Parliament: Avoid welfare pitfalls when rolling out social policies, says MP Cedric Foo

SINGAPORE - When rolling out its social policies, Singapore should take care to avoid pitfalls that have befallen other countries, urged Member of Parliament Cedric Foo (Pioneer) on Friday.

Singapore should not "yield to populist demands and take a short-term view", which will erode its competitive advantage over time, he said in Parliament.

Instead, Singapore should keep an eye on emerging trends and uncertainties, and maintains Singapore's long-term competitiveness.

This requires making the right trade-offs between the short-term and the long-term, for which the Government needs people's support, he added.

In his speech which looked to the future, he urged Singapore to avoid various pitfalls which other countries have faced.

Social policies should not erode Singaporeans' ethos of working hard, he said.

For example, Workfare "reinforces values of hard work and self-reliance", but in contrast, advanced economies with social welfare policies have gradually seen "large numbers of citizens on unemployment benefits with greater reliance on the Government".

He also urged the Government to maintain prudent fiscal policies and financial discipline, so as not to burden future generations.

Services should not be fully subsidised, as this can encourage individuals to wastefully consume them, he added.

The family should also remain the "first line of defence" for an individual's welfare, although the Government can support family networks through schemes like tax reliefs.

Said Mr Foo: "There is no reason why Singapore's current success will be everlasting. No one can underwrite our success. We need to work at it all the time."

The MP also spoke on the need for Singapore to build social capital and a vision of the future, to define the nation for its years to come.

"The President was right to say that 'the best years for Singapore is ahead of us' but this is provided that we make the right choices and take the right path forward.

"We need to rally the people to take a longer view and a more collective bequeath to our children a better Singapore than the one we inherited," he said.