SINGAPORE – The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Monday (June 29) unveiled its manifesto, with “You Deserve Better” as its campaign slogan for the election.
Registered in March last year, the party is contesting its first general election. It is fielding the largest opposition contingent to contest 24 seats in nine constituencies.
The 13-page manifesto outlines the party’s vision for Singapore in three broad areas: economy, social and politics.
For the economy, the party said it will adopt a “resurgence strategy” after the Covid-19 crisis, with bolder economic stimuli and stronger support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs employ 70 per cent of the workforce.
During a virtual press conference on Monday to present the manifesto, PSP vice-chairman Hazel Poa said the current economic policies employed by the Government result in a trade-off in real wage growth, even as the economy grows.
“If the strategy is economic growth by increasing labour input, then you get that trade-off. It doesn’t mean that any other strategy results in that kind of trade-off.
“In fact in most cases, it will actually be that if you have more economic growth, you have a higher wage growth.”
Ms Poa, who will be on the PSP’s West Coast GRC team, added that the liberal influx of foreign workers has led to social integration issues and congestion in public transport and public spaces. It also resulted in a higher demand for goods and services, which caused higher prices, and “all of these work together to lower the quality of life”, she said.
The PSP aims to address this by reducing the numbers of foreign workers. She said the party will insist on skills transfers to locals over a reasonable period of time.
“We will also review free trade agreements, especially those that touch on labour exchange, like for example CECA,” she added in reference to the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
On the social front, PSP aims to create a stronger social safety net to help Singaporeans through the crisis, such as by improving financial assistance for the unemployed and freezing tax and fee increases for the next five years, as well as exempting basic necessities from goods and services tax.
In the political domain, the party will, among other things, cut ministerial salaries, and review the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, Singapore’s anti-fake news law which was passed in May last year.
In the manifesto’s opening note, secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock said the document is the culmination of months of research and consultations with the public.
“We looked at the main issues concerning Singaporeans and at the topmost, was cost of living.”
The party also took aim at the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis in the manifesto, describing the responses so far as a patchwork of policy tweaks without addressing the fundamental factors affecting Singaporeans.
“Progress Singapore Party believes that its manifesto offers a better alternative to the current problems that we are facing as a nation,” wrote Dr Tan.
During the press conference, PSP’s assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai said if voted into Parliament, the party will call for a review of the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation.
“In terms of the decisiveness, in terms of asking people not to wear masks, in terms of taking such a long time to tackle the foreign workers dormitory problems, I think we can conclude that the handling by the Government is not the best.”
He said the Government kept an eye on the general election, and did not pay full attention to people’s lives.
Mr Leong added that there has been an over-reliance on politicians to lead the multi-ministerial task force, with little input from specialists and doctors.
“Now, we should be concentrating on handling the crisis, making sure that damage is brought to the minimum, and our people are taken care of.
“But after the crisis, definitely we should conduct a thorough investigation and analysis into how the crisis has been handled.
“Not so much for looking for people who are responsible and all that, but more to understand how we can do better, and what are the measures we need to put in place,” he said.
Mr Leong, who is also on the West Coast GRC team, said the party’s proposals can be funded by tapping two sources of funds.
The first, from savings after decreasing the current operating budget of the Government, which is about $80 billion a year. The second source would come from the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) from the reserves, he added.
“Of course, we are not going to spend the money if there’s no necessity. But we all right now know that there are serious problems in Singapore with regards to social inequality and all that, and that Singaporeans are financially very stressed up,” said Mr Leong, adding that the party’s policies differ significantly from those of the People’s Action Party (PAP).
“The whole approach that we take towards our policy is actually very different from PAP – the philosophy, the approach, the values. We are talking about compassion in our policymaking and we don’t see any of those in the current policymaking.”
At the end of the press conference, Dr Tan stressed the importance of the opposition getting at least a third of the seats in Parliament. He said this is to prevent the ruling party from passing constitutional changes unopposed.
“You have witnessed in the past the events of the last presidential election, where you know the terms and conditions were all changed.
“Then at the end of the day there was no voting for this current president..that illustrates the importance of having at least more than a third of the alternative parties in the House,” he said, adding that the opposition parties are still in talks to avoid three-cornered fights.