GE2020: In East Coast GRC, PAP promises to care for Singaporeans through difficult time; WP urges 'urgent structural reform'
SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP) delivered their constituency political broadcasts for East Coast GRC on Saturday (Jul 4).
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and first-time candidate Mr Tan Kiat How spoke in English and Mandarin for the PAP. Ms Jessica Tan and Ms Cheryl Chan spoke in English, while Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman spoke in English and Malay.
Mr Terence Tan and Ms Nicole Seah spoke in English for the WP. Mr Dylan Ng and Mr Kenneth Foo spoke in Mandarin, while Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim spoke in Malay.
As the incumbent in the GRC, the PAP team’s address was broadcast first.
"WE’LL CONTINUE TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR NEEDS": DPM
Mr Heng promised East Coast residents that their needs would be taken care of in “these difficult times”.
“We’re all concerned about COVID-19. We understand your anxiety about your jobs and your families,” he said.
“Let me assure you that, once elected, the PAP team at East Coast, and the PAP Government, will continue to work hard to see us through this crisis.”
He said that while the Group Representation Constituency's (GRC) residents are diverse, they are united by the “East Coast spirit of care”.
He highlighted what former PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) have done in the GRC, citing the “revitalised” Bedok Town Centre, the Bedok Nature Way and new Housing Board flats.
“Residents can also look forward to future developments, such as the Thomson-East Coast MRT line, the Bayshore housing precinct and the Coastal Adventure Corridor,” he said.
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He assured Singaporeans that the PAP would try its best to safeguard lives and livelihoods, having committed funds of nearly S$100 billion at the national level.
“We’ll do our best to keep you in jobs, help you find new ones and support you to bounce back stronger. We’ll continue to strengthen our connectivity, so that our businesses and our people have opportunities on the global stage,” he said.
“On the ground, we’ll continue to take care of your needs, especially in this difficult time.”
He also said his team’s GRC manifesto was built on residents’ feedback and contributions. “We’ll continue with our ‘East Coast Conversations’ to partner with you and connect residents together.”
Ms Chan spoke about social programmes in the GRC and her Fengshan ward, and how they have helped build a “caring and inclusive community”. These include digital clinics for seniors, an employment and networking series and “go-green efforts”.
“I’m heartened that our youths’ passion and active participation made these ground-up initiatives possible. I firmly believe that together we can make it happen if we all care enough, and together we can improve lives of fellow Singaporeans,” she said.
She also assured young people that the PAP is committed to creating more job opportunities, traineeships and courses for them, but said they must be flexible and explore their options widely.
PAP’s Mr Tan promised seniors in the GRC that programmes to benefit them would be enhanced. These include befriending and health screening programmes, as well as ways to help the elderly pick up digital skills.
Ms Tan, who has represented the GRC for 14 years, spoke of the bonds she has formed with residents and how the team would support mid-career workers and small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the GRC. She highlighted a job support programme for residents, and help for SMEs to tap government schemes.
She added: “In partnership with residents, the various upgrading programmes have rejuvenated our estates in East Coast GRC, improving the living environment, accessibility and creating common spaces for residents.”
Dr Maliki, Mayor of the South East District, which oversees East Coast GRC, said he has developed many social support programmes to help those in need, and spoke about improving transport connectivity in the area.
“Caring for your well-being and addressing your concerns have been the cornerstone of our service to you,” he said.
“Over the years, we make it a point to know you in person, to care for you, to understand your needs, to improve the physical environment and to develop social programmes to meet your needs.”
WP: A CALL FOR "URGENT STRUCTURAL REFORM"
The WP’s Mr Tan said COVID-19 has stress-tested the resilience of Singapore’s economy, with businesses shuttering and unemployment rising.
Singapore was already at an "inflexion point" before the pandemic, he said, and businesses and households had insufficient reserves to “weather this current storm”.
“COVID has exposed the urgent need for bold structural and fiscal reforms, if the aim is to make our local businesses and households financially self-reliant and our economy buoyant, going forward,” he said.
East Coast residents have brought up two “pressing concerns” that require urgent intervention, he said.
“SME owners tell me that they must now wait until after this election for the government to act decisively to reduce rentals,” he said. “If rentals aren’t reduced, they’d be hard pressed to prevent retrenching employees, or the imposition of wage cuts.”
He said the Government might also want to consider additional employment allowances for workers, beyond what is already promised, to encourage employers to retain their workers.
“Further, the Government might also urgently consider cash grants to Singaporeans who have lost their jobs, to help make ends meet, as they struggle to find re-employment,” he suggested. “The Government has previously accumulated healthy surpluses and should be able to grant these lifelines readily.”
He added: “The Government doesn’t have a monopoly of ideas. A constructive and increased opposition presence in Parliament is all the more vital in these troubling times.”
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Ms Seah spoke of doing more to protect the Singaporean workforce and those who fall through the cracks in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to ensure that no Singaporean is denied higher education because of less resources. We need to prevent brain drain of bright Singaporeans who seek jobs in other countries due to the lack of opportunities here,” she said.
She said the WP proposes that universities widen access to Singaporean students from underprivileged backgrounds, and that schools provide mentorship and work placement opportunities to help the workforce be globally competitive.
She also said many Singaporeans were unable to receive help from the Government because of the type of property they were living in or because they were earning slightly above the annual income threshold.
“For some Singaporeans who had their own businesses, it was also difficult to pay their rent during these COVID months, as the money doled out to landlords and property developers might not have trickled down into their hands,” she said.
“The Workers' Party raised these questions in Parliament to make sure your voice was heard.”
She said voters in East Coast GRC have a “very difficult choice over the coming days”.
“A vote for Workers’ Party is a vote for fairness and balance,” she said. “I urge you, Singaporeans, to see the benefits that you’d get as a voter, with both a WP MP and a PA (People’s Association) grassroots adviser being equally present in your constituency.”