Good policies trump good politics: Swee Say

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say speaking at the PAP's lunchtime rally at UOB Plaza on Sept 8.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say speaking at the PAP's lunchtime rally at UOB Plaza on Sept 8. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

With a hot contest looming for the East Coast GRC, the gloves came off as the People's Action Party (PAP) team took the fight to its opponents at its final election rally last night.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who is leading the PAP's four-member team to contest in the GRC, questioned proposals by the Workers' Party (WP) candidates, even pitting his experience against their paper qualifications.

"I may not have a PhD or Oxford brain, but what I have is a Singapore heart," he said. "It has been my privilege to serve our workers and our people for the last 19 years."


I have unintentionally caused some misunderstanding, in that people thought I put down the Malaysians and Chinese. It's not my intention to put down any country, it's just that I am proud to be a Singaporean. I extend a deep apology to those who have been offended by the remarks.

MR LIM SWEE SAY apologised in Mandarin for remarks made at an earlier rally, where he said he was fortunate to have been born in Singapore, not China or Malaysia. The comments have angered some netizens who felt they were insensitive.

He was referring to sociologist Daniel Goh and Oxford-educated Leon Perera, the chief executive officer of a research and consultancy firm, who are part of WP's East Coast GRC slate.

Mr Lim and his team, comprising Senior Minister of State Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State Maliki Osman and two-term MP Jessica Tan, spoke passionately at the rally in Simei last night.

Voters ought to consider whether a party is pursuing "good policies or good politics", said Mr Lim. The former will help to improve residents' lives, while the latter is aimed at winning votes, he said.

For example, the WP has called for the Central Provident Fund monthly payouts to start at age 60, down from the current 64. The Singapore Democratic Alliance wants it to go even lower, to 55.

"It is like doing the limbo rock, the lower the better," Mr Lim said. But these proposals do not help enhance retirement adequacy.

"Why do you think that WP and SDA, why do they push for this? Because this is good politics," he added. "Are they worried about your retirement? What are they worried about? They are worried about your votes."

He said WP's proposal to freeze foreign manpower intake will hurt SMEs. Its suggestion for a minimum wage of $1,000 is too low and could end up being the "maximum wage", said Mr Lim.

"It's easy for any party to go to Parliament to push for good politics, and not care about what is the implication on the ground."

Instead, schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement and the Progressive Wage Model have helped workers earn more.

Meanwhile, Dr Maliki homed in on the WP's message of electing opposition members to speak up for the people in Parliament. PAP candidates can do that as well, he said.

"We will raise your issues in Parliament, but we will do more than that, we will talk to you on the ground. We will listen to you," Dr Maliki said to cheers .

Ms Tan said she will push for a more "inclusive Singapore", taking in feedback from residents that means testing needs to be refined.

Keeping Singapore's economy humming and nurturing a highly skilled workforce are areas Mr Lee will continue to champion.

"Without a growing economy, all fanciful ideas of social transfer, of subsidy, of helping needy families become empty talk," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Good policies trump good politics: Swee Say'. Print Edition | Subscribe