Singapore: Time to Move On and Focus on National Issues
10 February 2012, Singapore - Think Centre (TC), Singapore's oldest political association, calls on fellow Singaporeans to re-focus on national issues in the face of recent exposes of alleged misdemeanours by public figures.
Over the last three weeks, Singaporeans were inundated with breaking news of alleged marital infidelity by a parliamentarian as well as fraud and misconduct of by two heads of uniformed groups. While there has been no lack of online, print and public speculation, some vitriol and accusations have gone overboard and defamatory. TC expresses its concern on the allegations against these public figures as much as we are disappointed by the political immaturity and opportunism of cynics and media alike.
While professional misconduct and fraud by senior civil servants are public and national issues of concern, the private lives of parliamentarians, whether elected or nominated, ruling or opposition, are strictly personal unless one's parliamentary duties are compromised. TC respects the due process of criminal investigations and trust that the rule of law would ensure appropriate sentences for corrupt civil servants. To the same extent, TC respects the resignation of the alleged parliamentarian from party leadership and welcomes it as moral accountability to party, constituents and country.
Now is time to move on and focus on national issues, especially in the light of Euro-zone economic meltdown, escalating Middle East tensions and sociopolitical changes within Asean. As a small nation-state highly intertwined with and dependent on external economies for growth and sustainability, Singaporeans should focus on next week's 2012 Budget statement.
Singapore is plugged into the global economy that is in need of "fair globalization' to achieve improvements and fair outcomes for all. The government should reaffirm fundamental principles and rights at work to ensure a fair deal for all to face the socio-economic impact. In the face of rising fuel prices, utilities tariffs and inflationary costs, it does not bode well especially with governmental forecast of slower economic growth and lesser employment opportunities. The government needs adequate and effective measures to ensure more decent work and social justice for all - through policies in areas of employment, social protection (social safety net), rights at work, and need for more consultations with stakeholders.
From a rights-based approach, TC urges the government to include the following for Budget 2012
1) Ensure decent wages and work - A Review Committee consisting of government agencies, unions and NGO groups should be immediately formed to research, consult and recommend the imposition of a minimum wage for non-executive, blue-collar jobs. Without a minimum wage and decent work conditions, Singaporeans in the lower middle, working and poor classes will be subjected to further backlash of unfavourable economic conditions ahead.
2) Maintain Workfare supplements - Workfare encourages low-wage workers to work and supplements their income and CPF savings. With the prolonged economic downturn, the government should continue to work with employers and unions to avoid layoffs, and use Workfare to supplement minimum wage as part of a comprehensive and strategic wage policy to help low-wage workers, businesses and companies alike.
3) Reduce income inequality - The Singapore government should reduce the increasing inequality by introducing policies to overcome the growing income gap between rich (top 20 %) and the working poor (lower 20%). To protect and secure the welfare of the lower middle, working and poor classes, the government must increase financial aid schemes such as Comcare, Public Assistance scheme, Work Support programme, Student Care Assistance scheme etc. More importantly, the accessibility and bureaucracy of such critical disbursements to the needy should be free of political allegiance, regardless of ruling or opposition-held wards.
4) Provide mental and psychological support ¬ In economic downturns, increased support should be directed to those facing mental stress due to income loss, family issues, social issues etc. Such social and psychological needs of citizens will be better served and secured through bolstering the services of Family Services Centres (FSCs). FSCs must be given additional human and economic resources by the government to provide counselling, legal clinics, financial aid and provide upfront assistance to at-risk families, the needy aged and single parents.
5) Uphold rights of the persons with disabilities - Persons with disabilities have needs which are both similar and different from able-bodied persons. The Government has a key role in helping them and their families to lead dignified lives, especially in economic downturns. Not only should financial aid schemes for people with disabilities be boosted, their right to decent wage, work conditions and transportation subsidies should be met.
As such, TC calls on the government and citizens to leave behind political lines and controversies, focus on the national agenda and work together to brave this economic storm ahead as one people, one nation, one Singapore.
THINK CENTRE (TC)
Towards A Vibrant Political Society