Singapore GE2020: Jobs, youth and seniors feature in final constituency broadcasts

WEST COAST GRC

Creating jobs, shoring up support for families and providing employment assistance will be a key focus for the People’s Action Party (PAP) team in West Coast GRC, the candidates said yesterday.

Speaking in a constituency political broadcast, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said the Covid-19 pandemic poses “the gravest challenge in our history” – severely disrupting jobs and profoundly affecting lives.

Many Singaporeans, he added, are worried about lives and livelihoods. Mr Iswaran, who serves on the National Jobs Council and is the PAP team’s anchor minister, said one aim is to create 100,000 jobs and training opportunities for mid-career workers and fresh graduates.

The national SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package will be complemented by the Jobs @ West Coast local initiative to bring job opportunities and career advice to residents at “every community centre from Telok Blangah to Nanyang”, he said.

The five-member PAP team also has plans to help seniors, small-business owners, lower-income and vulnerable Singaporeans affected by the Covid-19 crisis, as well as those concerned about medical costs.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said many middle-income households, too, now face financial uncertainty.

“Incomes have fallen and jobs are on the brink. That is why we’ve established the Covid-19 Support Grant, to offer some financial assistance to help you manage basic needs,” he said.

Fellow GRC candidate and ComfortDelGro Taxi chief executive Ang Wei Neng said residents have given feedback that they are worried about medical costs.

He cited efforts such as an upcoming eldercare hub at West Coast Link and an ongoing medical escort service for lower-income Nanyang residents to help them.

Ms Foo Mee Har and new face Rachel Ong complete the PAP slate.

Ms Ong, who replaces retiring former minister Lim Hng Kiang, said she hopes to help build strong families by making sure every child has a good start in life, with sufficient pre-school places, and affordable childcare.

The team, she said, also plans to develop a series of workshops and events on topics such as character and values development, and robotics to prepare children for the future. Said Ms Ong: “When our families across West Coast GRC are strong, we can face the future together with courage and hope.

Meanwhile, the opposition Progress Singapore Party (PSP) called for fresh solutions and the rebuilding of community spirit in West Coast in their broadcast yesterday.

PSP secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock said: “We need to think out of the box, not more of the same topdown approach practised by the PAP, where the Government tells you what to do and expects you to follow without questioning.

“Instead, we can rekindle the West Coast spirit – where solutions come from the ground up.

” In his speech, Dr Tan – a retired general practitioner – cited initiatives like the barrier-free community centre he helped push through when he was the PAP MP for Ayer Rajah before retiring in 2006.

He also touted his experience as a past chairman of the Jurong East Town Council and South West Community Development Council.

Dr Tan said his PSP team has people who have fresh ideas for West Coast.

For instance, Ms Hazel Poa, a government scholar from Cambridge University and a former Administrative Service officer, is a founder of a student education business, while Mr Jeffrey Khoo is chief marketing officer of a global insurance company.

With the acceleration of telecommuting trends, Mr Khoo suggested that void deck areas could be transformed into co-working spaces with telecommunication facilities to support those working from home, which he called “working corners for adults”.

Urging voters to vote without fear, PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai said people should worry more about the opposition being wiped out, instead of the PAP being voted out of power.

Mr Leong, who is the founder of a venture capital firm, said: “If that happens, there will be no one in Parliament who will fight for you on issues about your lives such as jobs, the high cost of living and the use of our national reserves.”

TAMPINES GRC

Harnessing the energies and community spirit of Tampines residents to weather the Covid-19 storm together was a key theme for the People’s Action Party (PAP) team in Tampines GRC, the candidates said in the sixth and final constituency political broadcasts last night.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, 48, who is taking over Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s ward, said he wants to tap the enthusiasm, passion and creativity of Tampines youth and provide different platforms for them to shine, and that he will work with businesses in the constituency to help them get through the pandemic and thrive.

His first priority, if elected, will be to get feedback from residents on what improvements are needed as they know their neighbourhood intimately, he said.

Mr Desmond Choo, 42, said PAP’s Tampines team will keep taking in residents’ views in remaking the town together, citing the Butterfly Garden in Tampines Street 11 and the Tampines Round Market as places spruced up after getting suggestions from residents.

While Singapore faces formidable challenges today, with jobs becoming harder to come by, solutions can be found if the community works together, he said.

For instance, Tampines has extended its network of job placement centres to help residents find jobs in the community.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli cited Our Tampines Hub as another project that benefited from the input of 15,000 ideas from residents.

Mr Masagos, 57, who will be the anchor minister for the five-member team, added that Tampines is a special town that has won accolades like the United Nations’ World Habitat Award, and has world-class facilities such as Our Tampines Hub.

He said the community spirit that was shown during the circuit breaker period will be all the more important in the coming days as Singapore contends with the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. “It is also this spirit that we will need when we need to overcome a bigger crisis – this time, an economic one,” he added.

Dr Koh, who is deputy secretary general of the NTUC, will work with the unions to preserve workers’ job security, pledged Mr Masagos: “We will make sure those who need support and jobs will get them.”

The opposition National Solidarity Party (NSP) said it is campaigning for Singaporean professionals to compete for jobs with foreigners on a level playing field.

The Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement should be abolished if it is found to have caused a disadvantage to local PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians), said NSP president Reno Fong, 51, who is leading his party’s Tampines team. He also called for the price of HDB flats to be reduced, no further increase to the GST and a zero GST rate for basic necessities, among other things.

He said the party will implement its Tampines Town Development Plan, if elected. The plan includes more barrier-free facilities for people with disabilities and building elderly-friendly facilities in housing and common spaces.

NSP teammate and new candidate Mohamad Ridzwan Mohammad, 58, elaborated on the team’s plans in Malay, saying NSP would set aside some of their MP allowance as seed funding for community initiatives that will be undertaken in collaboration with local enterprises.

The party will also hold virtual town halls for residents to discuss issues they would like to see raised in Parliament, he added.

TANJONG PAGAR GRC

The needs of youth and seniors in Tanjong Pagar GRC, along with jobs, took centre stage in the broadcasts of both parties in this constituency with 134,642 voters.

Speaking in Mandarin and English, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, 50, who leads the PAP’s five-member slate, said his team is determined to uphold the high standards set by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He assured voters that his team, which is facing a challenge from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), will take care of Singapore, along with Tanjong Pagar and its residents.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, 57, said green initiatives will be introduced to beautify Tanjong Pagar town and other plans will include new social programmes to support residents and the needs of seniors.

Speaking in Malay and English, she said she will put in place a lift at an overhead bridge for seniors, as suggested by some residents she met in Jalan Membina.

Ms Joan Pereira, 52, who spoke in English and Mandarin, said she has been brushing up on her Chinese language skills for the past five years to communicate better with seniors in her constituency.

Caring for seniors in times of crisis is especially important, she said. She recounted how a socially isolated elderly woman who lives in a rental flat was so grateful with the three free meals delivered to her that she broke down in tears when Ms Pereira visited her. “At a time when she needed us the most, we were there for her,” she said.

Mr Alvin Tan, 39, who is LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific head of public policy and economics, said he will work on issues related to seniors, youth, technology and sustainability.

Mr Tan, one of two new candidates in the team, said he will push for these through programmes such as CatchPlus, an after-school activity centre for youth living in the Jalan Kukoh neighbourhood.

The other new face, Mr Eric Chua, 41, who has a three-week-old baby, said fatherhood got him thinking about how it takes a village to raise a child. The former public servant said he hopes to create a “village” where each child has a fair chance to succeed in life regardless of his starting point, and a place where seniors are cared for.

PSP organising secretary Michael Chua, 55, said a PAP-dominated Parliament is at risk of groupthink because many ministers come “from the same mould”. He said no PAP MP has ever “seriously disagreed” with his party’s stance except for Dr Tan Cheng Bock, 80, the former PAP MP who is now the PSP secretary-general.

To change that, he said his team will ask tough questions on sensitive issues such as the conflict of interests of having a spouse sitting in a high position in government linked companies.

His teammate Abas Kasmani, 67, a business consultant and senior trainer, speaking in Malay, acknowledged issues like job security, rising cost of living and high healthcare costs which Singaporeans face and said it is “time to change the way Singapore is governed”.

Ms Wendy Low, 43, a lawyer, called for a systemic reform, starting with having more diverse voices in Parliament.

Other issues she plans to raise, if elected, include a minimum living wage to strengthen social safety nets and alleviate low-wage workers; a national database on the homeless for better relief planning; jobs for young graduates, PMETs and older workers; and affordable and holistic healthcare for seniors.

Mr Terence Soon, 29, a pilot, said while the current policies in place are practical, he believes the Government should take a more empathetic stance to care for Singaporeans’ well-being.

Echoing Ms Low’s words, IT executive Harish Pillay, 60, said the PSP will review free trade agreements, support SMEs and diversify Singapore’s energy systems. One way is to have a fully electric public transport system, he said.

YIO CHU KANG SMC

Both candidates for Yio Chu Kang SMC focused on the welfare of residents in their final pitches.

PAP’s Mr Yip Hon Weng, 43, said elderly residents need more help and support in the community. As the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office, a movement with over 3,000 volunteers, he said they have seen first-hand the concerns, needs and aspirations of the Pioneer and Merdeka generations.

Speaking in English and Mandarin, he added that many of them can get access to help and services in the community, but some still do not get that support.

As the population ages, there may also be more seniors who will be socially isolated and in need, and care has to be made affordable and accessible to them, he said.

Welfare and job security are also two big issues for PSP candidate Kayla Low, 43. Noting that the coronavirus crisis has caused retrenchments among Singaporeans, she said PSP will push for a quota system for employment permits and job opportunities that prioritise Singaporeans, as well as more resources to build infrastructure.

Speaking in English and Mandarin, she said PSP strongly recommends improving welfare assistance for seniors and prudence in public spending. “The Jewel at Changi Airport was built at a cost of $1.7 billion. Is this the best way to allocate our resources?” she asked.

“We can see so many homeless Singaporeans and elderly still collecting cans and cardboard, or working as cleaners. Why are we not putting our taxpayers’ money to benefit Singaporeans? Why can’t we build retirement homes for the elderly and homeless?”

YUHUA SMC

The next five years are not a time for trial and error as Singaporeans’ lives, jobs and future are at stake, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, 56, who has served as an MP since 2006 and is contesting in Yuhua. The singleseat constituency used to be a part of Jurong GRC.

She asked voters to examine the values of the candidates, adding that PAP candidates – of whom she was the last to speak in the televised broadcasts last night – share the same values of integrity, fairness and service.

She said: “We do what we say, and we will only say what we will do.”

If re-elected, she said she will put Yuhua residents’ interest as her priority, just as she had in the last 14 years as the incumbent MP.

She is the only full minister contesting in a single-seat constituency in this general election.

Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) candidate Robin Low, 44, an entrepreneur, said new ideas and options are needed to bring Singapore out of this current crisis, instead of “throwing money at a problem” lest it becomes “a never ending money pit”.

One example he cited is the pneumatic waste conveyance system that cost over $11 million to install in Yuhua.

He questioned why, despite its success, it was not replicated in other estates across Singapore.

“Is it because of the maintenance cost of the system?” Mr Low asked, noting that “many solutions feel like vanity projects that cost billions”.

Summing up, he said voters who do not want to have their problems solved by an increase in costs should vote for him.

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