Thursday, 3 September 2015

GE2015: SDP policies will set Singapore on the road to Greece, says Vivian Balakrishnan

By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 1 Sep 2015

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC incumbent Vivian Balakrishnan has launched the first salvo against the Singapore Democratic Party, saying that its policies would set Singapore "on the road to Greece".

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Dr Balakrishnan said his team will show, over the next nine days, that the SDP has copied policy prescriptions that have already failed elsewhere. His PAP team will face off against a SDP team led by party chief Chee Soon Juan at the polls.

The SDP has proposed several economic measures, including having a minimum wage, raising personal income taxes for the top 1 per cent of earners, and increasing social spending.

On those proposals, Dr Balakrishnan said: "The SDP will set us on the road to Greece, and it is the duty of my team to awaken Singaporeans to the dangers of such policy prescriptions."

The anchor minister for the group representation constituency, Dr Balakrishnan's teammates are Minister of State Sim Ann, 40, DBS Bank managing director Liang Eng Hwa, 51, and lawyer Christopher De Souza, 39.

They are challenged by a SDP team comprising Dr Chee, 53, compliance auditor Sidek Mallek, 55, healthcare administrator Chong Wai Fung, 45, and National University of Singapore professor Paul Tambyah, 50.

Dr Balakrishnan said his team is "quietly confident" because of their "solid track record".

He added that he is glad to go up against the SDP again, but noted that all the previous opponents have either moved or left politics.

In the 2011 election, his PAP team won the GRC with a vote share of 60.1 per cent against a SDP team.

Some awkward questions for Dr Chee Soon Juan. How much will Dr Chee Soon Juan spend and on what?Will Dr Chee Soon...
Posted by Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chee defends SDP’s ‘sound policy proposals’
By Neo Chai Chin and Laura Philomin, TODAY, 2 Sep 2015

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) does not believe in overspending, and its policy proposals are balanced, said the opposition party today (Sept 2) as it hit back at the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) charge that its proposed policy changes would lead the country to bankruptcy.

“The PAP has an almost-knee-jerk reaction — anything that the SDP proposes cannot be good,” said secretary-general Chee Soon Juan during a press conference with Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah, his running mate in the party’s contest for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

After submitting his nomination papers yesterday, the PAP’s Holland-Bukit Timah team anchor, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said the SDP’s policies involved “tax-and-spend” programmes that would put Singapore at risk. They were copied from other countries, where they have been proven to fail, and in adopting them, Singapore would end up passing the bill to future generations, said Dr Balakrishnan, who also promised to dissect the policies in the next few days.

Dr Chee today responded by saying the PAP had previously criticised the SDP’s ideas, only to adopt them later. For example, the SDP had in the past proposed pooling individual healthcare risks, an idea that is now being adopted by the Government, through the implementation of the MediShield Life universal healthcare insurance scheme, he said. The Government’s Fair Consideration Framework, too, is also an adoption of the SDP’s proposal that employers must try hiring Singaporeans first before considering foreigners, he added.

On Dr Balakrishnan’s statement that the SDP’s policies would set Sing­apore “on the road to Greece”, Prof Tambyah said “it appears that the Minister has an incomplete understanding of the Greek crisis”. The beleaguered eurozone nation is facing a sovereign debt crisis.

“The Greeks actually spend below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average on healthcare and have levels of social spending far below the Nordic countries or even Germany. The reason for the Greek crisis is thought to be primarily a profligate approach to spending,” he said. “This is quite different from the SDP’s proposals, which are well-thought-out and balanced. We do not believe in uncontrolled overspending.”

He said the cuts on defence spending suggested by the SDP in its healthcare proposal are a “minuscule reduction”, and added that health is essential to the defence of Singapore.

The party also reiterated its call for minimum wage to be implemented, saying it would neither adversely affect the economy’s performance, nor become the “maximum wage” — as some have feared — with “independent trade unions”. Minimum wage applied to workers regardless of nationality would also mean that Singa­poreans’ jobs would not be threatened by foreigners, who could otherwise be lowballed, Prof Tambyah said.

Dr Balakrishnan fired another salvo this evening, questioning Dr Chee on the “total bill” the SDP’s proposals would incur and the taxes he would choose to raise to fund them.

The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources also questioned if it would be responsible to ask for a “huge cut” of S$5.75 billion, which is at least 40 per cent of Singapore’s defence budget, given the current global and regional climate.

Referring to the SDP’s assertion that its proposed healthcare policy is modelled after the French system, Dr Balakrishnan asked Dr Chee to inform Singaporeans about the French rates for personal income tax, corporate tax and GST (known as VAT, or value-added tax, in France).

“Dr Chee’s ideas will lead Singapore on the path of much higher taxes, higher national debts for our children, and put our national security at risk,” he added.

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