SINGAPORE: The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Monday (Jun 29) launched its 2020 General Election manifesto, which among other goals aims to ensure that Singaporeans enjoy the fruits of the country’s economic growth.
The 13-page manifesto, which also saw the unveiling of the party's campaign slogan "You Deserve Better", is divided into three sections: Economic development, social development and political development, all looking at how the PSP can build an “alternative vision” for Singapore.
It was presented by the party's vice-chairman Hazel Poa at an online press conference. Also present were other PSP members including the party's secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock and assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai.
The PSP has taken a “hybrid approach” to set out its broad guiding principles in various areas before highlighting selected policies, Ms Poa explained.
When it comes to economic development, she pointed out that the “economy must serve Singaporeans, rather than the other way around”.
“The whole purpose of economic growth must be to improve the lives of the people, and it shouldn’t be the case where it is simply people being used as inputs to grow the economy,” she said.
Ms Poa pointed out that the strategy of bringing in foreign labour results in a “trade-off” where there is higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth, but a depressing of real wage growth.
“In terms of priority, we will prioritise wage growth and therefore seek ways of growing the economy that will help to grow wages, instead of doing it through strategies that actually depress wage growth.”
Responding to a question from the media, PSP's assistant secretary-general Mr Leong said that a single-minded focus on GDP would not be “desirable”.
“Just concentrating on GDP is not enough and it is not desirable. We should be concentrating on the people - even (in) economic management, we need to have compassion,” he said.
The PSP would push for job priorities for Singaporeans as well as a reduction of the foreign workforce, said Ms Poa. The party is also advocating for the review of free-trade agreements, especially those dealing with labour exchange like the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
With potential job losses in the future due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, this will provide the opportunity to cut down on the foreign workforce and start on the “restructuring process”, said Ms Poa.
“With any economic restructuring comes pain, but due to COVID, the pain is already with us,” she said. “Our aim is to increase the wage share of GDP to more developed economy standards."
“To PSP, wage is not just a business cost, it is the livelihood of Singaporeans, bearing in mind our guiding principle that our economy is there to serve the people, we would not be pursuing economic growth at the expense of wages.”
PSP SUGGESTS "BASIC NECESSITIES" TO BE EXEMPTED FROM GST
On the social development front, the PSP also said in its manifesto that it would want to exempt “basic necessities” from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as well as freeze tax and fee increases for the next five years.
The party also called for higher CPF withdrawals at the age of 55, as well as for MediShield Life premiums to be paid by the Government.
In order to make Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats affordable, PSP added in its manifesto that it would like to peg the prices of new flats to income levels. It said that this will bring down housing costs for young Singaporeans and free them for entrepreneurial pursuit.
For instance, Ms Poa highlighted that 4-room flats could be pegged to the median income level so that the flat will remain affordable in "different economic situations".
PSP member Mr Francis Yuen said that this was a realistic aim as currently, the land cost is about 60 per cent of total development costs of constructing a flat.
As such, he said that it was a rational and "possible solution" to price new flats lower for buyers.
Moreover, to ensure that the resale market is not adversely impacted by the lower prices of Build-to-Order flats, Mr Leong added the party would implement en-bloc development programmes for all existing HDB flats.
"This is to provide some support to the resale market. We are mindful of the fact that we have to slowly manage our HDB market, towards achieving more of our social objectives," said Mr Leong.
"But at the same time we do not want to see unnecessary distraction of our property market," he added.
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PSP MOOTS CUTTING OPERATING BUDGET, CHANNELING NIRC
On how the PSP can channel some income to fund its proposed policies, Mr Leong said that this could come through two means - the first by making cuts to the current operating budget of the Government.
“Whenever we propose policies, PSP has gone through all the estimates and analysis and we ensure that we are not going to just propose populist policies. Every policy we propose, we have the compensating source of funds that we can get,” he said.
“We are confident there will be sources of savings that we can make from the current operating budget.”
Secondly, the party is suggesting using the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC), Singapore's investment returns of its reserves which supplement the annual Budget, said Mr Leong.
NIRC consists of up to 50 per cent of the Net Investment Returns on the net assets invested by GIC, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Temasek Holdings and up to 50 per cent of the Net Investment Income derived from past reserves from the remaining assets.
The projected S$18.6 billion in NIRC for fiscal year 2020 will contribute more to the Government’s revenues this year than corporate tax (S$17.1 billion), personal income tax (S$12.5 billion), and GST (S$11.3 billion).
"(The NIRC) can be deployed more proactively, of course we are not going to spend the money if there is no necessity,” said Mr Leong.
"But we all know right now that there are serious problems in Singapore and … Singaporeans are financially very stressed up so there is a justification to actually use up the NIRC," he added.
The PSP will be contesting four Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and five Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) at the upcoming General Election, a total of 24 seats.
It has named potential candidates to field teams in West Coast, Nee Soon, Tanjong Pagar and Chua Chu Kang GRCs, as well as Hong Kah North, Pioneer, Yio Chu Kang, Kebun Baru and Marymount SMCs.