Singapore GE2020: Key proposals in Workers' Party manifesto

The Workers' Party believes there are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the goods and services tax. ST FILE PHOTO
The Workers' Party believes there are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the goods and services tax. ST FILE PHOTO

The Workers' Party yesterday launched its manifesto for the coming general election. Here are 10 key proposals from it:

SCRAP THE GST HIKE

The Workers' Party (WP) opposes the Government's plan to increase the goods and services tax (GST) from the current 7 per cent to 9 per cent by 2025.

It says there are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the GST.

LOWER CPF PAYOUT AGE TO 60 AND INTRODUCE A SPECIAL DIVIDEND FROM GIC INVESTMENTS

The WP says the Central Provident Fund (CPF) payout eligibility age and CPF Life eligibility age, which is currently 65, should be lowered to 60. This will give seniors sufficient funds for retirement.

As Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC invests CPF funds, it should also notify CPF members of the 10-year moving average difference between the GIC's investment returns and the net in-terest payable on CPF members' balances.

Where positive, a third of this difference should be returned as a special dividend and paid into CPF members' Special Accounts to boost their retirement savings, the WP says.

INTRODUCE A NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE

The WP says there are more than 100,000 Singaporeans who earn a take-home pay of less than $1,300 a month - the amount a four-member household needs for basic necessities - while engaged in full-time work.

It proposes a national minimum take-home wage of $1,300 a month for full-time work, which can be pro-rated for part-time work.

INTRODUCE A REDUNDANCY INSURANCE SCHEME

Technological disruption and global events will lead to higher rates of redundancy among workers, especially those who are middle-aged and older. This heightens the insecurity they face.

The WP says there are more than 100,000 Singaporeans who earn a take-home pay of less than $1,300 a month - the amount a four-member household needs for basic necessities - while engaged in full-time work. It proposes a national minimum take-home wage of $1,300 a month for full-time work, which can be pro-rated for part-time work.

The WP proposes a redundancy insurance scheme for workers, under which they will pay $4 a month, matched by employers, into an Employment Security Fund.

Retrenched workers will then receive a payout equivalent to 40 per cent of their last drawn salary for up to six months.

The payout will be capped at $1,200 a month, with a minimum payout of $500 a month for low-wage workers.

The second and any subsequent payouts will be conditional on the worker actively seeking a new job or undergoing retraining.

WIDEN USE OF MEDISAVE FOR THOSE OVER 60

Patients older than 60 should be allowed to use their Medisave for all medical expenses not already covered by MediShield Life, Medifund or other assistance schemes, the WP says. This will apply only at government polyclinics, public specialist outpatient clinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) clinics.

The manifesto notes that many seniors suffer from chronic conditions which require extended care that can be very expensive, but most outpatient treatments are not covered by MediShield Life.

LOWER COST OF INTERMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM CARE

Patients with a monthly household per capita income of below $3,200 should receive subsidies of 65 per cent to 80 per cent for approved intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) services such as at community hospitals and nursing homes, and daycare services and home-based care. Acute care in restructured hospitals is heavily subsidised, but ILTC services remain costly and inaccessible, the party says.

IMPROVE ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY PLACES FOR SINGAPOREANS

Universities should implement targeted programmes and mentorships to widen access, particularly to students from underprivileged backgrounds and those with no family history of attending university.

Such programmes should begin in secondary school and include financial support. The WP says the Government should increase the number of places for university admission.

MAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT FREE FOR SENIORS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Train and bus fares should be waived for Singaporeans aged over 65 and those with disabilities, it says. This should be funded from the Budget and all available monies from the Public Transport Fund.

Seniors and people with disabilities already enjoy concessionary fares, but making public transport free for them would further lower the financial burden on these groups, the party says.

UNIVERSAL HDB LEASE BUY-BACK AND LOWER MINIMUM AGE FOR SINGLES TO GET BTO FLATS

A universal buy-back scheme should be offered to all Housing Board flat lessees.

The WP says the HDB resale market has been affected by concerns over lease decay in the past few years. Some flats could also be rented out to Singaporeans at rates that are between commercial and HDB public assistance rental rates.

The WP also suggests that singles should be able to apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat at the age of 28 instead of 35.

ENSURE THE INDEPENDENCE OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND ABOLISH GRCs

Close relatives and current or former party colleagues of political office-holders should not be appointed to key positions in national institutions such as organs of state, national media companies and sovereign wealth funds, the WP says.

It adds that the Attorney-General's Chambers should be separated into two organisations: a prosecution service independent of the Government, and a government legal counsel.

The Elections Department and the Electoral Boundary Review Committee should also be made fully independent and removed from the purview of the Prime Minister's Office, and the term of each Parliament should be fixed instead of being determined at the Prime Minister's discretion.

The group representation constituency (GRC) system should also be abolished and all constituencies should be single-member constituencies (SMCs), the WP says.

Abolishing GRCs would also mean the Non-Constituency MP scheme will be unnecessary and can be discontinued as well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2020, with the headline 'Key proposals in Workers' Party manifesto'. Print Edition | Subscribe