The SDA was hoping that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would announce long term measures during this year’s National Day Rally that would address structural issues relating to social inequality and discrimination.
Instead, what we got were band-aid measures that will make lives worse for Common Singaporeans in the longer term.
(1) A Half-Hearted Minimum Wage Model
The Prime Minister announced that only companies which employ foreigners must pay local workers a minimum wage.
In the same vein, he warned Singaporeans to expect price hikes because of this minimum wage.
This is absurd.
Especially when it is so easy and cheap for firms to start subsidiary companies to circumvent paying locals this minimum wage.
And that is just one of the many games that big corporations can play.
Meanwhile average consumers will suffer price increases, including low-wage workers.
If the government was serious about raising livelihoods, it would mandate that this minimum wage should apply to all local companies, and not just those that employ foreigners.
Singaporeans are willing to pay the price, but only if the money truly goes towards improving the lives of those in extreme poverty and not further fattening the pockets of rich businessmen.
(2) A Potentially Dangerous New Racial Harmony Law
The Prime Minister announced a new law that will give the government even greater powers to handle what it defines as racial issues.
Apart from isolated racist incidents, no clear trend showing a rise in racial issues was given that should warrant the government a heavier hand.
And as the Prime Minister said, these isolated racist incidents arose from the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a black swan event.
Giving the ivory tower yet another black cheque to dictate the social narrative and tighten its grip on Singaporeans is unwise at best.
Just look at how the POFMA law has been wielded.
And, it should not be allowed to do as it pleases, dishing out “sweeteners” as and when it chooses, as though it was granting Singaporeans a privilege.
Such as allowing Malay nurses to wear the tudung.
The SDA has always advocated for more open dialogue on racial issues instead of just closed-door talks among elite bureaucrats.
And, for more Common Singaporeans to be engaged in such dialogues.
After 56 years of nation-building, and a world-class education system, surely Singaporeans young and old are discerning enough to have mature conversations on issues of race and religion.
(3) Mistaking Singaporeans’ Economic Woes for Racial Discrimination
Worryingly, the Prime Minister lumped together anger at the CECA with racial discrmination.
What the Prime Minister fails to acknowledge is how this anger was born out of a skewed trade agreement that has worsened our lives and job prospects, and threatens our future.
PSP NCMP Leong Mun Wai has done a good job in parliament of highlighting this, and how Singaporeans are suffering the ill effects.
Singaporeans understand that foreigners come here to build better lives for themselves.
What we cannot tolerate is irresponsible immigration policies and trade agreements that put well-qualified, hardworking Singaporeans at a disadvantage.
When Singaporeans face discrimination in the workplace, it is only natural that we lash out.
Unfortunately the “foe” in sight has unfairly bore the greater brunt rather then the hand that opened the floodgates.
The SDA has been calling for more stringent quotas for foreign workers, as detailed in our manifesto, and for greater protection of Singaporean workers’ labour rights.
We will continue to champion this to help give Singaporeans a fighting chance at levelling the playing field.
Friends, it is disappointing that the Prime Minister has taken a myopic view of societal issues.
Like festering wounds, these issues run deeper than a quick band-aid fix.
On behalf of Singaporeans, the SDA once again urges the Prime Minister have a heart for the people.
And, to take concrete long-term measures to fix the problems his government created over the past two decades.
Singapore Democratic Alliance