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PSP manifesto calls for reduced foreign labour reliance, stronger safety net for vulnerable groups

A REDUCTION in dependence on foreign labour, more support for small businesses hiring local, and a stronger safety net for vulnerable groups are among the key priorities the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) wants to focus on in its election campaign.

Its manifesto, launched on Monday, bears the slogan "You Deserve Better", and is presented in three sections – economic, social, and political development.

On the economic front, the party wants to reduce the number of foreign Work Permit and S Pass holders companies can hire – currently limited quota depending on the sector they operate in – as well as introduce a quota for Employment Passes. This will drive employers to prioritise jobs for Singaporeans and be spurred to invest in equipment and processes that can enhance productivity, it said.

The "liberal influx" of foreign labour has depressed real wages over time, said PSP vice-chairperson Hazel Poa, who presented the manifesto on behalf of her party at a two-hour virtual press conference. 

The Covid-19 economic crisis gives Singapore an opportunity to reduce its reliance on foreign manpower and restructure the economy, she said.

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The party is also calling on the authorities to give greater support to local small and medium-sized enterprises in restructuring or venturing overseas, and give them an edge in public sector procurements.

For employees, PSP wants to bump up the cash portion of the Workfare Income Supplement to 80 per cent. Currently, individuals who are employed receive 40 per cent of the supplement in cash and 60 per cent in Central Provident Fund contributions. The self-employed get 10 per cent in cash and the remainder in their Medisave accounts.

"To PSP, wage is not just a business cost. It is the livelihood of Singaporeans. We will not be pursuing economic growth at the expense of wages," said Ms Poa.

Francis Yuen, a member of the party's central executive committee, also called on the government to cut down on unnecessary infrastructure spending. 

"We want pleasant, functional institutions. We don't need five-star decorations that cost a lot to maintain… That is why we are saying there can be all these cost savings from the money (we're spending) to make things look good and nice," he said.

"We have a habit of wanting to build to impress the whole world. That is no longer necessary now."

On the social front, PSP wants to reduce inequality for Singaporeans in different income classes. Presenting a chart of how people's monthly income has risen over the past decade, Ms Poa said: "In terms of percentage, it doesn't look so bad. It looks as if people are progressing at the same rate. But because the base is so different when you look at it in absolute dollar terms, there is really a huge disparity in the progress made by different segments of the population."

Thus, the party wants to increase financial assistance for those left unemployed due to the Covid-19 crisis, as well as increase ComCare payouts for low-income individuals and families. 

Among other things, PSP is also proposing a living wage for low-wage Singaporeans in all sectors, when the economy stabilises.

The party also objected to the planned Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike to 9 per cent, which the government had said will happen sometime between 2021 and 2025. Instead, it is calling for a freeze on tax and fees for the next five years, and to exempt certain basic necessities from the GST.

Finally, in terms of political development, PSP is calling for stronger alternative voices in the Parliament and a review of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act. It also wants to expand presidential oversight over more key public appointments, and eliminate any conflict of interest in these appointments.

Asked if the party thinks Singapore's current opposition makes for a formidable force, PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock said he thinks all the opposition parties have "positioned themselves rightly in the wards they want to contest".

"There will be a few places where we have differences, let's just hope we can iron (those) out and that at the end of the day, we will have no three-cornered fights," said Dr Tan.

The 80-year-old served as the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament between 1980 and 2006.

Calling on Singaporeans to give the opposition a chance, he said: "Singaporeans must not have this stereotyped thinking that only the PAP can be the government.

"The diversity (of voices) is important. Without this diversity in the House, there will be group thinking (and) Singaporeans will have to accept what is (proposed) in the House without much debate… You will be surprised to know that so many bills can be passed within one day."

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