GE Daily Roundup: Manifesto Mayhem #2 – WP

 

Worker’s Party

Campaign Slogan: Empower Your Future

Slogan score: 3/5

The good thing about this campaign slogan is that it’s short, but that’s about it. If they had started off with a simpler verb, it might still have worked. Their other mistake was to use a relatively vague abstract noun, which slows people down and makes it more difficult for the reader to connect with the message.

 

Manifesto Highlights

 

Economic Security 

  • instituting a national minimum wage and pegging it to the Average Household Expenditure on Basic Needs
  • introducing an Employment Security Fund (ESF) to provide for unemployment insurance additional 0.1% of salary to be paid into ESF, shared equally by employer and employee. Employees get 40% of last-drawn salary for 6 months after involuntary employment
  • enhance retirement adequacy by allowing CPF members to start receiving monthly CPF payouts earlier

Whoa there, hold your horses, guys. The minimum wage (MW) is a double-edged sword, to put it mildly. Do they mean a blanket, one-size-fits-all minimum wage across the board in all industries? If this is the general idea, then it seems like a very blunt instrument when the Progressive Wage Model, which is essentially a hybridized MW model, is already in place and being expanded to more industries.

Much more details on the ESF are needed, as this sort of scheme has the potential to be abused on a large scale (cough, PIC Scheme, cough).

Earlier CPF payouts that can be opted into could work, although it would probably be necessary to implement some means testing and financial literacy education (especially financial planning) to ensure that those opting for earlier payout do have the means and the planning skills to live comfortably.

 

Education

  • reduce class sizes
  • offer a 10-Year Through Train School Programme from Primary 1 to Secondary 4
  • introduce a Career and Life Skills Programme to raise awareness of less mainstream professions

A hearty yes to reducing class size: this is long overdue. How will we meet the demand for teachers, though? Will we have to review educator’s salaries?

The 10-year Through Train suggestion is very vague, and it would have been nice to know more about the holistic learning objectives will replace the heavily exam-oriented system.

As for non-mainstream job demand, I don’t think the problem is students not being aware of the different jobs they can have. We are unfortunately at this point in time a materialistic, status-conscious society, and the reason why young Singaporeans don’t go into less mainstream jobs is more likely parental wishes or fear of financial instability, or both. It’s a commendable idea but I am not sure it will make any difference where the cause is entrenched socio-cultural values.

 

Housing

  • make public housing more affordable and accessible to lower and middle income Singaporeans by pegging HDB BTO flat prices to median monthly household income of applicants, enabling them to pay off their mortgage within 20 years
  • removing the ethnic quota

Won’t this just penalize the swathe of middle-income BTO flat applicants? Considering that there is a continuing trend for later marriages, this means that couples are getting married when more established in their careers compared to 10 years ago. This means that they will presumably have higher household incomes when they buy their BTO flat. Is there a possibility that this will push the prices of BTO flats up?

As for removing the ethnic quota, I think this is a terrible idea. We slough off the old skin of racial prejudices and tensions by interacting with those of different ethnicities; by integrating. I think the fact that we still talk about race relations and use the word “tolerance” as if it’s something to aspire to — instead of something to move beyond — is a glaring cue that removing the ethnic quota is a terrible idea that we are not quite ready for.

 

Call For Transparency In The Investment Of CPF Monies

  • CPF monies are currently used by GIC for investment, while the government guarantees returns back to the CPF.
  • We propose CPF members be given full transparency on the nature and performance of their CPF monies that have been so invested.
  • We further propose that the difference between the investment returns of GIC and the net interest payable on CPF member balances, on a 10-year moving average basis, be reported to CPF members.
  • The government could return one third of this difference to CPF members’ Special Accounts as special dividends to enhance retirement adequacy when the difference crosses a predetermined threshold in years of high return.

EH, SIMI LAI AH, WP?

Let’s be very clear about this: the monies that GIC invests are not solely intended for generating CPF returns. They are for growing the funds that the country has, and up to 50% of the returns are set aside for the NIRC (Net Investment Returns Contributions), which flows back to the Budget. Government revenue, including the NIRC, gets spent on things like infrastructure and healthcare, and transfer expenditure, like the Pioneer Generation Package.

This is also a sovereign wealth fund (SWF), which means that disclosing everything i.e. “full transparency” makes the SWF and Singapore, a sitting duck for speculative attacks. The suggestion to pay 1/3 of the difference on the GIC’s investment returns and CPF interest rates is mind-bogglingly foolhardy.

Why? If the GIC were indeed simply and solely the investment arm of the CPF, this suggestion would not be entirely insane. However, the GIC is not the CPF’s investment arm, it’s Singapore’s SWF. I find it very improbable that the folks at WP would not know about the economic security concerns involved in full disclosure of a sovereign wealth fund’s investments, or the fact that the GIC invests to create revenue for the country, not just for CPF returns.

 

Noteworthy suggestions:

  • Annual State of Protection report to track status and progress of vulnerable groups and provide KPIs for current assistance schemes/ targets for future schemes
  • Preserving heritage identity nodes
  • Live Parliamentary broadcasts

 

Overview: Workers’ Party Manifesto 2015

It’s not a bad manifesto, and there are quite a few good proposals in there, though some are not new. However, the proposal above involving “full transparency” and GIC’s investment return rate is deeply disturbing. First, this is a seriously kuku suggestion to make. This is what I would expect from the likes of Roy Ngerng, not the Workers’ Party. Come on, the WP policy team has to know that the GIC is a sovereign wealth fund, and what that entails. Second, as many Singaporeans have only the haziest idea of why the GIC doesn’t fully disclose the nature and performance of their investments, this was a baffling suggestion to make, as it feeds the myth that GIC is taking people’s CPF monies willy-nilly and keeping them in the dark for nefarious purposes. Bad form, WP.

Full manifesto here. Next up, a look at a campaign-specific manifesto for Mountbatten SMC.

About the author

Samantha De Silva

Samantha De Silva develops and conducts courses in communication skills and also run writing workshops and mentorships. When she’s not doing this, she creates content, copy-edit and proofread for corporate, academic and creative projects. She also works on fun things like script analysis, writing for film and fiction projects and has been a contributing writer and voice talent on the satirical podcast, the mrbrown show, since 2008.

Samantha also blogs at: http://samanthadesilva.com

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