GE2020: In West Coast broadcast, PAP reiterates commitment to residents; PSP stresses need for ‘ground-up’ solutions
SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party (PAP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) delivered their constituency political broadcasts for West Coast GRC on Wednesday (Jul 8).
In their speeches, both contesting teams outlined what they saw as the way forward to meet the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the incumbents, the PAP team’s address was broadcast first.
PAP: "NO ONE LEFT TO FACE LIFE'S CHALLENGES ALONE"
Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said that his team understands and shares the concerns of West Coast residents. He added that the PAP has “specific plans, both national and local”, to help them amid COVID-19, which he described as “the gravest challenge in our history”.
“It has profoundly affected our lives and severely disrupted our jobs. And we know that many of you are worried about your lives and your livelihoods,” he said.
The National Environmental Agency’s rental waiver for hawker centre stalls is an example of the help given so far, he pointed out, while noting that residents’ lives have benefited from measures like the Housing and Development Board’s Enhancement for Active Seniors programme.
“But most of all, we want to create jobs for Singaporeans. I serve on the National Jobs Council, and our aim is to create 100,000 jobs and training opportunities for mid-career (workers) and fresh graduates,” he said.
“We complement that with Jobs@West Coast, our local initiative to bring job opportunities and career advice to your doorstep at every community centre, from Telok Blangah to Nanyang.”
Mr Iswaran also spoke in Malay and Tamil, while team-mate Ang Wei Neng spoke in Mandarin.
Speaking in English, Ms Foo Mee Har said that the PAP team would tap its “diverse experience” to develop local programmes in order to meet residents’ needs and supplement national-level programmes.
“We’ll do all we can to support your advancement. Our promise to you is that no one will be left to face life's challenges alone. We’ll walk every step of the way with you,” she said.
“We’ll bring more jobs, more leisure, more amenities and more homes for all. We’ll also ensure that our residents will continue to enjoy the many estate upgrading programmes like the Home Improvement Programme.”
PAP: VARIOUS PLANS TO SUPPORT FAMILIES
Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee reaffirmed that there will be support for the many low-income families who have been hit “very hard” by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our partners in the SG Cares Community Network are actively reaching out to households living in rental housing to find out how they’re coping and what additional support they need,” he said.
“We’ve also made ComCare assistance more responsive to better support lower-income households during this time. And for seniors living alone, we’ve reached out to keep in touch (and) lend a listening ear.”
The current crisis has also affected middle-income households, he noted.
“That’s why we established the COVID-19 Support Grant to offer some financial support to help you manage basic needs. Recipients of the grant will also be linked up for job support or training,” said Mr Lee, who also spoke in Mandarin.
The final PAP member, newcomer Rachel Ong, shared some of the team’s plans to help families, such as ensuring that there are sufficient pre-school places and affordable childcare for everyone.
“Another area that we want to develop is a series of workshops and events that will help prepare our children for the future,” she said, citing workshops on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, character and values development, as well as robotics.
“Now, more than ever, families need support to succeed. At West Coast GRC, we want to support the building of strong families,” she said.
“There’s much more work to be done and we look forward to more conversations with you. When our families across West Coast GRC are strong, we can face the future together with courage and hope.”
PSP: "WE NEED TO THINK OUT OF THE BOX"
For the PSP, its secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock stressed the need to adapt to the changing times.
“We live in unprecedented times, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging and we need to recover, all together. We must now adapt to new ways of working and living - new solutions,” said Dr Tan.
“We need to think out of the box, not more of the same, top-down approach practised by the PAP, where the Government tells you what to do and expects you to follow without questioning.”
He stressed the need to “rekindle” the West Coast spirit instead, “where solutions come from the ground up”.
Dr Tan, who for 26 years was the PAP MP for Ayer Rajah - now part of West Coast GRC - cited how he had worked with residents to bring about changes.
“We built a community with a soul, with facilities like the first barrier-free community centre for the able and disabled. We also pioneered a special day-care centre for the young and old to bond,” he said.
Elaborating on the PSP’s plans, Mr Jeffrey Khoo laid out three initiatives the party has for the constituency if elected.
These include offering and promoting town council jobs for Singaporeans within the GRC and working closely with local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help match their job vacancies with West Coast residents.
“Secondly, we also hope to create communities of local start-ups and SMEs, and help them grow with financial, office management and legal support,” he said.
Mr Khoo also raised the possibility of transforming void-deck areas into co-working spaces with telecommunication facilities to support residents who must work from home. This would help address some of the difficulties people currently experience working from home, he said.
“A new normal demands a new approach. We’re proposing a community ground-up approach that taps the ingenuity of our people,” he added.
PSP: VOTE "WITH NO FEAR"
Fellow candidate Nadarajah Loganathan touched on how the PSP proposed creating jobs at a national level. This involves prioritising jobs for citizens, on the PMET front in particular, as well as strengthening the “social security net”.
“This is a golden opportunity to reduce our over-dependence on foreign labour. We propose a review of employment passes to see how such positions could be filled by unemployed or retrenched Singaporeans instead,” he said.
“This is even more pertinent for junior positions. After all, our young graduates are from one of the best education systems in the world. I believe they’re more than qualified for these positions.”
He added that Singapore must take “decisive” action to ease the financial pressure on Singaporeans, through measures such as improving the financial assistance for those rendered unemployed by COVID-19, allowing flexible withdrawal of Central Provident Funds and increasing childcare subsidies.
The PSP’s Ms Hazel Poa spoke in Mandarin, while assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai wrapped up the team’s speeches by encouraging residents to cast their vote “with no fear”.
“Have no fear about a freak election result, with the PAP out of power,” he said. “Under our first-past-the-post electoral system, the incumbent enjoys a strong advantage.”
Voters should be concerned about the opposition being “wiped out” instead, he said, “because the odds are stacked highly against us”.
“As there’s absolutely no fear that the PAP will be voted out of power, you can actually get the best of both worlds - a strong PAP government and a strong alternative voice. Don't short-change yourself," he added.