Cash handouts, social welfare schemes at heart of Reform Party's campaign proposals

Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam (right) shaking hands with a resident during a house-to-house visit.
Reform Party's Kenneth Jeyaretnam (right) shaking hands with a resident during a house-to-house visit.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A basic pension for all senior citizens, cash handouts for families with children below the age of 18 and full MediShield Life subsidies for children and the elderly are among the proposals that the Reform Party (RP) will campaign on during the next General Election (GE).

RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam outlined these ideas in a statement late Monday night, alongside a suggestion to make Temasek Holdings, GIC and Changi Airport Group public companies and hand out their shares to Singaporeans, with more shares going to the lower-income groups.

This would fulfil the RP's aim of promoting "a more equal distribution of the nation's wealth without having to resort to redistributive measures like higher tax rates", said Mr Jeyaretnam in the statement.

Promising a "new compact" between the Government and Singaporeans, the party pledged to implement new social programmes, institute safety nets, and provide full accountability of state assets if it were to be voted into power.

"We will do this while reducing the government's ownership of the economy, in line with our belief in free markets and democracy," Mr Jeyaretnam said, in the statement titled SG50: It's Time For Reform.

"We will also do it without raising taxes or cutting defence spending, though we want to reduce the National Service (NS) burden on Singaporeans."

The RP has proposed a basic pension of $500 a month for all senior citizens aged 65 and above, with an estimated cost of $3 billion per year.

This stands in contrast to the Silver Support Scheme unveiled by the Government earlier this year, which will give cash payouts to elderly folk who need extra help. The poorest 30 per cent of seniors aged 65 and older stand to get $300 to $750 in payouts every three months under the scheme, which will start next year.

The RP also suggested giving families monthly payouts of $300 for each child aged below 18. This, it said, can be a step towards reversing Singapore's low birth rates.

Estimating these payments to cost $3 billion a year, the party said this amount "could be lowered considerably by restricting it to families on median incomes or less".

It also said in the statement that it wants to waive Medishield Life premiums for those aged above 65 and below 16, to mandate free education for children up to 18 years old, and to provide free university or polytechnic education to those who have served NS.