Singapore GE2020: Opposition aims to checkmate, not check Govt, says Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing greeting a shopkeeper on a visit to ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre yesterday, with fellow members of the PAP team for Tanjong Pagar GRC (pictured from left) Alvin Tan, Joan Pereira, Indranee Rajah and
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing greeting a shopkeeper on a visit to ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre yesterday, with fellow members of the PAP team for Tanjong Pagar GRC (pictured from left) Alvin Tan, Joan Pereira, Indranee Rajah and Eric Chua. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Voters should decide if they wish to have opposition block effective government

Voters have to decide if they believe the opposition is ready to serve as a check, or if it is trying to "checkmate" the Government to keep it from providing effective, decisive governance to get Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

"I believe Singaporeans are fair-minded. And I think that will determine the outcome," he told reporters yesterday after a morning walkabout.

Another crucial decision facing voters is which MPs can best take care of them, their families and their livelihoods in the midst of the ongoing crisis, Mr Chan added.

Addressing the opposition argument that checks and balances are needed in Parliament, he said: "Has the Government done well? If the Government has done well, should we affirm the Government or should we punish the Government by giving the (PAP) Government even fewer seats?

"If the opposition has not done well, should we reward the opposition with more seats just on the slogan that they will provide more checks on the Government?"

Mr Chan visited ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre with his Tanjong Pagar GRC teammates: Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, Ms Joan Pereira and People's Action Party new faces Eric Chua and Alvin Tan.

Mr Chan was also asked about recent statements made by Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh and Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah. Mr Singh had said on the campaign trail that the Government should make clear its revenue and expenditure projections for the rest of the decade for people to assess whether the goods and services tax (GST) hike is necessary.

Mr Chan said anyone following parliamentary proceedings in the last two years would know the clear fiscal challenges Singapore faces, including an ageing population, a need to renew infrastructure and how global returns face downward pressure because of uncertainty.

The Government could use the reserves to fund spending, borrow from future generations or raise taxes to "pay for it in this generation".

"Now, there is no easy choice, but we must not run away from it and pretend the problem doesn't exist," he said.

The Government had originally planned to hike the GST from 7 per cent to 9 per cent in 2021, but deferred it to some time between 2022 to 2025 because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

 
 
 
 

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has said it cannot be delayed beyond 2025 as the Government needs to raise revenue to fund an expected increase in spending, like healthcare.

Mr Chan also addressed comments by Professor Tambyah, who said at a forum on Friday that he wondered if the Government had "lost its focus on the public's health and started thinking about the election" back in March, leading to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

The minister said that with his hand on his heart he can say "at no point in time, have we ever neglected the lives, livelihoods and lifelines of our people".

He added that Singapore had to go to the polls now as the PAP Government needs a new mandate to deal with the challenges, which could persist for the next few years.

"If by the end of this year, we still do not have a new government, can you imagine if we are hit with a subsequent wave of infection? How will we be able to move decisively?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2020, with the headline 'Opposition aims to checkmate, not check Govt, says Chun Sing'. Print Edition | Subscribe