Policy changes: Workers' Party cites difference it thinks its MPs made

Workers’ Party Aljunied GRC candidates (from left) Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao and Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap visiting the market at Hougang Avenue 1 yesterday.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Workers' Party (WP) has outlined its contributions to policy formulation with a bigger parliamentary presence after the 2011 polls, as party chief Low Thia Khiang set a minimum of 20 opposition MPs to check on the Government effectively.

Responding to criticism by the People's Action Party (PAP) over the performance of its elected MPs, the opposition posted a table on its website juxtaposing its policy proposals from its 2011 election manifesto, and steps taken by the Government since then.

For instance, the WP manifesto proposed that the Government "pay for the initial operational equipment of public transport service as a social investment".

"In 2014, the Government announced that it will take over all bus operating assets and bus infrastructure and will contract out the bus services," the table read.

Its suggestion that public transport concession prices for the elderly should apply to all operating hours was also taken up in late 2011, the WP said.

On public housing, the WP said its proposals not to peg prices of new HDB flats to the resale market, and allowing new permanent residents to buy only resale flats after three years, were implemented in 2013.

The WP also listed five key policy U-turns by the Government it said took place after the 2011 polls, due to "a competitive political system with a significant opposition party presence in Parliament".

It also contrasted public statements made by ministers before and after the 2011 General Election, reflecting and explaining policy changes on public housing, healthcare, retirement adequacy, welfare support and foreign manpower.

The WP's post is the latest salvo in a battle between the PAP and the WP over whether the 2011 polls caused a shift in the Government's policy direction.

The PAP has said policy changes had been in gestation well before 2011, when the WP won the Aljunied GRC after Mr Low moved out of his Hougang stronghold. The party added the Punggol East single-seat ward after winning a 2013 by-election.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the quality of opposition MPs counts, not the numbers.

The WP, in its post put up after Nomination Day on Tuesday, also responded to criticism of its parliamentary performance. The latest came from PM Lee on Tuesday, who said that opposition supporters "voted for a tiger in the chamber and you got a mouse in the House".

The WP published a set of numbers, saying it shows, on average, its MPs had attended Parliament sittings more regularly than their PAP counterparts. They also spoke up more times per MP on debates on the Budget and Bills, the WP said.

The party also listed its objection to the 2013 Population White Paper and its suggestion that ministerial salaries be pegged to those of the civil service as key debates it had participated in.

Speaking to reporters during a walkabout in his old stomping ground of Hougang yesterday, Mr Low said at least 20 opposition MPs are needed to effectively check the Government, given the 16 government ministries and 66 statutory boards.

"The number counts, let's face the facts. Because I was in Parliament for the past 20 years. I spoke on a lot of issues for the past 20 years. Nothing has happened.

"When I moved out in 2011, when we got seven elected MPs, you see the changes," said Mr Low, who floated the figure at the WP's first round of candidate introductions last week.



This article was first published on September 3, 2015.
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