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WP supports broad-based, inclusive economic growth: Sylvia Lim

THE Workers' Party (WP) supports economic growth that is broad-based and inclusive, chairperson Sylvia Lim emphasised in the party's latest episode of Hammer Show, which was streamed Thursday night on Facebook.

She pointed out that while Singapore's economy has been successful by providing goods and services over the decades, its advantage today is challenged by other countries' ability to provide value-added goods and services, as globalisation prompts firms to look to lower cost countries.

"Singapore has benefited from globalisation and free trade, but there is more insecurity at the individual level," she said. "There is no iron rice bowl today."

"What should the government do to steer Singapore in this environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? How does Covid-19 change how Singapore does business, domestically and abroad?" She went on to say that WP's candidates have ideas and relevant experience to add to this discussion.

The 50-minute show included a panel discussion among Sengkang GRC candidates Jamus Lim and He Ting Ru, Marine Parade GRC candidate Yee Jenn Jong and Aljunied GRC candidate Gerald Giam. It was moderated by Aljunied GRC candidate Leon Perera. Also weighing in via recorded messages were East Coast GRC candidates Abdul Shariff bin Aboo Kassim and Terence Tan, and Sengkang GRC candidate Louis Chua Kheng Wee.

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Other issues that were raised during the panel talk included the need to boost productivity, helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to compete, the notion of a redundancy insurance scheme as well as ensuring the economy continues to generate good jobs for the long-term.

Mr Yee noted that Singapore's productivity growth has been low in recent years, falling short of the 2-3 per cent target previously set by the government. "With low productivity growth, Singapore has been expanding by throwing in more capital and labour," he said.

He went on to warn that capturing GDP growth "in a quick but lazy way" will lead to unsustainable population growth, depressed wages for bottom income earners and social problems. "We were promised a Swiss standard for living. For many of us, we have gotten the Swiss cost of living, but not their standard of living."

Mr Giam also broached the topic of improving productivity; he pointed out that in past years, the Republic has relied on foreign workers to increase Singapore's GDP growth. He noted that certain industries, such as construction, are less productive than others, and that Singapore's construction industry also lags in productivity when compared to countries such as Japan and the United States.

"Productivity is not just about putting in more work into your workplace but really about automating. Many companies find it difficult to acquire expensive productivity enhancing equipment." To this end, the government could loan the equipment to construction companies so they don't have to purchase the equipment themselves. Mr Giam also suggested making the jobs in the construction industry more attractive to locals, through better jobs and wages.

Ms He, picking up on the topic of SMEs and entrepreneurs, noted that they face high costs and barriers to growth, and so they should leverage on digitalisation and cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain and cloud-based technology to grow. To this end, SMEs will need more support to handle the costs that come with this.

She also brought up green technology as an area where local start-ups could use more support. "This is an area where we can...put more investment into local start-ups who are active in this space to help them grow from a start-up to a more stable enterprise, and then to help them expand regionally before moving to a more international set up."

With the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating job losses, the WP reiterated its proposal of a national redundancy insurance scheme, which can be extended to those who lose their job through redundancy or retrenchment. Under its proposal, average workers would pay S$4 a month into an Employment Security Fund, a sum to be matched by the employer dollar for dollar. The proposed pay out would be 40 per cent of the worker's last-drawn salary for up to six months, at a minimum pay out of S$500 per month and capped at S$1,200 per month.

"The Scheme is a social safety net aimed at complementing current programmes to help our fellow workers tide through difficult times," said Mr Shariff.

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