Grassroots leaders from Indian community attend dialogue session on Budget

SINGAPORE - Around 120 grassroots leaders from the Indian community attended a dialogue session on Friday night to discuss changes announced in last week's Budget speech.

Topics of conversation included retirement adequacy and the new measures introduced to help people upgrade their skills.

A common concern was how the Government will make sure private companies are supportive of Budget initiatives.

For instance, some people questioned if employers would give their employees sufficient time off to take up SkillsFuture courses.

Others lauded the slate of measures introduced to support households, but added that they hope to see employers exercise more flexibility for those who are caregivers at home.

Several people also raised issues not addressed in this year's Budget, such as the quality of public transport and the high cost of Housing Board flats.

The session was held under the Chatham House rule, which guarantees confidentiality to promote free discussion.

It was organised by the People's Association Indian Activity Executive Committees Council, and held at The Grassroots Club in Yio Chu Kang.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair, who is also the council's adviser, was the facilitator.

Rounding up the dialogue, he highlighted the recent unhappiness surrounding the issue of Central Provident Fund withdrawals but urged his audience to look at the big picture.

"The question is: Do we have enough to retire?" he said. "And if there is not enough, how can we help people to retire comfortably?"

He also touched on the low fertility rate, saying that part of the reason for it was stress and uncertainty.

"I think what we need to do is to remove uncertainty," he said. "Maybe that will encourage people to have more children."

More than 50 such dialogues and focus group discussions will be held over the coming months to gather feedback on this year's Budget.

linettel@sph.com.sg