WP 'can propose policy alternatives'

WP 'can propose policy alternatives'
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Workers' Party (WP) believes its larger slate of elected MPs and an increase in membership since 2011 have put it in a stronger position to propose policy alternatives to what the People's Action Party (PAP) has to offer.

And in releasing the party manifesto yesterday, central executive council member Gerald Giam urged voters to keep the momentum going and entrench the opposition's presence in Parliament.

He said a significant opposition presence would ensure the PAP would not dominate Parliament, and that different players would be able to push through their ideas.

"Without a sizeable slate of opposition MPs, I don't think you can expect a lot of these ideas to be able to be pushed through," he said.

"We don't go on the assumption that we have all the good ideas. But we listen to people, we understand them and if we think this is an idea useful for Singapore, we will push it through the parliamentary process, through the speeches, and the statements that we make."

Being able to bring good ideas to the table is the WP's goal at the Sept 11 elections, he said, adding that the party is not aiming to form the government at this juncture, even in a coalition with other parties.

In fact the party's manifesto for the Sept 11 polls omits saying that the "WP's long-term aim is to form the government". This was in its 2011 election manifesto, Towards a First World Parliament.

Mr Giam said it remains the long-term aim, but the party decided to make the change so that it could keep the spotlight on its manifesto proposals and "focus on what our goals are for this election".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking yesterday at the launch of the PAP's election manifesto, said that opposition parties have avoided saying that their aim is to form the government, because they know that it would cost them votes, given their lack of credibility.

The WP went from having one elected MP in Hougang to seven before Parliament was dissolved for the polls. It won the five-member Aljunied GRC and retained Hougang in the 2011 General Election, and won Punggol East in the 2013 by-election.

On PM Lee's comments that the country would be sunk if Singaporeans voted the opposition into power, Mr Giam said he does not buy the argument that "the PAP is so indispensable that no one could ever replace them".

On PM Lee's point that the PAP has been inextricably linked to Singapore's development, Mr Giam acknowledged that the PAP had indeed played a big role.

"But there are also many other players in the fray right now. And the PAP doesn't have all the answers for Singapore," he added.

What the WP presented in its manifesto, titled Empower Your Future, are over 130 proposals including the party's first-ever call for a national minimum wage .

Mr Giam led a team that produced the 48-page manifesto. Five other members, several of whom have been named or are potential WP candidates, were involved.

They are National University of Singapore sociologist Daniel Goh, 42; research and consultancy firm chief executive and former civil servant Leon Perera, 44; librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff, 36; corporate lawyer He Ting Ru, 32; and Mr Kenneth Foo, in his 30s, a manager at a voluntary welfare organisation.

Mr Giam said the party was able to call for a minimum wage, among other proposals, as there were more people who came forward in the last four years and contributed to policy discussions.

"We've had more people to research issues and give us opinions. That makes us more confident to present certain ideas which we held back in the past because we didn't have enough data," he said. "We hope to be a responsible party so we won't just throw up numbers without having done the research."

Dr Goh said when examining a proposal, he applied a 3P principle: plausible to see if it's logical, possible to see if others have done it, and probable to see if the government would endorse it.


This article was first published on August 30, 2015.
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