SINGAPORE: Nominated MP Eugene Tan has urged the government to pay more attention to the plight of the sandwiched, middle-class.
Making his debut speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Associate Professor Tan said that while the government has focused on addressing the threat of jobs that the bottom 20th percentile of Singaporeans face, the middle income group also has their share of worries as their wages are stagnant relative to the rising costs of living and tax burdens.
He also urged the business community to see the Budget from a societal perspective and play a larger role in tackling challenges in society.
Prof Tan said: "Businesses can do more and should do more in areas like employability of older Singaporeans, tackling the various forms of workplace discrimination, and promoting work-life balance.
"The need for businesses to step up and play their role in the development of a resilient society is necessary. It is vital for them to do so if the tripartite framework that has served us well is to be sustained and enhanced in tandem with a changing world.
"We urgently need to put emphasis on productivity and innovation. And our SMEs must rise to the challenge to take Singapore's economy to new heights and to reduce our reliance on multinational corporations and government- linked companies.
"The SMEs are an untapped engine of growth. They need to be nurtured but certainly not mollycoddled. Despite the Budget helping companies to manage the transition, some SMEs will have to cease operations if they cannot innovate and improve their productivity fast enough."
Prof Tan also stressed that government's assistance to the less privileged Singaporeans must not result in them having a crutch mentality.
He feels that the Budget has too often emphasized the goodies it contains which Singaporeans now expect as an entitlement.
Prof Tan stressed that for those who are able-bodied, the combination of assistance and government transfers must reinforce the dignity of work.
And the message of re-skilling, skills upgrading, and life-long learning must strike a chord with Singaporeans.