The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on Monday (June 29) unveiled its manifesto, with "You Deserve Better" as its campaign slogan for the election.
Registered in March last year, the party is contesting its first general election. It is fielding the largest opposition contingent to contest 24 seats in nine constituencies.
In his opening message on the 13-page manifesto, secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock said: "This manifesto is the culmination of months of research and consultations with the public.
"We looked at the main issues concerning Singaporeans and at the topmost was cost of living."
The PSP manifesto outlines the party's vision for Singapore in three broad areas: economy, social and politics.
For the economy, the party will adopt a "resurgence strategy" after Covid-19 with what it called bolder economic stimuli and stronger support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs employ 70 per cent of the workforce.
During the party's virtual press conference on Monday, PSP vice-chairman Hazel Poa said that the current economic policies employed by the Government result in a trade-off on the real wage growth front even as the economy grows.
"If the strategy is economic growth by increasing labour input, then you get that trade-off. It doesn't mean that any other strategy results in that kind of trade-off.
"In fact, in most cases, it will actually be that if you have more economic growth, you have a higher wage growth."
Ms Poa, who will be on the PSP's West Coast GRC team, added that the liberal influx of foreign workers leads to problems such as social integration issues and congestion in public transport and public spaces.
It also results in a higher demand for goods and services, which causes higher prices, and "all of these work together to lower the quality of life", she said.
The PSP aims to address this by reducing the numbers of foreign workers. She said the party will insist on skills transfers to locals over a reasonable period of time.
"We will also review free trade agreements, especially those that touch on labour exchange, like for example, Ceca," she said, referring to the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
On the social front, PSP will aim to create a stronger social safety net to help Singaporeans through the crisis, such as by improving financial assistance for the unemployed and freezing tax and fee increases for the next five years, with basic necessities exempted from goods and services tax as well.
In the political domain, the party will pursue changes such as the cutting of ministerial salaries, and reviewing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, Singapore's anti-fake news law, which was passed in May last year.
The policies will be funded by two sources of funds, explained assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, who is also on the West Coast GRC team.
Mr Leong said the party will first decrease the current operating budget of the Government, which is about $80 billion a year, and use the savings in other areas.
The second source of funds would come from the Net Investment Returns Contribution from the reserves, he added.
"Of course, we are not going to spend the money if there is no necessity.
"But we all right now know that there are serious problems in Singapore with regards to social inequality and all that, and that Singaporeans are financially very stressed up," said Mr Leong.
Dr Tan said that "the emergence of Covid-19 as a health and economic threat presents Singapore with difficult challenges ahead in the next decade or so".
He noted that the economy is forecast to contract between 4 per cent and 7 per cent this year, with industries like travel, aviation and food and beverage hit hard, and said that "people are feeling the strain".
"However, the Government's response so far seems to be a patchwork of policy tweaks without addressing the fundamental factors affecting Singaporeans," said Dr Tan.
"Large segments of the population are at risk of falling through the cracks and we need to support them with compassion to ensure that they get back on their feet."
Dr Tan said that rehashing past policies is not the way to go, and that Singapore needs to have a paradigm shift and look for workable alternative solutions going forward.
"Progress Singapore Party believes that its manifesto offers a better alternative to the current problems that we are facing as a nation."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.