MPs welcome 'chance to build momentum'

MPs welcome 'chance to build momentum'

MPs have welcomed the pause in Parliament, calling it a chance to reflect on how they can continue to build momentum in areas of priority, such as social policies to help the needy, health care and transport.

They noted that the first session produced good policies, like those in public housing.

Complaints at Meet-the-People sessions about Housing Board balloting exercises and flat prices have fallen in the past two and a half years.

But efforts will not stop here, said 10 MPs interviewed yesterday.

The break will give them time to think of what more can be done to keep up the momentum.

"Since we have time to prepare for the next session, we cannot disappoint. We have to continue to improve," said Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh.

Parliament was prorogued yesterday, and will resume next month.

Closing a session of Parliament midway through the Government's term of office is referred to as proroguing. Unlike the dissolution of Parliament ahead of a general election, it is done for the Government to set the agenda for the remaining years of its term and to take stock of its work.

It can also be done when there is a new prime minister or president.

Since Independence, Parliament has been prorogued 10 times. Before yesterday's move, it was prorogued in 2009. It was also prorogued in December 2004, four months after Mr Lee Hsien Loong succeeded Mr Goh Chok Tong as Prime Minister.

Mr Lee said then that it would be timely to end the session of Parliament and reconvene the following year as there was a new Government and new priorities.

In 1999, Parliament was prorogued after newly elected President S R Nathan was sworn in.

Dealing with recessions has also been a reason. In 1986, Parliament was prorogued for President Wee Kim Wee to outline new policies to tackle the severe recession that started in 1985.

For the new session next month, MPs have already drawn up wishlists of issues to discuss.

Some MPs, like Mr Gan, said they wanted to look at a quicker way to fix train problems, although long-term infrastructure improvements are in the works.

Details for MediShield Life should be hammered out in the second session too, they added.

MP Zainal Sapari of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC hopes to see more done to help low-wage workers and their families lead better lives amid rising living costs.

Added Mr Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development: "We need to build a more inclusive society, where nobody is left behind by economic progress.

"In the last three years, in particular, social policies have taken centre stage. But there's still a lot more work to be done to make sure we don't lose momentum."

Nominated MP Eugene Tan, noting Singapore's 50th birthday next year, agreed and said: "In many ways, if Parliament can be more focused on the social dimensions, then we are setting the stage well for the next 50 years of our history."

This article was published on April 16 in The Straits Times.

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