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THE People's Action Party (PAP) government is particularly concerned about middle-aged, mid-career Singaporeans, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday, at the close of Nomination Day proceedings.
"Having a level playing field for Singaporeans - that's foremost in our minds. We are concerned especially about middle-aged, mid-career Singaporeans; that's been our concern. We've made significant moves to tighten the flow of foreign labour, but that's not the only solution. That itself doesn't solve the problem," said Mr Tharman, who is the PAP's second assistant secretary-general.
"We've got to help our firms upgrade (so that) there are enough good jobs for Singaporeans, and making sure that everyone - early in life, middle in life, late in life - has the opportunity to develop themselves and give of their best," he added, referencing the government's efforts to create higher incomes for all Singaporeans over time.
Mr Tharman was speaking to reporters at Keming Primary School - the nomination centre for Jurong and West Coast GRCs (group representation constituencies) and Bukit Batok and Yuhua SMCs (single member constituencies).
He leads the PAP's team for Jurong GRC, which has Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, backbencher and senior vice-president of SBS Transit Ang Wei Neng, as well as former deputy registrar of the Syariah Court Rahayu Mahzam and oncologist Tan Wu Meng in the line-up.
As expected, the five-seat GRC - which has an estimated 130,428 electors - remains a straight fight between the PAP and the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party. The latter has said that existing social safety nets are "not comprehensive", and has flagged the potential erosion of the Singaporean core.
SingFirst will be led by chemist David Foo. The other four members are social entrepreneur and retired colonel Tan Peng Ann, former police officer Sukdeu Singh, chemical and marine hardware business owner Wong Soon Hong, and Wong Chee Wai, who is self-employed.
Speaking to supporters after filing his nomination papers, SingFirst's Mr Tan said Jurong residents have told his team that they want change - hence the party's desire to contest Jurong GRC to push for a better future for Singaporeans.
Meanwhile, the West Coast GRC will see the Reform Party (RP) pitting itself against incumbent PAP for a second time. The GRC, which has been downsized from five to four seats, has an estimated 99,200 electors.
Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam told reporters that RP has been on the ground and knows the issues. "We're not an aristocracy - artificial or otherwise - who believe we have a mandate from heaven to rule forever. We will be there with an open door and an open ear, and above all, an open heart for our constituents."
The former investment adviser added that the party has people with experience in running town councils.
His team, comprising real estate marketing director Andy Zhu, PropNex property agent Darren Soh and call centre operations officer Noraini Yunus, will be facing off against Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, Wealth Management Institute CEO Foo Mee Har and NTUC director Patrick Tay. As for the SMCs, residents in Bukit Batok will have three candidates to choose from - David Ong of the PAP, Sadasivam Veriyah of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and independent candidate Samir Salim Neji.
Mr Ong was previously at Jurong GRC, having won his seat in the 2011 general election. He is managing director of RedDot Publishing.
Mr Sadasivam is a businessman and ex-teacher, who contested in Sembawang GRC in the last election in 2011. Mr Samir - whose name was a surprise nomination at the last minute - is managing director of Anaplan Asia. In his nomination speech, he referred to himself as "a normal worker bee", and later told reporters that he will focus on making families happier.
SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan had in July signalled the party's intent to contest Bukit Batok SMC. The SDP had challenged the incumbent PAP in the 1988 and 1991 polls. At the latter, the SDP lost by a margin of 858 votes, with 48.2 per cent of ballots.
For Yuhua SMC residents, the battle will be fought between PAP candidate and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu and the SDP's Jaslyn Go.
Ms Go, sales director of her own construction company, said that she looks forward to a "clean and fair contest" with a worthy opponent.
Ms Go had also been touted as a possible candidate for the party in Yuhua in 2011, but was replaced by Teo Soh Lung, a former Internal Security Act detainee.
Ms Fu, who is also the Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Environment and Water Resources, told reporters that she hopes to bring residents along the process of change as the Jurong area undergoes "tremendous transformation", so that they do not feel left out or overwhelmed.