Budget 2015 debate roundup: Part 1

 

Missed the hearings? Confused by the news? Here’s what went got debated at Parliament yesterday.
Against greater flexibility in withdrawing CPF savings

Ms Chia felt that people shouldn’t be spending like they would be spending their own salary. This is because CPF savings are enhanced by co-payment by employers and through top-ups from public funds.

 

Poor productivity

Singapore’s labour productivity has not performed up to expectation, even as the country works to transform its economy. Earlier targets aimed to increase productivity by two to three per cent a year until 2020.

Said Heng Chee How of the NTUC, “To enhance value-add, we must make sure that jobs, work processes and technologies are designed and redesigned in that direction. Clearly, we are not seeing enough outcomes in this area. The picture is not even.”

Heng Chee How

Zainal Sapari, also from the NTUC said, “On a short-term outlook, we need a lot more concerted coordination in ramping up our productivity measures across all the sectors. We need more than just funding support. Industry players will have to come together to iron out the gaps. For a start, there must be a more aggressive tripartite initiative to improve productivity through job re-design.”

Zainal Sapari

Why are we helping employers?

Whilst the productivity measures are good, NMP Randolph Tan urged the Government to reconsider the various wage support programs targeted at low-wage and older workers – arguing that such programmes distort the labour market.

He was referring to three employment credit schemes in force – the Special Employment Credit (SEC), Temporary Employment Credit (TEC) and the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS).

 

Help the freelancers

Speaking on behalf of taxi drivers and other freelancers, Ang Hin Kee told the house that, “Productivity efforts should also include those who work as freelance sports coaches, adult educators and tour guides and other self-employed workers,” he said.

Ang Hin Kee

He argued that while the country is helping companies and individuals to be innovative and be future-ready, policies should also not forget freelancers who make up a large portion of our labour market. The country can help them expand their footprints in overseas markets, take on assignments and projects out of Singapore as well.

 

Workers Party supports PAP proposals

Agreeing with the Budget proposals, WP Chairman Sylvia Lim said that together, the new schemes are important for “social solidarity”, and a shift to the left is the right thing to do.

sylvia_lim

A message for homemakers

Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef has urged stay-home mothers not to cling on to what she calls a “stay-home mentality”. Speaking in Parliament during the Budget debate on Tuesday (Mar 3), Associate Professor Fatimah raised concerns that stay-home mothers and housewives may not utilise their SkillsFuture Credits.

 
Good policies and programs – but are they sustainable?

MP for West Coast GRC, Arthur Fong has raised concerns over whether the programmes announced during the recent Budget can be sustained.

“I am concerned that this could perhaps lead to the mushrooming of various fellowships or courses of widely differing and varying merit, and this may not necessarily translate into giving our workforce the right training for the right circumstances.”

He added: “We are adding onto the shoulders for future governments and Singaporeans to carry. As sure as the 2 per cent tax increase to 22 per cent for high-income earners above S$320,000, we might one day reduce that income threshold and or increase the tax rate at the same time.

NMP Chia Yong Yong expressed the same sentiment with the expression that “if we swing too much to the left, we will have nothing left”. This was followed by chair thumping approvals in Parliament.

 

 

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Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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