender Wage Gap
In their manifesto, WP cites a recent estimate which showed that women can earn over half a million dollars less than their male counterparts over a 40-year career.
“This not only affects women but instead has trickledown effects for the wider labour market and economy, as it reduces family income and perpetuates economic and social inequity”, they say.
To tackle this issue, WP proposes that employers with 10 or more employees should be required to report to MOM the gender pay gap for the same job description.
“This basic data would give us a better idea of the problem and set us on the road towards
closing the gender wage gap”, they said.
Lower Minimum Age For Singles To Buy BTO Flats & Implement Universal Buy-Back Scheme
As you know, singles can only purchase a BTO flat over the age of 35, so if you don’t want to get married, you can’t get a BTO until a certain age.
WP believes that the country’s public housing policy should be “delinked from the expectation that Singaporeans should get married before a particular age”.
They propose lowering the minimum age from 35 to 28 so young single Singaporeans have an opportunity to own their own home.
In addition, WP believes that a universal buy-back scheme should be offered to all Housing Board flat lessees to tackle lease decay.
“If HDB resale prices fall, the retirement adequacy of many Singaporeans may be affected, if they rely on selling their flats to release funds for their retirement needs”, WP said.
Some of these acquired flats could then be rented out to Singaporeans at rates in
between commercial and HDB public assistance rentals.
Widen the Use of Medisave for Those Over 60
WP says that many seniors suffer chronic conditions which require extended care that can be very expensive, but pointed out several factors that make it difficult for seniors to pay their medical bills:
- most outpatient treatment is not covered by Medishield Life
- access to Medifund is only available for a limited number of patients
- the use of Medisave is subject to annual withdrawal caps
This is why the party is proposing that patients above 60 should be allowed to
use their Medisave for all medical expenses not already covered by Medishield Life, Medifund, or other assistance schemes.
This will only be allowed at government polyclinics, public specialist outpatient clinics, and CHAS clinics, they said.
Lower the Cost of Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC)
WP says that the cost of ILTC facilities like community hospitals, nursing homes, daycare services, and home-based care is “costly and inaccessible”.
Citing an example, they said it could cost between $2,000 and $3,600 a month to
stay in a nursing home.
Subsidies depend on a household’s income, so you could get 80% subsidies if you earn less than $800 a month, but get 0% if you earn more than e $3,300, depending on the type of care.
Thus, ILTC should be more heavily subsidised.
Improve Access to University Places for Singaporeans
In order to grant university access to more Singaporeans, WP suggests that universities should implement targeted programmes and mentorships to students from all backgrounds, “particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds and no family history of attending university”.
These programmes will begin in secondary school and include financial support to ensure that participants are not only admitted to universities but stay and complete their degrees.
Their manifesto also says that the government should increase the number of places for university admissions and aim for at least 50% of each cohort to obtain a university degree.
“The target has already risen from 27 per cent in 2012 to 40 per cent this year”, they said.
Make Public Transport Free for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)
Make Public Transport Free Again hats, anyone?
WP believes that public transport on trains and buses should be made free for Singaporeans aged over 65 and all Singaporeans with disabilities.
“This should be funded from the Budget as well as utilising all available monies from the Public Transport Fund”, they said.
This would lower the financial burden on the rising number of seniors.
WP says that seniors may be put off from applying for casual or part-time work due to the cost of commuting.
Thus, this scheme would encourage more seniors, as well as people with disabilities, to take up employment.
Abolish Group Representative Constituencies (GRCs) & Safeguard the Independence of National Institutions
In the manifesto’s fifth chapter “A Resilient Democracy”, WP proposes that all GRCs should be abolished and replaced by Single Member Constituencies (SMCs).
They say that there is “no evidence that Singaporeans vote solely along racial lines”, and that continuing the GRC system may imply that ethnic minority candidates are “unelectable” on their own.
Additionally, to safeguard the independence of institutions, WP proposes three policy changes:
- Close relatives and current or former party colleagues of political office holders should not be appointed to key positions in national institutions
- The Attorney-General’s Chambers should be separated into two organisations – a prosecution service independent of the Government, and a government legal counsel
- The Elections Department of Singapore and Electoral Boundaries Review Committee
should both be removed from the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office and report to the
Chief Justice and President respectively
- The term of each Parliament should be fixed
You can read the entire Worker’s Party manifesto here.
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