One of Our Volunteers Speaks Up

Wake UpRecently one of our volunteers wrote in with his criticisms of current PAP Government policies and suggestions for changes. We welcome your feedback.

Please note that these policy suggestions are not part of the official Reform Party manifesto though in many cases like proper compensation for those serving NS they are on similar lines.

Housing Issue & CPF

  • Why is government subletting housing to foreigner workers whereby domorities had been catered for them?
  • Singapore Permanent Residents are not allow to purchase any properties unless they are holding on to Pink IC. (i.e. They are only given the option to convert their residence upon 5th year before renewal. If they choose to opt out, subsequently, they will not get to enjoy any benefits.)
  • Singapore Permannent Residents are not entitle for any CPF contribition for first 5 years unless they convert to Singapore citizenship.

National Service

  • All Singaporean males who had served National service, should be given more further subsides on top of housing grant from HDB or given a unit, as a compliment, for their contribution in defending our homeland.

Medical Issue

  • Why are our ministers like Khaw Boon Wan & Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, paying only S$2 & S$8 respectively for their medical? Whereas, we, the people of Singapore, have to pay skyrocketing amount for our medical ?
  • Shouldn’t we pay only S$1 for any medical consultation, be it at polyclinics or hospitals?

Unemployment, Permanent Residents & Foreigner Workers on work permit

  • Shouldn’t allowance be given to those unemploy Singaporeans, helping them to tide over till a job is being secured? Over so, governement should go extra miles, in helping those unemployed, looking for job opportunites, other than depending on WDA & other job agencies.
  • Before being grant Singapore Permanet Resident or work permit , shouldn’t one go through stringnet check by ICA on its background & seat for a literacy test, to prove its competency in workforce?
  • Depending on the passed level (minimum level 6) attain from each modules, apparently, employers is able to assign one in its rightful position at a workplace. Generally, this will ensure that none of Permanent Residents or foreigners, are using fake certificates for jobs applications.

Salary caps for Singaporeans, Singapore Permanent Residents & Foreigner Workers

  • At present, there are no fixed salary caps for Singaporeans, Permanent Residents & foreigner workers, which results in work strike from SMRT PRC bus captains on 26 Nov 12 due to salary issues.
  • Implement a fixed salary cap based on industries, experience, educational background & position held , but most importantly, privileges must always be given to Singaporeans.

Utilities Bill

  • Is there a need to pay a 30% water conservation tax whereby there is a 7% GST in-placed? Aren’t we paying for double taxes?
  • Shouldn’t there be a fix tariffs in-place for both electricity, water and gas instead of quarterly review?

 

Owning Car & Public Transport

  • Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreigners are not allow to buy or own any cars or vehicles. Generally, this will reduce the population of vehicles on the road. Nevertheless, Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreigners, with high position, are only allow to drive company registered vehicle.
  • Public transport should be totally under government charge. By doing so, it will create more job opportunities for Singaporeans.
  • Implement an attractive salary to attract the young, in joining public transport sector. Despite this, to work closely with ITE on the internship for heavy automotive. Once the students graduated from college, one can work in public transport sector.
  • Taxis should be under the government assets too. Rightfully, a fixed rate should be implement, with no other private operaters managing.
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Reform Party Calls for a Stimulus Package of $2.5 Billion

Reform

Reform Party notes the announcement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on 14 April 2014 that advance estimates of Singapore’s GDP growth during Q1 2014 show the economy’s quarterly growth rate slowing to just 0.1% at an annualized rate.

However this does not tell the full story, as it was only growth in manufacturing and construction that kept the growth rate from slipping into negative territory. Manufacturing grew at an annualized quarterly rate of 4.5%, down from a growth rate of 10.4% in the preceding quarter. Only the construction sector expanded at a faster rate, growing at a quarterly annualized rate of 10.7% compared to 1.4% in the previous quarter.  Services, which account for two-thirds of the economy, contracted at an annualized quarterly rate of 1.8% as compared to the 6.1% expansion in the preceding quarter.

Reform Party expects the external environment to deteriorate further in the course of this year due to a continued slowdown in Chinese and US growth. This will be exacerbated by the misguided efforts by several of the major global economies to simultaneously achieve greater government savings through a reduction in budget deficits or increases in surpluses and an improvement in their external position by running a higher current account surplus. In aggregate this is just likely to worsen a global slowdown in growth rates that has already taken hold.

We therefore anticipate, in the absence of government intervention, Singapore’s growth prospects to worsen over the course of the year and the contraction in our services sector to accelerate. While the government is offsetting some of the slowdown through public sector construction activity, most of this spending goes to foreign companies that largely employ foreign workers. In addition there is a limit to how much infrastructure spending can increase before the rate of return falls to zero. It may seem a good way of increasing GDP growth

If Reform Party were in government, we would implement a stimulus package of up to 1% of GDP as further measures to offset the slowdown already seen taking hold in the services sector.  This would amount to about $2-$3 billion and only be about 10% of the probable real surplus for this year of some $30 billion including investment income and capital receipts. There would thus be no danger of dipping into past reserves. In any case a significant portion of the extra spending would come back to the government in the form of tax receipts, fees and income of GLCs and Stat Boards.

The Reform Party would target lower-income groups, primarily on equity grounds but also on the well-established fact that those on lower incomes spend a higher proportion of their income.  Thus money distributed to those on median incomes and below is likely to be more effective in stimulating the economy than if it was given to the better off.

We are hampered by the dearth of statistics that the PAP government makes available as well as the lack of funding for alternative parties. However the Yearbook of Statistics 2013 gives the median monthly income from work, including Employer CPF and share of annual bonuses, in 2012 of full-time employed residents as $3,480 and for those at the 20th percentile as $1740. Monthly income from work per household member in full-time employed resident households using the same criteria was $2,127 and $1020 for the median and the 20th percentile respectively. There were roughly 3.3 million Singapore citizens in 2012.

Reform Party calls on the government to introduce a supplementary budget to provide Singapore citizen household members with a cash payment as follows:

Bottom 20th Percentile $2000

20th-50th Percentile       $1000

50th-75th Percentile       $ 200

For children below the age of 18, the payment should be made to their chief caregiver, normally their mother.

We estimate the total initial cost of this measure to be less than $2.5 billion but we expect the final cost to be considerably less once the taxes from the additional spending and output generated are taken into account.

The domestic economy is already close to recession if not already in one. Reform Party believes that stimulus measures of this order of magnitude are needed if the economy is not to deteriorate further and we are not to suffer an unnecessary shortfall in terms of output, employment and growth.

 

 Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Secretary General

 

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The RP’s Response to Budget 2011

My Fellow Singaporeans,

Don’t you get the feeling that this is a government that lurches from day to day and has no long term plan?  That there is no one today who is the equal of Dr. Goh Keng Swee who was responsible for the master plan that put Singapore on the road to export-led growth in the 1960s.

This is a shameless electioneering budget laced with one-off payments to the electorate under the guise of not wanting to create entitlements. There is no pretence at putting in place long-term solutions to the problems faced by working Singaporeans.

But even amidst all the relentless hype about the one-time giveaways one salient fact stands out.  That is the smoke and mirrors over the Budget figures.  The Honourable Minister always manages to just balance the Budget or run a small deficit. However the balance is calculated by looking at operating revenue minus operating and development expenditure. Then there is a contribution from Temasek and GIC which may be much less than half their total profit. But interest and investment income on our enormous reserves is not added in.

If we do this then the basic government surplus is about $15 billion and not close to zero as claimed. This may not tell the whole story because it may not include the income from Temasek and GIC or the profits from land sales.

Surpluses of this size as a proportion of GDP have been the rule for over twenty years now. The Reform Party is not advocating giving back to the people the whole of the surplus for this year. However we say that we do need to have a rational debate as a nation as to what is the prudent level of reserves and what are our long-term needs.

The government’s attitude has always been that we are too childlike to make rational decisions and therefore the sweet jar must be hidden away on a high shelf out of our reach.

Much is made of the fact that the Budget is supposed to help Singaporeans cope with inflation. However inflation on its own is not the problem. The problem is that our wages have barely kept pace with inflation.  And the culprit here is relentless population growth driven by this government’s liberal foreign worker policy.

The claimed increase in real median household incomes does not fit the experience of most Singaporeans.  Part of it may be explained by the big increase in the number of PRs and new citizens who are included in the figure for resident households. They are likely to have better paying jobs and fewer dependents. And there has been a rise in the number of working members per household. More of you are going out to work or working longer hours.

The Minister says as though it is something to be proud of that labour force participation rates have reached OECD levels!

But these countries have unemployment rates that are much higher than Singapore’s! Is he saying that actually real unemployment among Singaporeans is much higher than the official statistics suggest?

And what is their answer to rising inflation? How does it help to give away a series of one-off payments, much of which go into CPF, when prices are permanently higher and inflation appears to be accelerating?  And the idea of setting up a price council to monitor “excessive” price rises and shame the companies involved into backing down is laughable.

Such attempts at moral suasion were tried extensively in the 1960s and 1970s in the US and UK but never worked for very long. Have the PAP forgotten all the economics that Dr. Goh taught them?

The underlying causes of inflation come from our limited land resources and relentlessly rising population. This drives up rents and property prices.  Also from the near-monopolies the GLCs have in many utilities like public transport, power and telecoms. The RP has called for more competition and a sell-off of GLC companies. Where this is impossible we want a more effective competition regulator.

The government says it will control the influx of foreign workers. However what has gone unnoticed is the fact that the government’s figures don’t add up. To achieve their economic growth targets they will probably have to let the number of foreign workers rise substantially even if they meet their own productivity targets. Will they come clean and let us know whether they are still targeting a total population of 6.5 million by 2020, by which time native Singaporeans will be a minority?

And what is the point of further housing subsidies for low income families. Economic principles and historical experience show that it merely pushes up HDB prices by more than the subsidy. Of course the government benefits as the freehold owner from the rise in property prices.  But it is just pumping more air into the balloon. Rather than subsidies the government should be building more small units and releasing more land for building. The RP would allow more private sector competition and provide more rental flats to low income families.

We would also allow HDB owners to buy out their freehold and possibly restrict the remaining flats from being let to PRs and non-citizens.

So what else would the RP do differently?

Instead of one-off payments to Workfare we would introduce a minimum wage set initially at low levels but indexed to inflation and rising gradually over time.

We would extend Workfare and integrate it with Child Benefit (instead of the one-off Child Development Credit) which would provide income support and help with child care to low income working families with children.

We will abolish all school fees up to secondary level bringing us in line with other advanced nations that promise universal free education.

We will introduce a basic old age pension for those without CPF or other assets while safeguarding against abuse.

We will make a start on introducing a comprehensive and universal medical insurance scheme to replace the current patchwork of Medifund, Medisave and Medishield which have big gaps in coverage and end the situation where individuals can become destitute if they suffer a devastating illness.

We will continue to cut corporate and personal income tax rates where the fiscal situation allows. However we will audit and rationalise the vast and overlapping number of corporate help schemes and tax breaks in the interest of simplifying the tax code and getting better value for the taxpayer.

We will apply a similar analytical scrutiny to some of the personal income tax breaks like the Working Mothers Child Relief which principally benefit the already well-off.

We will continue to add to our reserves if it is prudent to do so.

At the same time we will engage in an open and transparent debate about the appropriate level of those reserves and whether better returns can be achieved by investing in our people.

My Fellow Singaporeans, in the past you have often seemed to be afflicted by short-term memory loss when the government dangles a few carrots in front of you! Don’t let this happen again. Remember this is your money and not the government’s. Vote wisely.

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Lee Hsien Loong Has Filed A Summary Judgment Against Me For The CPF Case

Lee Hsien Loong Has Filed A Summary Judgment Against Me For The CPF Case.

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Reform Party Anniversary 2009 Dinner Speech by Secretary General Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I would like to extend a warm welcome to you, on this the Reform Party’s First Anniversary Dinner. It is good to see so many people here tonight, diplomats from around the world and representatives of most of the active Opposition parties in Singapore but most importantly it is good to see Reform Party members, their families and all our supporters. And what a lot of you there are. You are the reason we are here today. Thank you.

So, The Reform Party is one year old – Well not quite! Hungry Ghosts and Ramadan took precedence so The Reform Party is actually 14 months old. But, it is of course, almost exactly one year after the founder of the Reform Party, the late Mr. J. B. Jeyaretnam, passed away. Almost a year since JBJ stood in this restaurant on this stage and said,

“Cast off the slumber into which you have been led for the last 50 years, wake up to your rights as a human being, to your proper role as citizens of this country.”

And it is one year since JBJ was interviewed by Hugo Restall of the Wall Street Journal.  In that interview JBJ said he was often accused of talking too much about politics so now he was going to speak about economics.  For my part, I speak too often of economics. I’m confident you all know by now that I am an economist. But I am also a politician, a politician who has the honour, the privilege, and the responsibility of leading Singapore’s brightest new Party, The Reform Party.  So tonight, as is only right, I am going to speak about Politics.

Recently we were given a history lesson in Parliament, by our Minister Mentor  Mr Lee Kuan Yew, no less. We were told that in the US, despite the phrase from the Declaration of Independence that “all men were created equal”, it took till 1964 for the Voting Rights Act to be passed. This Act prevented the former slave-owning states in the US using a number of subterfuges to prevent black Americans from voting. It was then remarked that it took nearly another fifty years for America to elect its first Black President.

I suppose that this was to illustrate that Singaporeans could not expect dramatic changes to the way they were governed when after all such reforms had taken 200 odd years in the US. The Analogy is in the first place bogus. If the lesson is that we are not to be impatient, that we are to be content with the system we have, that it is not unreasonable to wait another 50 years for change then that analogy must be followed to its logical conclusion. Our senior ministers should at this very time be saying to us “don’t worry that you are still travelling by Bullock Cart.  Progress takes time.  Even in America it took 150 years to invent the car.”

But of course No-one in Parliament says any such thing.  As any smart young nation would, we leapfrogged the technology bypassing the Penny Farthing and went straight to the MRT and LRT stages. We can make the same leaps with democratic processes.

In any case, don’t be fooled. The lesson to be learnt from America is not the length of time it took for this to happen (even in 2007 who would have thought that a Black man with a Muslim name would become the next occupant of the White House)  The lesson to be learnt is that this momentous event  did not happen by magic. Instead there was a rising trend of registering Black voters resulting in increased Black participation in American political society and an increasing number of Blacks elected to both Federal and State legislatures and as Governors and Mayors. This culminated in record numbers of Black voters turning out in the presidential election of 2008, so that southern states that since at least the 1960s had always voted for a Republican candidate, suddenly turning Democrat and voted for Obama.

So, Singaporeans, it won’t happen by magic. There is a process involved. If you desire a government that has at its heart a commitment to improve the lives of ordinary Singaporeans then you are the only people who can bring about those changes that put in place a chain of events that culminated in 2008 in the US with the election of Obama or this year in Japan with the victory of the Democratic Party, ending a virtually unbroken 55 year rule of the LDP. And it starts with Waking up! And then Signing up!

As in America that process will begin with one person, then 10 then 100.  Communism in Eastern Europe was finally put to rest when that first person climbed on the Berlin wall and started chipping away at it. I‘m not advocating mass disobedience, I’m reminding you that ultimately power resides in the people but if you are not prepared to climb on the wall in your mind and start chipping away at it then you will remain powerless.

But it will not be easy. From every avenue The Government will tell you that there is no need to vote for the Opposition. In fact the Opposition is just a distraction. They have generously given us the NCMP and NMP schemes. Well let me tell you -The NMP scheme is a fundamental subversion of democratic principles that would be laughed at in any properly democratic country. Let me hear no more of NMP’s and their so called voices.

Secondly it is ludicrous to equate NCMPs with NMPs when under our current GRC system 33% of those able to vote in the 2006 elections voted for Opposition candidates and yet the Opposition only won 2 out of the 84 seats in Parliament, which equates to 2.4% of the total.   Let’s get that right- 33% of the votes resulting in 2.4 % of the seats.  Enough of waiting 50 years! We need a government that will abolish the GRC system and go back to SMCs or move to a system of proportional representation where NCMPs would have the same powers as directly elected MPs.

And what of the argument, often used by the Government in past elections and too often repeated unquestioningly by Singaporeans, that any constituency which votes for the Opposition will find itself moved to the back of the queue for HDB upgrading and other goodies. Firstly, the money does not belong to the Government; it belongs to you, the taxpayers. You earned it, you gave it to them for safekeeping and you should determine how it’s spent.  I would stand the argument on its head and say to you, the people of Singapore, if you don’t vote for the Opposition then you will remain powerless to get the changes you desire, need and deserve – not just for your HDB estates but for your country and your lives

But how can you vote for a representative if there isn’t one to be found? It is compulsory to vote in Singapore, unlike in the US and yet for too many of you voting is a meaningless exercise. You are effectively disenfranchised because the Opposition has been unable to find sufficient candidates and financial resources to contest more than half of the constituencies. In 2006 the PAP were able to gain 37 seats on Nomination Day without having to contest them, because candidates could not be found to stand in these constituencies. This is a travesty of how the democratic process is supposed to work and for those of you living in those constituencies you might as well be living in North Korea or China, for all the ability you have to choose your representative.

So not only do we need you to vote, we also need those among you with the necessary abilities and determination to come forward and become candidates.

So I am upping the ante. And adding Stand Up! to Wake Up! and Sign up!

Finally, getting back to that History lesson and The US election campaign, I’d like to remind you of something Obama said frequently during his campaign taking a quote from the poet June Jordan by way of Alice Walker:

“Change will not happen if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

If you want to see policies that put the welfare of ordinary Singaporeans first, then come out and support us The Reform Party, or another Opposition party –

Because I will say this to all of you today: “You are the ones I am waiting for.”

So Wake Up!  Sign Up!  Stand Up!  …………or at the very least buy a T-shirt!

Thank you again for supporting us here tonight and we look forward to growing numbers of you coming forward to join us as we contest our first elections.

©Kenneth Jeyaretnam 2009

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Rally for Reform-An Invitation to Make It Right for Singapore

Dear Fellow Singaporean, 

It has taken a lot of your blood, sweat and tears over some nearly 50 years for Singaporeans to get to where we are today. But the next election is not about where we have been and what we have done, it is about the kind of Singapore we leave behind for our children. It is about the next 50 years.

The Reform Party’s vision of Singapore is that of an advanced democracy in which prosperity and freedom go hand in hand. Where hard work and wealth creation are rewarded. Where there is equality of opportunity and no one gets left behind. A Singapore where we determine our destiny.

The Party has put forward nineteen reforms that we want to make to put Singaporeans first (https://votingrp.wordpress.com/about/). These include stricter curbs on foreign labour, a minimum wage, reform of housing policy to deliver affordable housing to those who need it, universal comprehensive medical insurance, a basic old age pension, giving you control over your CPF savings and a stake for Singaporeans in our sovereign wealth funds. 

We will push to reduce waste and inefficiency in government starting by slashing ministerial salaries and replacing it with performance-linked earnings tied to indicators directly related to your welfare. We will seek to abolish restrictions on freedom of expression in order to foster creativity and innovation necessary for a 21st century knowledge-based economy.

But change is not something that just happens. It is the marriage of vision to action; a combination of courage and commitment. It is certainly not something that the Reform Party can do without you. So we are asking you to spread the word. 

On January 15 2011, the Reform Party will stage its first pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park. As you sit down to dinner tonight, tell a family member. As you gather to celebrate these early days of the New Year, tell your friends. Follow us on Twitter. Find us on Facebook. Invite your family and friends to the Rally and help us hit our target of 10,000 invitations! But above all, come and spend that January afternoon with us and take this first, most important step toward making it right for Singapore. Come and hear how we intend to implement our reforms. Let us explain to you why we can pay for our policies without raising taxes.

See you at the pre-election rally. 

Sincerely,

Kenneth Jeyaretnam
Secretary-General

Reform Party

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Why the PAP’s pre-Election Budget will still shortchange Singaporeans

In his speech to the PAP Conference on 27th November, PM Lee said that Singaporeans could expect a good Budget because government revenues had been better than expected.

The Reform Party is not surprised by this.  The real question is why Singaporeans have not benefited for so many years from excessive government surpluses all these years.

The way the Budget is presented makes it difficult to discover what the true state of government finances are.  The Finance Minister first reports what is called the primary balance which is the difference between operating revenue (the amount raised in taxes and user fees) on the one hand and the sum of operating expenditures and development expenditures on the other.

The Minister then adjusts this balance for special transfers (the main item is GST credits) including top-ups to endowments and trust funds.  This results in what is called the basic balance before the net investment returns contribution is added in.

The net investment returns contribution is up to half of Temasek and GIC’s income in any year. Again we are not told the exact percentage and any capital gains (or losses) on their portfolios are not included. After adding this in Minister Tharman forecast a deficit of about 1.1% of GDP for 2010.

The question is whether this is in any sense a meaningful indicator of the government’s fiscal position. Since the primary balance does not include interest income, investment income and capital grants yet includes development expenditure, the Reform Party contends that it clearly is not.

The Yearbook of Statistics 2010 shows that the general government surplus (which is more comprehensive than the government surplus since it includes extra-budgetary amounts) was $18 billion in 2005 and 2006, $35 billion in 2007 and $22 billion in 2008. In 2009 the government deficit (the general government figure was not available) was $4 billion but according to the Monthly Digest of Statistics for November 2010 this has been reversed this year and up to October the surplus was about $16 billion for the first six months. If one could crudely extrapolate from that then one might expect the total surplus for the year to be around $32 billion. To arrive at a rough estimate as to what this means for the ordinary Singaporean, if I divide the surplus by the number of Singapore citizens (roughly 3.2 million as of June 2010) then that gives a figure of $10,000 which could theoretically be distributed to every Singaporean man, woman and child without reducing the Government’s net asset position.  And do not forget that is not just a one-off windfall. A  similar sum  could have been distributed in every year except 2009.

In fact the government’s statement of assets and liabilities as at 31st March 2009 shows a net asset position of over $300 billion (if it is assumed that the entire Government Securities Fund is a liability to bond-holders).  And that would appear to be before two important elements:

  1. The equity in our Sovereign Wealth Funds (Temasek and GIC)
  2. The value of the land to which the government holds the freehold which comprises about 80% of Singapore’s area.

Singaporeans have learnt to expect that in an election year there will be some exceptional transfer payments and tax credits (which will be subsequently more than clawed back through increases  But what my analysis highlights is just how generous the Government can afford to be. Or to put it another way how much higher both consumption and investment could have been if the government had aimed to balance its budget rather than run surpluses close to  10% (and sometimes considerably more than 10%)  of GDP in most years . Furthermore this surplus does not take account of:

  • The income earned by our investments in Temasek and GIC let alone any capital gain on these investments; and
  • Any change in the value of the government’s holdings of land. Land prices have risen strongly in recent years yet that is not reflected in the government’s net asset position.

The Reform Party would like to know why there is such a lack of transparency in the budgetary process and it is so difficult to get information as to the government’s true fiscal position.

Furthermore we want to know why the PAP always talks about the danger of bankrupting Singapore and no money being available to fund investment in our people when in fact the government’s net asset position is so inefficiently large. The Reform Party is a liberal free market party and not a socialist party. We believe that these assets can be put to much more productive use if they are in the hand of the private sector. In addition we believe better returns can be earned by investing more in our people than can be earned in low-yielding foreign government securities. Therefore we want to see:

  • Cuts in taxes and fees across the board especially on the lower-income segments
  • Universal health insurance from a reform of the current Medisave, Medishield and Medifund system
  • Universal free and inclusive education up to secondary level
  • More investment in reforming the education system and making it relevant to the broad mass of our population in a 21st century knowledge-based economy
  • More generous income support for working low-income families with children
  • Control of CPF returned to the individual and right to withdraw employee contributions at 55 restored
  • Basic old age pension to be funded through CPF but to be paid to everyone who has worked for minimum number of years even if they do not have minimum sum in CPF account.
  • Privatization of Temasek and GIC and distribution of shares to Singapore citizens

We will have no difficulty in answering the question we are frequently asked, “How do you intend to pay for this?”

So the Reform Party calls upon Singaporeans not to be deceived by the usual hand-outs that will come with next year’s Pre-Election Budget.  Not even if these amount to several thousand dollars, as is entirely possible. You are being short-changed.

PM Lee said at his speech that “Provided Singaporeans support the Government and its plans, we can do it. We will make this one of the best countries in the world to live, work, bring up families and retire in.”

Don’t be fooled. Despite so many years of record surpluses, the PAP has failed to raise the living standards of the median Singaporean significantly since 1997. We can do better for you. Support the Reform Party and take your country back!

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