Newly elected MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) argued yesterday that it was time to inject more compassion into government policymaking.
Associate Professor Lim, who is employed at Essec Business School, noted that Singapore has been a steward of rational, efficient policymaking that has worked well over three generations and brought the country from Third World to First.
And Singaporeans have acquiesced to policies of tough love, sacrificing individual justice for national progress.
But as Singapore is "no longer a Third World nation, we cannot continue to operate as if we are blind to the consequences that tough-nosed policies carry for our people".
"This is especially so at a time where we need to help everyone pull in the same direction for our collective future," he said in his maiden speech in Parliament during the debate on the President's Address.
Prof Lim, who is a member of the Economic Society of Singapore's council, noted that the gains from the progress over the years have not been equally shared across society.
"It is, therefore, undeniable that our existing approach to policy-making can benefit from a greater injection of compassion and thoughtfulness," he said.
He highlighted two existing policies that show Singapore is capable of injecting compassion into its policies: government financial assistance scheme ComCare, and the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme that provides subsidies to parents of pre-schoolers.
However, he added, other policies could do with a heavier dose of compassion.
He proposed that an official poverty line be introduced, linked closely to ComCare, and a minimum wage be implemented across the board.
He also suggested greater flexibility in access to Central Provident Fund monies and an expanded coverage of the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme.
Prof Lim acknowledged that the current crisis may not be the best time for enacting such policies that involve some degree of redistribution, but called for the Government to commit to the principles of compassionate policymaking now, and set out its plans.
He said: "I believe that we can become a better, richer society and country - not just in material wealth, but in intellectual, societal and spiritual wealth. We can do so by embracing more compassion in our policymaking."