ON THE AGENDA
At Parliament's first sitting of the year, the issues that generated the most interest among the members yesterday were consumer protection and falling oil prices.
After question time, four Bills were introduced, including that on MediShield Life insurance and controls on the consumption and sale of liquor.
The House also debated two Bills, and heard an adjournment motion on sports participation.
More powers to check income, health status
The Health Minister will get powers to check the income and health status of all Singaporeans and permanent residents, under the MediShield Life Scheme Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday.
The minister can get it from the taxman and hospitals, among others, according to the Bill to implement the universal insurance scheme.
But people can refuse to give permission for these checks. They will then become ineligible for certain subsidies and benefits.
Public drinking ban
Drinking in public places and buying alcohol to take away will be banned after 10.30pm, under a Bill introduced in Parliament.
The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill forbids drinking in places such as parks and HDB void decks from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail shops will also have to stop selling liquor from 10.30pm.
Stricter rules will also apply in Little India and Geylang, to be designated Liquor Control Zones.
Falling oil prices a boon
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said there was a possibility that falling oil prices could help lower public transport fares by around 1 per cent next year.
The drop in oil prices will also have a positive impact on the economy, because Singapore imports more oil than it exports.
Consumers and businesses will enjoy lower fuel and electricity prices.
Rogue retailers busted for unfair sales tactics could soon find it harder to start a new business under a new name. An agency could also be set up to enforce consumer protection laws.
These are among measures being considered in a review to strengthen the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act in six months or so, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck.
The proposed move follows several nasty incidents last year.
More scrutiny for pawnbroking industry?
Even as new laws were passed yesterday to impose stricter regulations on pawnshops, MPs called on the Government to look into the growth of the pawnbroking industry.
During the debate to amend the Pawnbrokers Act, some MPs asked if the rise in loans from pawnbrokers - $856 million in 1993 to $5.47 billion in 2013 - could be a result of more Singaporeans facing financial difficulties.
Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the increase could be a result of not just more demand for credit, but also a rise in the price of gold over the last five years.
This article was first published on January 20, 2015.
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