SINGAPORE – “Make Your Vote Count” will be the Workers’ Party’s (WP) slogan for the general election.
WP secretary-general Pritam Singh unveiled the party’s slogan and manifesto on Sunday (June 28), saying the party wanted to call on focus the overwhelming parliamentary super-majority held by the ruling People’s Action Party. He added that there is a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs at the July 10 polls.
“We need elected Workers’ Party MPs to be voted into Parliament so that they can serve the public… Elected opposition MPs strengthen our democracy and our political processes,” said Mr Singh.
“Don’t rely on someone else to vote for the Workers’ Party,” he added.
The WP manifesto, bearing the same slogan, laid out the party’s vision for Singapore along four themes: social and education policies that help Singaporeans achieve their dreams, dignified jobs for workers, building “a home we want” by tackling cost of living issues and creating robust political, governance and defence institutions.
The party devoted eight pages of the 48-page manifesto to responses to the Covid-19 crisis.
While it acknowledged that the Government’s efforts in dealing with the crisis and supported the safe distancing measures, it said it was the “duty as a responsible opposition party to make a constructive contribution to the policy discussion on how best to deal with this outbreak and emerge stronger as a nation”.
Among the proposals was that the Government provide free vaccinations to all when one is available, review and improve how rules are communicated and to plug gaps in support packages.
Mr Singh told reporters that the WP’s manifesto process kicked off in late 2018, with the party’s central executive committee setting up a team comprising Ms He Ting Ru and former NCMPs Gerald Giam, Leon Perera and Daniel Goh.
He said the team consulted widely when preparing the manifesto, speaking to specialists, industry experts and took in feedback from residents of Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC, as well as other constituencies.
Ms He, who was introduced as a candidate on Sunday, questioned Singapore’s preparedness against disruption and said recent events brought to light frailties in the global supply chain and in societies.
“We must put ourselves in a position to thrive in a post-Covid world… We believe these proposals will bring Singapore in the right direction,” she said.
“While our long-term aim is to be ready to form an alternative government, we need to build up to get into this position. Our manifesto does not have all the answers, but no one has, not even the PAP,” Ms He added.
Mr Giam, in turn, said Singapore must tackle the cost of living.
He said the WP opposes plans to raise the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 7 per cent to 9 per cent and urged the Government to thoroughly explore alternative sources of revenue – such as tapping the $15 billion in land sales the Government collects each year and increasing the maximum net investment returns contribution (NIRC) from 50 per cent to 60 per cent.
Mr Giam also called for a redundancy insurance scheme, where retrenched workers are given a payout equivalent to 40 per cent of their last-drawn salary for up to six months, capped at $1,200 per month.
This will be funded by an employment security fund into which the average worker will contribute about $4 a month, which is matched by employers.
Other proposals include lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 and media reform.
Mr Giam also spoke about the need to mitigate climate change and said styrofoam should be banned if there are other eco-friendlier alternatives.
Mr Perera spoke about seniors, whom he said faced challenges living in a high-cost environment like Singapore’s.
He proposed lowering the CPF Payout Eligibility Age and CPF Life eligibility age to 60, more transparency on the investment returns of GIC and a special dividend paid to CPF members’ Special Accounts if the 10-year moving average difference between the investment returns of GIC and the net interest payable on CPF member balances is positive.
Mr Perera also called for free public transport for those above 65 and for persons with disability, which said would encourage more elderly and disabled people to take up jobs.
To tackle lease decay in public housing, the WP is also proposing a universal buy-back scheme that should be offered to all HDB lessees in order to back-stop resale prices.
Closing the session, party chairman Sylvia Lim said Singapore will need more perspectives.
“Breaking away from the past may be our best formula for the unknowns that lie ahead,” she said.