Singapore GE2020: 6 key election issues, from jobs, Covid-19 to population

Insight looks at six issues that have surfaced as the campaign for GE2020 enters Day 6 today.

1. Safeguarding Singaporeans’ jobs in a crisis

The Central Business District in Raffles Place. Creating and saving jobs for Singaporeans has been a key election message of the political parties in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a looming recession. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

With a global recession looming, political parties made their case for how they would keep Singaporeans in jobs and tackle unemployment.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has put jobs front and centre of its election messaging, making it a key prong of its manifesto titled, Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out that the Economic Development Board was able to attract $13 billion in new investments in the first quarter of this year, which will generate several thousand jobs over the next few years. In a video message on Wednesday, he said this was possible because investors know the Singapore Government has strong popular support and can get backing for “policies that will grow the economy, attract talent and investment, and eventually create jobs for Singaporeans”.


2. Pandemic: Handling the virus outbreak

A swab test being conducted at a Regional Screening Centre set up in the Old Police Academy on June 9, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged Singapore, and the world, into its worst crisis in a generation, and the country’s response has set the backdrop for the ongoing general election campaign.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has made safeguarding lives a top priority, by taking measures to keep people safe and preventing the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

It has also sought to protect and create jobs, rolling out four Budgets and putting $93 billion on the table to focus on keeping companies afloat and Singaporeans employed.


3. 10 million population claim by SDP

DPM Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post the Government had never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase the population to 10 million. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

A heated exchange on population numbers resurfaced tensions over immigration, leading the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to issue a strong statement refuting opposition claims that it plans to drastically increase the number of foreigners, and questioning the character and integrity of opposition party chiefs.

During a televised debate on Wednesday night, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan suggested several times that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had “toyed with” the idea of nearly doubling the Republic’s population to 10 million, from the current 5.7 million.

He asked Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was representing the PAP at the debate, if he would categorically tell Singaporeans his party had no intention of raising the population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners.


4. Ensuring diversity of views in Parliament

MPs and NCMPs at the swearing-in of the Cabinet at the Istana in October 2015. The Constitution was amended in 2016 to give NCMPs equivalent voting rights as elected MPs. These changes will take effect in the next term of government. But the opposition has argued that NCMPs’ views carry less weight because they do not have the weight of their constituents behind them. PHOTO: ST FILE

It has been described as a “poisoned chalice”, a “ploy” to keep people from voting for the opposition, and a “back door” for the opposition to get into Parliament.

The Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme has become one of the most talked-about issues this election season, with vigorous debate from both sides of the political divide.

NCMP seats are offered to the opposition’s “top losers”, its candidates who garner the best results at the polls even though they do not win, and over the years the number of seats has increased from three to the 12 on offer in the coming election.


5. Foreigners: Protecting S’pore workers’ interests

Political parties have crossed swords on the topic of foreign labour, among other issues. Responding to Progress Singapore Party vice-chairman Hazel Poa in an online Mandarin dialogue on Thursday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said Singapore’s foreign manpower needs are not determined by the Government but by the needs of businesses. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Amid a wave of retrenchments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, political parties crossed swords on the Government’s foreign worker policy and free trade agreements such as the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca).

During a televised live debate on Wednesday, the Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Mr Francis Yuen, who is leading PSP’s four-person team in Chua Chu Kang GRC against the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), said: “We have a lot of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) working here. I think there are about 400,000 of them, and yet we have about more than 100,000 of (local) PMETs who are out of a job.

“We believe that we need foreign PMETs to complement but we need to believe that there is opportunity for us to slow it down.”


6. GST: To raise, suspend or exempt?

Customers at the checkout section of a supermarket. Singapore’s goods and services tax is set to be raised from 7 per cent to 9 per cent between 2022 and 2025. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The familiar lightning rod issue of the goods and services tax (GST) has returned this election, with opposition parties in broad agreement in opposing a planned hike from 7 per cent to 9 per cent between 2022 and 2025.

Most, like the Workers’ Party (WP) and the Progress Singapore Party, are calling for the GST to be held at the current 7 per cent, while others such as the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Reform Party have gone further to call for a suspension to the GST or to exempt essential goods from the tax.

But the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has defended the need to raise the GST by 2025 to fund the country’s recurrent spending needs, and questioned the other parties on where they intend to make up the shortfall should GST collection be suspended, or the GST hike be scrapped.


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