Can we all just give Sylvia a break?

Don’t beat a man (or woman) when she’s down. And down, is clearly what she is now.

Sylvia had earlier in Parliament, accused the PAP of “testing the waters” before embarking on a GST review. Today, under the pressure of peer scrutiny the Worker’s Party chairwoman acknowledged that her suspicions “may have been wrong”.

An opposition does have a need to float voices that are disagreeable in Parliament, because otherwise…what else would they be opposing?

The intentions of their speeches so far, had been good. They spoke what the uninformed wants the government to hear. This is the field of rhetoric, where passion takes the stage and logic is stripped of its defences. It is dramatic, but it is an important view no less.

The stuff discussed and debated in Parliament of late is not easy to understand. At its very simplest, is a 2% rise in GST (over the next decade) and no one likes to pay any money, be it two cents or two percent.

We know what the retorts will be like, mostly along the lines of “ministers trying to line their own pockets” or “do we REALLY need to increase taxes?”

Sylvia’s speech in Parliament touched on the former. Her words made it felt as if the raising of GST was something convenient, but unpopular to do. Hence, the need to test the water and see how Singaporeans react to it.

If it is the PAP’s work to do what is unpopular, then it is the Worker’s Party job to raise what is popular – and this is precisely what Sylvia had done. It is her duty.

Nevertheless, both sides of the House had stated their positions and Finance Minister Heng Swee Kiat had decided to move on.

“I think I can accept that in the heat of the exchange, you may be saying things which you did not intend”, said the Finance Minister.

But he left choice words for her.

“In fact, the issue of raising taxes has been raised many times before that. It’s just that the timing and the details are not revealed. And I don’t think it is proper for us to talk about the details and timing of it way in advance of a Budget.”

About the author

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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