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's National Day Rally Speech, National Solidarity Party expressed that it is heartened by the strategic shift of the government, in response to the voice of the people, academics and the opposition parties. Among other measures, the Party asks the Government to do more for the Pioneer Generation of Singapore, and consider implementing an inflation-indexed retirement allowance for these who have worked hard to build this nation. The following is the full text of NSP's media release.
--Acknowledgement The National Solidarity Party is deeply heartened by the strategic shift presented by the government in the recent National Day Rally message. Many of the policy directions put forth in the message addressed concerns pertaining to bread and butter issues that have been on the minds of Singaporeans for several years. It is encouraging to note that the voices of the people and the viewpoints put forth by academics and the opposition parties have not been made in vain. While the measures announced are moving in the right direction, the National Solidarity Party would also like to recall earlier alternative recommendations proposed in recent years, which we believe would also help serve the greater needs and interests of Singaporeans.
Healthcare We thank the government for heeding the call made by the National Solidarity Party’s NCMP representative Steve Chia in Parliament in 2004: to recognize the nation-building efforts and alleviate the burden of burgeoning healthcare costs of the Pioneer Generation. This is a generation of Singaporeans who have played a critical role in the early days of modern Singapore. It is thus right that they should be taken care of in their twilight years. While the measures announced is encouraging, especially for eldercare and lower income groups, we encourage the focus to be drawn to the sandwiched class – specifically, Singaporeans who face the burden of supporting both their children and parents. The National Solidarity Party’s 2011 General Election manifesto earlier made the recommendation to propose a Comprehensive Medical Insurance scheme, which will entail: Coverage to include hospitalization and outpatient treatments at private or restructured hospitals, polyclinics and affiliated private clinics. Coverage of all pre-existing medical conditions of children
Mandatory coverage with government contributing at least 20% of payable premiums, with full undertaking of premiums for citizens under public assistance Coverage of all approved hospitalization treatments with predetermined costing, but excluding rental of hospital beds to discourage extended or unnecessary stays Coverage of medicine costs based on pre-determined drug list Encouraging the use of generic drugs which are comparatively economical
Apart from the above CMI proposal, the NSP would like to urge the government to consider the implementation of an inflation-indexed retirement allowance for the Pioneer Generation who has worked hard to build this nation. Indeed, Singapore may learn from Hong Kong's Old Age Living Allowance scheme for old people who are aged above 65 years. Similarly, the Economic Society of Singapore also supports establishing a targeted, basic, inflation-indexed retirement allowance. We can expect our government to do more for our pioneer generation, especially for those with little to no CPF savings. It is the duty of the government to help them cope with Singapore’s burgeoning standards of living.
Education The National Solidarity Party agrees with the mandate to “teach less, learn more”. The announced changes to the PSLE bring welcome change in the form of reduced emphasis on numerical scores. However, it has not been explained how secondary school admissions will be implemented with the wider scoring band. The expansion of the Direct School Admissions scheme may also cause additional pressure for students to build extracurricular portfolios in order to gain admission. Additionally, it is crucial to steer learning attitudes towards the value of learning through processes and failures, than getting clear-cut answers through rote learning. The resilience of a workforce in an ideas-driven global economy will depend less on technical competencies, and more on the ability to solve problems in a creative and proactive fashion. We need to encourage a stronger growth mindset. Otherwise, we will continue to foster a workforce reliant on foreign companies for jobs instead of building domestic, homegrown job opportunities. We also highlight the need for a streamlining of the operational procedures of the way schools are currently run. With only anecdotal evidence of how teachers suffer burnout and are subjected to alphabetical grading systems as well as high turnover rates, it is not possible for us to ascertain the extent of how the ministry intends to lessen the workload of teachers, and subsequently, to fill the gaping demand for this profession. We urge the ministry to consider a fundamental shift in the professional scope of teachers, rather than to alleviate workloads through symptomatic tactics such as the introduction of co-form teachers.
Public Infrastructure The announcement of building more infrastructure is welcome. However, it is only one facet of many other factors which contribute to quality of life. There has been no mention made of the 6.9 million target population espoused in the White Paper earlier this year. The blueprint addressing how we intend to address this inevitable population crunch via housing supply, road networks, and public transportation networks, have not been addressed fully.
Social spending It is encouraging to note that the government has done much for the lowest percentile of the needy in Singapore. However, as our Gini co-efficient rises and social inequality becomes a pressing issue worldwide, it is imperative for Singapore to take the lead in lessening this inequality and creating a successful case for other countries to emulate, as they have with our economic success story. This can be approached two ways. First, Singapore has earlier espoused a Swiss Standard of living promised to Singaporeans in the early 1990s. It is now time for us to define what a Singapore Standard of living should be. The government needs to look into re-defining a poverty line that is unique to Singapore, to ensure that no citizen will be left behind as our country becomes richer in its pursuit of economic growth. Secondly, more can be allocated to social expenditure. NSP's budget 2013 response earlier raised this issue, citing that development expenditure versus operating expenditure has been dropping. While the population has grown by 45% from 1996–2012, development expenditure has only increased by 34%. We call on the government to adjust the development budget to invest even further in social spending and public infrastructure such as housing, healthcare and transportation. We strongly believe that the government can afford to spend more on its people, and it can most definitely afford to do so without falling into the welfare trap.
Politics and Civil Society Politics has to be done right in Singapore, otherwise we will not be a fully functioning democracy in which people are empowered to make a stand on issues that affect them. Unfortunately, unsavoury tactics such as gerrymandering, the ruling’s party ties with the People’s Association and other legislations such as the Political Donations Act, the MDA Licensing Scheme and the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act, the Defamation Act, et al., prove that the ruling party continues to maintain an iron fist and comparative political advantage over any other entrants from parties of other affiliations. Separately, while it is encouraging that the government wishes to see more active citizenry and has thus initiated a Youth Corps, it must be acknowledged that we do not need another institutionalized system to encourage a concept as organic as bottom-up
initiatives. Instead, Singapore requires a cultural shift to open up on social restrictions such as illegal assembly laws and an openness to accept bottom-up campaigns which might be dissenting from the viewpoint of the ruling party. The ruling party needs more than the implementation of another committee or institution. There needs to be an opening up of society, and a fundamental shift in the values that Singapore wishes to espouse to make itself a more vibrant city in the years going forward.
Singapore values As the country strives to emulate the successes of other vibrant cities across the world, it is imperative to understand that the success of an ideas-driven economy will soon be led by states who are able to attract the best, most brilliant and diverse talent, not just from overseas, but those nurtured on a homegrown basis as well. Thus, we must recognize that it is no longer socially relevant – as it was in the past – to adhere to the notion of a Singaporean who has specifically been socially engineered to serve an economic end. Success stories and measures of intelligence in this day and age come from diverse backgrounds and undefined paths. As we learn to embrace the fact that such diversity is important for an economy to truly flourish without over-reliance on MNCs, we should also recognize that values espousing diversity and inclusivity need to be incorporated on a social level as well. This includes extending benefits to non-traditional family units such as single-parent families. When we learn to understand and embrace every single citizen of Singapore who contributes to building this country through their diligence, entrepreneurship and resilience, regardless of their personal background, we will then start to foster a country of citizens who can truly feel at home and sink their roots in this country – for this generation, and for the generations ahead. Undersigned by The Central Executive Committee of the National Solidarity Party
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