SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has commended Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang for a speech he made earlier this week during the Budget debate.
Mr Lee said on Saturday (March 3) that it was "cogent and balanced, firmly based on Singapore's interests and perspectives", as he shared the video of Mr Low's speech on Facebook.
Mr Low had spoken in Parliament on Wednesday about how Singapore can become a "global Asian node" - a theme of this year's Budget - so as to take advantage of the shift in the centre of gravity of the global economy from the West to Asia.
With the rise of China, this might mean a "kinship advantage" for Chinese Singaporeans, Mr Low said. But he also noted that this advantage was fading, and added that there were fears that China could have imperialist ambitions as a superpower, and may compel smaller states to submit to its will and its interests.
On Saturday, Mr Lee feted the speech: "Mr Low Thia Khiang spoke on how Singapore must respond as China grows in prosperity and influence. He pointed out that Singapore, a small multiracial country in South-east Asia, must be alive to the opportunities and challenges - not just the economic implications, but the political economic ones too."
He said: "It was a dispassionate assessment, by a Chinese-educated Singaporean, of the rise of China. It illustrates how domestic politics must stop at our shores, and we must all take a unified national position dealing with the external world."
Towards the end of his speech, Mr Low turned his attention to the goods and services tax (GST) hike from 7 per cent to 9 per cent, which the Government announced during this year's Budget but will only implement some time between 2021 and 2025.
Mr Low said the GST announcement was an unnecessary distraction from the more important themes of the Budget.
In his Facebook post, Mr Lee said Mr Low had "ended his speech on a partisan note".
He added: "People's Action Party ministers and MPs have engaged Mr Low and the Workers' Party on (the GST) point. But I am sharing Mr Low's speech to highlight and commend the rest of it, which could have been delivered by a PAP MP."
During the Budget debate, Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng disagreed with Mr Low that the GST hike was a distraction, arguing that it is important that as the Government sets out its long-term programmes, it also says how it is going to fund these programmes in a sustainable way.