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PSP candidates say government's 'top-down approach' stifles entrepreneurship

PSP 26 Jun.jpg
(clockwise from top left) Leong Mun Wai, Jeffrey Khoo, Terence Soon, Kala Manickam, Abdul Rahman, Lim Cher Hong

THE Singapore government can do more to encourage entrepreneurship by letting go of “top-down policies” and create an environment for experimentation, said Progress Singapore Party (PSP) assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai on Friday.

“You need to facilitate and not to tell them what to do. You need to create an environment so that the small companies and individuals can experiment (and) start to do things,” said Mr Leong, who was officially introduced as one of the PSP’s candidates for the upcoming elections.

The 60-year-old, who was formerly the managing director of OCBC Securities, will be part of the team fielded in the West Coast Group Representation Constituency, along with PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock.

Mr Leong said: “We spend billions of dollars every year doing R&D (research and development) and another one or two billion cultivating the capabilities of our companies and all that, but all the money is not spent, in our opinion, in the right way, because it’s a top-down approach.”

He cited fellow PSP candidate Terence Soon, who had gone to the US in his early 20s to start an aviation business, as one who dared to undertake such ventures.

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Both were among the five candidates presented at the party’s virtual press conference on Friday.

Mr Soon, currently a pilot with the Singapore Airlines, said his venture in the States was regarded by many in his social circle as unconventional. 

“My life never followed the normal, beaten path. Many people say I'm crazy, do things people would not have done,” he said.

The 29-year-old, who is the second-youngest candidate the party intends to field, called for more financial support for aspiring entrepreneurs, and for funding guidelines to be loosened. 

“The government funding right now is still relatively strict. Because of (such) measures, they don’t really give people enough safety margin. If people don’t feel like it’s safe enough to be an entrepreneur, they’d much rather take the tried-and-tested way of sticking to a nine-to-five job,” he said.

Several candidates introduced on Friday said that going into politics, too, was off the beaten path for them.

For instance, Jeffrey Khoo, 51, said he had always aspired to be a singer and had never considered himself a politician. 

The chief marketing officer of global reinsurance company Ed Broking (Asia) said: “I’m just a normal guy, a normal person… I’m stepping forward hoping to be the voice of the common man in Parliament. The guy in the kopitiam (coffee shop) as the voice in Parliament.”

Financial consultant Lim Cher Hong said it was never his intention to join an opposition party.

But the PSP changed his mind. The 42-year-old said: “We are a proposition party. We don't just complain, we come up with alternatives... We will speak up for all Singaporeans without fear.”

He hopes to call for more support for young families, as well as single parents with growing children.

Adult educator and former military officer Kala Manickam said her years in the private sector exposed her to the underbelly of Singapore’s society, whose voices have been drowned out. “The pain and struggle of people have inspired me, courageously, to step up for the country,” said the 52-year-old.

She hopes to create a level playing field where education opportunities are concerned, and to develop a more “balanced” curriculum with more focus on the arts.

Abdul Rahman, a consulting engineer with Parsons International and also a member of the PSP’s central executive committee, spoke of his desire to narrow the nation’s income gap. 

The 67-year-old wants to pool resources from various ethic self-help groups to support the vulnerable and provide early support, in particular, to needy students.

PSP wrapped up its introduction of candidates on Friday. Asked if Lee Hsien Yang, who was formally inducted into the party this week, might still be fielded in the coming elections, Dr Tan would only say: “Let me remind you, in politics, change can happen. Candidates can be switched all around, so you just have to wait and see.” 

The party, which is fielding the largest number of candidates among opposition parties, also announced its game plan on Friday. The candidates who will be fielded at each constituency include: 

Group Representation Constituencies

West Coast – Tan Cheng Bock, Jeffrey Khoo, Hazel Poa, Leong Mun Wai, Loganathan Nadarajah
Nee Soon – Damien Tay, Taufik Supan, Brad Bowyer, Kala Manickam, S Nalla
Chua Chu Kang – Francis Yuen, Tan Meng Wah, Choo Shaun Ming, Abdul Rahman
Tanjong Pagar – Michael Chua, Harish Pillay, Wendy Low, Terence Soon, Abas Kasmani

Single Member Constituencies

Marymount – Ang Yong Guan
Kebun Baru – Kumaran Pillai
Hong Kah North – Gigene Wong
Pioneer – Lim Cher Hong
Yio Chu Kang – Kayla Low

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