Singaporeans First - "People First"or "Establishment First"?
The recent National Day Rally speech left us, the members of SPP, with some optimism,
but also many concerns: Optimism because the Prime Minister has finally
acknowledged the need to be "Singaporeans First", but concern because the government
does not yet understand what it means.
The SPP believes that when we Singaporeans ask for "Singaporeans First", what we
really want is "People First". This means that the government's first priority should be
the wellbeing of its common citizens; that those of us who are able, should look after
those who are not. It is an obligation that starts with the government, and is to be then
complemented by able citizens.
The ruling party presently sees any measure directly helping common people but which
reduces government revenue or increases costs as a "Populist" policy to be assiduously
avoided, and but a "necessary evil" to appease a restive electorate. This is borne out in
its failure to change any of its existing policies, merely adjusting the parameters of the
policies, like raising the HDB income ceiling and using old-HDB blocks slated for en-bloc
as rental HDB flats.
As our GDP and the number of millionaires in Singapore reach record levels, the CDCs
are reporting record numbers of Singaporeans seeking financial aid. Singapore urgently
needs a government with a "People First" outlook. We propose how this looks in key
areas of Housing, Transport, Economic Development and Education.
The present system where flats are pegged to market prices with fixed grants and salary
caps has been demonstrated to impoverish common Singaporeans. It betrays the
"Establishment First" mindset of the present government, where it is the "right" of the
government to exact the maximum price for all the goods and services it provides.
Grants are then given out grudgingly as a concession, remaining stagnant for decades in
the face of inflation.
A "People First" government seeks first to provide affordable housing for common
people. Public housing should be leased at a fixed percentage of the median income,
adjusted for size of flat and location. Quality one and two-room HDB flats should be
specially constructed and rented out at controlled prices and restricted to Singaporeans.
Salary caps should be removed with eligibility based solely on citizenship.
Singaporeans should be encouraged to diversify their retirement savings from real
In public transport, the government sells concessions for the operation of trains and
buses to two government-linked companies. Tight regulation ensures that they are
effective monopolies and decisions to raise fares are made through its proxy, the Public
Transport Council. Profit increases of the companies have co-related with fare
increases over the years, quite independently of actual costs.
The SPP believes that public transport should be deregulated such that small operators
can ply direct routes and premium services between housing estates and business
districts. This will provide natural competition to regulate the price and service quality
of the larger train and trunk-route bus operators. It also allows rapid increases in
capacity and will ultimately take more cars off the road. In turn, train and trunk-route
bus operators should be run as cooperatives with surpluses channeled into discounts
for the old and young.
In economic development, the government is focused on attracting foreign capital to
fuel infrastructure development. The only beneficiaries of these investments are
Government-Linked Companies like JTC, and only a handful of business owners and
financiers at the top of the economic pyramid. Where jobs are created, most go to
foreign workers at low wages. As a result, prices increase while the common
Singaporean is left out of the economic loop.
Instead of an Economic Development Board which is rewarded only on Foreign Direct
Investment, we need a new integrated board incentivized to seek out companies and
industries that will increase the employability of common Singaporeans, with particular
emphasis on the lower half of the social economic spectrum. Local entrepreneurs
should be given even more favourable terms on rent, financing and taxes than their
Our present education system is geared towards testing and ranking students rather
than educating them. University places are given only to the top students and the rest
are left to fend for themselves. Many students who fail to obtain places in Singapore
universities end up overseas. Some return, many don't. Those that return are as
employable as any local graduate.
We believe that a "People First" education system should be focused on educating
students. Grading should be done on an absolute standard, not a normalized to an
artificial distribution. More universities should be built and existing ones expanded to
take in as many students as will enroll at any age and for any course.
The MOE is promoting Self-Directed Learning as part of the set of 21st Century
Competencies. This is a step in the right direction, but our school system is not able to
implement this because of its adherence to grading and ranking. Self-Directed Learning
comes with passion for a subject and this will come only with allowing a student to
choose his / her course of study.
Fellow Singaporeans, we encourage you to continue engaging us on issues close to your
heart. Come October when Parliament convenes, our NCMP Mrs Lina Chiam will engage
the government on your behalf.
Once again, we wish you a very happy National Day.
The Central Executive Committee,
The Singapore People's Party