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A Heart for the People

Singaporeans First
SDAs Mission
The Singapore Democratic Alliance was formed in 2001 to provide a common opposition front. It originally comprised the National Solidarity Party (NSP), the Singapore Progressive Party (SPP), the Singapore Malay National Organisation or Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura (PKMS) and the Singapore Justice Party. The first two parties have since left but SDA remains true to its purpose of acting as a rallying point for oppositional parties to unite and will continue to court new members. This Manifesto sets out the SDAs rationale for contesting the Singapore General Elections 2011 and proposes specific initiatives it will undertake for the people of Singapore on its election to the next Parliament.

Singapore Citizenry Coming of Age

Singapore has done well. It has come a long way since we achieved independence some four decades ago. Progress is clearly visible in the modern city that we have built, in the institutions and systems that have been developed, and in the accolades and recognitions we have achieved internationally. For this we must give credit and thank the PAP government which has ruled over us without a break since it came into power in 1959 when Singapore first became independent. However this has not come without costs, especially social costs. This coming General Election heralds a change, a change which may not take place so immediately but one that is inevitable and will increase in momentum over time. The clearest signal of this change is the unprecedented increase in both the number and the quality of opposition candidates standing for election to the Singapore Parliament. For the first time since in over four decades, all 87 Parliament seats in 12 SMCs and 15 GRCs are very likely to be contested. This will result in a great number of citizens having the opportunity to vote for the first time. This change is about a citizenry which is coming of age and is becoming increasingly aware of how governmental policies and actions affect their daily lives. While appreciating the economic and material gains achieved, many feel that that the social costs have been much too high. These social costs include an increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots, an erosion of our social values, and an increasing unhappiness with a societal system that misses out on true care and concern for the people.

The Future of Singaporeans

Singapore essentially comprised of Singaporeans. When we speak of the future it is the future of Singaporeans that is of primary concern to us not the city state, not the infrastructure, and not the systems that make Singapore work. These are important but they exist to serve people, the citizens of Singapore and others who chose to live here or visit us. There is a very real danger that we are building Singapore as an entity, as a showcase of excellence, and forgetting that it is ordinary people that make up Singapore. Does the average Singaporean care if Singapore wins international acclaim? Has he or she benefited from staging of major events here like the Youth Olympic Games? How has he or she been affected by the influx of foreigners? These considerations and other consequences of building the entity Singapore and not putting people first are leading to a rising tide of disillusionment, dissatisfaction and discontent among the lower and middle income groups as well as educated thinking Singaporeans. The time has surely come for us to moderate our relentless pursuit of economic development and material gains. The time has surely come for us to attend to people needs, their feelings, and their aspirations. We need to reflect, and reflect deeply, beyond the physical Singapore that we wish for our children but, much more importantly, how the society they live in will shape their values, characters and behaviors.

Family Builders
Some faced greater difficulties than others. One major group that will face the greatest difficulties and for a prolonged period are the family builders. This group comprises mostly those between the ages of 25 to 50 who are in the process of building a family and are at the lower or middle income levels. They include young couples as well as older couples in the later stages of building and maintaining a family. As they move from relatively carefree bachelor days and found a partner to settle down with, financial considerations will begin to dominate. First, there are the costs of marriage and setting up a home. Those who have been living it up and even splurged on a car may have difficulty finding the deposit to put down for their first home. Coupled with career advancement priorities many would delay their marriage plans. Some may even opt to remain single. The next stage is having children and starting a family. This will bring about not only additional responsibilities and financial burdens which will last for years, even longer if they are planning for their children to go for tertiary education. Those at the lower end will struggle to make ends meet. Those at middle income level will not necessarily be better off as their standard of living and career aspirations for their children would be higher. As the financial commitments to one set of dependents ease off another is likely to emerge, namely ageing parents who have not provided for their own retirement. From the above scenario it is clear that this family group bears the greatest financial burden. This group covers over 50% of Singapores population and will be the most severely affected by rising cost of living issues. Ironically this group is also the bedrock of our society. They comprise the great majority of our working population. Procreation of our future generations depends entirely on them. They are the earners who will bring food to the family. They are the ones who have the greatest influence in shaping the minds and characters of the next generation, either positively or negatively.

Ironically, how this group responds to the challenges they face will determine the type of society that emerges in Singapore. Furthermore, faced with such economic issues and aggravated by competition from the influx of foreign talents, many in this group may choose to remain single or childless. Already falling birth rates would fall further and increasing numbers would seek to emigrate. Where would Singapore be then?

Key Issues and Concerns

Economic and material pursuits that we have relentlessly pursue over these last four decades for Singapore are well and good. But high priority must be now be given to meeting the needs and aspirations of individual Singaporeans, not Singapore as an entity first managing our peoples social needs and issues. From this perspective SDA has identified the five key issues that it will strenuously champion to achieve a better quality of life for these family builders and their dependents from both the lower and middle income groups. SDA has identified the following five burning issues: (A) (B) (C) (D) (E) Cost of Living: Cost of living is going up while wages of lower & middle income earners stagnate. HDB Prices: Prices have skyrocketed and affordability is now a major problem. Income Gap: While worker wages stagnate ministers enjoy massive pay hikes. Job Security: Severely threatened by foreign influx of both workers and S-Pass holders. Medical Expenses: Medisave have various limits and elderly face insurance problems.

Specific Initiatives
SDA proposes the following specific initiatives to address the five issues identified. (A) Cost of Living 1. Tie-ups with neighborhood merchants for cost savings through collective bulk purchases of daily necessities. 2. Financial literacy programmes and consumer advisory services to educate, advise and assist with specific financial issues and problems. 3. Limit inflationary price increases in public services and taxes, GST in particular. 4. Reinstate back the rental control act.

(B) HDB Prices 5. Transparency on various aspects of HDB housing such as demand/supply data, land/construction costs, pricing decisions, etc. 6. Rental leading to ownership schemes for young couples and other Singaporeans not able to put down the deposit for purchase. 7. Increase housing subsidies by HDB to citizens and limit availability to non-citizens.

(C) Income Gap 8. Target to reduce Singapores Gini Coefficient of 0.45 to 0.35 within 10 years, the latter figure being representative of most of the developed countries. 9. Public sector and government-linked organizations (GLCs) to lead the way by substantially raising salary-scales for lower & middle income salaries. 10. Substantially raise pay of unattractive jobs so that Singapore can reduce its dependence on foreign labour for these jobs. (D) Job Security 11. A Fair Employment Act to allow legal recourse against unfair employment practices such as age/sex/race discriminations and unfair dismissals. 12. Avoid long-term contract employment for Singaporeans, convert to permanent employment with all its attendant benefits. 13. Identify long-term unemployed Singaporeans and provide counseling, training and priority job placement. (E) Medical Expenses 14. Extend Medisave beyond the five critical illnesses and remove its other limitations. 15. Provide special assistance to the elderly who face difficulties in obtaining insurance coverage and/or prohibitive premiums. 16. All employers to provide free group medical insurance coverage to all employees on terms no less favorable to the compulsory free insurance provided for foreign workers.