PUBLIC HOUSING AND HEALTHCARE
Speech by Gerald Giam at Workers’ Party GE 2011 Rally on 2 May 2011.
A very good evening, friends and fellow Singaporeans. My name is Gerald Giam and I am a candidate for the Workers’ Party in East Coast GRC.
Today, I am going to present to you some of the Workers’ Party’s proposals for improving the lives of Singaporeans.
The Workers’ Party is a serious political party that is pro-worker and pro-Singapore. We are a rational and responsible party that places the interests of Singaporeans first, above party interests.
Our manifesto demonstrates that we are not an opposition party that opposes for the sake of it. In our manifesto, we have come up with more than 200 proposals to improve the lives of Singaporeans
Yesterday, the PAP candidate for East Coast GRC, Mr Raymond Lim, attacked our manifesto as being “full of motherhood statements”.
I wonder if Mr Lim is actually referring to the PAP’s manifesto.
Our manifesto contains 63 pages—all words and no fancy pictures. Very serious stuff. The PAP’s manifesto contains just 13 pages (excluding translations). It devotes more space to glossy pictures, than concrete proposals. It is their manifesto that is full of motherhood statements. I’ll read some of these statements and you tell me if you believe them:
- Growth will benefit all our citizens
- We honour our senior citizens
- Singapore belongs to each and every one of us
- We will keep evolving and improving our democracy
- We will encourage fresh and diverse ideas
These are not just motherhood statements, but rhetoric that most Singaporeans have stopped believing a long time ago.
But enough free advertising for the PAP’s manifesto.
Tonight, I’m going to share with you some of the Workers’ Party’s proposals covering two major concerns of Singaporeans: The cost of public housing, and the cost of healthcare.
First, public housing.
The rapid increases in the cost of HDB flats in recent years have far exceeded the wage growth of Singaporeans. In the last 5 years, new flat prices have risen more than 3 times faster than median incomes.
This places a heavy strain on many Singaporeans—especially young couples—who are in need of housing. It could lead to some couples deferring childbearing, which could have a knock on effect on our already low birth rates.
The PAP is trying very hard to convince you that HDB flats are “affordable”. They say it is because most families can afford to pay their monthly mortgages. However, this does not take into account the length of the loan.
Most Singaporeans now spend practically their entire working lives paying off their 30-year housing loans. This high spending on property leaves less disposable income for you to spend on your monthly expenses, your investments, or to set aside savings for retirement.
We have called for the development cost of HDB flats to be revealed, including the price HDB pays the government for the land. But the PAP government has refused. Why are they so scared to reveal this basic information? Is it because they have something to hide?
We have proposed another way to price new HDB flats, to ensure that they are always affordable for the majority of Singaporeans. This is done by pegging the prices of new flats to the median incomes of Singaporeans.
This simply means that if your incomes go up, the selling price of new flats should go up. If your wages stay stagnant, then new flat prices should not continue rising, like they have in the past few years.
The PAP has tried to scare you by saying that our proposal will cause existing flat values to depreciate drastically. Let me clarify that this will not be the case. Our proposals are directed at only new HDB flats, not resale flats. Our goal is to keep the price of new flats affordable for young couples and first time buyers, not to devalue the price of your resale flats.
As a matter of fact, it is the PAP government, in its desperation to cool down the overheated housing market, that has in recent months introduced very drastic cooling measures. These could, in fact, cause the asset depreciation.
My next proposal concerns the HDB’s Lease Buyback Scheme. This is a scheme which allows elderly owners of 3-room flats to sell back a portion of their lease to the HDB in exchange for cash.
Unfortunately, the Scheme has seen a very low take-up rate since its inception so not many people are being helped. We propose that the Scheme should be extended to owners of 4-room or larger flats so that more elderly people will benefit from the scheme.
I will now touch briefly on our healthcare proposals.
Many elderly residents have complained to us about the high cost of healthcare in Singapore. We are very concerned about this too.
Medisave has being touted by the PAP as one of the pillars of Singapore’s healthcare financing system. However, Medisave is your own money, not the government’s money! Just because you can use your Medisave to pay for some of your medical bills, doesn’t mean that the Government is helping you.
More importantly, Medisave is not going to be enough to pay for your huge hospital bills.
So the PAP says, don’t worry, you have medical insurance, called MediShield. But when you get sick and need to be hospitalised, you still need to fork out huge amounts of cash or Medisave for your deductible and co-insurance, before the MediShield coverage kicks in.
Our solution for this is to have a universal Basic Hospitalisation Insurance Scheme, that has better coverage than MediShield. Right now for MediShield, you have to pay your premiums on your own, and once you reach a certain age, you are no longer eligible. As a result, many housewives and elderly folks have no health insurance, which is very dangerous.
Our scheme would provide coverage for all basic hospital care in B2 wards, so that patients do not need to be worried about forking out huge sums of money for their medical fees.
The premiums should be paid from your Medisave. The Government should fund the payment of the insurance premiums, especially for those with low or no income.
Here’s another proposal. Right now, when you need to see a specialist at government hospitals, you have to queue up for a long time at polyclinics, just to get a referral letter. We propose that private clinics located near your homes should be able to refer you to government hospitals, and you should still be able to receive subsidised rates.
My final proposal concerns Medisave withdrawals. I have mentioned earlier that Medisave is actually your own money. Currently, all your Medisave withdrawals for outpatient medical treatment come with a whole lot of restrictions on what you can and cannot use it for.
We propose that for patients above 75 years old should be allowed to use Medisave for outpatient medical treatment without restrictions.
Friends and fellow Singaporeans, the time has come for us to vote credible alternative voices into Parliament. Vote us into Parliament and we will fight for your rights as Singaporeans to be protected. Make a change to bring about a more secure future for you and your children.
Vote for the Workers’ Party. Let’s move together towards a First World Parliament!
Thank you very much.