MP Sylvia Lim’s speech - Towards a Safe, Fair and Just Society - touched on two essential services that are supposed to ensure that we live in a safe, fair and just society, namely challenges for the Home Team and Access to Justice. She was surprised to discover that new NPPs (Neighbourhood Police Post), called e-NPPs or enhanced NPPs, offer electronic services, but are completely unmanned. Ah Kong will have to learn to type if he needs help. Access to justice, she noted, means the rich have the resources to engage expensive lawyers, but the poor have to make decisions based on their means. This sometimes includes pleading guilty, when they do not have the resources to contest their charges.
MP Png Eng Huat’s speech pleaded the case for our pioneer generation workers, in particular the anxiety of not knowing what is to come after retirement. The anticipation and excitement of being able to finally collect their lifelong CPF savings in full at retirement age, which was 55 then, dashed to bits with the shifting of the goal post to 62 and beyond. Instead of looking forward to grandchildren bouncing on their laps, they had better be familiar with bouncing checks.
MP Lee Li Lian’s speech lauded the Presidential commitment to keeping the pathway upwards open to all Singaporeans, regardless of their background or circumstances, but brought home the harsh reality faced by vulnerable groups. Guys ensconced in ivory towers need the occasional reminder of what ground zero is like. Her Mandarin portion commented on financial incentives introduced by the Government such as Baby Bonus and Child Development Account to encourage having more children. They need to be complemented by a change in attitudes and mind-set of employers with regards to flexible work options.
MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap’s speech asked the hard questions. Is the social safety net doing its job? Is the social safety net performing to help Singaporeans pick themselves up after a fall? Is the social safety net pulling families out of the poverty trap? How do we know that the temporary poor are indeed temporarily poor and are moving up the government’s different scales of help closer to median income self-sufficiency? What do you think?
"Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister may be right to say that there are no dead poor in Singapore because no one here lives under the World Bank’s extreme poverty line of $1.50 a day. But as he acknowledges, there are the relatively poor and the temporary poor. These are Singaporeans who are experiencing a fraction of the standard of living enjoyed by the average Singaporean. We need to know whether the government’s multiple lines of assistance, the social safety net, is helping them and whether the overall situation is improving year on year."
MP Pritam Singh’s speech weighted on Defence Diplomacy and better management of the Defence Budget. But splurging on expensive F35s is pretty pointless when, "Unfortunately, we are not in a position to determine or prevent a conflict in the South China Sea beyond offering ourselves as a neutral arbiter and an advocate for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea." Focus instead, on more immediate worries closer to home.
NCMP Yee Jenn Jong’s speech on education and social mobility is close to his heart, as he declared, he owns businesses that provide services and products to schools. He frets about the reproduction of class stratification. In 2008, the PSC revealed that 47% of the PSC scholarship recipients that year lived in HDB flats, and 53% lived in private housing. This is an over representation of private housing as up to 85 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats.
NCMP Gerald Giam’s speech is about managing risks, incentivising hard work and constructive politics.
MediShield Fund having a capital adequacy ratio of 161% in 2012, which is more than 40% higher than what the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) expects of commercial insurance funds, means that it is collecting a lot more in premiums than it is paying out in claims, transferring too much risk to citizens. Socializing risks, privatising gains - does that ring a bell? That has to be a damper on incentivising hard work.
Low Thia Khiang has more to say about constructive politics.