From the Backbench

Extending childcare leave amid Covid-19 among suggestions in Budget debate

Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC). PHOTOS: MCI

SINGAPORE - During Day 2 of the Budget debate on Thursday (Feb 25), MPs made a number of suggestions, from extending childcare leave amid Covid-19 to greater legal protection for secondary forests.

Here are some highlights.

Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC)

Extending childcare leave amid Covid-19

Mr Gan noted that currently, if a young child falls sick, he is given at least five days of medical leave by the doctor due to Covid-19 conditions.

"At least one parent has to take leave to look after the child. If the same child falls sick again, the other parent will have to take leave," he said, appealing for the extension of childcare support leave for working parents who do not have family support to look after their children.

Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC)

Tax capital gains in property sector

Instead of hiking broad-based taxes such as petrol duty or the goods and services tax, Mr Perera of the Workers' Party suggested raising the stamp duty and additional buyer's stamp duty for more expensive properties.

"Such a fiscal move would be progressive and would impact the capital gains made by sellers in the higher end of the property market," he said. "A tax on such a class of capital gains will not run the risk of unintended inflationary effects, will not damage work incentives," he added.

Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC)

Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC)

Tech to support seniors living alone

There is a need to continue improving the living environment of seniors to help them age in place, especially in mature estates, said Ms Ng.

She suggested integrating successful features from the community care apartment pilot in Bukit Batok to the Enhancement for Active Seniors programme.

"In addition to incorporating technology for an elderly monitoring and alert system, perhaps telecare, providing remote health monitoring devices, supported by care providers, could also be considered as part of (the programme)," she said.

Dennis Tan (Hougang)

Dennis Tan (Hougang)

More protection for secondary forests

Mr Tan of the Workers' Party called for greater legal protection for secondary forests and suggested some of them could be regulated as nature reserves, while simple recreational activities could be allowed in others, but with more stringent rules and penalties than in parks.

He said: "By legislating to this end, Parliament will send a clear signal to not only future generations, but also various actors including contractors, ministries and statutory boards, and the Government itself that the destruction of forested areas will come at a cost."

Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC)

Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC)

More support for first-time mums

Ms Soh proposed a "Mummy's milestone booklet" to help expecting couples, especially first-time parents. "In order to ensure a healthy, nurturing environment for the baby, I believe that it is important to take equal care of the mother as well," she said.

The milestone booklet could track the expecting mother's physical and emotional development, and provide information on necessary preparations for each stage of pregnancy, parenting best practices and support systems available.

Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah (Jalan Besar GRC)

Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah (Jalan Besar GRC)

Mental breaks in workplaces and schools

Among several suggestions to eradicate mental health stigmatisation and promote mental well-being was Dr Wan Rizal's proposal that time-outs be introduced in workplaces and schools for those who need a mental break.

"Those who are under stress may take the option to take a mental break," he said. "Such breaks are recorded and the next time one takes it, we know that he may have something that we need to help with."

Rachel Ong (West Coast GRC)

Rachel Ong (West Coast GRC)

Long-term mentorship for youth

Ms Ong said consistent long-term mentorship for at least a year would benefit youth at risk and those facing challenging home circumstances. It would give them a safe space to process pain, recognise their innate values beyond their circumstances and break their self-limiting beliefs, she said.

"Mentors can show them a different way to live, and challenge them to remove self-limiting beliefs so that they not only have the best possibilities in life, but are motivated to choose wisely," she said.

Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam

Nominated MP Tan Yia Swam

Accept those who are different

Dr Tan noted that cyber bullying and Internet trolling are ugly phenomena in the modern world, which many have no protection against.

"We do have a younger generation of people who live and interact virtually, and we have to think ahead on how to teach them how to be responsible users and not weaponise digital shaming, while being empowered to protect oneself," she said, calling on Singaporeans to teach resilience and learn to accept those who are different.


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