SINGAPORE: The Workers’ Party (WP) on Sunday (Jun 28) launched its 2020 General Election manifesto, with proposals to tackle the problems brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Titled Make Your Vote Count, the 39-page manifesto also touched on alternative education policies, reducing the country's reliance on foreign workers and lowering the cost of living.
It was presented by WP young leaders, Mr Gerald Giam, Ms He Ting Ru and Mr Leon Perera, at an online press conference after the party introduced its final batch of potential candidates for the coming election.
A fourth party member who was not present, Associate Professor Daniel Goh, contributed to the manifesto, said WP secretary-general Pritam Singh. In April, Assoc Prof Goh said that he would not be contesting the election due to health issues.
The title of the party manifesto - Make Your Vote Count - is also the WP's election slogan.
Introducing the manifesto and slogan, Mr Singh said: “The slogan calls into focus the overwhelming parliamentary super-majority held by the People's Action Party (PAP). There's a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs with 100 per cent of the elected seats in PAP hands at these general elections."
He added that the group who worked on the manifesto had consulted specialists, industry experts and residents from Aljunied and Hougang constituencies, as well as other Singaporeans.
Ms He, a lawyer and mother of two, said that the manifesto contains proposals to address issues in the current economic climate which is “fraught with uncertainty”.
“Recent events have brought to light frailties within global supply chains, and also within societies. We agree that we must put ourselves in a position to thrive in a post-COVID world,” she said.
In addition to policies suggested in previous manifestos, this year's edition also included a range of suggestions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The manifesto questioned whether the Government’s earlier advice for people not to wear face masks unless they were feeling unwell was driven “more by concerns about a shortage of masks”.
It suggested that an independent medical advisory board be set up “to pre-empt any possible blind spots” for future health crises.
“Would many infections have been prevented if the advice had been given earlier to wear masks to cut down the risk of infection, as advised by some doctors from the beginning?” it asked.
The party also called for free COVID-19 vaccines for all Singapore residents, starting with the most vulnerable, when one is available.
On economic support for those affected by COVID-19, it said that the Government’s support packages were “timely and useful”, but pointed out gaps.
HDB public rent should be forgiven until all forms of lockdown restrictions are lifted, while the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme should be made automatic for all self-employed adults below the age of 37, it said.
The WP also said in its manifesto that it opposes a Goods & Services Tax (GST) hike to 9 per cent, a plan which the Government has said will be deferred in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
“There are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the GST,” said Mr Giam. “A deeper public discussion on alternative sources of revenue must be undertaken.”
The current manifesto also has more proposals on mitigating climate change and curbing the use of plastics, compared to its 2015 version.
“We propose targeting a minimum of 10 per cent of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2025, which will put us on a path of sustainable development. We also need to curb the use of plastics. Styrofoam should be banned where there are other eco-friendlier alternatives,” Mr Giam said.
READ: GE2020: PAP launches manifesto focusing on jobs, economy and keeping lives safe amid COVID-19 pandemic
Mr Perera spoke about policies for seniors, highlighting a proposal to lower the Central Provident Fund (CPF) payout eligibility age to 60, and give them a “special dividend” to boost their retirement income - both of which the party has mooted before.
"GIC basically invests CPF funds and we call for CPF members to be given transparency (about) the nature and performance of their money," he said.
"The Government should notify members of the 10-year holding average difference between investment returns of GIC and the net interest payable to CPF members for their balances."
The manifesto also repeated a number of proposals from 2015, such as reducing class sizes in schools, having redundancy or unemployment insurance and lowering the voting age to 18.
READ: GE2020: Workers' Party to contest 4 GRCs, 2 SMCs; Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat to step down
WP will contest 21 seats in Aljunied, East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs, as well as Hougang and Punggol West SMCs.
Three former MPs from WP have stepped aside to make way for younger party members. Mr Singh had said earlier that Mr Perera and Mr Giam will be contesting in Aljunied GRC, replacing Mr Chen Show Mao and former party chief Low Thia Khiang, who is retiring from electoral politics. Mr Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and vice-chair Faisal Manap will make up the rest of the Aljunied slate.
Mr Dennis Tan will be standing in Hougang SMC in place of Mr Png Eng Huat who is also not running in this election. WP has not announced where any of the other candidates will be fielded.