From the Backbench

Develop vaccines in S'pore and tax those who profited big from Covid-19, say MPs

Ms Foo Mee Har from West Coast GRC (left) and Mr Tan Wu Meng Jurong GRC. PHOTOS: MCI

Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC)

Tax those who profited big from Covid-19

Ms Foo noted that Argentina imposed a one-time levy on millionaires in December, and that an independent Wealth Tax Commission in Britain has recently proposed a similar policy in a report.

She said: "When you consider that selected entities or individuals may have enjoyed outsized windfalls because of Covid-19, it may not be unreasonable to expect that they do more for the common good."

Ms Foo asked if the Government was considering a wealth tax as a one-off response to the pandemic.

Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC)

Develop and produce vaccines in S'pore

Singapore should have its own vaccine development and manufacturing capabilities, said Dr Tan.

This will help the country tackle a future pandemic and be able to address concerns over how the virus that causes Covid-19 may mutate into new strains that current vaccines cannot protect against.

He said: "If Singapore can be among the first countries to develop a vaccine for the next pandemic, it will be good for Singaporeans, good for our economy and good for the world."

Nominated MP Hoon Hian Teck. PHOTO: MCI

Nominated MP Hoon Hian Teck

Unemployment insurance study needed

Providing a national unemployment insurance scheme involves a trade-off between the benefit of providing retrenched workers and their dependants with liquidity in the form of cash, and the cost of a potentially higher unemployment rate, said Professor Hoon.

But this is not something to implement in the midst of the pandemic, he said, adding it is an option to be studied "once the storm is past". A study could reveal whether such a scheme is warranted in the event of long and deep recessions in future, he said.

Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC). PHOTO: MCI

Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC)

Incentives for voluntary vaccination

While many are fearful about the unknown future side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Lim said all the facts and data have been considered by the Health Ministry and the expert panel on Covid-19 vaccination before it was approved for public use.

He suggested that incentives like vouchers or MediSave top-ups could be offered to those who voluntarily take the Covid-19 vaccine.

This would encourage more people to get vaccinated, which would in turn mean a lower risk of local cluster outbreaks, noted Dr Lim.

Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru). PHOTO: MCI

Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru)

Create micro-jobs for seniors

Despite policies and legislation to encourage the hiring of senior workers, ageism remains an issue.

Mr Kwek suggested that micro-jobs and the gig economy could offer a way for seniors to overcome ageism and stay employed past re-employment age.

He said the Government can take the lead by creating micro-jobs for seniors, starting with social services, creating a national digital platform and mobile app for the gig economy, and equipping seniors with the skills needed for such jobs through SkillsFuture.

Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC). PHOTO: MCI

Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC)

Professional caregiver registry needed

Primary caregivers, especially working women, need more support for respite care, Ms Yeo said.

She suggested that a public registry of professionals who can provide eldercare, childcare or cleaning services could be created so women can easily access short-term help.

While options such as hiring maids or nurses are available, these may not be affordable for some families. She said these families may need additional subsidies to help them seek assistance and avoid burnout while caring for their loved ones.

Nominated MP Mark Chay. PHOTO: MCI

Nominated MP Mark Chay

More support for sports scene needed

Mr Chay called on the Government to help national sports associations develop digital strategies, like how some gyms have started offering online classes.

While some parts of the sports sector such as e-sports have thrived despite the pandemic, he noted that others are still struggling and need more help to recover.

He suggested a Team Singapore alumni programme could be set up to recognise the accomplishments of retired athletes and allow them to continue contributing to the sports scene.

Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC). PHOTO: MCI

Sharael Taha (Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC)

Workforce needs global competitiveness

Working from home has shown that jobs can be done from anywhere, and the workforce must be able to compete globally as well as locally, said Mr Sharael.

With the rise of remote working, a balance needs to be struck between the interests of employees and employers. He said clear targets must be set in order to manage workers' output and that targets based on clocking fixed hours have become obsolete.

He also said it is not too early to consider how schools can better prepare students for a future of remote working.

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