SINGAPORE: Given that retrenchments are likely to pick up amid an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to have a “credible opposition party” to speak up for workers in Parliament, said Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Wednesday (Jul 8).
In the longer run, Singapore faces other challenges, such as an ageing population and a resident labour force participation rate that will peak in this decade.
An ageing population is set to change the shape of the Singapore's society in many fundamental ways, while the resident labour force participation rate peaking could mean that the “ratio between locals and foreigners in the economy may be up for review”, said Mr Singh.
With these on the horizon, it is important to have a “good team” of Members of Parliament (MPs) – including opposition MPs – working for good outcomes for the country, he added.
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Speaking to reporters on the final day of the election hustings, Mr Singh was responding to a question about his assessment of the party's campaign over the past nine days.
The need for opposition MPs in Parliament is one of the three messages that the WP has tried conveying to voters, he said, citing how the party's former MPs had spoken up on behalf of private bus drivers impacted by the pandemic, shortly after the release of the first Budget in February.
“It is important we are there to represent their interests,” he said.
The WP has also been emphasising that the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme is “not a healthy option” for Singapore.
The scheme, designed to ensure a minimum number of opposition parliamentarians even if they are not elected, does not allow the NCMP to “embed himself or herself in the community”, Mr Singh added.
Referring to earlier comments made by Mr Goh Chok Tong on how the scheme is an “important outrigger” for Singapore’s political system, Mr Singh said: “I think it’s an outrigger for the PAP (People’s Action Party).
“I think Singaporeans will realise that when you vote elected opposition MPs into Parliament, the Government is more responsive and more sensitive to the concerns of the people.”
He also stressed that this year's General Election is a “tough election”, with a “real risk of a Parliament dominated completely by elected PAP MPs”.
“Is that a good outcome for Singapore? I would suggest it's not,” he said.
“My concern with that sort of a situation (is) the solidarity that is required to keep our country together will weaken in such a situation, so it's very important for the public to reflect on these things and make their vote count.”
“WE’VE GIVEN IT OUR BEST SHOT”
The WP – the only opposition party who had MPs in the last Parliament – is contesting 21 seats this election in four Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and two Single Member Constituencies (SMC).
Apart from defending Hougang SMC and Aljunied GRC, it is contesting in East Coast, Marine Parade and Sengkang GRCs, as well as in Punggol West SMC.
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Given how the PAP is a “very well-resourced party” with a“deep bench”, it is not surprising that it has sent out its heavyweights to aid in campaigning, Mr Singh said.
The WP has done its best, he added, noting how former party chief Low Thia Khiang - who is recovering from a fall and time in the intensive care unit - has also showed up to support the party’s candidates on various walkabouts.
Mr Low was present during the doorstop on Wednesday, although he did not take questions. Earlier in the day, he was seen on a walkabout with the WP’s Ajunied team, who were giving out fliers at Hougang MRT station.
Mr Singh said the party has placed the choice in front of voters. “It’s a difficult election … given the circumstances, but we've given it our best shot.”