Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that is changing life as we know it, the People’s Action Party (PAP) took to the online space to launch their manifesto ahead of the upcoming general election.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke on June 27, making a pitch to the voters.
He emphasised the scale of the challenge facing Singapore caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, commented on PAP’s new intake of candidates, and bid farewell to retiring MPs, including Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Deputy Speaker Charles Chong.
Our lives, our jobs, our future
PM Lee also commented that this election would be a “tough fight”, but the PAP would be fighting for the vote of every single voter.
PM Lee reiterated that the PAP’s top priority is jobs, and said he is calling the election to seek a fresh mandate and a full term to act decisively on the behalf of Singaporeans.
The PAP’s manifesto was released online after the speech. You can view it here.
Titled “Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future”, the manifesto begins by outlining the impact of Covid-19.
Covid-19 response – Staying safe and healthy together
Public health and safety remains “an urgent task.” PAP intends to ramp up Covid-19 testing and tracing capabilities, and invest in R&D for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, to ensure they are available to all Singaporeans who need them.
It also highlighted the free in-patient Covid-19 treatment at hospitals, and have allocated S$20 billion to the Ministry of Health in the recent budgets.
The PAP also highlighted the situation of migrant workers, promising to complete health clearance of migrant workers and enable them to return safely to work, and also building additional migrant worker housing with improved standards.
Covid-19 response – Economy
The manifesto repeated the schemes already implemented by the PAP to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic, namely the Jobs Support Scheme, Self-Employed Person Income Scheme, the Temporary Relief Scheme, and the Covid-19 Support Grant.
It also went over some of the programmes outlined in the recent budget debates to help shape the post-Covid economy, such as the National Jobs Council and a promise to create 100,000 new job opportunities under the SG United Jobs and Skills Programme.
Help for workers
The manifesto listed the ways the PAP will help workers from a wide range of backgrounds.
For older workers, aged 40 to 60, they will benefit from extra SkillsFuture credits, subsidised reskilling programmes, mid-career pathway programmes for those looking for something new, and incentives for employers to hire them.
Senior workers will benefit from the Senior Employment Credit, grants for re-employment and support for firms and industries to redesign jobs for their capabilities.
Lower wage workers will get help from enhanced Workfare support and extending the Progressive Wage Model to even more industries, and workers with disabilities will be helped through the Enabling Employment Credit.
Finally, young Singaporeans entering the job market can expect structured traineeships with firms, free continuing education and skills training, and regional opportunities through the Global Ready Talent programme once it is safe to travel.
Social and financial support for families
For families, the PAP gave the following examples as support given for household expenses when the economy was shut down:
- Solidarity Payment
- Solidarity Utilities Credit
- Cash Payout to each Singaporean parent
- Cash Payout to Singaporeans aged 50 and above
In addition, the party said continued support will be given to assist with cost of living:
- Care & Support Package – for daily costs
- Enhanced housing grants – for purchase of HDB flats
- Transport vouchers – for public transport
- Education subsidies – enhanced bursaries, scholarships, transport, meal and school fee subsidies. 100% subsidy for ITE fees and reduced fees for SIT and SUSS full time general degrees
- Healthcare subsidies – public healthcare subsidies up to 80% and CHAS
For families with children with Special Education Needs (SEN), the PAP promises to:
- Raise awareness of SEN and promote greater inclusivity
- Make special education more affordable
- Open new Special Education Schools to cater to different special needs
- Increase work and care options for SEN students beyond age 18
Support for students for them not to lose the school year due to Covid-19
For pre-schoolers, the PAP said they will make early childhood centres “Covid-19 safe”.
They will also enhance subsidies to make preschool as affordable as primary school. They aim to increase the government share of supported pre-school places to 80 per cent, and double the number of MOE kindergartens to 60.
For students, the PAP said they are “determined not to lose the school year” to prevent students from “suffering long term harm”.
They also promise to provide greater support and guidance to students from vulnerable backgrounds, who are most affected by the crisis. This includes bridging the digital divide by equipping every secondary student with a computing device and make Home-Based Learning (HBL) an integral part of education.
Higher education will also have more inter-disciplinary learning, while the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum will be developed to prepare the youths. to be upright and compassionate individuals, imbued with mental resilience and sound values.
Support for seniors so they can “retire comfortably”
For seniors, the PAP wants them to “retire comfortably with good health”. The party added that they care for and love their seniors, who have “contributed so much to our nation”.
For them, the PAP has provided:
- The Pioneer and Merdeka Generation Packages
- CareShield Life
- The Seniors Mobility and Enabling Fund
They also promise to provide networks of support and help seniors keep healthy and active, including free entry to public gyms and pools.
Seniors will also have greater financial security in retirement with the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, enhanced Silver Support, and the Silver Housing Bonus and Lease Buyback schemes.
GST rise to cope with healthcare for the elderly
For the country’s healthcare system, the PAP said they will expand the polyclinic network from 20 today to 32 by 2030, including new polyclinics in Bishan and Bidadari.
They will also redevelop the Singapore General Hospital and rejuvenate the National University Hospital, complete the Novena Community Hospital by 2022 and build a new integrated acute and community hospital in the East by 2030.
In addition, the PAP said they will have to spend more on healthcare to look after the elderly as one quarter of Singapore’s population will be aged 65 or older by 2030.
To fund this, the party said the GST “has to go up from seven per cent to nine per cent in the next term of government, but not before 2022.
To help Singaporeans cope with the GST increase, they will implement a S$6 billion Assurance Package which will pay for the GST increase for 5 years for most households, and 10 years for lower income households.
Promised to tackle inequality & to make mental wellness a key focus
Bringing up the example of Covid-19, the party said the virus outbreak has “highlighted new social gaps, but also brought out the best in us”.
To strengthen Singapore’s social compact, the party said they will build a strong, caring community where no one is left behind, and enhance social mobility.
They also promised to tackle inequality to help those who fall down to get up stronger.
In addition, they said they will improve Singapore’s social safety nets to provide sustainable support, make mental wellness a key focus and foster digital inclusion, allowing vulnerable groups to “reach support and resources online”.
They also reiterated that they will build a multi-cultural, multi-religious society, and support the aspirations of our people in arts, culture and sports.
Injected nearly S$100 billion to help economy during Covid-19
For the country’s financial resilience during the Covid-19 outbreak, the party said they have injected almost S$100 billion through four budgets.
The money will be used to “catalyse growth and returns for Singaporeans and Singapore”.
The party said they will continue to exercise financial prudence, and replenish the country’s reserves when they are able to do so.
Promises to bring more nature into the city
Dedicating a full page to the environment, the party promised to produce more clean energy by deploying more solar panels on building rooftops and reservoirs, and by converting food waste to energy at Tuas Nexus.
They will also reduce greenhouse emissions, and plant one million trees and new mangrove areas to preserve the country’s carbon sinks.
In addition, the PAP said they will “bring more nature into the city” by adding 200 hectare to nature parks and 140 hectare of city parks and gardens over the next five years.
They will also enhance green corridors and park connectors so “every household is within a 10 minute walk from a park”.
The party made other promises too, like introducing new concepts of sustainable living with the HDB Green Towns programme, neighbourhood upgrading initiatives, as well as strengthening coastal and inland flood protection against climate change and rising seas.
Comparison to 2015 manifesto
In length, the 2020 manifesto is similar to the 2015 manifesto, which you can see here.
The English portion of the 2015 manifesto is 23 pages, while the corresponding part of the 2020 manifesto has 22 pages.
They both take a similar track of outlining the things the PAP has done in the last term, while promising what it will do next.
In the 2020 manifesto, however, there is a much stronger emphasis on issues that have received considerable attention in recent years globally, such as environmental sustainability and mental wellness, of which the latter was not included in the previous manifesto.
Also, understandably, the 2020 manifesto is dominated by issues related to Covid-19.
But despite the pall cast by the pandemic, the 2020 manifesto still has room to mention “ambitious projects” to develop Singapore that will still continue, such as Changi Terminal 5, the Greater Southern Waterfront, the Jurong Lake District, and doubling the rail networks.
“We will work with you to chart a new direction for Singapore in a post-Covid-19 era.
We will draw on our collective ideas, strengths and abilities to emerge stronger as an economy, emerge stronger as a society, emerge stronger as a people.”
Top image adapted via Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page & PAP’s 2020 manifesto