The Workers' Party

You Have A Choice

Manifesto 2006

 

INTRODUCTION

As a political party, the long-term goal of the Workers’ Party (WP) is to be an alternative government. While in opposition, we will play an active role as a check and balance on the ruling party. WP is Pro-Singapore and believes national interest should precede party interest.

As such we would be prepared to support government policies if they are for the common good of the nation. However we will also not hesitate to take a confrontational stand against the ruling party when there is a need to do so.

Our Manifesto and Policy Ideas
To begin with, WP is pleased to note that some of the ideas from our 1994 Manifesto have been implemented by the government. For instance, in the area of education, the government has implemented compulsory primary education and 10 years of formal education to equip our citizens with basic knowledge and academic skills. WP also proposed reducing the class size to 20 and is pleased that MOE is reducing the class size to 30 today.

In the 1994 Manifesto, WP warned that Medisave and Medishield were not the answer to the problem of escalating health care costs and instead, a public health insurance scheme through pooling of risk should be implemented. WP has now noted the belated overhaul of the Medishield scheme.

In this manifesto, WP updates our proposals on government policies, based on our beliefs in diversity, respect, human dignity, multiculturalism, tolerance and equal opportunity as the underlying philosophy of governance.

The ideas contained in this manifesto also revolve around the theme of giving Singaporeans a meaningful stake in the country. It is consistent with the theme WP has championed over the years – Power to the People.

Our Philosophy
WP believes that there must be competition in political office. As the base of power comes from the people, people must be empowered to elect their representatives so that they can also participate in the decision-making process of shaping and developing our society.

WP believes that development must be for the benefit of a humane and civil society but too often the harsh reality of economic competition and political control make it otherwise. The consequential effect of a free market economy is income disparity. The better-educated and younger members of our society will have more bargaining power in the policy formulation process. Those with economic power tend to congregate with those with political power resulting in a power elite network. The consequence of such a structure could result in imbalance in policy formulation.

To build a humane society, it is important that the government places human dignity, diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance, respect and equal opportunity as the principle considerations in policy formulation and implementation.

WP - A Platform For People To Exercise Their Political Rights
All citizens have the right to choose their representatives and government in a parliamentary democracy. However they will only have the means to exercise their political right when there is active participation in the electoral process by different political parties.

WP provides you with an opportunity to voice your concerns through the ballot box. This will make the government more accountable as it has to be mindful of the political consequences it has to face during elections.

Politics is not just holding elections every few years; it is a continuous dynamic process. Political competition results in better service for the people; it also makes the government more sensitive to the needs from the ground and more responsive to public sentiment. However, this is only possible if you have a choice!

WP's participation in the elections enables citizens to exercise their political rights and creates an environment for good governance. WP protects the democratic process.

We urge every citizen to be involved as much as possible in issues and decisions that will affect our lives and that of our future generations.

 

1 GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL LIBERTIES

In a Parliamentary democracy, the government must be open and accountable to the people and true to the rule of law.

The Constitution must be respected and should not be easily amended. In any event, there should be no Constitutional amendment for partisan advantage at elections.

Parliamentary elections should be conducted such as to encourage maximum participation from citizens.

More importantly, citizens should be free to form associations and should be assured of liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention without trial as long as they do not contravene the law.

However, the PAP has consistently tinkered with the structure and processes of government to ensure minimal accountability to the public. Parliamentary elections have been organized such as to foster minimal participation from voters and minimal contest from alternative parties. Citizen activism is encouraged only if the PAP government "leads".

It is important that we protect our civil liberties and hold the government to accountability.

Our Beliefs

1. All Constitutional amendments must be carefully scrutinized and public opinion canvassed wherever possible.

2. Parliament shall consist only of members elected by the people in free and fair elections. Parliament is a representative microcosm of Singapore society by way of gender, race and religion.

3. There should be an environment conducive to citizen activism.

4. The civil service must be politically neutral, true to the rule of law.

5. The local mass media should be socially responsible but free from political influence in respect of content.

Our Proposals

A. Elections & Parliament:

1. The Office of Elected President should be abolished and the Presidency should be reverted to its former ceremonial position. The power of Parliament as the people's representatives should be unfettered. The abolition of this office should be done in tandem with electoral reform to ensure maximum participation by voters and contestants at Parliamentary elections.

2. Parliamentary elections should not be organized by the Prime Minister's Office. Instead, an independent election commission should be tasked with this role, reporting to either the President or the Chief Justice, to ensure political neutrality.

3. The rationale for electoral boundary changes and the proposed boundaries should be announced at least one year before a General Election is called.

4. Group Representation Constituencies should be abolished, as it dilutes the individual voter's voice. Instead, the elections should be run on single seats.

5. An alternative system of proportional representation should be worked out so that it could reflect party votes at the national level. Possible alternative systems for study include the New Zealand system of Mixed Member Proportional that handles Maori seats.
The Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme would be unnecessary in the proportional representation system.
The office of Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) should be abolished. No one should be allowed to vote on legislation without any mandate from the people.

6. The Parliamentary Elections Act will be amended to allow all Singaporeans overseas to exercise their rights to vote and all Singapore Missions Overseas will be required to facilitate the same during an election.

B. Constitution:

1. All amendments to the Constitution must be sent to a Select Committee consisting of Members of Parliament from different political parties.

2. The right of every citizen to vote should be entrenched in the Constitution.

C. Civil Service:

1. The civil service should be guided only by law and policy which should be applied consistendy, and without fear or favour. There should be no political interference in individual cases.

2. While discretion must be given to civil servants to make decisions, such discretion should not be absolute and should be subject to either judicial review (for rationality, not on merits) or review by an independent ombudsman.

3. There should not be laws which make the decisions of the Executive un-reviewable and, if already in force, should be repealed.

D. Civil Liberties:

1. The Internal Security Act, which provides for detention without trial in cases of alleged subversion, should be abolished. Singapore shall be brought in line with international practices to try such cases including espionage, with modified procedures to protect official secrets if necessary.

2. In cases of alleged terrorism, the government should be enabled by a dedicated anti-terrorism law to make swift arrests and detain suspects without trial. However, these suspects must be afforded real avenues to challenge the legality of their arrests through the courts and possibly an Advisory Board, who shall have powers to order a release of the person if it is not satisfied as to the basis of the detention.

3. Citizens shall be free to register and form societies so long as they do not contravene the Constitution i.e. they do not undermine public order, security or morality.

4. Peaceful demonstrations shall be allowed subject to prior notification to the police to ensure minimum disruption to traffic and public converuence.

E. Cabinet:

1. Ministers should be rewarded fairly and equitably for their contribution to the country.

2. Ministers' remuneration should be benchmarked internationally against the political office of developed countries. Their remuneration should also take into account all associated benefits (e.g. benefits-in-kind) under the total remuneration or total employment costs ("TEC").

3. Ministers should be paid variable bonuses upon achieving certain measurable indicators such as GDP growth, change in unemployment numbers, etc.

4. Ministers should declare all their assets to the public, including deemed interests before, during and after office.

 

2 JUSTICE, LAW AND ORDER

Our legal system must strive for quality and fairness in its processes, balancing the rights and interests of victims, suspects and the general public.

When faced with crime, a balanced approach should be taken to solve it at its roots, even if it may require more resources and more accountability for law enforcement agencies, or even require changing social conditions or policies.

There is inadequate government legal aid. Criminal legal aid is provided from government funds only in cases where the accused person faces the death penalty. In non-capital cases, the only form of criminal legal aid is the voluntary scheme of the Law Society.

Our Beliefs

1. The independence of the Judiciary must be protected. Justice should be dispensed by judicial officers who must be impartial and are guided only by legal principles.

2. Mandatory sentences for offences should be removed as they take away the discretion of the judge to adjust a sentence to suit the individual case circumstances. Under the current system of mandatory sentences, the real power to determine the offender's sentence shifts from the Courts to the prosecution who will decide which charge to proceed on to produce the appropriate sentence. This encourages plea-bargaining which makes justice less transparent as the exercise of prosecutorial discretion cannot be reviewed or appealed against.

3. Victims of crime are inadequately taken care of in our criminal justice system. At present, the victim incurs expense and suffers inconveniences, and stands to recover nothing in most crime cases. The victim's interests should be protected in the criminal justice system.

4. Anyone who needs to use the justice system for redress should have accessibility to justice. No person should be convicted of a crime and punished because he is unable to present his case adequately in court. Accused persons must be able to exercise their rights to appeal without fear.

5. Existing procedures in criminal cases are weighed in favour of the prosecution and sometimes to the point of being unfair to the accused. The litigation process should promote fair-play and an adequate presentation of cases by the parties involved.

6. The court system should strive for efficiency and quality in its processes.

7. We need more transparency in crime information so that more focused crime prevention measures can be undertaken by authorities and the public. Law enforcement agencies such as the Police must be adequately resourced.

Our Proposals

A. Judiciary:

1. The present provisions for the appointment of High Court Judicial Commissioners who function as High Court Judges but for ftxed terms should be removed. Such schemes are convenient but risk undermining the independence of such officers.

2. The Constitution should be amended to extend the retirement age of High Court Judges from 65 to 70 years and there should be no extension of this tenure.

3. A Judicial Service should be created, separate from the Legal Service, for judicial posts such as Registrars, Deputy Registrars, Magistrates and District Judges in the Subordinate Courts, and Registrars and Assistant Registrars in the High Court. The structure will exclude members of the Executive from decisions concerning their career or their advancement. All persons desiring to serve either as government legal or judicial officers will initially be recruited into a common pool for posting into various non-judicial legal posts. After a minimum period in these posts, those considered suitable will be selected for entry into the judicial service and will not be liable for transfer back to the mainstream unless they so request.

4. The fees charged by the Courts for initiating and maintaining proceedings must be kept moderate and in keeping with the public character of their services. Courts should be prudent in their spending and resource management so as not to fuel unnecessary fee increases. There should be flexibility in the review of waivers of fees in cases of financial hardship.

5. Appeals from Subordinate Court criminal cases will continue to go to the High Court which should be free to roster judges at random to hear appeals. This will provide for continuity and stability in the system.

6. For capital cases, there should be a tribunal of two judges whose decision to impose the death sentence must be unanimous.

B. Legal Aid:

1. For civil legal aid, the means test under the Legal Aid and Advice Act should be continuously reviewed to reflect a reasonable cut off income.

2. Government legal aid should be provided for criminal cases. A statutory criminal legal aid scheme should be set up to replace the present voluntary legal aid scheme run by the Law Society. The Law Society scheme is highly commendable but legal representation for the poor in criminal cases should be a government concern. This will also ensure continuity and resources.

C. Protection of Victims:

1. Victims' views and concerns should be highlighted to the court for consideration in pre-trial decisions such as bail and in sentencing.

2. A state funded Board should be set up to offer compensation to the victims of violent crimes, at least for the medical expenses incurred, and to work with community-based agencies to assist the victim to recover from the offence.

3. The official statistics on crime, which reflect only reported crime as classified by the law enforcement authorities, should be supplemented. In line with best practices internationally, victimisation surveys should be conducted to ascertain the extent of unreported crime, the reasons for non-reporting and why the authorities re-classify reports. This will enable more focused crime prevention measures.

D. Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code:

1. Accused persons who are factually innocent but who have been mistakenly arrested and/or prosecuted should be compensated. A mistaken arrest and prosecution brings income loss, stress, loss of reputation and payment of legal costs of defence. The burden of the executive's errors should not be borne by the innocent.

2. The philosophy of sentencing should be reviewed to achieve a balance between deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation. In particular, the range and role of non-custodial sentences in rehabilitating adults convicted of minor crime should be increased.

3. The Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code should be re-examined to review the classification of cases which are non-seizable. Offences such as cheating may need to be classified as seizable to enable the police to investigate more efficiently.

4. The Criminal Procedure Code should be amended to make it clear that an appellate court hearing an appeal from an accused person against sentence does not have the power to enhance the sentence unless the prosecution cross-appeals to enhance the sentence.

5. Criminal procedures should be reviewed to ensure that an arrested person's constitutional right to consult legal counsel is protected by allowing early access.

6. There should be proper disclosure of evidence from the prosecution and the defence throughout the pre-trial and trial process.

7. The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act allowing detention of suspected criminals without producing them in court should be re¬examined to review whether it is still necessary in the context of today.

E. Others:

1. Adequate resources should be allocated to the police to fight crime, including additional manpower if required. While there is a role for the police in community policing, they should be, as far as possible, divested from attending to calls for services not within their core competencies.

 

3 ECONOMIC POLICY

The Workers' Party is committed to an economic growth whereby each citizen can contribute to the best of his ability and live a dignified life. Strategically located in South-East Asia, Singapore is well poised to be a centre of finance, logistics, communications, business rescue, back up and emergency operations.

Competition is intense and neighbouring countries are all competing to acquire a "Hub" status. The fragility of being a hub is its interdependent nature that can be undermined easily by new facilities of neighbouring countries due to cost and service factors.

Globalisation and advances in technology suddenly diminish our comparative advantage of being cheaper, faster and better as profit margins decline under fierce competition.

Globalisation also quickens the evolution of the economy from a "knowledge economy" to a "creative economy". WP believes that in empowering the individual and not the state, we will have a creative economy that will propel us forward in our next stage of economic development.

WP recognises that the consequential effect of a free market economy is income disparity and the better educated, skilled and younger members of our society will have more bargaining power in the policy formulation process than those who are less so.

The subtle manifestation of this trend can be seen from government tax measures. The Goods & Services Tax (GST), a regressive tax, has been increased from 3% to 5% and correspondingly as announced in the 2005 Annual Budget, the income tax rate for the higher income bracket was reduced by 1%.

Economic growth is meaningful only if the fruit of growth is not spread too thin for those who are less successful or we will risk being a society clearly divided along the lines of income, economic benefit and political influence. While each person's contribution is different in the material economic sense, the role each one plays is as valuable.

Our Beliefs

1. Social Mobility should not be disrupted and taken over by the "free market" based on the fInancial might of the individual.

2. There should be a re-distribution of wealth through fiscal and tax measures and social policy to ensure that the fruits of the economy are shared equitable.

3. Independent thinking, self-reliance, courage to fIght for one's rights and being prepared to pay a price are necessary ingredients of entrepreneurship. We must cultivate resilience through the spirit of risk taking and a 'not afraid to fail' attitude.

4. There must be more support for Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Start-ups.

5. Singapore Government Investment Corporation (SGIC) and Government Linked Corporations (GLCs) can playing positive role to strengthen the economic position of Singapore.

6. Companies should be encouraged to exercise corporate social responsibility and get involved in the building and developing of the community they are benefiting from. In the long run, it will benefIt their businesses too.

7. We need to strengthen our fInancial sector to anchor our position as one of the key global financial centres.

8. Land cost is an important factor in economic competitiveness in land scarce Singapore.

Our Proposals

A. SMEs and Local Businesses:

1. There is a lack of focus in developing local SMEs and new start-ups. Various programmes to assist and develop the SMEs are separately managed by Spring Singapore, IE Singapore & the Economic Development Board (EDB). Instead, we should have a one-stop centre to better focus and promote the development of the SMEs.

2. Instead of crowding out local business with its government linked status and fInancial muscle, GLCs should instead invest in SMEs to propel their growth and development.

3. All government and related entities can invest public money into viable businesses but this investment cannot be a controlling stake in the businesses.

4. High rentals and land costs will affect the costs of businesses. Effective measures to curb property and land speculation should be in place to maintain the cost competitiveness of SMEs.

5. There should be an incentive scheme to attract international talents to Singapore who are able to create or entrench a specifIc business / sector /industry.

B. Potential Sectors of Growth:

1. The experience of the Singapore Technology (ST) group of companies in building military capability and the experience of the local precision engineering industry make it possible for us to develop our own robotic industry. It is a sector that could yield potential growth.

2. There is a worldwide shortage of water and energy and we should develop our Utilities Resource industry. Further refInement and research into membrane technology could yield results and research into solar cells could also have potential in developing the use of solar energy.

3. Areas such as derivatives markets, pension fund management and financial management of "high net worth individuals" should be developed to enhance our position as a fInancial centre.

4. To secure our future position in shipping and port operations, we should develop a strategic shipping line with PSA to make Singapore a choice port of call and strengthen Singapore as an international shipping business hub.

C. Others:

1. The mind-set and complacency that Singapore has the best infrastructure in this region, is more efficient and hence should command a premium price must be changed. The loss of two international shipping lines to Tanjong Pelepas is a lesson to learn.

2. There should be a waiver of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on basic necessities. Although GST is a consumption tax, it should be the consumption of luxury goods that should be taxed. Basic necessities such as rice should not be taxed at all.

3. We can leverage on the huge reserves and existing business network that the GLCs and SGIC have built up over the years to strengthen the position of Singapore and re-invest locally to create new sectors of growth.

 

4 SOCIETY

WP is for a Caring Society and believes that social justice must be intrinsic to the concept of government. It also recognises that Singapore is a multicultural society and everyone should be treated equally.

Every citizen has a right to a decent standard of living, work and a life of choices and opportunities without discrimination. The government has the responsibility to look after its citizens and should not just play a "charity role" when tackling the needs of the people and building a community.

WP feels that more efforts should be placed to look into vulnerable groups such as the physically challenged and the elderly. Infrastructure and medical support for these groups need to be improved.

Community building is a long-term process whereby people living in a specific geographical area over time develop a sense of closeness as a community. The identification of being a community serves as a process to root the people and thereby help to cultivate a sense of nationhood.

However a by-product of urbanisation and the price that every nation has to pay for modernisation is the erosion of community bonds and the weakening identity of a community.

In the case of Singapore, this erosion is even more stark as our unique urbanisation and modernisation process has resulted in a whole population being deliberately uprooted and re-distributed from traditional kampongs to HDB estates over a period of about 30 years.

This is a large-scale re-settlement process that the government consciously planned and which presented an opportunity for the government to preserve the spirit of self-reliance in the old kampongs, cultivate community bonding and develop a cohesive society.

Unfortunately, today, after 40 years of nation building, many younger Singaporeans have scant idea of living in a community.

Our Beliefs

1. There must be an unconditional needs-based welfare safety net to ensure that no one who needs help is left stranded. Every case is different and although it may mean that more resources and effort will be needed by the government to examine the case, no citizen must be deprived of a need because of his inability to afford it.

2. Just like everyone else, the disabled have a right to live a life as full as possible and to be integrated with the rest of the community.

3. The problems of the aged, especially the chronically ill, do not only refer to those who are destitute but also those whose families are unable to care for them for genuine reasons. Affordable healthcare and support facilities for them are essential. Voluntary organisations are playing important roles here and more support from the government is necessary.

4. Besides physical health, the mental health of the elderly is equally important. Many retirees are still able to contribute to society and should be encouraged and given the opportunity to do so.

5. Single parents must not be left out of available assistance schemes.

6. As the government is unable to provide consistent growth and employment opportunities, many people have been retrenched from their jobs. Looking for alternative employment takes time. There must be some level of support for the unemployed to continue to live a decent and dignified life.

7. The development of a strong and vibrant community will strengthen our social fabric, foster social cohesion and in the process build a national identity. We need to encourage individuals within the community to serve the neighbourhood to foster the growth of a natural community leadership.

8. Multiculturalism should be actively promoted and should form a corner stone of our social policies.

Our Proposals

A. Disabled:

1. Better infrastructures must be put in place for the education, training for employment and the transport needs of the disabled. As such, more support is needed for the development of trainers and staff for their education.

2. Medical assistance and healthcare to assist and diagnose disabled children should be improved. For example, there is currently a long queue for medical tests for autism.

3. More incentives should be given to employers to encourage them to employ those capable of work. In this respect, social education is also necessary to eradicate any pre-conceived perceptions and prejudice against them and their ability to contribute to society.

B. Elderly and Family:

1. We need to provide an avenue to train/educate the "younger elderly" to provide care and social events for the aged within the community they live.

This could be done through clan associations, community based organisations or voluntary organisations with support from the government for the training and perhaps allowance for basic costs such as food and transport. While this requires some government expenditure and effort, it will engage an able group of elderly to contribute to the heartware of the community and at the same time, develop their own mental health.

2. There should be sufficient choices for parents and the aged to live within the community rather than confined to a Home. A care centre can be built in each precinct for those elderly whose family members are unable to look after them. The centre can be jointly maintained by those using it and volunteers from the neighbourhood.

3. We should extend the current policy of encouraging children living near parents to living near siblings and close relatives.

C. Unemployed:

1. Unemployment insurance will help workers cope during the difficult period of unemployment. The premium can be covered by a compulsory deduction of 1% of the earned income with the company contributing another 1%. The funds should be managed by third-party corporations.

Employees who have been with the same company for more than 2 years would be eligible to claim when they are retrenched. The payout can be 75% of their last drawn pay. This would be reduced by 7.5% per month until the payout is zero and would help to pay their immediate bills while they look for alternative employment or attend upgrading courses.

2. Citizens who are in dire straits should be allowed to withdraw from their own CPF to avoid abuse, withdrawals must fulfill strict guidelines and the amount withdrawn will not be entided to the 2.5% nominal interest.

D. Community:

1. The system of Resident Committees (RCs) and the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) should be abolished. Government grassroots serving as eyes and ears of the government cripple the growth of natural community leadership and hinder the development of community living. The attempts by RCs in some areas to segregate the neighbourhood by zones further hinder the population from developing a true sense of community identity.

2. The Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system should be abolished and we should revert to constituencies based on geographical areas.

3. Rules and controls on individuals organising events for the community should be relaxed.

4. Community Centres should be run for the purpose of providing amenities and services, disseminating information and gatheing feedback for the government on policy and community issues.

They must be non-political; the chairman and members of the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC) should be elected by the community through a localised election. The Elected MP for the constituency should assume the role of advisor of CCMC.

5. The policy of upgrading of older estates and building new flats in mature estates to minimise the movement of population should be continued.

E. Others:

1. We should declare a Social Cohesion Public Holiday to mark the successful integration of Singapore as a multi-racial and multi-religious society and to remind ourselves of the need to continue the social cohesion process and not to take religious and racial harmony for granted.

2. All discriminatory policies, for example excluding single parents from housing subsidies, should be removed.

3. We should increase the number of Community Mediation Centres and promote it as "the" place to settle community disputes. The Centres should also promote and educate the public on harmonious community living.

4. There should be a Board of Equal Opportunities to ensure that there is no discrimination on account of ethnic origin, religious belief, gender, social economic class or age.

 

5 EDUCATION

Our human resource is one of our valuable assets. Thus a carefully planned curriculum of education is of utmost importance in order to develop our people to the best of their abilities and talents.

WP is pleased to note that the government has implemented compulsory primary education and 10 years' of formal education to equip our citizens with basic knowledge and academic skills. This was proposed in our 1994 Manifesto.

However interests must be cultivated to help our people to excel in their specific fields. These interests should not be confined to school syllabus but should cover a wider spectrum.

Schools are embarking on more activities in line with the broad policy of "thinking schools learning nation" where principals are empowered to take initiative and make decisions on the ground. There is a risk that teachers might end up with additional meetings and become event organisers.

Though it is difficult to quantify the work of teachers, a mechanism should be in place to monitor whether teachers are overloaded with other responsibilities instead of focusing on the fundamental duty of a teacher.

We should also pay attention to how our educational institutions evolve, especially our tertiary institutions. As tertiary education becomes a full fledged business, we need to ensure that issues of funding, cost of education and academic freedom are adequately addressed.

Our Beliefs

1. Teaching content should be reduced so that teachers can move beyond textbooks and share with students life skills in areas such as current affairs, inter-personal communication, enterprising initiatives and creative development in the arts, music and culture.

2. Cross training and learning should be encouraged and we should not narrowly defIne the fIelds of learning for our students.

3. To effectively cope with Globalisation, we should liberalise our language policy and put emphasis on multi-lingualism.

4. Every student should be required to learn his/her mother tongue and to attain as high a standard of profIciency as possible for that individual.

5. A multi-tiered approach in advancement to different academic levels should be provided in the system. Students could decide their own pace of advancement to achieve their potential academic qualifIcation based on their interest and ability.

6. Funding models for local tertiary education should reflect investment of public funds in human capital development. The benefIts of tertiary education accrue not only to the individual student but to Singapore as a whole.

Our Proposals
A. Replacement Of The Streaming System With A Multi-tiered Advancement System:

1. The current system of streaming is based on aggregate points of subjects obtained at an examination and is used as the basis for segregating students. This does not really measure the potential ability of students. In addition, the social stigma of streaming far outweighs its usefulness as a convenient way to segregate the students based on academic results.

2. WP welcomes the launch of the subject-based pilot classrooms plan. Further customisation of the education and learning process by re-organising the class system based on subject and module should be looked into.

3. Each student should be allowed to advance in different subjects at his pace. For instance, a student may have some subjects taught at the express level and others at the normal level.

4. Every student will take the current "O" level examination at secondary 4. The grading system should be re-designed to cater for awarding an academic standard equivalent to the current "N" level standard if the students cannot achieve the "O" level grade.

5. Students who do not qualify for Junior Colleges or Polytechnics should be given a second chance in their schools to repeat their Secondary 4 to better their grades.

B. Balanced Resource Allocation:

1. There is a need to balance resources of "elite schools" (Independent Schools) and neighbourhood schools.

2. Additional funding and support should be given to neighbourhood schools as elite schools, with their strong community support and well-established alumni network, are better able to garner sufficient resources.

3. The government should pay more attention to educating students who need help to achieve the basic standard required to progress academically, so as to uplift the general quality of manpower resource in Singapore

C. Tertiary Education:

1. The Government should fund the infrastructure costs of local tertiary institutions.

2. Co-payment by university students should be pegged at 10% of operating expenditure of local tertiary institutions.

3. The intellectual climate of all tertiary institutions in Singapore should be kept free whereby lecturers and students are able to explore the full limits of academia.

4. Local tertiary institutions should ensure that there is a sizeable community of local students and staff.

S. Local academic staff in local tertiary institutions as well as knowledge workers in research institutions should be paid equitable salaries compared with non-resident colleagues of equivalent standing and expertise.

6. Any tuition fee increases for tertiary institutions should be subject to scrutiny by an independent watchdog that will ensure that increases are minimal and justifiable. It is imprudent to fix a quantum for permitted tuition fee increases per year.

7. The basis of funding of tertiary education should be reviewed. A sound funding model should incorporate not only graduate numbers but also input and output targets. Output targets should consider factors such as the number of subjects passed, percentage of teaching staff receiving good ratings etc. The details of such a formula will be worked out at the appropriate time.

D. Others:

1. WP supports and encourages schools in their efforts to provide an all rounded education. Instead of the current school ranking system, MOE should provide key data and highlight the strengths of each school so that parents can make informed choices.

2. The curriculum content of the National Education should be reviewed to incorporate the teaching of our Constitution, the political system of Parliamentary Democracy, the rights and obligations of being a citizen and the meaning and spirit of our national symbols such as the national flag and national pledge.

3. A Professional Teachers Association should be established with statutory powers to promote professionalism of the profession, audit the workload of teachers in school and make recommendations to MOE for improvement of teachers' morale and welfare.

 

6 HEALTH CARE

"We can die but cannot afford to be sick." This common refrain from the people is certainly no laughing matter. Health care is an essential service and no one should be deprived of health care for any reason.

We urge the government to increase our Health Budget further, given the situation below:

a) Relative longevity
b) Aging population
c) Weaker disposable earnings
d) Emergence of more virulent and hardier strains of viruses and bacteria
e) More sedate life-style.

While WP recognizes the need for prudence in health care expenditure, we should be mindful that if we continue to tighten the budget, it would inevitably result in "cutting corners" and a deterioration of basic standards of medical service.

Currently, the government fInances health care by providing subsidies for hospitals based on classes of ward and paying for patients who are unable to afford even the C-class ward through Medifund.

The people fInance their health care cost through Medisave and Medishield. The philosophy has been "personal responsibility". While we need to encourage people to lead a healthy life style, it is the fundamental duty of the government to ensure that our citizens, rich or poor, have access to the best possible health care the nation can afford.

Our Beliefs

1. We need to develop a proper health care fInancing model and an effective system of checks to prevent runaway costs.

2. In checking costs, we should take care not to undermine the quality of our health care services.

3. It would be more cost effective to pool the risks of the population in meeting health care needs.

4. All citizens should be provided with quality basic health care services.

Our Proposals
A. Medishie1d and Public Health Insurance:

1. Medishield is designed to cover catastrophic illnesses with large hospital bills and the limitation on claims per year of $50,000 could be a loophole in coverage. The deductibles may also increase to a point where Medisave may not be sufficient. It will ease the burden of Singaporeans if health care costs are largely funded by the government and through insurance. A small portion should be paid upfront as deductibles by the patient to prevent abuse of the system.

2. In our 1994 Manifesto, WP highlighted the inadequacy of Medisave.

We proposed a comprehensive Public Health Insurance scheme with participation from private health care providers.

We should implement a compulsory Basic Hospitalisation Insurance Scheme with co-payment of the premium from the government. We should also learn from other countries with similar schemes. In particular, we should explore the following:

• Universal coverage for all basic hospital health care should be based on costs of class B2 ward of government re-structured hospitals.

• The premium should be the same regardless of age.

• There should be maximum life-time payout for any illness with no yearly claim limit.

• The premium should be kept affordable to the 90 percentile of the working population based on Medisave contribution. The government should pay for those who have insufficient money in their Medisave accounts.

• Maximum deductibles should not be more than 2 years of the total Medisave contribution based on a monthly income of $2000.

• Singaporeans who wish to have insurance cover for higher classes of wards and for better terms of coverage may do so on top of the basic hospitalisation insurance scheme at their own cost.

• Patients who opt for a better class of ward will pay the difference between the insurance payout and the charges of the class of ward opted for.

• Medifund should be used to pay for those who cannot afford the basic hospitalisation insurance scheme.

3. Subsidies to government hospitals for hospitalisation treatment can be removed after full implementation of the above basic hospitalisation insurance scheme to allow private hospitals to compete based on pricing benchmarks.

4. Local polyclinics for outpatient treatments and medication should be subsidised and the level of subsidies for each patient can be determined by means testing. Medifund can be used to pay for those who cannot afford to pay.

5. Medisave should be allowed, with a cap on its usage, for specialist outpatient or major medical treatments not classified as Basic Hospitalisation Healthcare.

6. We should maintain Medifund as a safety net for health care.

B. Containing Health Care Costs:

1. A National Basic Health Care Council could be set up to decide what should be included in the Health Care package covered by the Basic Hospitalisation Insurance Scheme.

2. We need to study how advancement in Medical Technology can reduce rather than increase health care costs.

3. Information Technology could be used to reduce administrative and manpower costs in health care.

4. Outsourcing of some areas of health care delivery could reduce costs.

5. All hospitals should provide detailed costing of each medical treatment and make such information public.

6. A National Medical Standards Board should be set up to ensure quality of health care services, treatment and delivery.

7. HIV/Aids medication and treatment should be covered under the Basic Health Care package.

8. The government should continue to ensure that basic health care at primary health care level such as polyclinics and step-down institutional care are affordable.

9. Government subsidies for non-hospitalisation medical care should be calibrated to assist the needy. Means testing based on per capita income of immediate dependents residing with the patient could be a useful tool to achieve the objective. In the case of a patient without any dependents, the patient should be assessed individually.

10. A National Central Pharmacy should be set up to monitor and manage the supply and inventory of drugs of the pharmacies and medical community of Singapore. It should negotiate bulk rates with drug manufacturers for the benefit of patients and ensure the availability of ample supply of drugs in a national emergency.

C. Step-Down Care Facilities:

1. Sufficient institutional care facilities such as convalescent homes, community hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and hospices should be provided to cater to the different needs of patients.

2. We should encourage and facilitate step-down care within the community and at the home of the patient by providing supporting facilities and promoting private services of medical care givers and equipment. We should allow the use of Medisave and Medifund for payment for such purposes.

3. Subsidies for each patient should be based on means test and Medifund will fund those who cannot afford to pay. Medisave should also be allowed for such a purpose, subject to a set of guidelines to prevent abuse.

 

7 PUBLIC HOUSING

In the economic growth of the early 90s, the original objective of the government to have Singaporeans to own homes was distracted by the PAP's asset enhancement scheme to one of profit making in HDB flat investment.

Many citizens who believed in the PAP's propaganda of "enhancing" of their assets upgraded to bigger HDB flats or rushed to purchase HDB flats from the open market at the height of the property market. However, in the 1998 financial crisis and the subsequent problem of structural unemployment, they saw the value of their properties plummeting and faced financial difficulty in repaying their housing mortgages.

The PAP government was caught in a dilemma. If they allowed the HDB to repossess the flats as stipulated in the contract, or worse, revalued the flats in accordance with private financial institutions practice, they would have to pay a heavy political price. So they came up with various schemes to "assist" HDB flat buyers who are in arrears of mortgage payments. These include loan payment deferment, partial repayment and downgrading to smaller flats.

Housing loans from HDB are now only available if you are a first time flat buyer and in the case of the second time buyer, only if you are upgrading to a "bigger" flat. The private banking sector now offers HDB housing loans and they now have first mortgage on the flats which has priority over monies withdrawn from CPR Once the flat is seized and placed under forced sale, your savings in CPF could be gone and you would not have a roof over you!

This is a major policy shift to make a clear distinction between HDB as a public housing provider (with a responsibility to citizens who are first time flat owners purchasing flats direcdy from the HDB or the "open market") and eligible HDB flat purchasers who buy and sell from the "open market".

WP noted this refocusing of housing policy and the limiting of the role and responsibility of the government in public housing. More resources could be used to focus on achieving home ownership and provide greater housing benefits to Singaporeans.

Our Beliefs

1. Public housing subsidies for flats should be allocated fairly and equally to all citizens. Single parents should not be penalised.

2. All citizens should be able to afford a roof over their heads. This should be the premise for public housing.

3. All eligible Singaporeans should have a choice of either renting or buying an HDB flat.

Our Proposals
A. Home Ownership:

1. All citizens should be able to apply directly to HDB for flats twice. The lessee has to live in both flats for 5 years each before he is allowed to sell it on the open market.

2. The re-sale levy should be removed but purchasers should use 80% of the proceeds from sale of the first flat to finance the second new HDB flat.

3. A cash grant equivalent to 10% of the average selling price of a 4¬room flat on the open market in sub-urban mature estates should be provided for the first time buyer. For the second time buyer, a subsidy of 5% shall be given on the same basis of calculation.

4. The cash grants could be used to either purchase flats directly from the HDB or from the open market.

5. A second cash grant could help Singaporeans plan for their retirement needs as many downgrade to smaller flats to obtain cash for retirement purpose.

6. CPF should provide housing loans at market rates to the fIrst and second time flat purchasers with CPF having the fIrst charge on the property.

7. As our society has now attained a level of multi-racial integration, the ethnic quotas governing home ownership of HDB flats should be removed to allow all Singaporeans equal freedom of choice of home locations.

B. Housing Administration:

1. The HDB Branch OffIce could be further re-organised and its numbers reduced into service centres specialising in professional advice, tenancy matters, regulatory control and monitoring of HDB estate maintenance.

2. A housing tribunal could be set up to handle disputes between the HDB and flat lessees, and disputes between lessees. Currently, lessees and HDB would have to settle their disputes through the court, which is a tedious process. In cases where the HDB or Town Council fails to settle disputes between lessees, the lessees can bring the matter before the tribunal for adjudication.

 

8 PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Most Singaporeans depend on public transport for their daily transportation needs. As such, it is strategic and necessary that we develop a cost-effective, reliable and convenient public transport system. This will also help to mitigate the high cost of living, dampen the demand for cars and thereby minimize the undesirable effect of having too many private cars clogging up the roads.

An efficient and relatively cheap public transport system will help to attract more middle class tourists with higher purchasing power who usually like to travel "free and easy" rather than join group tours. Shops and sales outlets in heartland areas will also benefit from this.

Our Beliefs

1. Public transport should be a service to the community and not a profit¬oriented business.
2. The transport system must be efficient and run cost-effectively.
3. Transport costs must be kept affordable for everyone.

Our Proposals

1. The Public Transport Council should be dissolved. All public transport including the MRT & public buses servicing major trunk/inter-town routes should be brought under a National Transport Corporation which will oversee and provide universal transport service to all.

This will ensure a smooth integration of the overall national transport network to avoid unnecessary duplication of services and cost of overheads incurred by multiple operators.

2. The National Transport Corporation should not be profit-oriented and should aim to provide public transportation service on the basis of cost and depreciation recovery.

3. The National Transport Corporation should concentrate on providing trunk services.

4. Inter-town feeder bus services should be de-regulated to allow individual private operators to operate as in the case of the mini-bus system in Hong Kong. The high mobility and relatively low overheads of the private operators would give them the flexibility to effectively meet the requirements of the local residents.

5. Service routes, prices and service levels could be determined based on market demand, affordability of commuters in the area, and sustainability of the service operators/providers.

6. The network of train service should be extended with the aim of gradually replacing bus with train service. Different types and systems of trains could be used to ensure cost-efficiency.

7. The National Transport Corporation should be allowed to operate shops and outlets within the property under its control to cross subsidise its operation.

8. Service levels should be benchmarked with other relevant service industries and monitored regularly by the relevant regulatory authority.

9. A unit should be set up under the Ministry of Transport to:

a) receive feedback and complaint of public transport services
b) audit the standard of services
c) periodically review productivity of the Corporation
d) examine the need to adjust the fare

10. Public buses should be exempted from unnecessary or additional taxes as the general public will eventually be made to bear this.

11. The government should build the infrastructure and pay for the initial operational equipment of public transport service as a social investment. The National Transport Corporation is to ensure its proper routine and cyclical maintenance as well as timely replacement, the costs of which should be borne by the Corporation.

 

9 ENVIRONMENT

Singapore's economic development has naturally put toll on our natural resources and created pollutants in our environment in the process. We are rapidly losing our natural heritage as a result of urbanization and rapid development.

While we are mindful of the scarcity of land in Singapore for housing and economic development, we must not forget the importance of balancing between the needs of humans and nature.

There is a need to protect our environment. A rich ecosystem is necessary for a quality lifestyle and it is the responsibility of the government and our people to protect our natural heritage.

In addition to taking care of our natural environment, we should also be mindful to ensure a 'civic and gracious' social environment.

Our Beliefs

1. We should encourage research and implementation of energy saving equipment and products.

2. We should implement policies that would encourage commercial users to rein in their energy and water usage.

3. Corporations should be encouraged to exercise corporate social responsibility to protect the environment.

4. Apart from the marshland habitats, mangrove swamps and coral reefs, marine animals and wild birds must be protected for our future generations. A clean and healthy environment is also essential to ensure the physical well being of our people.

Our Proposals

1. Nature areas such as Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin should be gazetted as a permanent natural reserve. It has great ecological and educational value.

2. We need to strive for more regional cooperation to contain environmental hazards such as forest fires or chemical leaks so as not to affect air quality.

3. For climate regulation and control, we should have a wide variety of solid and sturdy trees. For instance the choice of fan palms is not suitable as sun shields. We also need a more diverse variety of blossoming plants to enrich our environment. We need to evolve from a green and clean city-state to a more attractive city with flowers that bloom all year.

4. We should explore ways to reduce our reliance on traditional food suppliers. Whenever possible, we should allow commercial farms to grow vegetables on undeveloped land that do not have any developmental plans for up to two years.

5. Budget should be provided for research into solar power usage for water reclamation plants. A possible investment in offshore water catchments and processing plant should be studied.

6. As an equatorial country, we should explore alternative ways such as fuel cell and solar energy to mitigate the worldwide shortage of natural gases and fossil fueL This may also create maintenance and engineering jobs and reduce expenditure on raw energy resources. We could perhaps even export our knowledge and products based on fuel cell and solar technology.

7. The use of green vehicles via tax rebates on a bigger scale should be explored.

8. We can provide tax relief and incentives for companies to encourage innovative ways of recycling used / by-products.

9. Civic awareness of "social noise pollution" such as karaoke sessions at home, dog barks and children playing at common areas and its disturbance of the comfort of others in a "high-density living environment" should be cultivated.

 

10 NATIONAL SECURITY

Geographically, we are a small island city-state. Economically, we do not have any natural resources and we depend largely on our geographical position to serve as a gateway to South East Asia and for the export of our industrial products to the international market. Historically, we were part of Malaysia and a founding member of ASEAN. Politically, however, the government has been pro Western powers.

Given the nature of these geopolitical factors, besides being able to defend ourselves, we also need to develop strong ties with our neighbours and the international community. National Defence and Foreign Affairs are the major pillars of national security and are challenging areas that must be handled sensitively.

There is therefore a need to build up our defence capability and maintain operational readiness of the SAE We should also bear in mind that the successful transformation of the SAF must come with the transformation of its officers and rank and file and not only the military hardware and software.

WP supports National Defence and Total Defence.

Our Beliefs

1. WP believes that while advanced military hardware and software will increase our defence capability, the morale and fighting spirit of the SAF is the best assurance of success in our national defence.

2. Every citizen must put in his/her fair share of responsibility towards the defence of Singapore. This will instill a sense of ownership, especially to new citizens.

3. We denounce all forms of terrorism and urge cooperation with other countries to counter terrorism. We should adopt all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of Singapore against terrorist threats.

4. As far as possible, there must be transparency in the expenditure of national defence without compromising defence security.

5. We must maintain a balanced relationship between our strategic partners in regional and international politics.

Our Proposals
A. National Defence:

1. Our defence resources are limited. We need to co-operate with other countries with advanced military technology in our R&D efforts to capture a share of international defence economy. Just as how Singapore has managed to build an external economy to propel our economic progress, we should consider building a defence economy with external partners to propel our resources & R&D efforts to a higher capability level.

2. With the advent of information technology and more sophisticated military hardware, we could explore the framework of an external defence wing that could respond effectively to the defence need of Singapore.

3. We should be mindful of using the publicity of our defence assets as a deterrent strategy vis-a-viz the risks of triggering off an arms race and undermining our efforts in diplomacy to build a robust relationship with our neighbours.

4. Instead of the current yearly budget, we should introduce a 5-year defence budget to enable the armed forces to have long term planning.

5. We support participation in internationally sanctioned actions but we must also be transparent and be able to justify how much taxpayers' money should be used to participate in peacekeeping efforts to fulfil our international obligations.


B. Foreign Affairs:

1. We should never be compelled to or willingly participate in non-internationally sanctioned activities.

2. While maintaining our international outreach we should reposition Singapore as a good regional partner.

3. We should ensure that our foreign policy does not leave us beholden to only one strategic partner.

4. We should actively support and participate in the initiatives of the United Nations' in International Affairs.

 

11 ARTS, MEDIA, INFORMATION AND NEW TECHNOLOGY

To develop a vibrant nation and to allow people to develop their potential, there must be a free and open environment where the arts, media and information can thrive.

Citizens must have timely and easy access to public information. At the same time, we must create a social milieu where creativity can be explored in a wide variety of ways and yet respect the beliefs and sensitivities of Singapore's multi-ethnic, multi-religious, cosmopolitan and globalised population.

Our Beliefs

1. Support for the arts must cater to the needs of the local arts community in order for them to gain international exposure.

2. There should also be support for art activities at grassroots level.

3. The media should not only be socially responsible but also be free from political influence with respect to content.

4. Public information should be freely available for members of the public.

5. New media technology should be legislated only in as much as the vision of making Singapore a technological "hub" requires.

Our Proposals
A. Arts:

1. The licensing of art will be taken out of government control and given to an independent body with representation from the arts community.

2. Financial and infra structural assistance should be provided for community-based arts at the grassroots level.

3. More diverse and well-defined arts programmes in educational institutions that channel students' creative energies should be created. This will give them more options in their career and lifestyle choices.

B. Media:

1. The Newspapers and Printing Presses Act should be amended to abolish clauses which give the government the right to appoint the management and boards of directors of media companies.

2. We should create competition by issuing licences to allow private and commercial media (in particular television and newspaper) with no government ownership to operate in Singapore.

3. Independent and professional organisations should be established to monitor the media. These organisations can include ex-journalists and civil society activists, for the purpose of making journalists and media companies more accountable to Singaporeans when they report on issues of national interest.

4. The Films Act should be amended to liberalise the law on making "political" fIlms, allowing groups and individuals to express their views by making such fIlms.

C. Information:

1. Constitutional provisions entrenching a right to privacy and legislation such as a Privacy Act should be enacted to ensure that ordinary citizens' rights to privacy are protected.

2. We should create a Freedom of Information Act containing provisions to allow citizens to gather information from the State and to ensure that the government puts out suffIcient information.

3. Excess layers of bureaucracy should be removed and the period of waiting for the public to access government information and statistics should be shortened.

4. Temporary statistics and information collected by the government, particularly aggregated social statistics, shall, as far as possible, be de¬classified and made available in the public domain to promote research and informed debate on matters of public interest.

D. New technology:

1. The restriction on use and ownership of satellite dishes should be removed.

2. We need to amend aspects of the Broadcasting Act such as the Internet Code of Practice to remove the requirement for religious and political sites to register, and allow web sites to operate without any restrictive conditions.

3. The Parliamentary Elections Act should be amended to allow local NGOs and civil society groups to freely use the online medium to provide information and monitor the electoral process during election times.

4. We should pursue a policy which guarantees that the internet would not be subject to direct censorship.

 

12 SPORTS AND RECREATION

In a highly urbanised society such as Singapore, sports and recreation are important as daily outlets to manage the stressful lifestyle of many Singaporeans. Sports should be an activity not just for athletes, but also for the average Singaporean to keep fit and develop a more well-rounded state of mind.

Sports development at the grassroots level can be further improved by fostering the appreciation and enjoyment of sports at the community level.

While there is a desire to improve the pool of sporting talent in Singapore and we should not neglect the advantages of importing foreign talent, building up a base of home-grown sporting talents should be a priority.

There should be a balance between spending on sports for the community and investing in building the Sports School and developing training programmes for the sporting elite.
Sports should be used to imbue the spirit of fair play and a healthy sporting attitude in Singaporeans. This sporting culture should be fostered at the individual level and in the local communities.

Our Beliefs

1. Sports and recreational facilities should be accessible to all and public facilities where possible should be free.

2. Sports activities and organisations should be community initiatives.
Hence, leaders of such organisations should be from the sporting fraternity and not government ministries.

3. There should be a balance of foreign and local talent in our sporting landscape. Sports can be an important tool to provide an anchor for our young people who might be distracted by negative influences.

4. Participation in sports should be motivated by the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play.

Our Proposals

1. Key positions in sports bodies should be filled with people from the sporting community.

2. Low-cost sports and recreational facilities should be developed within HDB estates so that youths and residents can easily access them.

3. Vacant space should be provided within HDB housing estates specifically to enable youths to enjoy new innovations in sporting activities.

4. Spending on foreign sporting talent should be reviewed with the objective of grooming local talents.

5. Funds for the development of sporting facilities should be allocated to ensure that such facilities are accessible to all.

 

13 POPULATION

The population policy of the PAP government is erratic. They spend one decade enforcing population control, the next decade stimulating growth and perhaps, the third back to controlling it. Past policies were also based on the PAP's fallacy of genetic elitism and stratification based on economic requirements.

We should take a long-term view in population policy formulation with a holistic approach to bring about a sustainable desirable size of population.

Population and family planning policies and programs must be undertaken in conjunction with other economic and social measures to promote a more comprehensive and dignified development.

Besides providing material incentives to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies, the government is also encouraging foreign talents to take up Singapore citizenship to try and resolve the issue of aging population. However it is also crucial that the government look into the policy of allowing foreign spouses of Singaporeans to reside and to work in Singapore.

Using penalty, disincentive and punishment measures in an attempt to achieve desired the population size is counter-productive and bears the risk of alienating Singaporeans. The size of the family and the decision whether to have a family is a private decision of each individual and family.

Material incentives alone are not enough. An environment of belonging, sense of nationhood and vision/hope of a better future is essential. This might also stem the flow of migration. The mindset of the government should be that our citizens are the 'heart and soul' of our nation and whatever polices that are implemented must first and foremost be for a more humane society that would anchor them and make Singapore their home.

Our Beliefs

1. Material incentives are not enough to encourage population growth. Besides the 'hardware' of support structures for families the 'software' is equally important to take care of their holistic well-being.

2. Singles, by choice or otherwise, should not be "discriminated" by pro family policies.

3. WP affirms the basic right of all families to decide freely and responsibly the number of their children they want and when to have them.

4. The policy of allowing foreign spouses of citizens to reside in Singapore should be relaxed.

Our Proposals

1. Medical assistance such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) for couples who want to have children but have diffIculty in conceiving should be made more affordable.

2. All foreign spouses should be accorded residency status and allowed to work locally. This can be in the form of a new category of Residential Visa.

3. Family education should start with the younger generation and should not only focus on the importance or joys of family life but also on the issues of an aging society, etc.

4. Foreign work-permit holders who have worked locally for at least 5 years should be allowed to marry Singapore citizens without the need to seek approval from the Ministry of Manpower.

5. Work permit holders who have left Singapore for 5 years should be allowed to marry Singaporeans without the need to seek approval from the Ministry of Manpower.

 

14 LABOUR POLICY AND CPF

Singapore prides itself as a country with one of the most productive and skilled labour forces. Our zero work stoppages and industrial actions have contributed to the ability of the government to attract Foreign Direct Investment.

However, the recent economic downturn after the Asian fInancial crisis and the rise of China as an attractive manufacturing base have both posed a challenge to us. In response to the new challenges, the government has turned around and declared that our world class productive labour force is now too expensive. We have priced ourselves out of the market.

Pursuant to the U-turn, a barrage of measures was implemented at the expense of the labour force. Unfortunately, the monopoly of the umbrella union affiliated to the government leaves workers without much bargaining power.

The amendments to the Employment Act allowing employers not to pay workers for overtime with the excuse of protecting jobs is an insight into how important the rights of workers are to the policy makers. Workers bear the biggest brunt of the economic downturn with huge Central Provident Fund (CPF) cuts as the major portion of the government's cost saving package.

The government uses CPF contributions as a convenient tool to cut cost in economic downturns. This has resulted in many Singaporeans facing fInancial difficulty in servicing housing mortgages, meeting future medical needs and providing for retirement.

During the good years, the government often uses CPF savings to gauge the affordability of Singaporeans with regards to the sales price of HDB flats and health care costs. Hence, a high CPF contribution rate gives the government the tool to justify its increases.

The fundamental objective of the CPF is to cater to the retirement needs of the people. The government seems to have forgotten this until recently when the asset values fell substantially due to the economic downturn.

The gravity of our CPF savings being melted away with negative assets mainly in housing and stocks hit home.

The government has now awakened to the consequence of ignoring the retirement needs of the people and its over-confidence in enhancing assets to enrich Singaporeans. WP is of the view that it is time to do a comprehensive study as to whether the single pillar of CPF is able to sustain the financing of retirement needs, health care and housing.

Our Beliefs

1. Singaporeans should be given priority for jobs created. We should encourage local companies to venture outside Singapore and to employ Singaporean workers.

2. While WP understands the need to enlarge our talent pool with foreign talents and for foreign workers to supplement our work force, we must ensure that this policy does not depress the wages of our workers.

3. The CPF contribution rate should not be used as a tool to respond to economic downturns.

4. Unions should be independent and should be empowered to protect the rights of workers. The composition and mission of the tripartite system should be reviewed so as not to disadvantage workers.

Our Proposals
A. Trade Unions:

1. Instead of just negotiating on retrenchment benefits, trade unions should be allowed to discuss with the management the rationale for retrenchments. This would enable unions to be involved and explore with the management if an alternative solution might be viable.

2. All government ministers and executive council members of political parties should not take office in trade unions at any level.

3. Executives should be allowed to join unions. Newly-promoted junior executives who have served as officials in a trade union should also be allowed to continue to hold office for a period of time.

4. The minimum wage in Collective Agreements should be strictly enforced. Union leaders should educate employees on their minimum wage and to make a report if they have been "short-changed".

B. Central Provident Fund (CPF):

1. The long term total CPF contribution rate should be ftxed at 35% for employees age 55 and below: Both the employer and employee should contribute 17.5% each to the fund.

2. For employees above the age of 55, a reduced CPF rate will increase their competitive advantage in the employment market.

3. There should be a more comprehensive investment scheme for CPF savings. The government should look at ways to pool the funds together to enable CPF members to enjoy economies of scale. They can then avoid paying the hefty ftnancial charges incurred should they invest on their own.

4. A statutory board can be set up to act as an asset management company for CPF members.

For example, with the Hong Kong's Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) system, individual members can select the proportion of their retirement savings they want to allocate to different ftnancial packages available to them. This would allow members to formulate unique ftnancial portfolios with different risk factors and expected returns.

5. Alternatively, since the Singapore Government Investment Corporation (SGIC) has achieved consistent investment returns higher than the international benchmark, the SGIC could manage the investment of CPF savings to achieve a higher rate of returns.

C. Employment Act:

1. Given to day's increasingly volatile employment situation, the required number of years of continuous services for entidement to retrenchment beneftts should be reduced from three to two years.

2. In the absence of an agreement on retrenchment beneftts, the mandatory retrenchment beneftt should be increased from one to two weeks of the basic salary.

3. The definition of employee under the Employment Act should be reviewed to allow employees who are in the managerial, executive or confIdential positions to have certain protections under the Act.

This will provide recourse to such employees in cases of unlawful dismissal or to claim arrears of salary through the Commissioner for Labour/ Ministry of Manpower. A salary ceiling should be fIxed for this category of employees to be eligible for protection under the Act.

4. The amendments to the Employment Act allowing employers not to pay workers for overtime should be repealed.

 

The print copy of the Manifesto 2006 is available at S$5 at Workers' Party Open House on Monday evenings from 8.00 pm to 9.30 pm (except public holidays).

 


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