Economy, cost of living are key issues, say MPs

President to map out Govt's policy directions in Parliament address

When Parliament reopens today after a midterm break, the two top concerns on the minds of MPs will be the Singapore economy and bread-and-butter issues.

Specifically, they want to know how the Government will continue with the restructuring of the economy while keeping costs competitive and creating job opportunities for all Singaporeans.

Many of the dozen Members of Parliament interviewed said they will be all ears tonight when President Tony Tan Keng Yam maps out the broad directions of these policies in his presidential address.

The address, to be delivered live on television around 8.30pm, starts off the second half of the Government's term.

It will be made in Parliament before the elected, non-constituency and nominated MPs as well as invited guests.

Parliament was prorogued on April 15 for members to take stock of their work during the first half of the term.

Tonight, Dr Tan's speech will set out the Government's priorities, policies and programmes for the rest of the term.

It has been an eventful first half, with major changes in economic and social policies as the Government responded to domestic and global challenges after the watershed 2011 General Election.

The implementation of these new policies will be of overriding importance in the second half, MPs said.

Citing the Pioneer Generation Package and the upcoming MediShield Life insurance for all, Mr Baey Yam Keng said how the Government engages the people on these new programmes will decide whether they achieve their full impact.

After 21/2 years, MPs such as Ms Ellen Lee and Mr Edwin Tong would also like to hear how the Government views its performance so far. Said Mr Tong: "There has been a lot of ground-precipitated policy changes in the past few years. I'd like to know how we've done and where we should go from here."

When the 12th Parliament opened in October 2011, Dr Tan vowed the Government will strive for high-quality, inclusive growth to benefit all Singaporeans.

This, said MPs Patrick Tay and Liang Eng Hwa, should continue to be the focus in the second half. Even as Singapore continues its journey to restructure the economy, there was a need to ensure "no Singaporean is left behind", said Mr Tay.

NCMP Gerald Giam urged the Government to focus on narrowing the income gap and helping low-wage workers and their families, as well as the elderly and disabled.

Others, such as MPs Chia Shi-Lu and Lee Bee Wah, singled out cost of living and business costs as their top concerns.

MP Christopher de Souza and NCMP Yee Jenn Jong said they will focus on bread-and-butter issues, including education and public transport.

Next week, the ministries will announce their plans in public statements, known as Addenda to the President's Address.

After that, Parliament will sit, for a week, to debate these plans.

MP Zaqy Mohamad said the first half saw the Government address Singaporeans' urgent needs, such as housing and transport.

"In the second half, I'd like to revisit strategic issues and look at the long-term consequences of our economic policies in terms of cost competitiveness, manpower and job security. Also, the impact of an ageing population."

yuenc@sph.com.sg