Former presidential candidate Tan Jee Say has formed a new political party – Singaporeans First Party (SFP) – together with 10 other members.
In a statement released to the media, Tan said, ” People are important. They are the soul of a nation. For the past 50 years, Singaporeans have become secondary to the relentless pursuit of economic growth. The nation has lost its soul. We need a new vision that puts Singaporeans at the heart of the nation. The vision of a fair society with strong families and a confident people with high self-esteem.”
Leveling the Playing Field
The SFP believes that the elitist policies of the People’s Action Party (PAP) have turned Singapore into a highly divided society with extreme inequalities of wealth and income between the rich and the poor and a shrinking middle class.
“Singapore has now become the most costly city in the world. Singapore citizens are faced with expensive housing options, high healthcare costs, unreliable and expensive public transport, and a system of education that encourages families to supplement school curriculum with private tuition at great expense.”
The SFP also says that at the same time, real wages have fallen or virtually stagnated for large groups of Singaporeans, making it difficult for many families to cope.
The SFP wants to remake Singapore’s society with policies that turn Singaporeans into masters, not slaves, of economic growth. It wants to put the interest and well-being of people first before the pursuit of economic growth.
“We will create a fair society with new policies to rejuvenate the economy and generate good jobs that pay fair living wages. At the same time, we will strengthen welfare services comprehensively and significantly in healthcare, education, housing and transport.”
The SFP advocates the removal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) calling it “a regressive tax which imposes an unfair burden on middle and lower income Singaporeans as it raises their basic cost of living significantly”.
The SFP does not see the need to impose new taxes in other areas to make up for the loss of GST revenue, if GST is done away with. It does not see the need to raise other taxes for at least the next 10 years even if social spending is increased significantly.
Restructuring the Economy
The SFP proposes restructuring the economy by making it much less dependent on cheap, low-skilled foreign labour as it depresses Singaporean wage levels, lowers overall productivity, sustains low-skill industries and adds to overcrowding.
The SFP will review the need to give very favourable foreign worker quotas to certain industries that are highly dependent on foreign workers.
The SFP will place a high priority on developing Singapore businesses e.g. small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into major regional and global firms. SFP sees education and healthcare as 2 sectors that are sustainable over the long term. It wants to especially develop and increase local expertise in these areas.
The SFP also wants to aggressively help SMEs overcome the problem of high business costs by reviewing the sale and rental policy of industrial factories and space.
SFP posed the following questions:
- Have our planning and land allocation policies favoured the landlords and building owners such that our rental costs continue to rise unchecked?
- Has the policy of encouraging ownership of industrial property resulted in high rental?
Another policy SFP feels disadvantages Singaporeans is the national service (NS) obligation of Singaporean men. After 50 years of nationhood, SFP thinks it is time to review the 2-year NS obligatory period in the light of technological progress and new methods of organisation and training.
Focus on Family Support
The ultimate solution to the persistent problem of manpower shortage is to raise the fertility rate from about 1.2 to well above 2, SFP said.
In this regard, Singapore must reduce substantially the cost to families of having more children by granting more and bigger child allowances and providing free education from pre-school to university. Childcare facilities should be heavily subsidised.
“Work should not take too much time away from the family. This can be achieved if jobs and services are available near home. Hence offices, workshops, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres, clinics, hospitals, health clubs, cinemas, shops should be located in the community so that they can be reached within 15 minutes. These facilities should be decentralised throughout Singapore so that criss-cross travelling can be minimised and women do not need to travel far from home. Flexible working arrangements can be better organised to accommodate the needs of housewives and active seniors.”
“We will provide the substantial funds needed to redevelop existing housing estates and transform them into vibrant self-contained communities where families live, work and play with jobs, services and entertainment provided near their homes.”
SFP believes that Singapore can develop a robust and internationally competitive economy without a high dependence on foreign labour, as many countries have shown.
Establishing a Strong Safety Net
“Once a person loses a job, he loses everything – no unemployment insurance, no healthcare, no savings for retirement. All this adds to the emotional insecurity and a lowered sense of self-esteem.”
There is currently no significant safety net. A strong safety net will prevent Singaporeans from falling into insecurity, despair and indignity.
The SFP proposes establishing a strong social safety net with the following 3 features:
- truly affordable universal and comprehensive healthcare insurance,
- unemployment insurance, and
- an old age pension provided by the state outside of the inadequate CPF
The SFP believes that the massive financial surpluses accumulated in the last 4 to 5 decades are more than sufficient to provide a strong safety net for Singaporeans.