PM Lee praises Low for 'cogent and balanced' Budget speech

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has commended Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang for a speech he made last week during the Budget debate.

Mr Lee, in a Facebook post yesterday, said Mr Low's speech was "cogent and balanced, firmly based on Singapore's interests and perspectives".

He also shared a video of Mr Low's speech on Facebook.

Mr Low spoke 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 added that this advantage was fading, and that there were fears that China could have imperialist ambitions as a superpower, and may compel smaller states to submit to its will and interests.

In his post, Mr Lee wrote: "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.

"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."

Mr Low, towards the end of his speech, 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 take effect 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".

"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," Mr Lee said.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'PM Lee praises Low for 'cogent and balanced' Budget speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe