ON THE AGENDA
Parliament continued debate on the 2015 Budget statement delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last week. A total of 26 MPs, including labour chief Lim Swee Say, rose to speak on the second day of the debate.
Support local businesses
MPs called for more support for local businesses facing rising operating costs. Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), an entrepreneur, said most local companies are too pre-occupied with managing costs to think about improving productivity, and asked for a cost competitiveness committee to be set up to study the issue.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong of the Workers' Party called on the public sector to show faith in local companies by hiring them for big projects.
SkillsFuture needs culture change
The $500 each Singaporean aged 25 and older will get, for approved courses to upgrade themselves, will pay off only if workers and employers commit to a culture of change and learning, said MPs.
Labour chief Lim Swee Say called on both sides to adopt a mindset of "embracing the future", while Mr Ong Teng Koon (Sembawang GRC) said SkillsFuture will not take off "without a personal commitment, rooted in a sense of responsibility towards oneself and one's family". Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) wants attention to be paid to the quality of trainers and training courses, lest the money goes to waste.
Include single mothers
Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) and Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin argued for single mothers to get the same maternity leave and government subsidies as their married counterparts.
Ms Kuik, 37, who had a baby recently, said the relief she felt on receiving government perks for married mothers made her feel more compassion for single mothers who struggle without: "Shouldn't all Singaporean children be automatically included in the State's blessing?"
Restore older workers' CPF
Four MPs called for older workers' Central Provident Fund contribution rates to be raised to be closer to the 37 per cent the rest of the labour force enjoys.
While boosting their retirement savings, it will "also send a strong message that older workers are valued", said Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC).
The Government's plan is to raise the rates to 26 per cent for workers aged above 55 to 60 and 16.5 per cent for workers aged above 60 to 65.
Preserving national identity
Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) called for the improvement and preservation of hawker centres as important public spaces where societal bonds are formed, while Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) said Singapore must not lose its pockets of unique local identity: "May Starbucks never set up shop in (Pulau) Ubin."
Left, Right - and Beyonce
The puns about the Government's "shift to the left" in social policies continued. Nominated MP K. Karthikeyan lauded the shift, saying "if we go too far to the right, it's not right", while MP Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) quoted pop star Beyonce's 2006 hit Irreplaceable: "To the left, to the left."
This article was first published on March 5, 2015.
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