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SDP defends policy proposals, pans YOG overspending

Prof Tambyah said the SDP was not suggesting health care should be completely free; but co-payment for certain services should be kept to a minimum.


SINGAPORE Democratic Party (SDP) candidates sought to defend their proposals at the party's fourth rally Sunday evening, while taking aim at the overspending in the organisation of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) by the People's Action Party's Vivian Balakrishnan in 2010.

Speaking at Jurong East Stadium, SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, whose four-man team is up against the PAP led by Dr Balakrishnan in the fight for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said the rapid rise in living costs in Singapore were driven mainly by high land prices rather than workers' wages.

The country's biggest landlord was the government, he said, adding that because businesses had to pay more to rent or buy office space, small homegrown firms were being put at a disadvantage, and that underemployment could go up.

He was responding to People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Liang Eng Hwa, who had on Saturday derided the SDP's economic ideas as "crazy", saying that the opposition party's proposal to institute a minimum salary for workers might lead businesses passing on these higher wages to consumers, thereby driving up living costs further.

Dr Chee's fellow SDP candidate in Holland-Bukit Timah, medical school professor Paul Tambyah, said a minimum wage for foreign workers would benefit Singaporeans because they would no longer have to compete against low-wage foreign workers for jobs; exploitation of low-wage workers would cease, he added.

Prof Tambyah also said the party was not suggesting health care should be completely free; there would need to be an element of co-payment for certain services, though these should be kept to a minimum, he said.

This was his response to Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who had pointed out on Saturday that providing free health care would necessarily mean higher taxes on the middle class.

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, had also noted that Singapore's system imposed a smaller burden on middle-income earners while providing fewer benefits to the rich.

Dr Chee, noting that the PAP had said that the policies suggested by his party would bankrupt Singapore, noted that when Dr Balakrishnan - now Minister for the Environment and Water Resources - was overseeing the YOG as Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, he had busted the YOG S$104 million budget by around S$300 million.

Dr Chee said: "You have no moral authority to tell Singaporeans they will squander their savings when you overspend the YOG budget by S$300 million."



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