The candidates: Opposition

Two SDP faces to focus on healthcare and education

With the introduction of Ms Jaslyn Go and Dr Paul Tambyah yesterday, the Singapore Democratic Party has named four of its 11 candidates. Ms Go spoke about the stressful education system, while Dr Tambyah said the healthcare system is "really, really
With the introduction of Ms Jaslyn Go and Dr Paul Tambyah yesterday, the Singapore Democratic Party has named four of its 11 candidates. Ms Go spoke about the stressful education system, while Dr Tambyah said the healthcare system is "really, really expensive".ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Party candidates cite the issues as among those they plan to raise on the hustings

Healthcare and education will be top of the agenda at the coming elections for the two new candidates introduced by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday, medical professor Paul Tambyah and entrepreneur Jaslyn Go.

Speaking at a press conference at SDP's Ang Mo Kio headquarters, both candidates outlined their interest in these areas and also referenced the party's alternative proposals.

National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine professor Paul Tambyah, 50, talked at length about healthcare while Ms Go, 43, a mother of two, spoke about how stressful the education system was for her children, aged 10 and 12.

Dr Tambyah, who has been active at party events since 2010, said that while Singapore has an excellent healthcare system with good doctors and nurses, the system is "really, really expensive".

He said, for instance, that under the proposed MediShield Life scheme, a person has to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 out of pocket before payouts kick in.

"In other words, once MediShield Life starts, you either have to pay out of pocket or through your Medisave for the bulk of your hospitalisations," he said.

He added that the three Ms - Medisave, MediShield and Medifund - account for less than 15 per cent of total healthcare expenditure here.

"The rest of the 85 per cent is primarily government health subsidies - which account for about a third of the healthcare expenditure - as well as out-of-pocket or employer-funded health insurance," he said. "And that is simply not sustainable."

Ms Go, whose son is taking the PSLE this year, called for less emphasis on paper qualifications. She said she felt that the education system here puts too much pressure on children.

"I want our kids to grow up in an environment where they enjoy the process of learning," said Ms Go, who told reporters that she dropped out of school after her O levels."Children must be given time to be children."

Both Ms Go and Dr Tambyah also touched on immigration. Dr Tambyah said the Government has tried to "paper over some of the more serious issues", but that numbers are still going up.

Stressing that the SDP is not against immigrants, he said: "They will bring in large numbers of low- wage immigrants to try and force wages down and both sides lose.

"The locals lose because their wages go down to a situation where they cannot afford the cost of living, and the immigrants lose because they are exploited in a way."

The principle should be to take in people who want to assimilate and contribute - and not just treat Singapore as a stepping stone - while ensuring that they are not exploited, he added. He called for a minimum wage, and a talent-based point system for immigrants.

Asked why he decided to join the SDP, Dr Tambyah said he was drawn to the party's "clearly defined philosophy" of social justice and its trust that Singaporeans are mature and educated enough to make their own choices.

"We don't need some natural aristocrats telling us what to do," he said, a jibe at an expression that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had previously used to refer to those in positions of authority in a society.

Yesterday's introduction means that the SDP, which will contest Holland-Bukit Timah and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRCs, and the single- seat wards of Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Yuhua, has revealed four of its 11 candidates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Two SDP faces to focus on healthcare and education'. Print Edition | Subscribe