SINGAPORE - A strong government is in Singapore's interest as it would be able to shape and implement flexible policies to meet the diverse needs of Singaporeans, said Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (Sept 6).
The organising secretary of the People's Action Party (PAP) said this is why the party is seeking a strong mandate from voters in the Sept 11 elections.
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. A strong PAP government with all hands on deck is needed to achieve this, he said.
"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.
STRONG MANDATE FOR A STRONG GOVT
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?
DR NG ENG HEN, PAP organising secretary
BUILD UP ANOTHER PARTY AS INSURANCE
The only way for Singaporeans to protect ourselves is buy an insurance policy - build up another party who can take over if the PAP fails.
MS SYLVIA LIM, WP chairman
"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.
"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 was speaking after a community event in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, where he leads the PAP team contesting Friday's General Election.
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 the 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.
Dr Ng's remarks appeared to be in response to the main campaign line from the Workers' Party, which has been arguing that what Singapore needs in the next stage of its development is more opposition MPs in Parliament.
Taking up this theme at a rally in Simei last night, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said that leadership renewal is an issue not only for the PAP, but for the WP as well. She called on voters to back the party's young candidates to help build up an alternative to the PAP.
"The only way for Singaporeans to protect ourselves is buy an insurance policy - build up another party who can take over if the PAP fails," she said.