The real work starts


 Yesterday, I was at Hougang celebrating the election victory with residents. It was a joyous occasion. All the 6 elected MPs and 2 NCMPs and most of the candidates were there. The residents had thrown a buffet dinner to celebrate the momentous occasion.

In the midst of all the handshaking and congratulations, a middle-aged lady came forward and congratulated me. Without releasing my hand, she continued to say I must bring up her situation in parliament. Her mother is very sick. Just two of her medicines cost $400 every month, after subsidy. She has diabetes too and needs dialysis. It was noisy and crowd. She persisted in getting her message across. I am sure I was not the only one she had pressed her case to. I could tell she was getting desperate. Hence, every MP and even NCMP she can go to, she would.

GE2011 is over. A new and radical cabinet has just been announced. There were many issues raised during GE2011. The people have spoken and they wanted change. Not a drastic change, as the ruling party still received 60% of the popular votes and 81 out of 87 seats in parliament, but there are many pressing issues. Having walked the ground for 6 weeks, I could tell there was much unhappiness.

Healthcare is just one of them, but a serious one when you have a sick member in your family not covered by insurance. Even in middle upper class Joo Chiat, the elderly are unhappy. They live in landed houses because they bought it decades ago. They have worked hard and contributed to Singapore’s progress. They have stopped worked for decades and now face high healthcare costs with little subsidy. I met a couple who were bitter because they had to sell their house to stay in a HDB because they have run out of savings and did not qualify for healthcare subsidies in a private house. They have all sorts of health issues now. Home is a very personal thing. They have lived in their house for a long time and loved the environment. They could now no longer live where they wanted to because of Singapore’s healthcare policies.

Then there are transport grouses of crowded buses and MRTs, crowded roads, as well as poor connectivity of public transport to certain parts of the community. The young feel they cannot afford to get their HDB flats. People have lost their jobs or are stuck with low paying jobs because of ‘foreign talents’. Not foreign talents at the high end but foreign talents allowed in to supress wages. Small and medium enterprises will continue to face challenging operating environment of high costs and stiff competition.

The new cabinet has been formed. It is the most drastic cabinet reshuffle I can recall. While many have commented that most ministers are just moved from one ministry to another, I think it does signal that they have to go into a new area and look at the issues from fresh perspectives. It is hard for a minister to stay in his old ministry and do something totally different from what he had been doing all along. New ministers with the permission to effect change needs to be put into ‘hot issues’ ministries. With the latest cabinet, it seemed to be so. I hope it will be the start of something positive and not just more of the same done with a different person in charge.

The challenges facing Singapore are real. Many lives are affected. The way policies are shaped cannot just be driven by more of the same from the past. The changes to the cabinet have been radical and I hope the solutions the ministers can come up with will be so as well. The real work has just begun.

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21 comments on “The real work starts

  1. Skeptical that the cabinet changes will bring about the expected changes that will benefit Singaporeans. Neverthless, its a good step forward. I always remember this phrase “Its crazy expecting a different result each time when doing the same thing over and over again”

    Furthermore, once again the ruling party have defaulted on their promise during the campagin that certain members of the elected parliament are indispensable to the governing of Singapore. Voters might have voted base upon this premise hence ensuring that some GRCs stayed with the ruling party.

    • It does show that cabinet ministers are not indispensible, contrary to what PAP said during election. We should not believe this ‘indispensible’ message in future GEs. The civil service is in place. Ministers can move about different ministries and some can be dropped immediately after election. What’s so indispensible about a person? No matter how good a person is, we should run a country based on having a proper and robust system in place, and not just about having star ministers.

  2. One way out for those elderly is to make more insurances available, even those with pre-existing conditions. It is not easy as insurance companies want to take ‘good’ ‘healthy’ lives only but with government initiative, a way can be found. Work with people in the industry to look for solutions. It will be difficult to keep medical costs down. So insurance must be one viable way.

    Good luck and see you in parliament

  3. Hopefully, WP can push for citizens with existing medical conditions to be covered by insurance too. Now this group ESP e disabled are totally kick out of medical insurance.

  4. I liked your sentence on foreign talent. The present government is in favor of them to satisfy companies’ cost cuts, but is it really possible to tip the balance away from cost cutting interest to suit the general public’s wage interest? Right now the ruling policies emphasized again and again, over and over, that FT wage supressing is the right way to stay competitive…

  5. The policies of allowing huge influx of foreigners under the pretext of talent is wrong. By displacing locals and not having job opportunities for the young and displaced can only cause a big vacuum in our own capabilities. This is the same as companies who are bent on outsourcing. Once the core competence is gone, so too is the company. I can name many of them and running the country like a company and using incorrect indicators are leading us in that path. Again, we are being treated like idiots to say that all that come here are talents and doing jobs that people do not want. Foreign workers for certain sectors are necessary but we must see an end to the rampant and bias towards hiring of foreigners for the sake of population growth.

    • Talents that come and create jobs are welcome. But allowing a flood of them to come and compete for jobs at the lower and mid end will end up with a disillusioned group of locals and Singapore will not be able to break out of this cycle.

  6. You have said it rightly: “The Real Work Starts”. I hope in your role as NCMP you will be able to keep the Ruling Party on its toes especially on bread-and -butter issues affecting ordinary Singaporeans. If the role is obtrusive please let the Electorate knows! Thanks.

  7. Indeed election is just over but our problems still remain. You’re correct to say the real work starts. Hope WP and its members can now show the whole population you’re as capable as people from the ruling party, so that in the next GE, people will be less concerned in their voting. Personally, I wish to see more non-PAP MPs, between 10-20. Despite of so many past complaints, they still can get 60% of the votes. On the surface, there seems to have great changes in the cabinet but we can only tell later if this lead to any meaningful changes. Well, talking about change, MML is still controlling Temasek and in the past few years, it made a couple of disastrous investments. Still remembered after they lost big time in the Thai investment, no longer later, they raised the GST to cover for the losses, using the excuse that this was meant to help the poor. At that time, I was rather disappointed that the opposition just kept quiet. Hope they’re more vigilant from now on, you know, those money in Temasek is our CPF money. We can’t depend on our beloved President to fulfill his constitutional duties in safeguarding the country’s reserves. We really need a ‘2nd driver’ sitting beside the main driver !

    Officially the jobless rate is 1.9%, in economic terms, this is full employment. But there are a lot of disguised employment or under-employment in Singapore. Over these years ,a lot of people lost their jobs, so they became remisiers, taxi-drivers. You know many years ago, when I heard about university graduates becoming taxi drivers, it happened in India. Now, this happens in Singapore. All these have been happening over these years when the government keeps saying it needs foreign talents. Our country is not lack of talents, we have more than one university, each year churning out many graduates. Now you see a lot of them are either jobless or under-employed. This is a real wastage of human resources and waste of taxpayers’ money. In Singapore, if you are over 40 and you lose your job, it is just like a death sentence, even if you’re educated. This is going to become a real serious social problem. As guys, we serve NS and go for in-camp training during our prime years, when we get old and lose our jobs, the society feels we’re too old to be employed. You really have to ask what is the real purpose of NS ? What are y0u defending for ? Defending a society that turns it back against you when you’re old ?

    Those PAP supporters like to say we’re too demanding ! But the real fact is on the surface, Singapore looks good but if you look deeper, many of us are suffering a lot. That’s why you could see in WP rallies, they were always fully-packed. A lot of people are really angry out there ! What we want is a decent life with basic human rights – the right to a decent job that pays enough to feed our family, the right to affordable healthcare ! Are we too demanding ?

    Those PAP supporters are still sore over the losses. They are still blind to other people’s problems. Indeed the work and journey to a better life (the struggle to win the hearts of the people) for everyone starts now.

  8. Have to organise and compile an agenda list…national level (removal of GRC, presidential candidate of OUR choice are just the 2 on top on my mind), local level. Set up the support infrastructure for WP and NCMP office – without which, one cannot function effectively. Real serious work.

  9. Hi Mr Yee once again.

    To be brutally honest, setting up a universal healthcare insurance scheme is probably going to be very expensive. Whatever scheme the Worker’s Party wants to propose, the first thing it should do is to ask the government to find out is how much such a scheme is going to cost. This should not be unreasonable – it is the government’s job to get the civil servants to answer such questions anyway. Answering this question may be something new that the government has not done before – I suspect the ministers in the past brushed aside anyone who raised this possibility by pointing to the “failures” of overseas healthcare systems such as the NHS in the UK, and so the numbers have never really been looked into seriously.

    The idea is perhaps to try to get them to come back with some numbers as to just how much is it going to cost – taking into account the aging baby boomer demographic over the next 30 years. The answer may be far more than merely 3x the current government spending on healthcare that some other opposition parties have proposed. Only after having some sense of the “hard truths” about how expensive a universal healthcare scheme is can Singaporeans have a proper discussion on the other issues – questions like whether we can or should afford universal healthcare, and if so through what means.

    But try to get them to give Singaporeans some data first!

    • I’m not an economist, nor am I very savvy about money, but when I heard about this proposal at the Moulmein-Kally WP rally, my immediate thought was, yeah, they could use the Grow and Share package budget to finance the healthcare insurance package. $6.6 billion for insurance covering 2.3 million Singaporeans. What do you think?

  10. PAP government’s soul-searching efforts and apparent determination to win back the electorate at the next GE or by-elections would inevitably and indirectly mount pressure on the opposition MPs’ and NCMPs’ performance in parliament and their relevant constituencies.

    While I’ve no doubt about the WP’s determination to sustain and improve on what it has been doing, I am of the view that WP must continue to capitalize on the social media and other traditional means to closely engage and update the general public on what their MPs, NCMPs, volunteers, and the party in general are progressing and accomplishing on.

    We need to invalidate that popular statement by the ruling government that opposition parties only make their presence felt near GE.

    GOD BLESS

  11. This time round the elected President must come from outside the PAP or government. To ensure that we need to have credible candidates who can stand out to be a choice for the people. So, is it possible for the WP together with other opposition parties to discuss a plan that could result in nominating a credible individual to stand for the Presidential elections? If it is left to the masses, it is certain that there will just be either no one willing to stand out or not qualified as a candidate. The oppositions can again work together to help Singaporeans have a chance to select an independent President who can help oversee and account for the country’s reserves in GIC, TH and others.

      • It will be hard to think of any eligible candidate unless we know the JD of the president. I have to say that till now, most Singaporeans do not know what the president actually do and why he is worth $4M.

        To determine the right candidate, the JD and qualifications of the president needs to be clearly stated, e.g academic qualification, working experience, personal attributes.

  12. I am interested to follow-up on the woman’s story:
    “In the midst of all the handshaking and congratulations, a middle-aged lady came forward and congratulated me. Without releasing my hand, she continued to say I must bring up her situation in parliament. Her mother is very sick. Just two of her medicines cost $400 every month, after subsidy. She has diabetes too and needs dialysis. It was noisy and crowd. She persisted in getting her message across. I am sure I was not the only one she had pressed her case to. I could tell she was getting desperate.”

    – While we wait for policies to take effect what can we do for those who need immediate support? I wonder if a) connections be made for the lady with someone with insurance consultation experience such as the former NTUC chairperson who seems willing to support the underprivileged b) connections be made for the lady with a medical social welfare, etc

    Some times help is available but in our desperation and stress, we are not aware. What other avenues can we direct them to so that their problems can be addressed while the MPs work on their end in Parliament to affect change in policies.

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