SINGAPORE - Leaders from the four largest political parties spoke on how they would address key issues like jobs and why voters should support them in a video series launched by The Straits Times on Tuesday (July 7).
In the 5 Questions series, each party leader from the People's Action Party, Workers' Party (WP), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) gave their take on a set of five questions posed to them.
They had up to three minutes to answer each of the following questions: What are the top three issues in GE2020, and why; how their party would secure jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans; how they plan to address what they see as the main political and social changes arising from the Covid-19 crisis; how Singapore can best secure its place in the world amid changes taking place globally; and why Singaporeans should vote for their party.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the PAP's secretary-general, said jobs and livelihoods are a main concern. WP secretary-general Pritam Singh and SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said likewise.
PM Lee said the pandemic has generated a "very deep recession", and while Singapore has taken steps to protect jobs and incomes, the situation will get worse before it takes a turn for the better.
"We have to be able to protect the jobs and keep our economy intact so that we can recover again and people can see through this time," he said.
Dr Chee said the economy has taken a "big whack" as a result of the pandemic. It is important to introduce a retrenchment benefit scheme so that there is a safety net for workers, he added.
The influx of foreign workers also suppresses locals' wages, and that is an issue that needs to be addressed, he said.
WP's Mr Singh, meanwhile, noted the Government's plans to create 100,000 jobs and training opportunities this year through the National Jobs Council.
A key question to ask will be whether these opportunities will lead to a transfer of skills to Singaporeans over time, especially for high-end jobs, he said.
PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock said keeping the Covid-19 situation under control is the top priority as this has further implications for jobs and the economy if left unchecked.
"(If) the (Covid-19) numbers are high, I don't think all these attempts to... get people to come here and also along with it the jobs, the investments will be happening ," he said, because there would be a lack of trust and confidence in the system.
On why Singaporeans should vote for his party, PM Lee said Singaporeans can trust the PAP, which has "never let you down" and will offer Singaporeans security for the future.
"For 15 years I've been PM, I've done my best to serve you. In the last term, you gave us a strong mandate. And we have delivered on that," he said.
PM Lee added that Covid-19 and the economic downturn will not be going away anytime soon. "And unless we have good leadership from the PAP, I think we will be in a much weaker position."
Mr Singh said the WP represents a constructive opposition in Parliament.
"We don't see the PAP as the enemy," he said, adding that the WP wants a Singapore with good outcomes for the country and for Singaporeans.
"We will have to work hard for those outcomes, but we feel that a diversity of voices in Parliament is critical for that to take place."
Dr Chee reiterated the SDP's Four Yes, One No campaign slogan, which includes saying yes to a payout to help retirees meet basic needs and yes to the PAP putting the people's interest first, and making sure they do not "capitalise and manipulate the system in their interest".
One example would be the calling for this election now amid the pandemic, as well as the intention to call for one earlier on in the year, he said.
Dr Tan said he and the PSP's candidates will stand strongly by the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency, and ensuring the independence of appointments of leaders of the country, especially in the civil service.
"Those people who come even to join me, they are very, very determined now to see that... the process of government must be correct."