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PAP's East Coast team homes in on its work in the last four years

Lead minister Swee Say sees jobs as top concern; also touches on role of foreign workers

Mr Lim with PAP supporters at Bedok Stadium. The former labour chief and his team made no reference to the party's opponents in their rally speeches.


THE East Coast group representation constituency (GRC) is expected to see one of the most closely-fought battles in this general election (GE).

But the four experienced members of the People's Action Party (PAP) team, who are defending their turf, displayed no nerves during their rally at the Bedok Stadium on Thursday night.

And strikingly, they made not a single mention of their opponents, the Workers' Party (WP), or any of the other opposition parties during the lively two-hour rally.

As Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say put it, he would much rather use the time to drive home the message that this GE is about the PAP team in East Coast showing that it cares for the residents and is willing to do all they can to serve them.

Mr Lim, who is anchoring the GRC once again, said the last 50 years had been "very good" for Singapore and its people, and that the PAP wanted the next 50 to be even better.

"This better future is not sitting somewhere out there, waiting to happen by itself. It's in our hands waiting for us to create it," he said.

The rest of the PAP's East Coast slate includes two other office-holders - Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, and Minister of State for Defence and National Development Maliki Osman - along with two-term backbencher Jessica Tan, the managing director of Microsoft Singapore.

In their speeches, Mr Lee, Dr Maliki and Ms Tan said they have listened to the feedback from residents and introduced improvements to the community to improve their lives.

The loudest cheers were reserved for Mr Lim, the final speaker, who touched on a wide range of issues - from health care to the low-income elderly, but he made it clear that it was the issue of jobs that concerned him the most these days.

The former labour chief added: "In the NTUC (National Trades Union Congress), we believe that jobs are the best welfare and the best thing you can give to any Singaporean.

"The labour movement and tripartite partners always work together to make sure the labour market in Singapore is tight, workers have good jobs and good pay and are able to live good lives."

He observed that some people have expressed unhappiness about the influx of foreigners in Singapore over the years, and stressed that the interests of Singaporean workers would always be the government's top priority.

Foreign workers serve as a buffer, especially during a downturn, in that they can minimise its negative impact on Singaporeans, he said.

The government made known its plans to tighten the foreign worker intake well before the last GE in May 2011; the decision to move towards a slower growth rate was first announced in the Budget in February 2010, he noted.

Some parliamentarians had called for a "complete freeze" in foreign manpower, he said, but pointed out that doing so would have put many companies out of business and caused thousands of Singaporeans to lose their jobs.

The slowdown in manpower growth has forced employers to strengthen their Singaporean core of workers, and the government is adamant about maintaining the current 2:1 ratio of local to foreign workers in the workforce.

With just a week to go to Polling Day on Sept 11, Mr Lim called on citizens to cast their votes wisely.

"Value every vote. We hope that you vote for a team that will truly care with you, for you, and for Singapore," he said, using the PAP's election slogan.

At the last GE, the PAP triumphed over the WP, retaining the East Coast constituency with 54.8 per cent of the valid votes. It was the party's lowest winning percentage for a GRC.

The WP's team in East Coast this time comprises Gerald Giam, who was non-constituency MP in the previous Parliament, as well as Oxford-educated consultancy firm chief executive Leon Perera, National University of Singapore sociologist Daniel Goh and former librarian Mohamed Fairoz Shariff.

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