SDP hits back at PAP’s criticisms

farism
SingaporeScene
24 April 2011

Candidates from the SDP respond to criticisms made by ministers from the ruling People's Action Party. (Yahoo! photo/ Faris Mokhtar)
Candidates from the SDP respond to criticisms made by ministers from the ruling People's Action Party. (Yahoo! photo/ Faris Mokhtar)

Candidates from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have taken a stand in response to criticism from the People's Action Party (PAP).

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday morning where the SDP unveiled its team for Holland-Bukit Timah group representation constituency (GRC), Dr Vincent Wijeyasingha took aim at comments made by Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on the SDP,  saying that the Minister is "rattled" by candidates from the party.

On Saturday, Dr Balakrishnan had described SDP's candidates as "a team of strange bedfellows" and that the party was trying furiously but unsuccessfully to change its public image.

"If you look at the statements principally of Dr Vivian in the last few days, you would recognised that he is very, very rattled.

"Once our team was announced, he's gone into overdrive, but there's been nothing of a substantive policy nature about his criticisms. He's simply thrown various ideas into the ring, 'they are bad, not changed' but there's been nothing substantive," he said.

Dr Wijeyasingha said, "It's one of these little things he's dropping in the arena. He hasn't said how we've changed, he hasn't said what he sees as a change."

His teammate Michelle Lee Juen said that the party should not fear to change. "We should dare to change if we need to. And that is something we want to see in the PAP as well," she said.

"If there is something that is not going well, they need to have the courage to come out and say; 'It's not going well, we need a change'. Why did he (Dr Vivian) say it as though it is a bad thing?" questioned the 35-year-old educator.

Debate over minimum wage policy

Former civil service high-flier Tan Jee Say, 57, defended his suggestion of a minimum wage policy which was one of the issues discussed in his 46-page working paper that proposed new ideas for the economy.

This comes after Labour chief Lim Swee Say reiterated his stand of not implementing a minimum wage.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Minister Lim said the minimum wage approach may be popular among Singaporeans, but could have serious implications on the country's economy.

When asked if the policy is more of a theory than realistically applicable, Tan argued that it has been practiced in other countries.

He cited Hong Kong as an example, where they are known to be economically competitive and have introduced a minimum wage system.

"Nothing in my paper is only theory, it is a good theory but it's the basis of implementation and I don't think a minimum wage law is theoretical stuff. It has been in practiced in other countries.

"Even Hong Kong, who is concerned with global competition, is introducing minimum wage law. You mean to say we have minimum wage law, investors will run away, come on. Look at the facts; look at the experiences of other countries," he said.

Mr Tan Jee Say says that the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative economic plan. (Yahoo! photo/ Faris Mokhtar)
Mr Tan Jee Say says that the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative economic plan. (Yahoo! photo/ Faris Mokhtar)

The former principal private secretary to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also suggested that Singapore should move towards a service-based economy, instead of emphasising on its manufacturing sector.

It received criticisms from Minister Lim and Trade Minister Lim Hng Khiang.

Tan had earlier said that the extensive focus on the manufacturing industry has resulted in over-dependence on foreign workers, which has in return created other problems such as depressed wages for local workers.

In his argument, Minister Lim stressed on the need to maintain its manufacturing economy. He said, "Once you let go of the manufacturing sector for three to five years, there is zero chance that we can redevelop the industry again, because it is an industry that is globally highly-competitive."

Trade Minister Lim Hng Khiang also slammed Tan's suggestion, calling it unrealistic as the services sector will not drive the same level of growth as the manufacturing industry. He also underscored the need to have a diversified economy and not be too overly reliant on a single sector.

Responding to the criticisms, Tan said that the objective of his working paper is to produce an alternative plan to propel the economy forward.

"The whole objective of my paper is to produce a plan, an economic plan, an alternative plan which will produce, create fulfilling jobs, creative enterprises of the future, not of the past.

"The ministers are harking back to the past. We are more interested in the future," he said.

Dr Wijeyasingha added that the idea of diverting from the manufacturing industry was in fact in line with what the PAP had suggested before.

"From the 1980s on, the PAP government has indicated to move us from manufacturing to services led industry. Suddenly when we have a highly credible paper arguing precisely for that point, 'they say very bad idea, we should stick to manufacturing service'.

"I am not sure what's going on here because that paper is thoroughly in line with PAP policy itself. It's a far more humane paper, far more considered but the broad range of the focus is exactly in line with what the PAP has said," he added.

Addressing the ruling party's concerns of a freak election, Dr Wijeyasingha said that the PAP's understanding of a freak result is when the returning candidates will serve the people of Singapore, instead of serving the need of the PAP.

"When you have one particular group of people who are in power and they don't want the people to have their say in regular general elections, then a decision against the status quo is seen as a freak result," he added.

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