SINGAPORE: Voters are "fair-minded" enough to draw a distinction between the opposition checking the Government and "checkmating" it, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Jul 4).
Mr Chan was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a walkabout at ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre. He leads a five-candidate People’s Action Party (PAP) team contesting Tanjong Pagar GRC.
“When every voter goes to the polling station, every voter will have to decide who they want to be their Member of Parliament, who they want to take care of them and their families, and who can best help them to secure their jobs,” he said.
“These are the fundamental questions … it is about the survival of the families and our country.”
Various issues have been raised over the past few days, Mr Chan said, citing topics like the NCMP scheme, if the opposition would be wiped out, and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
But he said the focus of this election should be how Singapore can get through the COVID-19 crisis – rather than the survival of any particular party.
This is something that is “glaringly missing”, he said.
“I think Singaporeans are fair-minded,” said Mr Chan. “If the Government has done well, should we affirm the Government, or should we punish the Government by having the Government with even fewer seats?
“If the opposition has not done well, should we reward the opposition with more seats, just (based) on the slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government?” he asked.
"I think voters will have to decide if they want the opposition, or if they believe the opposition is ready to check the Government. Or is the opposition trying to checkmate the Government in providing more effective governance, more decisive governance for us to get through this crisis?
"So I believe Singaporeans are fair-minded. And I think that will determine the outcome of the results."
When asked to comment on what others have said about Singapore increasing its population to 10 million, Mr Chan said the issue had already been very "well discussed".
“I think we can take note of what has been said, and I think the people will judge who is saying the right things, and who has been upfront with the people,” he said, again reiterating that this is “not the most critical issue” confronting Singapore at this point.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)’s Chee Soon Juan raised the issue in a political debate on Jul 1, which the PAP called a falsehood. On Friday (Jul 3), the PAP also issued a statement criticising other opposition leaders for “opportunistically jump(ing) into the fray”.
Mr Chan also responded to a statement made by Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh on Friday.
Mr Singh had said during a walkabout in the Punggol West single member constituency that the Government should make clear its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the decade, so that Singaporeans can properly assess whether the GST should be raised.
“I think anyone watching Parliamentary proceedings for the last 2 years would have an absolutely clear idea on our fiscal challenges going forward,” said Mr Chan. “It is not as if this has never been shared.”
Mr Chan outlined some of the challenges Singapore faces in the years to come, including infrastructure renewal, an ageing population and the need to continue attracting investment in a “more fragmented world”.
“Today, every S$5 we spend on the Budget, S$1 comes from the returns from our reserves,” he said. “The question for us is, going forward, with an ageing population, do we expect to have more returns from our reserves?
“Or do we expect that we will get less, and if so, where else would we raise the revenues?” he asked.
“So these are very real pressures that we present to Singapore upfront,” he said. “And we are not about to hide this from fellow Singaporeans because we want ownership of this challenge by all Singaporeans.”
Mr Chan also spoke about the timing of the polls, when asked if the Government had neglected the COVID-19 situation in calling an election at this point.
“I can touch my heart and say that at no point in time have we ever neglected the lives, livelihoods and lifelines of the people,” he said. “But we have to go to the polls and get a fresh mandate because the challenges will not be with us only for the next few months.”
“If by the end of this year, we are hit with a subsequent wave of infections, how will we be able to move decisively?” he asked.
“Imagine from January to April next year there’s no Parliament, because Parliament is dissolved and we’re waiting to call elections. How will we be able to respond decisively to the huge challenges that are confronting us?”