Singapore GE2020: East Coast GRC to be a good place for families and seniors, says Heng Swee Keat

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SINGAPORE - East Coast must be a good place for families to raise children and for seniors to grow old in, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (July 4).

In the PAP's second online rally for the constituency, he and the other four candidates shared personal anecdotes about parenthood and ageing, linking these to the challenges that many Singaporeans face in both areas.

For instance, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman recounted how his late father had mild dementia, which impacted his recovery from an eye operation.

"He forgot that he had just gone for surgery and when he went for his shower... he rubbed his eye so hard that it bled terribly and he ended up blinded," Dr Maliki said, adding that these are issues that Singaporeans will increasingly have to grapple with as the population ages.

In his Siglap ward - in which 70 per cent of housing is private - a scheme has been set up to pick up seniors from their homes and take them to community centres for programmes on a daily basis.

And in Fengshan, overseen by MP Cheryl Chan, the number of eldercare centres has been increased to meet residents' needs. There are also plans to increase support for caregivers of dementia patients across the GRC.

A variety of programmes must also be rolled out for healthy seniors, Mr Heng said. "Our seniors should not just be defined by age, because their activities and what they hope to do in the future are also very different, so we must have a whole range of programmes to cater to that," he said.

Parenting was also discussed - in a personal way - as new face Tan Kiat How is expecting his first child in August. The former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive will take over retiring MP Lee Yi Shyan's Kampong Chai Chee seat, if elected.

"I'm honestly a little bit nervous, it's my first time being a parent," Mr Tan said. "I'm very grateful for all the residents I've met over the last few days, who were offering me tips on how to take care of my first child."

Dr Maliki, who moderated the discussion, asked Mr Heng to share his thoughts on the costs of raising a child, an issue which he said has been raised by many young couples.

Mr Heng, who was formerly education minister, responded that every child gets about $50,000 in subsidies from birth to preschool. And from Primary 1 to the end of secondary school, the Government pumps in another $130,000 per child, he said, adding that tertiary education is also highly subsidised.

On plans specific to East Coast, Ms Chan noted that the new flats in her Fengshan ward have resulted in an increased demand for childcare spaces. This issue was solved by converting PAP Community Foundation kindergartens into childcare centres, she added.

Upcoming developments in the Bayshore area - which will be served by two new MRT stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line - also hold promise for young families, Mr Heng said.

The team, which includes three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, also discussed issues such as green developments in the constituency and helping people keep their jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Heng called for Singaporeans to work together to turn good ideas into action. "I would like very much to see that we can bring together everyone, both in conversation and in action."

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