My speech at Hougang by-election rally (24 May 2012)

 Selamat malam, pengundi pengundi Hougang. Malam ini, saya mengucapkan terimah kasih banyak banyak sebab pengundi pendungi hadir ke rally ini.




 后港人的热情是雨浇不息的。人民行动党不平等 地对待您二十多年了,您还是勇敢地支持工人党。谢谢!



 I will next speak in English.

Recently, Professor Lim Chong Yah, former chairman of the National Wages Council and now Professor Emeritus of Economics at Nanyang Technological University made a strong proposal. He proposed to raise the wages of low income workers by 50% over the next 3 years and to freeze the pay of the top income earners.

The Workers’ Party is also concerned about income inequality in Singapore. For someone like Professor Lim who was previously in the innermost circle of government policymaking to raise this issue, it shows that this problem has grown really big, very very big. It shows that the PAP has gotten some things really wrong.

Instead of looking at the problem, one minister after another including the minister who is supposed to champion the welfare of workers dismissed the proposals as impractical. Professor Lim had to remind them that we are not talking about workers and not about cattle. Maybe the PAP expects workers to “做牛做马”, that is, work like cows and horses for pittance. Now who has a heart for the workers? Is it our highest paid ministers in the world? Do they think there is a problem for those who cannot have wages enough for daily living despite working day and night? They all sang the same tune that we need to get our productivity up first.

Last year, the Economic Survey of Singapore reported that even when productivity had risen in the past, wages in some industries did not move up as they should. There’s no assurance it would. Low income workers in certain industries have had their wages stagnate for more than 10 years already.

Productivity is important but it alone cannot determine the fair wages. Wages are also affected by government policies, like immigration. When the government flooded the job market with foreign workers, no matter how hard you work, your wages will still stagnate. That was what happened in the last ten years.

Another important reason is that it is difficult to increase productivity in some low wage industries. How many more hours can a security guard work, how many more trips can a bus driver make before we can say their productivity have risen to a level that they deserve a pay rise? More and more of our frail and elderly continue to work way way past retirement age. How much harder and longer must they work?

Naturally, Singaporeans are protesting. Finally, after 28 long years, the National Wages Council yesterday recommended a $50 increase in wages for those earning $1,000 and below. That’s barely keeping up with inflation.

Speaking of inflation, cost of living is getting higher and higher. Yesterday, the headline inflation was 5.4%. Inflation has been stuck at around 5% for quite some time already. While we can say inflation is due partly to higher prices of oil and goods from overseas, inflation is also caused by higher rents. Who is the biggest property owner in Singapore? Is it not the government, directly and indirectly through companies it owns? Who benefits from high COE prices? These are adding to the inflation.

The government likes to boast about Singapore being ranked top in all sorts of things. Well, amongst developed countries in the world, we are have the 2nd highest income inequality. Even Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large, Professor Tommy Koh described our ever widening income gap as “socially unconscionable”.

We are now the 9th most expensive city to live in according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Eleven years ago, we were ranked number 97. Congratulations, we are now top in another area.

Two nights ago, here in this rally site, I was moved. I was very touched by how you stayed even when the rain poured. You stayed on and displayed generous spirit in using whatever you had to shelter one another. Even the old and the frail stayed on. You cheered in the rain. You danced in the rain. We are in the same boat together, come wind, rain or shine.

 The PAP however, seems to have taken a different boat, a luxury liner, headed for a different direction. It seems hard for them to know your problems because they are not in the same boat as you are.

 Voters need to continue to send the message to the government to put themselves into the shoes of ordinary Singaporeans and feel their pain. The last elections, you gave them a stern warning. They started to do a bit more. If they win Hougang, they will stop listening again.

 Today, the Prime Minister said Hougang should vote for a fresh start. I think the PAP should itself first make a fresh start. The PAP should have a fresh start today NOT to divide the country up just because some constituencies chose to vote differently. Look at your IC. You have a pink IC, just like every Singaporean. You and your sons served National Service. You pay taxes. You helped build this country. The Prime Minister says the voters of Hougang should reflect. The PAP should instead reflect on why the people are so angry. Do not divide the country up when people vote differently. Do not divide the country up by holding off resources to opposition wards, resources that belong to all Singaporeans. The PAP should make a fresh start to be inclusive.

 If Desmond Choo really has a heart for Hougang, if the PAP has a heart for Hougang, then work together for the benefit of Hougang residents, not cut off national resources from the opposition.

I have worked with Png Eng Huat. I know he is a humble, honest, hardworking and intelligent man. He is the one with a real heart for the people. He came from a humble background. He worked tirelessly on the welfare of Hougang people since 2006 without expecting any reward. Png Eng Huat will champion the cause of Hougang for you in parliament. 方荣发才真正有一颗心,一颗为人民服务的心,一颗为后港居民服务的心。

Give your vote to the Workers Party! Give your vote to Png Eng Huat ah! Thank you.


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