英文有一句话说“Action speaks louder than words”。行动比语言更有说服力。你们现在有机会向他们传达一个更强烈的信号。1月26号 就是榜鹅东选民的机会了。只有这样，他们才会真正地听你们的心声, 才会真正地想办法了解人民的辛苦。
我入党已经两年了。在这两年里，我有机会与党员李丽连一起工作。她充满了活力。在党的各种活动，她时常作为主持人，讲话非常有自信。大选过后，丽连成为友诺士区 Pritam Singh议员的国会助理。 她组织基层活动，安排见面会，帮忙解决居民的问题，又同时当工人党青年团的主席。此外，她还有一份要求很高的全职工作。我称她为“Energizer”，应为她就像“Energizer” 电池一样，浑身是劲。
Good evening dear voters of Punggol East. Good evening dear supporters of the Workers’ Party. Rain or shine, muddy or dry pitch, you are always here to support us. Thank you.
On Sunday, Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat told you to vote for PAP so that The Workers’ Party will work harder. The Education Minister has got it all wrong! Which party is in government and has created the policies that are hurting you? The PAP! The PAP needs to work harder to improve their policies and to improve your lives.
Mr Heng has forgotten that whether they win or lose, the PAP’s candidate will still be the grassroots advisor. He has forgotten that the losing PAP candidate will still get access to community facilities to continue his party’s work. THESE will not be given to the WP if we lose. Mr Heng has also forgotten that the elections department reports to the Prime Minister, who is the secretary-general of his party. The PAP can do wonderful magic. They can tear up a constituency and move it around. They can make constituencies disappear just before a general election. Only when you vote an opposition in can you vote one and get one free, because PAP will start to treasure you and work doubly hard for you. Only when you vote an opposition in can you ensure that Punggol East will stay as its own constituency.
Dr Koh, the candidate of the PAP has said he wanted to have more child care facilities here. He’s right that there should be more child care centres here. Dr Koh will however have to content with a PAP’s policy that is flawed.
Child care services have certainly become important. Over the past 8 years, with more working parents, the number of children enrolled in child & infant care centres has doubled to 76,000.
Child care fees have also gone up. Over the same 8 years, average fee has shot up by some 50%. Many centres, especially those in new towns like Punggol East are full. You sometimes have to wait more than a year to get your child into a centre that is more reasonably affordable. This is an issue that affects many Singaporeans.
Last week, the Prime Minister said the opposition has not presented any alternatives in parliament. Well, I remember presenting an alternative childcare policy in September as an adjournment motion. I also remember that the government has yet to answer many of the issues I had raised on this matter. Let me elaborate.
In 2009, the government came up with the Anchor childcare Operator scheme. Conditions were set such that many long established and reputable operators in the childcare industry could not qualify. Only the PAP Community Foundation (or PCF) and NTUC’s My First Skool became anchor operators.
The government said that grants given to anchor operators will be $30 million every year. Anchor operators have opened over 132 new void deck sites in the 3 years since the scheme started. In this same period, only a few HDB sites were available for bidding by private and other non-profit operators.
From parliament answers, I calculated that Anchor Operators received grants averaging $600,000 per new centre. Their centres in HDB void decks pay rents 10-20 times lower than what is paid by private operators in similar void decks, based on results from recent tenders. Because there are so few HDB sites now available for non-anchor operators, rents have been bidded sky high, causing fees to rise rapidly. In fact, the void deck childcare with the highest rent in Singapore is here in Punggol.
The stated purpose for Anchor operators is to provide affordable, accessible, and high quality childcare. But all these are not happening with PAP’s policy. The fees charged by our two Anchor Operators are in some instances higher than that charged by some private and non-profit centres that do not get such generous grants or have to pay more in rent. In other words, the two anchor operators are protected from competition. They do not need to work as hard as they should to make fees as low as they can.
In the Lien foundation survey last year, there are more parents happier with the services of any other category of centres compared to that of PCF and NTUC. So despite huge grants available only to PCF and NTUC, satisfaction of their customers is lower than others. In 2010, the government started SPARK accreditation to raise the quality of preschools. Their aim is to have 85% of all centres to be SPARK-tested by 2013, which is this year. Guess what? Only 12% of the centres operated by anchors met the SPARK criteria as of last year when I questioned the minister in parliament. The anchors are so far off the government’s target, yet they continue to receive huge grants.
After studying these data, I presented an alternative proposal in parliament. It is to make childcare as a public good, with active competition by all. These include the government making all sites operating on government spaces to be at low managed rents, and for the government to be able to directly regulate fees of centres that benefit from grants and subsidized rents. This can be done because the majority of all childcare centres operate on government owned sites.
Right now, the government is toothless to control fees. It gives out a lot of money but cannot stop fees from rising. It can only advise operators to give three months’ notice before increasing fees. Rather than rely on just two operators, the government should open up for competition to all operators based on a more reasonable set of anchor qualifying criteria, and to push these operators to do more to improve quality and to tightly regulate their fees.
With this alternative model, competition will keep all operators on their toes. They will need to be innovative and affordable. This will benefit all of you.
So the solution is not for Dr Koh to ask for a new centre here and a new centre there. Think… If it was so easy, why is it a nationwide problem? Why couldn’t your previous MP do that for you? This is because the PAP’s childcare policy is in need of fixing, just as there are many PAP’s policies that need fixing. The Workers’ Party has spoken out in Parliament on this. And the Workers’ Party will continue to push the government when we find policies that need fixing.
Vote Lee Li Lian into parliament. She will be a good and hardworking MP for you. She will be your voice in parliament. Come 26 Jan, vote The Workers Party. Vote for Lee Li Lian.