Supper Club interview with the Straits Times

I did a two-hour long interview with the Straits Times for its “Supper Club” series, which was published on 18 January 2014. I shared my thoughts on a range of issues, including healthcare financing, public transport, media regulation, education and the Workers’ Party’s approach to political engagement. I also shared about my work as a Non-constituency MP and about my family.

I did a two-hour long interview with the Straits Times for its “Supper Club” series, which was published on 18 January 2014. I shared my thoughts on a range of issues, including healthcare financing, public transport, media regulation, education and the Workers’ Party’s approach to political engagement. I also shared about my work as a Non-constituency MP and about my family.

Click the two links below to read the interview and watch the video.

Part 1:

Gerald Giam: ‘Rethink health-care financing philosophy’
Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam is the Workers’ Party’s point man on health care issues. In Part 1 of this Supper Club interview, he speaks about what he thinks should be changed in health-care financing and public transport.

Gerald Giam: ‘Rethink health-care financing philosophy’

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam is the Workers’ Party’s point man on health care issues. In Part 1 of this Supper Club interview, he speaks about what he thinks should be changed in health-care financing and public transport.

Part 2:

Gerald Giam: ‘We’re a moderate party, not fence-sitters’

In Part 2 of this Supper Club interview, Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam of the Workers’ Party talks about whether he sees a shift in the Government’s policy approach, the difference between being moderate and sitting on the fence, and his personal life.

Meet me at WP Open House

Dear readers,

I will be on Workers’ Party Open House duty this Monday. You are welcome to drop by if you’re interested to find out more about the Workers’ Party or simply for a chat. The details of the Open House are:

Date: Monday 11 October 2010

Time: 8-10pm

Venue: 216-G Syed Alwi Road #02-03, Singapore 207799

I look forward to seeing you there.

[Note: WP Open House is on every Monday, except public holidays. There will always be a CEC member present at the Open House.]

216-G Syed Alwi Road #02-03
Singapore207799

Voting with your head or heart? You can do both

When making a comparison between the PAP and WP teams, one should consider, how much the WP has done with its limited resources, and how much more it can do when it has the resources of five elected MPs. If I were a resident of Aljunied, choosing to support WP there would be a very rational and logical decision indeed, as well as one that will go down well with my heart and conscience!

The Straits Times did a feature length Insight article on 30 July on Aljunied Group Representational Constituency (GRC), which witnessed the fiercest contest of the 2006 General Elections (GE), between a Workers’ Party (WP) team helmed by its chairman, Sylvia Lim, and the PAP team led by George Yeo.
The article presented some interesting anecdotes from residents and insights from the politicians from both sides.
One Aljunied resident remarked that WP secretary-general MP Low Thia Khiang was “very good” because of the way he attended to his residents in neighbouring Hougang. Another long-time opposition supporter said he was 矛盾 (in a dilemma) about whom to vote for next time, because of the upgrading works that have been done since the last GE. Then he went on to say that if Sylvia Lim contests again, “I will still vote for the WP because it is important to have another voice in the Government. But not if others come.”
The upgrading works since the last GE included “spanking new gymnasiums at their doorsteps” and “colourful linkways that shelter them from the rain”. One of the PAP MPs boasted that there had been 51 linkways, 43 fitness corners, 18 drop-off porches and five gymnasiums built over the last four years. On top of that, there is an “iconic project” for each of the five divisions, such as an adventure park in Paya Lebar and a communal hall in Aljunied-Hougang.
Interestingly, ST’s street poll showed that only 40 per cent say they are pleased with the facilities, 30 per cent are happy with upgrading and 60 per cent, the transport infrastructure.
One resident, a kindergarten teacher (in which kindy, I wonder?), said she will be voting PAP because she believes “they have the clout and resources to continue with all the upgrading projects that have been ongoing”.
On the other hand, some residents felt there had been “unnecessary upgrading”, a “waste of resources” or poorly planned upgrading, like low quality lifts or inaccessible lift landing designs.
The article then painted the choice facing residents of Aljunied as being that of “head versus heart”. Their argument was that the PAP team should win hands down at the next GE “based on its performance on the ground” (i.e., upgrading works). However, voters may also make their choice with their “heart”, if they want more opposition MPs in Parliament to be a better check on the Government or be an alternative voice.
Having their cake and eating it
I am of the view that “head versus heart” is a false choice—there is no need for voters to choose one or the other. With the WP, they can have both. Here’s why:
Firstly, in terms of local concerns, the only thing that the PAP team has done, which a WP team will probably choose not to match, is their massive upgrading works. But do residents really need “colourful” linkways, spanking new gymnasiums and “iconic” adventure parks and communal halls? Some of those interviewed already said much of the upgrading appeared wasteful.
In any case, these works have already been done. Will the next team taking over the GRC—whether PAP or WP—need to do even more upgrading over the next five years? Probably not much. Furthermore, the PAP Government has pledged to complete lift upgrading works in all wards by 2014—just three years away. So neighbourhood upgrading should be a non-issue for the rational voter.
Secondly, the accessibility of MPs, traditionally measured in terms of the frequency of walkabouts or holding MPS. By these two measures, the WP has proven it can and will continue to do these—perhaps even to a greater extent than the PAP MPs.
Sylvia Lim said that her team started walkabouts a month after the last GE in 2006. In any given week, the WP has a few teams visiting the GRC. So far, the WP has visited about 500 blocks, which is no mean feat for a party without the luxury of “staff augmentation” by People’s Association grassroots leaders and government agency representatives tagging along on during their walkabouts.
Ms Lim also explained that her walkabouts often took longer, as WP team members “tend to chat more with the residents”, indicating deeper engagement during the house visits. In addition, I have no doubt that many of the WP candidates, if they win, will devote more time to their Parliamentary and constituency work than the current PAP MPs, not one of whom is a full-time MP.
Thirdly, an effective alternative party like the WP, with a significant presence of five capable MPs in Parliament, will be able to speak up loudly and clearly for ordinary Singaporeans in a way that ruling party MPs can never do.
PAP MPs claim to speak out for their residents, but they are constrained as to how far they can go without being smacked down by their party elders. These MPs know their re-election hinges on the endorsement of their party elders. Why? Because if they are not fielded by their party in the next GE, they have absolutely no chance of being elected!
In any case, as a member of a political party, they are expected to support their own party and not oppose it, so they will be hamstrung from the start. Things get even worse if they are front benchers (i.e., Ministers), of which there are three in Aljunied. They are not even supposed to challenge the Government, because they are part of the Government. Yes, they can voice out behind closed doors, but we all know that what’s mentioned behind closed doors can also be easily dismissed behind closed doors.
On the other hand, opposition MPs know that their political survival depends almost entirely on the endorsement of residents at the next election, not the PAP or even their own party leaders. So you can be sure that any opposition MPs worth their salt will go all out to serve the residents well, and speak out strongly for them in Parliament.
There is evidence to support this. Just look at how many speeches Sylvia Lim—the lone non-constituency MP—has made in Parliament criticising government policies and proposing alternatives. Speech-for-speech, point-by-point, have any of the Aljunied MPs matched her in terms of quantity or relevance over the past four years? The three Ministers in the team simply do their job of reading out Government Bills and defending Government policies. They don’t challenge the Government in Parliament. As for the two backbenchers, I cannot recall any memorable points or issues raised by them.
In summary, I feel that when making a comparison between the PAP and WP teams, one should consider, how much the WP has done with its limited resources, and how much more it can do when it has the resources of five elected MPs (or more, if other wards fall to the WP). If I were a resident of Aljunied, choosing to support WP there would be a very rational and logical decision indeed, as well as one that will go down well with my heart and conscience!

The Straits Times did a feature length Insight article on 30 July on Aljunied Group Representational Constituency (GRC), which witnessed the fiercest contest of the 2006 General Elections (GE), between a Workers’ Party (WP) team helmed by its chairman, Sylvia Lim, and the PAP team led by George Yeo.

The article presented some interesting anecdotes from residents and insights from the politicians from both sides.

Continue reading “Voting with your head or heart? You can do both”

My interview with the Straits Times

This is an excerpt of an interview I had with the Straits Times, published on 9 July 2010, shortly after I was elected to the Workers’ Party’s Central Executive Council.

This is an excerpt of an interview I had with the Straits Times on 6 July 2010, shortly after I was elected to the Workers’ Party’s Central Executive Council. The other new WP CEC members interviewed were Dr John Yam, Muhammad Faisal and Frieda Chan.

Continue reading “My interview with the Straits Times”

Workers’ Party visits Bedok South

The Workers’ Party’s Eastern Area Committee (EAC) conducted our house visits in Bedok South yesterday evening. As always, we had an enriching time chatting with residents and understanding their concerns about life in Singapore. Residents we met expressed appreciation for our visit.

EAC Visits Bedok South

The Workers’ Party’s Eastern Area Committee (EAC) conducted our house visits in Bedok South yesterday evening. As always, we had an enriching time chatting with residents and understanding their concerns about life in Singapore. Residents we met expressed appreciation for our visit.

The EAC was formed in 2005 to expand the WP’s operational capabilities into the eastern part of Singapore. The current team, led by Eric Tan Heng Chong, the party treasurer, has been conducting house visits every week since early last year.

Sylvia Lim asks for transparency in electoral boundaries report

The government must know that Singaporeans are skeptical about the re-drawing of electoral boundaries. It would be an improvement to have advanced notice and some transparency in this process.

This is a “cut” (a short Parliamentary speech) by Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim during the Committee of Supplies debate in Parliament yesterday on the budget allocation for the Prime Minister’s Office.

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PMO – Electoral Boundaries Review Committee Report

In countries like the UK, electoral boundary revisions are carried out by an independent Boundary Commission under the charge of a High Court Judge. Proposed boundary changes are also open to public scrutiny and objection.  In Singapore, however, the boundary revisions are done by a committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, reporting to the PM.  Sir, despite my belief that the PMO should not be in charge of the boundary review, the focus of my cut is how the current process may be improved for transparency and accountability.

I would like to touch on two points: first, the timing of the release of the report; second, the contents of the report.

Continue reading “Sylvia Lim asks for transparency in electoral boundaries report”

Growth must improve welfare of Singaporeans: Sylvia Lim

Our ultimate aim of growth is to improve the welfare of all citizens. GDP is not an adequate indicator of welfare, and the government’s pursuit of growth in the recent years has had serious side-effects on the quality of life, and social cohesion.

This was the speech Non-constituency MP and Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim delivered in Parliament yesterday.

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Each year, the government has certain GDP growth targets and plans the Budget and policies around it.  This year, the government has put in place a productivity target recommended by the Economic Strategies Committee.

Whatever measure is used, the ultimate aim of growing our economy must be to forge a higher quality of life for all our citizens.  Though not everyone has the same talents and capabilities, our growth must provide every person with a good standard of living and a sense of physical and economic security.   We may be a small country geographically, but within our borders, citizens should feel at home and valued as persons and not just for economic contributions. Continue reading “Growth must improve welfare of Singaporeans: Sylvia Lim”

Low productivity not our workers’ fault: WP’s Low

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang has slammed the PAP government for seemingly suggesting that Singaporean workers have only themselves to blame for their low incomes, because of their low productivity and skills. He said it was easy to blame our local workforce for low productivity when it was the Government which opened the floodgates to foreign workers.

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang has slammed the PAP government for seemingly suggesting that Singaporean workers have only themselves to blame for their low incomes, because of their low productivity and skills. He said it was easy to blame our local workforce for low productivity when it was the Government which opened the floodgates to foreign workers.

Low was speaking Parliament on Tuesday in response to the Finance Minister’s Budget 2010 speech last week.

The Opposition leader pointed out that manual workers like cleaners and garbage collectors in developed economies are paid so much more than their counterparts in Singapore, attributing this to those countries’ more compassionate and effective policies to ensure that workers at the bottom of the economic ladder enjoy a decent and dignified life. Referring to the Government’s latest productivity drive, which is to grow productivity by 2 to 3 per cent each year over the next decade, Low wondered if low wage workers had to wait another 10 years for the wage increases which they had not seen in the last 10 years.

Continue reading “Low productivity not our workers’ fault: WP’s Low”