When renewing licences, consider if Singapore needs casinos at all: Christopher de Souza

Mr Christopher de Souza said Singapore should consider if the country needs casinos at all in today's economic climate. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - When Singapore renews its casino licences - as it does every three years - the question should not just be whether they should be extended, said Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on Monday (May 14).

Instead, he said, what should be considered is more fundamental: whether the country needs casinos at all in today's economic climate?

Mr de Souza was giving an example of a decision that could be revisited, speaking in the debate on the President's Address, in which he highlighted the need for Singapore to retain its ability to make tough decisions.

This helps in enabling Singapore to heed President Halimah Yacob's call for bold ideas, rather than being content to tweak things at the margins.

"Being able to revisit decisions, as tough as such revisiting is, must always be on the cards," said Mr de Souza. "This will also make sure that we are not overly reliant on the revenue generated from casinos to meet national expenditure."

He added that such an approach creates the discipline of prudence.

"We should never get into a corner where we have to rely on tax on gambling revenue to meet expenditure needs," he said, adding that this is why tough decisions must include revisiting policies.

Holding on to Singapore's ability to make tough decisions was one of several issues that Mr de Souza touched upon.

He said it was his aspiration that the Southern Islands become a network of recreation parks.

He also suggested a fund for foreign workers to earn a more attractive interest on their savings.

In the international arena, he said Singapore needs to retain its ability to stand for what it believes is best for the country.

While a national aspiration helps to navigate a new course for the country's future, teamwork is key in directing the nation, he added.

He drew from his own experience raising issues close to his heart, such as the Bill on the Prevention of Human Trafficking, which was pushed into law with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's support, along with the team effort of other ministers lending their weight to the policy.

Mr de Souza also touched on the motivation to serve Singapore.

He said he had seen a seriously ill Dr Balaji Sadasivan, the late senior minister of state for foreign affairs, explaining to then People's Action Party MP Inderjit Singh the duties that had to be fulfilled for the residents in his ward - so that they would continue to be served and not be prejudiced by his illness.

"It matters less to me the good traits of an individual or a group of individuals. It matters more to me that the values and principles of incorruptibility, the dare to aspire, the right motivations, selfless service and teamwork continue to be the genetic make-up of any team that is to propel Singapore to greater heights," said Mr de Souza.

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