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Cost of living most pressing issue for Singaporeans, says Chee

Dr Chee blames the high cost of living on the policies of the ruling party. He also questioned Temasek's "ill-fated" investments when hospitals "face repeated shortages of beds".


THE high cost of living is the most pressing concern facing Singaporeans today, said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, attributing this to policies implemented by the People's Action Party (PAP).

Dr Chee was speaking at SDP's first rally of GE2015 on Thursday night, the first time in fifteen years he had addressed Singaporeans in a public forum.

Thanking the crowds at Choa Chu Kang Stadium for a warm reception, Dr Chee touched on issues such as the cost of housing, immigration policies which led to an influx of foreigners and a competitive job market, which he ultimately linked to public policies.

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"The cost of living is the cause of much of our difficulties," he said, later adding that the PAP is out of touch with reality, especially when it comes to the cost of living.

Dr Chee, who was unable to run in the past two general elections (GE) due to his bankruptcy status then, is contesting the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC). The PAP team for Holland-Bukit Timah is anchored by Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources.

Earlier on Thursday, in a Facebook post termed "awkward issues", Dr Chee also hit back at Dr Balakrishnan's criticism of SDP's policy proposals, which Dr Balakrishnan had said would lead Singapore on the road to debt-stricken Greece.

"The question is not how much a government spends but what priorities it gives for its expenditure. On this score, the PAP government has demonstrated some rather disturbing conduct," Dr Chee wrote on Facebook, saying that Singapore spends one of the lowest levels in healthcare among OECD countries. Dr Chee went on to note, without going into greater detail, that the PAP increased the budget by S$4 billion over five years after the SDP called out the PAP on this.

In the Facebook post, Dr Chee also raised Temasek's "highly questionable" investment in Olam International last year as well as its investment in Thailand-based telecoms group Shin Corp back in 2006.

Dr Chee wrote: "In the meantime, our hospitals face repeated shortages of beds and have to put patients along hospital corridors and make-shift tents. So, again, Dr Balakrishnan needs to look at his own party if he wants to talk about cutting essential services. What's more essential: Our people's health or ill-fated investments by Temasek?"

In his speech, SDP's Dr Paul Tambyah responded to Dr Balakrishnan's criticism of SDP's policies saying that SDP wants to "spend smart" on defence and healthcare. Among other things, the SDP has suggested a S$5.75 billion cut in - about 40 per cent of - current defence spend. Dr Tambyah also said the SDP wants to raise taxes for the top one per cent of Singaporeans back to levels seen in 2000.

"(The) roots of the Greek crisis is over-spending. The SDP does not believe in uncontrolled spending," he countered.

A new healthcare financing system is needed to alleviate the burden of heavy co-payment of medical costs for Singaporeans, Dr Tambyah said, adding that spending on primary healthcare now would prevent catastrophic complications later on.

The PAP and SDP are also going head-to-head in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, with the SDP team consisting of Bryan Lim, Damanhuri bin Abas, John Tan and Wong Souk Yee.

Dr Wong said that a lot more opposition voices are needed in Parliament. We have a "lopsided" Parliament where laws are passed without meaningful debate or challenge, she highlighted, because PAP MPs are not able to perform the key role of checking on the actions of the governing party and Ministries.

The SDP has launched policy papers since the last GE on areas such as education, healthcare and housing which contain concrete plans on how the party thinks Singapore should be governed, she added.