SINGAPORE — The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has called for overhauls in the public service, including for ministerial salaries to be cut and pegged to median income and Singapore’s fake news law to be reviewed, as it unveiled its manifesto for the General Election on Monday (29 June).
Opening the virtual session of its manifesto launch, secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock revealed that the party’s manifesto focused on three fronts; social, political and economic development.
He said in the 13-page manifesto’s opening message that the party looked at the top-most concern of Singaporeans and found that to be the cost of living.
The current government’s response was “a patchwork of of policy tweaks without addressing fundamental factors affecting Singaporeans, he added.
“Large segments of the population are at risk of falling through the cracks, and we need to support them with compassion to ensure that they get back on their feet.”
Dr Tan called for a “paradigm shift” for alternative solutions to go forward.
He sat on a panel together with vice-chairman Hazel Poa, assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, organising secretary Michael Chua, and party members Kumaran Pillai, Francis Yuen and Muhammad Taufik Supan, all of whom fielded questions from the media.
On its proposal for economic development, the team said its current priority was on post COVID-19 measures, including providing bolder economic stimuli and stronger support for SMEs that employ 70 per cent of Singapore’s workforce.
Besides that, PSP is placing the priority for jobs on Singaporeans by introducing a quota for Employment Pass, lowering the quota for S Pass and Work Permits, and reviewing free trade agreements like the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which is a free trade agreement between Singapore and India to strengthen bilateral trade, signed in 2005.
In recent years, the CECA has been viewed as providing Indian nationals with special immigration privileges, welcoming them here to compete with Singaporeans for jobs.
In the same vein, PSP proposes reducing dependence on foreign labour, instead putting the onus on employers to invest in equipment or processes for higher productivity.
On its social development front, PSP hopes to bring down the housing costs for young Singaporeans and peg new flat prices to income levels, amongst lowering the cost of living.
PSP also seeks to allow Central Provident Fund withdrawals of up to $50,000 at 55 years old, have the government pay MediShield Life premium, and freeze tax and fee increases for the next five years. Basic necessities will be exempt from the Goods and Services Tax under PSP’s proposal.
The PSP said that these proposals could be financed through cuts in public spending and the use of investment returns from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.
On the public service, which was under the PSP’s social development limb, the PSP suggested a “personal sacrifice” for ministers, which is to have their salaries cut and pegged to median income.
Asked if there would be a drawback to cutting ministerial salaries, Chua said, “I think it creates a tremendous incentive for the ministers to think of policies to raise the median income. It is a challenging task to raise the median income for a very large base of Singapore workers.”
Addressing the question about how high ministerial salaries are meant to prevent corruption, Poa said, “I think that if our ministers are going to become corrupt, because we cut their salaries, they are in the wrong post.”
Public transport and utilities should not be profit-making either, said the PSP, with public spending and huge projects subject to “greater scrutiny”.
In calling for more freedom of speech and expression, the PSP seeks a relaxation in the regulation of the media and the arts as well as a review of Singapore’s fake news law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which has been seen as the government’s tool to suppress dissent.
While falsehoods are a “menace to society”, Kumaran noted that there was only a small number of those peddling falsehoods.
“So actually what the POFMA has done, it’s like a gag order on everyone while the perpetrators are far and few between.”
The party has suggested that a group of media companies come together to form a panel to regulate online falsehoods instead of the government.
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