Critical to get S'pore politics right

Critical to get S'pore politics right

A week-long debate on the President's Address ended yesterday with Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) reminding the House that "our work does not end here".

In all, 60 MPs and six ministers made their cases on many important issues, from education to the elderly, and the type of politics that is good for Singapore.

The issues raised this week focused almost entirely on social needs, illustrating the continued shift in the Government's policies.

One big concern was retirement adequacy. Many MPs voiced their desire for the Government to improve the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system, as more people age and cost of living goes up.

Another issue that got a lot of MPs fired up was whether the system of meritocracy is working as it should, given concerns over inequality of access to good schools and jobs.

The Government listened, and put forward its own case, with a pledge to do more to address concerns in these

areas.

The issue that drew the most attention and heat was that of constructive politics.

Workers' Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang devoted his entire speech to it, engendering rebuttals from PAP MPs.

Mr Low questioned if the PAP government was building an environment for constructive politics and called for efforts to enable a more robust political process, "to cultivate political norms and to build an environment for constructive engagement in politics".

This in turn was flipped on its head as the PAP questioned the WP's contribution to constructive politics, and said it lacked honesty and integrity in not admitting that it had shifted its stance on foreign workers, and in its management of contracts at its town council.

The most memorable moment of the week was the near 15-minute war of words between PM Lee and Mr Low on Wednesday.

Yesterday, two PAP MPs - Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) and Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) - continued to raise questions about the WP's stance on immigration and foreign workers.

The back and forth between the parties livened up proceedings, but it was unfortunate that it took away time to discuss the broader aspects of Singapore's political system and the space for political participation.

Yesterday, two office holders made a pitch to show that the Government is encouraging more space for community and civic participation.

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