(Singapore, Feb 23, 2023) If Singapore does not do more, a threat of “two Singapores” emerging may become a reality, Pritam Singh, Singapore’s Leader of the Opposition, said in the first day of the three-day-debate on the Budget 2023.
One of the two is connected to the world as a hub economy, where high salaries and opportunities abound. But the other one, it is a place where the majority of Singaporeans live, he said.
He noted that the “first Singapore” is also a country where both locals, and many foreigners power “diverse” nodes of the economy.
“This Singapore gives meaning to the promise and lure of Singapore and how we remain relevant to world. It is a Singapore that always strives to be at the cutting edge of global developments,” he said.
As for the other one, it is a place where the majority of Singaporeans live, he added.
“It is one where there are perceptions of slowing social mobility, connected to the reality of high housing prices.”
At present the prospect of upgrading to a condominium or a landed property is no longer as realistic for HDB homeowners compared to previous decades. In addition, buying a car is an “out-of-reach” luxury for most people, he noted.
“In the past, you may not have done well in school, but if you were prepared to slog and save, you could become rich and successful. Today, the view is that once you have not succeeded academically, even if you slog for years, success, let alone wealth, may not follow.”
“Singapore is a tiny red dot and both these Singapores would unavoidably rub up against each other. There is no countryside to retreat to, where the pace is slower and prices of things are lower than in the city.”
Although Pritam said that the Worker’s Party supports the 2023 Budget Statement, he spoke of his concerns in areas such as the rise of the monthly CPF ceiling and the job skills integrators.
Pritam noted that while his party supports the rise of the monthly CPF income ceiling to S$8,000, the government needs to “re-center” the CPF system towards its “original purpose”.
“Achieving better retirement adequacy would require a hard look at how much the CPF system dedicates towards home ownership.”
“More affordable public housing will inevitably improve retirement adequacy,” he said, noting that flat prices could rise as buyers may bid more for a flat they want because they know the higher grant can enhance the price they can pay.
As to the Job-Skills Integrators scheme, which was announced by Lawrance Wong in his budget, although the initiate could give more hope for job seekers, we need to know whether or not past such efforts paid off or not, he said.
During the first debate which lasted for seven hours, the majority of the MPs supported moves made by the DPM to expand support measures such as the Assurance Package.
However, they also expressed their hope that the Government could give better support, especially for Singaporeans in the “sandwich” class who are looking after both their children and older parents at a time of high inflation.