'We could have written the same manifesto': PAP's Vivian Balakrishnan to WP's Jamus Lim on live GE2020 debate

PHOTO: Screengrab from Mediacorp Channel 5

In a one-on-one between Vivian Balakrishnan of the People's Action Party (PAP) and Jamus Lim of the Workers' Party (WP) on the live "Singapore Votes 2020 - The Political Debate" on July 1, the foreign affairs minister dropped an oblique compliment regarding the opposition party's manifesto.

"I read your manifesto and actually, to be honest with you… we could have written the same manifesto," Dr Balakrishnan told Dr Lim. 

"And that's why people have called the Workers' Party 'PAP-lite' or 'PAP-like'." 

Dr Balakrishnan stated that the WP has basically used whatever stand the PAP has taken as a reference point and took a "half-step to the left". 

Dr Lim rolled with the jab and emphasised that WP does not necessarily object policies just for the sake of objection - something that fellow WP member Sylvia Lim brought up earlier today (July 1). 

"Ultimately what we want is the right policy. The fact that we're having a debate and agitating toward an answer is a step positive in that direction." 

But the question that Dr Balakrishnan posed was how the WP will address the costs incurred by "those little steps [to the] left". Some of the things the WP has proposed include the institution of a national minimum wage, free public transport for the elderly and the disabled, as well as lowering the CPF payout eligibility. 

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Assuring that his party has done the math to ensure their proposals will be "budget neutral," Dr Lim acknowledged that a fundamental difference between the two parties lies in where the trade-offs should occur. 

“The PAP would tend to side on the side of capital. We think, in fact, that for every dollar of national income Singaporean workers already receive is an insufficient amount — 42 cents compared to the 55 cents in Japan and much higher in other high-income countries," he explained. 

Dr Lim has brought up the argument before in his Twitter thread on why minimum wage should be advocated. 

https://twitter.com/jamuslim/status/1277952917622816769

In return, Dr Lim questioned Dr Balakrishnan if the PAP has actually evaluated the efficacy of its implemented policies thus far, referencing a point made by the Singapore Democratic Party's chief Dr Chee Soon Juan that the government has "tried to raise productivity unsuccessfully" since 1972. 

"That is the question - how much the PAP has actually estimated the efficacy of the policies it rolls out, because I would have lack of confidence that they are big budget [and that] it might actually do the job," he asked the minister. 

Dr Balakrishnan responded that the PAP recognises that Singapore is a city-state which will need to bring in investments. 

"You will know full well that the nature of these investments - high capital investments, high-tech investments, high intellectual property investments - will not generate the same labour share of much of the last industrial revolution," he mentioned.

ilyas@asiaone.com