3 Areas of Contention Mentioned By Pritam Singh to DPM Heng on Day 1 of Budget Debate 2021


The 2021 Budget Debate is going on, and you know what that means!

Reader: No more power naps for MPs?

Well, yes, but also more verbal jousts between parliamentarians.

In order to determine the best measures and policies for Singaporeans, these Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministers first have to battle it out in parliament.

And that’s exactly what happened on the first day of the Budget debate.

Worker’s Party chief Pritam Singh had several bones to pick over some announcements made in Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat’s Budget speech, especially regarding three main areas.

1. Capability Transfer Programme & Raising Salary of Other Frontliners

Mr Singh seemed perplexed by the government’s decision to extend the Capability Transfer Programme (CTP) until 2024, due to the “relatively small number of Singaporeans” who have benefited from it.

The CTP facilitates transfer of capabilities from foreign specialists to locals, to ensure there’s a sufficient supply of Singaporeans with the requisite skillsets in the workforce.

Mr Singh wanted more details of how the scheme has benefited Singaporeans.

“In extending the CTP until 2024, can the minister share what has been achieved by the programme for the Singaporean worker thus far, and how much money has been spent on it?

“What skill sets have been transferred to Singaporean workers by sector and which industry clusters is the government earmarking for greater talent transfer through the CTP?”

In his Budget speech, DPM Heng announced that S$5.4 billion will go toward a second SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package.

Mr Pritam’s gripe with this is the regularity with which job situation reports and updates on the package have been released.

From 11 Aug last year, these details were released every week, but the frequency of these releases have since decreased and the reports omitted certain details, such as salary levels, and the age ranges of those who have been successfully employed, Mr Singh observed.

Without the ability to properly scrutinise the package, its effectiveness will be hard to establish, he said.

With regard to healthcare workers, Mr Singh applauded the government’s move to enhance their salaries, announced by DPM Heng.


But the wages of other frontliners, such as waste disposal workers and transport workers, should be reviewed as well.

2. CDC Vouchers 

Mr Singh also sought clarification over the S$100 worth of Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers which Singaporeans will receive to support heartland businesses.

He noted that DPM Heng did not specify whether the vouchers can be used at supermarket chains such as Giant, Sheng Siong, and NTUC Fair Price.

If the government truly wants to aid heartland shops, these vouchers should only be eligible at actual heartland shops like local provision shops, barbers, and fruit sellers.

The Leader of the Opposition also questioned the need for the CDC to be involved in the scheme.


He called for a “serious review” of the necessity of having full-time CDC mayors at all, suggesting that organisations such as the Citizens Consultative Committees (CCC) are more closely connected to the ground.

The representatives of market and merchants associations are commonly represented on the CCCs, and there is one CCC for each ward or constituency.

This would make CDC’s role in the voucher scheme potentially “superfluous”, he said.

He also said that the majority of Singaporeans found the CDC mayors’ salaries to be “outrageous”.

3. Sudden Hike in Petrol Duties

Just like many motorists here, Mr Singh was surprised by the government’s decision to raise petrol duties, calling it an “ill-timed bolt from the blue”.

He noted that this has caused unhappiness among residents and questioned the need for the hike to take place immediately.


He suggested to DPM Heng a phased and gradual increase instead, which would align with the growing availability of electric vehicles.

Mr Singh also raised the possibility of “unscrupulous businesses” profiteering from the petrol duty hike.

Feature Image: Youtube (The Straits Times)