SINGAPORE: Workers' Party (WP) Secretary General and MP for Aljunied GRC Low Thia Khiang, making his first speech in the new session Parliament on Friday, said while the lack of resources and information may hamper his party from developing alternative policies, it will not be deterred from doing its best to contribute to the debate on behalf of its electorate.
In his speech in English, Mr Low said his party's MPs will scrutinise policies for any loopholes and gaps that are likely to affect the people adversely and will be the voice of the people in the House so that the government will also consider their concerns and needs in any policy trade-off.
Mr Low also urged the government to view indicators such as the Gross National Happiness in addition to GNP and GDP as part of the new normal which has been described by President Tony Tan Keng Yam in his opening speech to Parliament.
Mr Low said he finds it puzzling that some People's Action Party (PAP) MPs made a fuss when his party's chairman, Sylvia Lim, had said that the government should bear in mind that happiness should be the ultimate aim of its policy goals.
Besides normal economic indicators, he said Singapore should consider other indicators reflecting the happiness and well-being of a society, as articulated in the United Nations resolution initiated by Bhutan and supported by Singapore.
Mr Low hopes that the government's stand on the matter was not a sign that its memory of the people's reactions to its policies during the May General Election was fading.
He added that the general feeling among Singaporeans during the General Election, and even now, is that the government is more concerned with paying its ministers well than about the welfare of the people.
And he asked the government to ponder over why Singaporeans felt that way. He believes the answer lies in the policy "trade-offs".
Mr Low argued that it seemed, more often than not, the policy trade-off was biased against the people, especially those adversely affected.
Mr Low said: "The policy trade-off is nothing more than a political assessment by the government. The assessment is whether people can withstand - or as we say in Malay 'boleh tahan' - the impact of the policy. But when the people 'tak boleh tahan' (cannot withstand), the government will get hit during the election. This is what happened during the recent election in May.
His comments sparked off debate in the House that he was claiming credit for the positive changes after the recent General Election.
Mr Low said: "The government should thank the opposition parties for making tremendous efforts despite the lack of resources to allow Singaporeans to exercise their right to vote and express their views. The opposition parties have also enabled the government to awaken to the problems on the ground that it had thought were manageable.
"Though the political system is not a level-playing field for opposition parties, the political will and maturity of the voters mitigated this unfair system."
"In what way does he think that the field is not level for the opposition," challenged Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade & Industry, and National Development.
"Simply put, the GRC system is something which has not given the opposition a level-playing field," replied Mr Low.
Joining in the debate, Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "Mr Low, in his address earlier, basically claimed credit for everything - all the positive changes that had taken place since the General Election. Let's not be politicians and keep worrying about votes... Let us be political leaders worrying about the future of Singapore. Let us put Singaporeans first, not PAP first, not Worker's Party first."
In his reply, Mr Low said: "On the contrary Sir, I actually commended the PAP's resilience in response to the ground reaction after the election and I said this all goes well for Singapore. I have not claimed any credit that the Worker's Party has made the PAP do that. And who should really claim the credit? Probably the voters."
Mr Low also spoke in Mandarin on Singapore's bilingual system.
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