GE2015: PAP has an overall vision to improve lives of Singaporeans, says Ng Eng Hen

Ng Eng Hen greeting commuters at Braddell MRT station on the morning of Sept 4, 2015.
Ng Eng Hen greeting commuters at Braddell MRT station on the morning of Sept 4, 2015. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) has an overall vision to take care of Singaporeans and make their lives better, said organising secretary Ng Eng Hen on Sunday.

He stressed their plans were not discrete, unconnected ones, but together formed a collective realization of the vision to improve the lives of every citizen - a bold undertaking, he told the press after a community event in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, where he is leading the PAP team contesting Friday's General Election.

"GE2015 is about helping the PAP form the government to do these plans," he said.

This is why it is seeking a strong mandate from voters this election so that it can shape and implement flexible policies to meet the diverse needs of Singaporeans, he added.

The party's vision is one where every citizen has a quality of life that is among the best in Asia, and where all segments of the population are taken care of, he told reporters.

A strong PAP government with all hands on deck is needed to achieve this, he added.

"We need capable office-holders and Members of Parliament that can tend to the ground as well as help us shape policy," he said.

Weakening the PAP - the only party capable of forming the government - is not in Singapore's interests, he argued.

"A strong PAP Government is in the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans, because no opposition party has come out to say that they want to form the government," he said.

"Singaporeans need to ask: If a PAP that everyone expects to be the ruling Government is weakened, is that in the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans?"

He outlined two significant changes in the PAP's style of governing.

First, the party is bigger on collaboration, to better engage the younger generation. To that end, about 50,000 people took part in the Our Singapore Conversation feedback exercise in 2013, and 40,000 national servicemen and members of the public were consulted by the Committee to Strengthen National Service, said Dr Ng who is the Defence Minister.

"That, to me, will be a constant feature. The Government has to involve more institutional links with groups, whatever the outcome of this GE," he said.

Second, policies must become more flexible as society becomes more diverse.

He highlighted shifts on the housing front like the new Fresh Start Housing Scheme to help second-timer rental households own a two-room flat.

Similarly, the Central Provident Fund savings scheme must evolve and be more flexible in catering to those who fall ill and cannot work, or need financing because they buy their homes later in life.

"These are clear examples where you need flexibility. I don't think you want to weaken the core of a good scheme, but what you need to do is expand the options."

The Government must also tackle the significant economic challenge of zero local workforce growth as of 2020, he said.

Workforce growth is a significant driver of policies, and if no new local workers are added to the economy, businesses will have to poach workers from other companies in order to expand.

A strong PAP government is needed in light of these trends and challenges, said Dr Ng.

MPs play a crucial role, he said, because they pass residents' requests back to ministers and let them know if a particular policy does not meet their needs.

At the local level, the PAP also wants to improve towns across all constituencies and its plans have been detailed in local manifestos.

Dr Ng hit out against the opposition criticism that the PAP plans amounted to dangling carrots before voters.

"We improve lives and improve Singapore, that is no carrot," said Dr Ng.

"If it is a carrot, it's a carrot to us - we're the horse chasing the carrot. It's our motivation, our raison d'etre."