Singapore GE2020: 10 proposals from the Workers' Party manifesto

WP secretary-general Pritam Singh and chairman Sylvia Lim speaking with residents at Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre on June 28, 2020. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party (WP) on Sunday (June 28) launched its manifesto for the general election, with proposals such as scrapping the planned goods and services tax (GST) hike, implementing a national minimum wage and giving free public transport to elderly Singaporeans.

Here are 10 key proposals from the WP manifesto:

1. Scrap the GST hike

The WP opposes the Government's plan to increase the GST from the current 7 per cent to 9 per cent by 2025.

It says this tax hike will be "yet another burden on hardworking families who are already struggling with the high cost of living in Singapore".

The WP says there are alternative sources of revenue that need to be more thoroughly considered before increasing the GST and calls on the Government to release its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the decade, so that the public can make a more informed decision on raising GST.

2. 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 better empower seniors and give them adequate funds for retirement, the party says.

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 interest payable on CPF member 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.

3. 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 while engaged in full-time work.

This figure is the amount an average four-person household in Singapore needs to spend on basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter each month.

A large number of Singaporean families, it says, have difficulty in making ends meet.

The WP 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.

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4. Introduce a redundancy insurance scheme

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

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.

5. Widen the 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 CHAS clinics.

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

Access to Medifund is also only available for a limited number of patients and the use of Medisave is subject to annual withdrawal caps.

As a result, outpatients often incur significantly more out-of-pocket spending over the long term compared with inpatient care, the WP says.

6. Lower the cost of intermediate and long-term care (ILTC)

Patients with a monthly household per capita income of below $3,200 should receive subsidies of 65 to 80 per cent for approved ILTC services such as community hospitals, nursing homes, day care services and home-based care.

Acute care in restructured hospitals is heavily subsidised, but ILTC services remain costly and inaccessible, the party says.

It adds that staying in a nursing home, for example, can cost between $2,000 and $3,600 a month.

Households with a monthly income of $800 and below can get an 80 per cent subsidy, but those with a monthly income above $3,300 would receive no subsidies.

Further subsidising ILTC care will help relieve the out-of-pocket financial burden of social care for many families, the WP says.

7. Improve access to university places for Singaporeans

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

Such programmes should begin in secondary school and include financial support to ensure that participants are not only admitted to universities, but stay and complete their degrees, the WP says.

It adds that the Government should increase the number of places for university admissions and aim for at least half of each cohort to obtain a degree. The target has already risen from 27 per cent in 2012 to 40 per cent this year.

8. Make public transport free for seniors and people with disabilities

Train and bus fares should be waived for Singaporeans over 65 and those with disabilities.

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, especially with a rising number of seniors in Singapore.

The WP says seniors considering applying for casual or part-time work may be deterred from doing so by the cost of public transport. Removing this barrier would encourage more seniors, as well as people with disabilities, to become employed.

9. 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.

If HDB resale prices fall, the retirement adequacy of many Singaporeans may be affected if they are relying on selling their flats to release funds for retirement.

Some flats could also be rented out to Singaporeans at rates that are between commercial and HDB public assistance rental rates.

Given the need for orderly urban renewal, the WP also suggests that the Government should consider raising Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) rates and providing a Sers scheme based on Build-To-Order (BTO) and balance flats for relocation instead of building on a nearby proxy site.

The WP also suggests that singles should be able to apply for a BTO flat at the age of 28 instead of 35 as young single Singaporeans should not be denied an opportunity to own a home.

10. 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 national institutions should not only be independent but they must also be seen to be independent.

It says 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 Commission 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 GRC system should also be abolished and all constituencies should be SMCs, the WP says, adding that there is no longer any evidence that Singaporeans vote solely along racial lines and continuing with the GRC system may be taken as a signal that ethnic minority candidates are unelectable on their own.

Abolishing GRCs would also mean the Non-Constituency MP scheme will be unnecessary and can be discontinued as well, the WP says. The party also calls for the People's Association, which has a policy of appointing PAP branch chairs in each division as grassroots advisers, to be depoliticised.

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