WP proposal is drastic and inherently risky: S Iswaran

Second Minister for Home affairs and Trade and Industry S Iswaran described the Workers' Party counter-proposal as "extreme freeze scenario". (AFP file photo)

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran took his turn at the batting plate on Thursday, speaking in severe tones against the Workers’ Party’s counter-proposal to the government’s tabled white paper on population.

“The government, as well as many Singaporeans, are deeply concerned by the enormous burden the Workers’ Party proposal will impose on Singaporeans, our workers and our businesses,” he said in his parliamentary speech during the ongoing debate that began Monday.

Describing the WP plan as the “extreme freeze scenario” that Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean illustrated in his opening speech on the white paper, Iswaran said the opposition party’s proposal, with its immediate cessation of additional foreign manpower, is “drastic and inherently risky”.

“It will exacerbate uncertainty in the economic environment and accelerate business closures and the offshoring of activities,” he said. “Singaporeans will lose their jobs and instead of productivity-led growth, it would easily tip our economy into a downward spiral. This abrupt move will derail our efforts to boost productivity and restructure the economy.”

Saying that it will further “have a chilling effect” on the economy, Iswaran went as far as to charge the WP of “taking an extreme risk with the livelihoods of Singaporeans and the survival of businesses”.

“We would be breaking faith with companies who are already invested here and are in the process of ramping up their operations,” he said. “It will damage our reputation and severely impair our efforts to attract new and different businesses which can offer precisely the kind of diverse jobs that better educated Singaporeans seek.”

Comparatively, he took pains to run through the government’s existing measures to push for restructuring and to support companies amid the manpower crunch caused by their retraction efforts to reel in their previous policy of focusing on the use of foreign labour to steer economic growth. He also mentioned the reduction in growth projections stated in the White Paper.

“Does this sound like a government which is continuing at the same speed? Mr Low (Thia Khiang) has accused us of continuing to drive the same speed. Let me say this categorically: we are slowing down. We are stepping on the brake so that we can achieve a smooth landing,” he declared. “But what the Workers’ Party is proposing is to jam-brake and put our economy in a tailspin, and our businesses and workers risk a hard landing.”

Workers' Party proposed Monday that Singapore prepare for 5.9 million instead of 6.9 million as detailed in the government's population white paper.

The paper sparked fury among Singaporeans online over the government’s projection that the city-state's population by 2030 could be 6.9 million, and that the country would have to continue to accept more immigrants, albeit at a slower pace than before, to sustain the country’s economic growth and offset the country’s low total fertility rate and ageing population.