Debate In 2 Minutes

The second day of debate on proposed changes to the elected presidency saw Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong deliver a speech highlighting the stabilising effect of the office. Sixteen MPs also made speeches on the issue in a seven-hour debate. The sitting opened with several MPs raising concerns about job issues.

Jobs help available

The first nine months of this year saw 6,400 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) finding jobs with help from the Employment and Employability Institute and Workforce Singapore, and there will be more programmes to help PMETs change professions, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say. His ministry also tracks participants of training and job placement programmes by age and sectors, he added.

Home Improvement Programme extension

The Government's fiscal position and budget availability will have to be considered in deciding whether the Home Improvement Programme can be extended to flats built after 1986, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

He noted that the scheme, which upgrades old flats, is a multi-year expense that costs billions of dollars. More than 200,000 flats have been selected for the programme so far.

More seniors benefit from MediShield Life

Singaporeans over 65 years old claimed payouts of about $282 million from universal insurance scheme MediShield Life in its first 11 months.

This is almost double the $151 million payout under MediShield over the same period last year, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Each senior received an average of $1,639 per claim under MediShield Life, up from $1,425 per claim under MediShield.

Reserved elections

The next presidential election due by 2017 will be reserved for Malay candidates, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Under the proposed constitutional amendments, an election will be reserved for a particular racial group if no one from that group has been president for the past five terms.

Mr Lee said the Government will start counting the five continuous terms from the term of President Wee Kim Wee, who was in office when the elected presidency came into effect in 1991.

Alternative model for presidency

A national referendum on two models for the presidency was proposed by Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), whose party's MPs opposed the amendments.

The first is the existing elected presidency, with an appointed council of advisers. The second is an appointed president and a newly created elected senate that would take over his discretionary powers.

The proposals drew a strong rebuttal from People's Action Party MPs, who rejected a referendum and said such a senate would be politicised.

Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Subscribe