Parliament Day 4: Debate in 2 Minutes

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech on proposed political changes on Wednesday drew both criticism - from opposition leader Low Thia Khiang - and praise yesterday. On the fourth day of debate on the President's Address, MPs also spoke on building a caring society and helping professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

Continued support for anti-ISIS coalition

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will continue its support for the multinational coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the threat posed by the militant group persists, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

He added that the SAF has deployed military personnel and equipment to help and will send its Imagery Analysis Team to the coalition's headquarters in Kuwait for another year.

More applying for LPA

A growing number of Singaporeans are appointing guardians to make key decisions on their behalf if they should lose their mental faculties, through a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

Last year, 8,360 applications for the LPA were accepted, about 160 per cent more than in 2014, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) said the 20,000 LPAs accepted since the scheme began in 2010 was too few. Mr Tan said he would consider suggestions to raise awareness of the scheme.

Politics and political changes

Good politics should not just lead to good policies and prevent gridlock, but must also foster the growth of opposition parties, said Workers' Party leader Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) as he gave his take on the topic PM Lee touched on Wednesday.

Other MPs praised the proposed political changesMr Lee announced, withMs Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) saying that giving Non-Constituency MPs full voting rights will strengthen their position.

Mr Edwin Tong (Marine Parade GRC) defended the need for having the "most stringent conditions and criteria" for the Elected Presidency, given the weighty responsibilities of the office.

Focusing on the heart

Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said fostering strong bonds among citizens will strengthen the "Singapore heartbeat" that powers the country.

Mr Ng, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport, was among half a dozen MPs who spoke on community ties.

Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) proposed having integrated childcare and eldercare centres in schools and parks, while Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) suggested tapping networks of neighbours to support the elderly and young parents.

Ways to help PMEs and local workers

At least four MPs gave suggestions on helping Singapore workers, with Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) focusing on PMEs. Mr Tay suggested pegging the number of foreign PMEs a firm can hire to the number of Singaporeans in the firm, in a "dependency ratio" similar to that for other work passes.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggested that for each Singaporean worker retrenched, firms should have their foreign worker quota reduced by one.

This article was first published on January 29, 2016.
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