Budget addresses society needs

 

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/specialreport/news/1186099_177/1/.html

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SINGAPORE: Nominated MP Nicholas Fang believes the Budget has sought to address the needs and wants of society. 

Rising in support of the Budget, Mr Fang believes the Budget has measures aimed at restructuring Singapore economy, lessening the dependence on foreign labour, boosting productivity of Singapore firms and assisting companies as they make the necessary transition. 

He said the Budget also has schemes to help the seniors, Singaporeans with disabilities and lower-income households. 

But Mr Fang believes that for the initiatives to be successful, the key lies in communicating the full range of their implications to the people. 

This is essential so that the people are educated and informed about what their wishes mean if they come true. 

For one, Singaporeans must be made aware of the repercussions with the curbing of foreign labour. 

Mr Fang said: “Yes, our MRT trains and buses may become less crowded, our social spaces may become less congested with foreigners, and the pressure on our housing infrastructure may ease. At the same time, our industries will face a shortage of labor given what is already almost full employment here in Singapore. Companies which are unable to find enough workers, or cannot cope with the higher costs, may go under. This is part of harsh economic reality and Singaporeans must be made aware of these implications. 

 
“The onus also lies on people to ensure that they are fully informed, to ask and clarify if they are unsure, to understand what their choices mean, and what impact their voice will have should they choose to exercise it.”  

He added that while Singapore sees a shift in its political environment, we must not allow domestic squabbles to tarnish out international reputation. 

 

– CNA/fa

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for more news on budget, please refer to the link :
CNA
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/budget2012/newsarchives.htm
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Budget 2012 reflects shift in govt’s mindset (?): Low Thia Khiang

 

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/specialreport/news/1186081_177/1/.html

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SINGAPORE: MP for Aljunied GRC Low Thia Khiang called this year’s Budget a special one. 

He put it in contrast to previous Budgets, which he said focused on the economy. 

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Low said reducing dependency on foreign workers and restructuring the economy may even slow down growth. 

Mr Low said: “This is the first Budget after the 2011 election. It points to the direction of future governing and the focus of government policy from focusing on economy to social policy, from the economy’s role to raising the wages of lower-income Singaporeans. This is a major shift in the government’s thinking and mindset. The government is therefore making a formal statement after much reflection after the 2011 election.” 

Mr Low’s comments prompted a rebuttal from MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Low Yen Ling

Ms Low said: “He had described this year’s Budget as a change in the government’s thinking and mindset. In the past, the government prioritised the economy, now it’s prioritising at the foundation of society. I think this view is little narrow. As a little red dot without natural resources, Singapore has to be concerned about the economy at all times. Having worked at EDB for 10 years, I can feel this importance. Only with an effective economic policy can a country create wealth for society and have excess to enable people to live well.” 

Meanwhile, Labour Chief Lim Swee Say urged fellow MPs to work at building a more perfect Singapore in an imperfect world. 

Mr Lim said: “Singapore in the past was not a failure. Singapore in the future will not change much just because of the 2011 election. The party’s interest is not the government’s main goal. The road to building a country is long and arduous with plenty of challenges. We have to change as we go along and we must put the country above all and we will not change that.” 

Mr Lim said three important outcomes should be achieved as Singapore’s economy restructures. 

He said the restructuring must include enterprises of all sizes and the restructuring should include workers of all ages and skill levels. 

The third outcome is to include both local and global manpower when restructuring. 

Mr Lim said the idea is to manage growth of foreign manpower, not turn away from it totally. 

He said: “There certainly will be pain with change but we must always remember that there will be bigger and longer pain without change. Therefore, as we go through this process, let us not try to hope for a painless process. It won’t happen. Let us go through the pain together so that at the end of the day, there’s a gain for us to share together.” 

– CNA/fa

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for more news on budget, please refer to the link :
CNA
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/budget2012/newsarchives.htm
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Budget Debate: The Story of the Mousetrap – by MP Alex Yam

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=381258518552762&set=a.214003685278247.59012.207610039250945&type=1

 
 
Budget Debate: The Story of the Mousetrap

Mr Speaker, sir, Budget 2012 calls for efforts to build an inclusive society and a stronger Singapore.

Having heard many of the speeches by fellow members of the House yesterday, most are in agreement that we have before us a caring Budget, one that serves to fill the gaps that previous Budgets did not address.

Let me begin with a story. One day, a mouse saw the farmer and his wife come home with a mousetrap. Worried, he retreated to the farmyard and shouted: “There is a mousetrap in the house!” 

The chicken clucked and said “Mr Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but I cannot be bothered by it.” 

The pig sympathized, but said “I am so very sorry, Mr Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray.” 

The cow said “Wow, Mr Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s nothing to do with me.” 

So, the mouse returned to the house dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone. 

That very night the mousetrap snapped shut… 

The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught but was bitten by a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever. 

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbours came to keep vigil. To feed them, the farmer roasted the pig. The farmer’s wife did not get well and she died. So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them. 

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. 

What the story tells us is that there is no problem too small or insignificant that it does not affect all of us eventually. We are all at risk even if we do not seem to be directly affected.

Therefore, amidst the tremendous rate of growth that we have experienced as a nation for the past few decades, we must ensure that those who may lag behind for various reasons are not left behind.

The Budget seeks to address this at many levels. Yet, just as there is no Budget that can address all groups, this Budget is not a magic cure all.

Yesterday, the honourable member for Zhenghua, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, spoke passionately for small businesses struggling against the tide of competition and rising costs.

While from an economics point of view unproductive business should be shown the door, let us pause and remember the story of the mousetrap. It is easy for us to lose sight of the reality that many of these mom and pop shops, small factories, family-run, community-supported form the backbone of our real economy.

They work hard to earn a living and support their families. The few foreign workers they have supplement what is often a dwindling workforce for crafts that cannot solely rely on mechanisation to replace.

As such the reduction in the Dependency Ratio Ceiling is a major sledgehammer to their businesses. Many lament that they are, as is the oft-repeated phrase, working just to pay the rent. 

One real life example is Mr Chua Lian Thye. A carpenter and a family man at heart. I met Mr Chua recently during my regular house visits. Supporting a family of 5, including 3 lovely children aged between 6 and 15, he and his 3 brothers have been running a small carpentry & woodwork factory for close to a decade. His eldest brother who heads up the operations has been in the business for almost 20 years.

As the years progressed, what was perhaps a viable way of really using their hands to make a living has proven to be getting from challenging to nearly insurmountable odds.

Not only has their rental increased exponentially in just a short few years, they are now facing intense competition from Malaysia where costs of material and workers are much cheaper.

Very few if ever younger Singaporeans willing to take up an apprenticeship to do woodwork – hard work, dusty environment, tough conditions. Many of their own staff are already in their 60s, getting on in years and looking at less strenuous work already.

The revisions to the DRC for them could not have come at a less welcomed time. It is not for the want of trying that they don’t have enough locals wanting to enter the industry. For a small outfit like theirs with low capital outlays, investments in technology and machinery do not make a whole lot of sense. Many like Mr Chua and his brothers are simply doing what they do best with their hands to make an honest living.

It may seem callous that we must keep up with the times and get onto the productivity bandwagon. From a labour movement perspective, I applaud the pumping in of billions to help increase productivity to benefit especially low wage workers. But I cannot but feel that ordinary Singaporeans like Mr Chua and his siblings, though business owners are workers too.

I therefore urge the Ministry of Manpower to handle with a delicate touch some of our SMEs who are truly feeling the heat from all sides. Perhaps a review of the mousetrap of DRC categories to broaden the categorisations and therefore allow for higher ratios for deserving firms. It will not be easy, but they deserve an equal shot at playing their part in our economy, no matter how mouse-like a player they may be.

There are also many existing programmes to assist SMEs but for varying reasons many have not come on board. Perhaps more information is needed to encourage SMEs to do so.

I mentioned lower wage workers earlier, and I would like to turn my attention to a group that will have much to benefit from the cash-cow of a Budget. These are older Singaporeans, especially older workers.

On area is of course the reinstatement of CPF rates for older workers. This is something that the Labour Movement has pushed for for many years and it is definitely welcomed.

Yet, comprehensive though the Budget may be in attempting to address the concerns of older Singaporeans, the test of the pudding is in its implementation.

Last evening, after the end of Parliament, I went with my wife to a hawker centre in the Chinatown area to have dinner. Finishing the meal, out of our usual habit, we cleared our bowls and carried the tray over to the elderly cleaning lady who was clearing tables.

The elderly lady gestured to the table she was cleaning and asked that I place the tray on it. I did so, smiled, and the elderly lady said in Hokkien and I translate: “Next time, just leave the table we will clean, if any TV crew around take video of you and me, then dai-ji-liao-liao (we will have lots of problems)”

I was kind of taken aback but said goodnight and shrugged to myself as we walked away. But somehow it nagged at me to no end. I then found out that she was worried about being told she was not doing her work and diners had to clear their own tables. For someone, bent of back and with halting steps, it somewhat pained me that this could not possibly be the face of reemployment of older workers.

Again, though the Special Employment Credits will be welcomed by employers and I welcome the prospect of older Singaporeans who want to continue working being able to do so. I also urge the government to ensure that we do not create a scenario of phantom workers or older workers made to go through unsuitable work simply because they are now “subsidised workers”. Let us not have the cash-cow of SECs become a mousetrap for older workers.

For younger workers, many whom I have had the privilege of interacting and speaking with since the Budget announcement have seen it from two extremes. On the one hand, they see it as a caring Budget, the compassionate community moving forward together. In the same breath, young Singaporeans are concerned too about their own prospects especially those working on contracts.

Young couples wanting to start out in life still see some bleakness in the housing market, the rising costs of living standing partially in the way of starting a family. It is hoped that some of these measures may become clearer during the COS and I look forward to hearing from the respective Ministries.

Sir, we have a good opportunity to set the groundwork for the coming years with this Budget. Yet what is being called a “Budget for the Future” cannot but raise questions in my mind that as a younger Singaporean, the future cost of this Budget is not immediately clear.

GST vouchers, SECs, productivity push, new buses, all this is certainly not a once off capital cost. Some call this a social budget; others refer to it in hushed tones as creeping welfarism. But whatever it is, we must be sure that we are spending responsibly and within our means and not just be populists for populism’s sake. Are the reserves that our forefathers worked hard to build being eroded? What does the future hold for young Singaporeans? Is this “Budget for the Future” also getting its budget from the future?

These are major social investments that we are introducing and they will have their costs, I therefore hope that DPM Tharman would be able to help Singaporeans understand how these will be paid for and more importantly clarify if higher taxes are to be expected or even dreaded in the near future. So just like the mousetrap, everything may seem to be going great at the moment, but how will our economy look like 10-20 years from now?

As NTUC Secretary-General Mr Lim Swee Say said earlier, the price of the failure of our efforts is too great to be ignored.

Mr Speaker, sir, in closing, as we progress, let us progress together, as we strengthen our own individual capabilities, let us also strengthen this nation we call home. Just as in the story of the mousetrap, we are all part of each other’s tapestry of life, all on the same journey. We should keep an eye out for each other and make an effort to encourage each other along the way.

With that Sir, I support the Budget.

Budget 2012 Lends a Helping Hand to Women – by MP Grace Fu

 

Grace Fu   Grace Fu 

Speech at Budget Debate, Parliament House on 28 Feb 2012 

  Mr Speaker Sir, I speak in support of this Budget. 

2.    Many of us members here are familiar with house visits.  We visit our constituents, from house to house, checking on their state of affair. Very often, we are greeted by a woman.  Typically, we greet each other and ask “How are you?”. 

For most of them, we get the standard reply “I am fine.”  After conducting house visits for several years, I have learnt not to take the reply for granted.  I would look for non-verbal clues from the resident.  Does she look at ease?  Is she in good physical and mental health?  Is her household reasonably furnished and maintained? 

 

3.     Over the last few years of doing house visits, there are several faces that left a deep imprint in my mind. 

a) The first, a young woman, not much older than a child herself, with a young child in tow.  With a maturity far exceeding her age, she tells you of her desire to recover from her mistake in life choices made when she was younger.  Having dropped out of school prematurely, she can only take on low-skilled jobs.  She is a tenant in the flat, paying a substantial part of her income as rent, as her father was not prepared to accommodate her.  Her mother and siblings help from time to time but she relies largely on her pride to take life one day at a time.  

b) The second face belongs to a woman in her 40s, timid and tentative.  She tried to appear strong in front of her visitors but her sense of insecurity and unease was palpable.  Her husband was retrenched recently and the family financial situation has been affected.  She has not worked for many years.  Her sister has been helping out but determined not to rely on her for much longer, she wants to support her 2 daughters who are studying in the poly and secondary school.  She is looking for a job that is near her home and allows her to get back early in the evening to cook for her children. 

c) The third and final one belongs to a woman in her 50s.  She is single, staying with her mother.  Being the unmarried child, she assumes the caregiver role for her elderly mother who needs regular medical care.  Her mother is aging and increasingly unwilling to get out of the house for fear of falling.  She has to assume most of the household chores, cook for the two of them, and accompany her mother to her medical appointments which are getting more frequent and complex with more specialists across multiple hospitals.  Her face showed her fatigue and her worry.  Her worry is not just one of short term nature.  Her worry is also for herself 20 years later – who will look after her like she has done for her mother?  Very little savings is left for herself as her late father’s medical expenses and her mother’s had almost depleted her Medisave.  Who will pay for her medical and retirement needs when she needs them most?

 

4.     Sir, I welcome the Budget.  This Budget focuses on the need for an inclusive growth that leaves no one behind.  This Budget signifies the Government’s seriousness in following through PM’s vision for a better home and an inclusive society for Singapore.  This year’s Budget will help the women that I have just described.  Allow me to explain.

 

Improving employability of women 

5.     I am delighted that this budget made specific mention about helping companies attract local workers and doing more to tap the latent pool of local manpower which is still available, including the homemakers. 

6.    The Minister recognized that attracting these Singaporeans require a few changes.  Jobs will have to be designed with the worker in mind.  These jobs will also have to pay enough for the workers to join the company and stay with the company.  In addition, companies will need to put in place more flexible working hours, shift system and work arrangements (such as working from home).  

7.    This will be challenging to companies which do not now have the administrative capabilities to manage a more complex HR and payroll function.  The Budget recognizes these challenges.  It has put forward SME Cash Grants and Productivity and Innovation Credit as schemes to help companies restructure.  I hope that the schemes will be accessible to SMEs and there will be help from government agencies to improve the HR capabilities across employers (including those in the people sector). 

8.     Single mothers will benefit from these changes in particular.   Since they have to shoulder both work and family responsibilities on their own, many need a workplace that provides flexible work arrangements while bringing home a regular income.  

9.    For single working mothers with young children, their children will need affordable childcare service.  Childcare support was enhanced in 2011 with the income ceiling raised from $1,800 to $3,500 per month. This Budget will provide further financial support for children from less well-off families. Baby Bonus however remained inaccessible to single mothers.  As I was told by one single mother, “Baby Bonus should be for the education and healthcare of the Baby, and not to reward the parents for getting married”. A child-centric policy will help to level the starting point for her child.

 

More support for the Education of children from lower –income Families 

10.  Even as a more flexible working arrangement makes it more attractive for homemakers to return to work, their concerns will be the need for a conducive care environment for their children after school, and supporting their children’s development needs outside school.  The best way to allay these concerns and help women return to work is to support the after-school care system and to provide more opportunities for affordable enrichment programmes.  This Budget has proposed raising the income criteria for subsidies and financial assistance for pre-school centres, MOE schools and student care centres.  While we encourage families to find employment to improve their family income, families sometimes find their financial assistance reduced as the mother returns to work.  The move to raise qualifying household income criteria will cushion the impact and reduce the disincentive for the homemaker to return to work. 

11.  Our system should also continue to support social mobility.  Some children require additional help with their school work; some would like to excel in areas where they have special talents (language, art, sports etc); and in one case an opportunity to participate in an overseas project.  Young Mursyidah was selected to be part of her school’s Community Outreach Programme in Sabah for her leadership qualities, demonstration of good values and effort towards environment conservation.  The total cost of the trip was $750. MOE’s Internationalisation Fund paid for $500, $200 could be withdrawn from Edusave account and the student would pay $50 in cash.  In Mursyidah’s case, the school tapped on the Opportunity Fund to pay for the trip thus fulfilling the dream of this young girl. 

12.  We should give all children a fair chance to reach their goals.  The top-up to the Edusave Endowment Fund, ComCare Endowment Fund and the disbursement to the self-help groups and the CCC ComCare Fund will provide the financial resources needed to enable the system (the children, the parents and the community) as a whole to support our children.  Self-help group CDAC, for example, has been providing enrichment programmes in science, art and music for the children from lower income families.  Single mothers and their children in particular, will benefit from such community help.  

 

More support for the caring of elderly 

13.  As for women who are caring for the elderly, the budget to enhance the healthcare sector and additional subsidy for the health care of the elderly is welcomed by many.  The significant increase in subsidy for nursing home care, home-based care and monthly grant for foreign domestic helper provide assurance and relief to many Singaporeans who have elderly parents. It provides much emotional and physical support to the care givers, many of whom are women. 

 

Support The Elderly Women’s Needs 

14.  For the older women, financial security is their biggest concern.  The issue is that women tend to live longer, but have less savings for their retirement. 

15.  In general, Singapore women have a longer life expectancy than men.  At age 65 years, the retirement age, women can expect to live another 22 years (to 87 years old), four more years than the men. In Singapore today, among the more elderly aged 85 years above, seven out of 10 are women. 

16.              More elderly women live alone, as more remained unmarried, were divorced or out-lived their spouses.  The number of widows in Singapore is more than 5 times of widowers.  Without the support of their spouses, the elderly women have to cope with their physical and financial needs on their own, especially those who do not have children to depend on.   

17.    Women have much lower average CPF balance.  This is not surprising as women in the past tend to take up lower-paid jobs, had to leave work to raise their families or may be full time homemakers since their marriage.   

18.  I laud the budget for setting out a comprehensive package to support the elderly.  It will benefit especially elderly women who do not have a safety net to fall back on.  The increased healthcare subsidies and top-up to their Medisave accounts may not completely remove their financial burden.  But with the enhancement in our social policies, such as a top-up to Medifund, it provides them with some assurance that they will not be left in a lurch when illness strikes.  The GST Voucher comprising cash, Medisave and U-save will give the older Singaporean peace of mind, knowing that the help will be permanently there.

 

Conclusion 

19.  Let us get back to the faces that I mentioned earlier.  The young single mother would be pleased to know that she will get more financial support for the childcare arrangement of her child, more training opportunities and therefore better career prospect for herself. She will still have to cope with high rental as housing options remain limited for her.  Baby Bonus continued to be inaccessible.  The mother of two teenage girls will have a better chance of getting a job that meets her needs, more financial help in GST Voucher, and better financial and social support for her family, including better education and more opportunities for her children.  The single older woman will be pleased with the additional options of home-based care and domestic foreign helper for her elderly mother so that she can continue working and build up her retirement savings.  She will also get additional financial help in the form of Medisave Top-up and GST voucher for her mother and herself with the peace of mind that the help will be there for many years. 

20.  What is noteworthy is that while this Budget has introduced many changes – permanent GST vouchers, per capita income criteria, subsidy for home-based care – some basic principles remained unchanged.  This Budget put in place a more robust framework to redistribute income so that the lower income segments of the society benefit more.  But it goes beyond redistribution.  It is about helping people to help themselves, achieving self-reliance in the long run. Childcare for the single mum so that she can work and training opportunities for better paid jobs over time; improved employability and more flexi-work arrangements, for the middle-aged mother and opportunities for her teenage children to better their lives through education; support to care for her elderly mother so that the older single woman can remain gainfully employed with peace of mind.  Give them a leg up, so that they can get back on their feet and be self-reliant again. 

21.  Family support remained the other important tenant of our social policies.  It would be better for the single mother to stay with her family and for the elderly women to continue to be cared for at home with her other children chipping in to support her.  These basic tenants are important distinction between Singapore and other developed countries – that we, as families, assume the primary responsibility of caring for ourselves; that we retain a strong work ethics and desire to be self-reliant.  Women in Singapore believe in these principles – they take pride in themselves, want to live independent lives, and take good care for their family.  They will be reassured knowing that the Government and the society will provide support if and when they are unable to cope with life demands on their own.  I believe this Budget will bring smiles to their faces.  With this, I support the Budget.

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Singapore’s “Populist” Budget ?

 

http://the-diplomat.com/asean-beat/2012/02/29/singapores-populist-budget/
By Mong Palatino

 

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party, which has been in power since the 1950s, has been accused of populism by its critics following the presentation of the 2012 state budget. According to the opposition, the budget contains several expenditure items that reflect the desperation of the PAP to regain the trust of voters and party supporters who have expressed dissatisfaction with its traditional brand of leadership.

But PAP could defend the populist measures as concrete proof that the government is willing to try new ideas when necessary to ease the hardships suffered by ordinary Singaporeans. Indeed, PAP could argue that it’s not at all wrong for any government to draft a budget program that seeks to build a fair and inclusive society. It can cite, for example, the cash incentives to seniors, the support programs for persons with disabilities, and the subsidies for low-income families as targeted measures to extend emergency assistance to vulnerable groups in society. For a party accused of being indifferent to the situation of its citizens, these “shock and awe” populist measures represent a welcome and refreshing change in the mindset of the party’s ageing leadership.

Meanwhile, the commitment to lessening the country’s dependence on foreign labor, and the allocation of $1.1 billion to boost the capacity of public buses, directly address two of the principal issues in last year’s elections: the influx of foreign labor, which locals blame for their dwindling job prospects, and the worsening traffic congestion in the city state. 

The government has recognized that simply importing labor isn’t sustainable. According to the budget brief, hiring more foreign workers “will test the limits of our space and infrastructure. Plus, if foreign labor is too easily available, companies will have less incentive to upgrade, design better jobs and raise productivity.” Aside from giving tax breaks to firms that hire locals, especially seniors and disabled workers, the government has reduced the Dependency Ratio Ceilings for various key sectors of the economy. This means companies must employ more locals in the next two years. 

But perhaps the most controversial item in the budget is the proposed infusion of $1.1 billion to buy 550 public transport buses to reduce crowding and waiting times. Many people are now questioning the rationale of using public funds to help a privately listed transport company. They are also worried about the higher operating cost that could lead to higher bus fares. As an alternative, they want the money to be issued as a loan to the company. Or maybe it’s time to reconsider the opposition proposal to re-nationalize the transport industry. 

The budget has also been criticized for its lack of stimulus programs to help revive weak spots in the domestic economy, and there are also suggestions that more should be given to fund sectors that are currently mired with low productivity. 

The big challenge for the Singapore government is how to convince the public about its sincerity in instituting major policy reforms in government and the economy. What politicians have to do is to simply back up their rhetoric with swift action. Otherwise, the 2012 budget will be caricatured as a grand document with empty populist promises. If this happens, it could spell the end for the 50-year reign of the PAP. 

In the meantime, the public is right to anticipate the initial benefits of the healthy doses of populism that the PAP has injected into the budget. 

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We should let PM do his job

 

https://www.facebook.com/#!/HriKumarNair/posts/329261177120486

  Hri Kumar

IN HIS letter “Representation is a cardinal principle in our democracy, too” (Feb 28), Assistant Professor Eugene Tan ascribed to me arguments which I did not make, while ignoring the arguments which I did.

I did not say that Members of Parliament, elections or voting rights are not important, or suggest that the calling of a by-election is “an act of benevolence by the Government”.

I dealt only with Asst Prof Tan’s original, misconceived argument that a by-election is “automatic” or the “default” position in law.

Contrary to what he wrote, Article 49 of the Constitution does not say that an election shall be “called” to fill a vacant seat. It simply prescribes that the vacant seat “shall be filled by election”.

Whether it is a general election or a by-election, and more importantly, when that election is to be called, is entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister. There is no obligation to call an immediate by-election.

Asst Prof Tan then protested that the PM cannot exercise his discretion capriciously. No one ever suggested he can.

But this is a far cry from Asst Prof Tan’s original assertion that a by-election is “automatic” and that the PM must explain if he fails to call one immediately. That is clearly a proposition not founded in law.

Asst Prof Tan acknowledges that our Parliamentary model “evolved” from the United Kingdom model. He therefore accepts that the two models are not the same.

But he glosses over the fundamental differences between the two, which explain why by-elections are not “automatic” in Singapore.

These are not new arguments. In August 2008, two Nominated MPs proposed a motion in Parliament that, amongst other things, mandated by-elections be called within three months from the date an MP vacates his seat.

The debate discussed in detail the differences between the UK model and ours, and the historical reasons for them.

In the end, the Workers’ Party voted with the People’s Action Party MPs to defeat the motion (after trying unsuccessfully to amend the motion to call for the Group Representation Constituency system to be abolished).

Asst Prof Tan also repeated his earlier argument that a Hougang by-election will not be a massive distraction nationally because it only involves 25,000 voters.

But Hougang is a hot seat. The former WP MP left in dramatic circumstances: Exposed by the Internet, first supported by his own colleagues and then expelled by them, and now AWOL without as much as a word to his constituents.

The by-election will surely generate much heat and debate across the island.

By-elections may provide interesting material for political commentators like Asst Prof Tan, but there is a time for electioneering, and a time for work, and one should never mistake one for the other.

The law prescribes that it is for the PM to determine when elections should be called, and we should let him do his job.

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*addition ref*
PAP MP in sharp exchange with new NMP over Hougang by-election
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1185944/1/.html
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