Wednesday, 2 September 2015

GE2015: TV forums in English and Mandarin

PAP, Opposition in spirited debate on cost of living, foreign manpower issues
By Kelly Ng, TODAY, 2 Sep 2015

Members of the Opposition and the People’s Action Party (PAP) clashed live on television yesterday in an energetic debate over issues such as the high cost of living and the influx of foreign manpower.

In back-to-back televised forums - one in Mandarin, one in English - on MediaCorp channels yesterday, election candidates from the Workers’ Party (WP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Reform Party (RP), National Solidarity Party (NSP) and Singaporeans First (SingFirst) hit out at what they called the PAP’s failure to address these issues, while accusing the party of riding on past successes.

The PAP - represented by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and Ms Denise Phua in the English forum — responded by laying out the measures it has taken to address the issues, while arguing that some of the moves advocated by the various parties would do more harm than good.

On the cost of living - one of the topics set by moderator Steven Chia - SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said the Government had launched a “double whammy” on Singaporeans by allowing in the “super rich” and importing low-wage professionals into Singapore. “This artificially depresses wages and makes life very difficult for Singaporeans,” he said.

SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say pointed out that inflation was not solely to blame for the rising cost of living here, and prices of commodities, such as oil, had in fact fallen over the years. Mr Tan and RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam also called for a national minimum wage.

In response, Mr Wong said the Government has been doing its best to “keep essentials affordable”. “We are open to new ideas, but on ideas like, say, the minimum wage, I think we just have to be careful, because if it is done incorrectly, it can lead to more unemployment and worser (worse) outcomes for Singaporeans.”

#GE2015 #YourVoteMatters forum: People's Action Party's Lawrence Wong and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)'s Chee Soon Juan cross swords over Dr Chee's past.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

During the Mandarin forum, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, representing the PAP, reiterated the Government’s efforts such as keeping the Singapore dollar strong to keep imported inflation in check. Ms Phua, in the English forum, cited examples of the Government’s targeted approach towards assistance, such as enhanced support for the pioneers and the elderly. “Are we perfect yet? No, I think we have some more to do, but we really want to make sure that these basic services are affordable and accessible,” she said.

Mr Wong also pointed out that foreign inflows have already been significantly tightened. “In fact, the population growth over the past decade is at its lowest,” he said. He also criticised a WP proposal for zero per cent foreign population growth as one that will cause a “huge jam-break” on the economy.

WP’s Leon Perera, a fresh entrant to politics, also observed that the PAP manifesto - released last week - emphasised what it has achieved, and lacked concrete policies for the future. “(This) seems to suggest that (the PAP) wants (the) election to give (it) a blank cheque, blind faith that (the PAP) will do the right thing.”

On the Opposition’s role in the Government, NSP’s new acting secretary-general Lim Tean felt there is a need for more “robust” Opposition voices in Parliament, and Singaporeans are not voting for estate managers. Noting that some PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) rarely spoke over the last four-and-a-half years, he asked: “Do they really qualify for the seat, then?”

Ms Phua said an MP must be good at both running a town council and raising issues in Parliament. She added: “The MP represents the needs and the voices of people ... (and) also the party, the philosophy, the fundamental values, the vision, where we are taking the country, I think that is really important as well.”

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