A performance review of our Gov during Covid-19

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In their recent “4Y 1N” campaign slogan, the Singapore Democratic Party has accused the Singaporean government of not prioritising the interests of Singaporeans in their policies.[1] This assertion is completely false. The government’s policies have always prioritised the people’s welfare.

COVID-19

A prime example of this is their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the opposition criticises the government for the rise in infection cases, the reality is that we are still faring better than other countries despite our higher population density (meaning lesser space for social distancing and higher risk of infection). Singapore has the third highest population density globally. Fortunately, our strong healthcare system, screening, containment and social-distancing policies mean that we have a death rate of only 0.07% amongst the infected. In contrast, USA (174th in Pop Density) and Italy (70th) have a death rate of 6% and 12.9% respectively. Our government has also unveiled financial programmes such as Budget 2020’s Care and Support Package which will help Singaporeans tide through the resulting recession. Other smart policies include how the government set up a multi-ministry task force even before the first local cases appeared. Singapore was also one of the first to impose travel restrictions on visitors from China despite the risk of impacting bilateral relations with the superpower. Even when the government has changed its policies (such as condoning the mask-wearing only from April 2020 onwards), this was to account for the latest information and experts’ opinions. Regarding mask-wearing, one reason the government did not condone it sooner because there were less asymptomatic patients identified previously. Now that the situation has changed, the government is encouraging mask-wearing as even those without visible symptoms may spread the virus. The government also did not want to implement stringent measures too early and risk reducing their effectiveness by causing long-term public fatigue. The government has been careful and deliberate in its handling of the crisis. It is a tough balancing act to protect both livelihood and health of Singaporeans. Fortunately, the government’s policies, accumulation of financial reserves and establishment of a robust healthcare system have all been instrumental in achieving such a low mortality rate and in alleviating the recession. I count my blessings when I observe how these foundations have cushioned Singaporeans from the suffering experienced by other countries. When the SDP nit-picks whatever small mistakes the PAP has made, they fail to see the bigger picture.             

WELFARE

Beyond the pandemic, our government’s financial transfers have been also consistent feature over the last five years and have improved the livelihoods of many Singaporeans, especially the vulnerable and needy. In 2019 $6.1 billion was invested in the Merdeka Generation Fund which supports the elderly born between 1950 and 1959. $5.08 billion was also invested in the Long-Term Care Support Fund and by extension, the Elder-Fund Assistance Scheme. Imagine if we were to instead follow the SDP who have no qualms about deficit spending (expenses exceeding revenue). Would we have the reserves to introduce such targeted welfare policies at the most appropriate times, such as during the current COVID recession? What is the point of the SDP’s silly RISE scheme when the government has already invested in the Merdeka and Pioneer generation packages?   

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

The government has also invested great effort into opening up more career paths for Singaporeans, ensuring that we have greater freedom to live our ideal lives. In 2015, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong reassured NUS students at the National Conversations Forum that the nation was en route to making unconventional careers (such as arts and sports) viable. Since then, the government has definitely kept its promise. For example, the National Arts Council’s 2014 Performing Arts Master Plan increased the development of infrastructure to support artistic development as exemplified by incubation spaces such as Centre 42, which continue to date. In 2018 the National Arts Council also announced the SG Arts Plan which aims to support arts freelancers. For sports, the government has increased sports funding and has set up a Singapore Sports School and Sports Hub. This has enabled Singapore’s athletes to gain the swimming gold medal at the 2016 Olympics and in 2017 also set a new record for medals earned at the Southeast Asian Games. Besides unconventional careers, policies such as Skills Future have also gone a long way in helping Singaporeans gain new skills and retrain so as to excel in conventional occupations or gain new employment. All this serves the career interests of Singaporeans and improves their job security. This is more than can be said for the SDP’s propose schemes. For example, their ‘Restart’ programme would be counter-productive in the long-term. If we pay unemployed workers such a significant portion of their last-drawn salary over 18 months, they may lack the incentive to look for work during that period. They may even become dependent on government funds to fulfil their financial needs, causing greater stress upon other tax-payers in the long-run. It is better to help retrenched Singaporeans to upskill, reskill and gain new jobs, as the government is currently doing.

ENVIRONMENT

Last but not least, the government has instituted various policies to reduce climate change and protect Singapore’s environment. There is no better way to safeguard Singapore’s future. One example is the introduction of a carbon tax in 2019 and plans to use this revenue to promote initiatives that reduce carbon emissions in a virtuous cycle. The National Environmental Agency will also introduce “Extended Producer Responsibility” in 2021, whereby firms producing electronics will be responsible for proper waste collection and disposal. So when SDP claims that the government lacks the “political will and urgency” to battle climate change, I only shake my head in disbelief.

CONCLUSION

Even if one is a staunch opposition supporter, the reality is that SDP’s voice has no value in parliament. Their policies show that their main goal is hogging the limelight. Providing viable suggestions is only secondary. This reveals self-interest and deprioritises Singapore’s interests.


[1] A quick summary of SDP’s plan

1) Yes, to 0% GST until end of 2021 and subsequent review raising GST to 9%.

2) Yes, to introducing retrenchment benefits under SDP’s “RESTART” Programme.

3) Yes, to Retirement Income Scheme for Elderly, (RISE) that will pay the bottom 80% of those aged 65 and above a basic income of $500 per month.

4) Yes, to putting the people’s interest first. No General Elections during the COVID crisis.

5) No, to 10 million population and displacing local PMETS (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technicians) with foreign ones.

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