Parlimentary debate on minimum wage and policymaking leaves much to be desired

Sep 04, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

Workers' Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim made his maiden speech on Thursday (Sept 3) which steered into a protracted debate on compassionate policymaking and minimum wage with several other People's Action Party's (PAP) MPs.

Compassionate policymaking

MP Lim called for "greater injection of compassion and thoughtfulness" in the Government's approach towards policymaking which he thought was timely given that gains from the progress made over the years have not been equitable across different segments of society, especially so for low-wage workers, the elderly and single mothers. MP Lim credited the imbalance to Singapore's push for efficiency instead of equity among its citizens.

He proposed that an official poverty line be introduced and a minimum wage policy to be implemented across the board.

Minimum wage

MP Lim reiterated his call for the Government to implement "a simple across-the-board universal minimum wage" - a policy proposed in WP's manifesto. He stressed that the impact on employment will "likely be very limited" based on "reams and reams of studies".

When asked by PAP's Vikram Nair if MP Lim is aware of any country with a minimum wage that also has a lower unemployment rate than Singapore, fellow WP MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) shot down the question by saying that the fact that another country has a higher or lower unemployment rate than Singapore may not be causally related to its minimum wage policy.

Mr Nair also asked on what level of minimum wage would be suitable for Singapore, MP Lim replied he do not know and suggested a national commision be formed to study it.

MP Lim acknowledged that Singapore currently has a progressive wage model - first rolled out in 2015 to help raise the income of low-wage workers through skills upgrading and improvements to productivity - but argued that "much more" can be done.

Youth employment

PAP MP Tin Pei Ling raised a separate topic on the employability of youth and if MP Lim has any specific proposals to improve youth employment.

MP Lim said that he did not have a specific policy in mind as he had not considered the matter in detail. However, he reasoned that he did not want to "roll out specific proposals to address youth unemployment" during a recession as the unemployment figures may not be justifiable enough to do so.

"Don't engage in straw man arguments" - Tharman

MP Lim's responses drew a rebuke from Senior Minister (SM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.

On minimum wage, SM Tharman said he would not “exaggerate the differences” between the progressive wage model and the minimum wage model suggested by MP Lim, noting that the former is a “minimum wage plus” with a sectoral approach.

He also responded to MP Lim's citation of a study on low-wage work, which he attributed to the National University of Singapore. He said: "I've never heard economists cite a university as a source of research, be it a well-regarded or not very well-regarded university. Individuals do research and it may be very credible research, but universities don't publish research."

Responding to MP Lim's view that the Government's policy over the years have so far not be equitable, SM Tharman advised against making straw man arguments like saying the Government is interested only in efficiency, not equity.

"That's frankly laughable," said Mr Tharman, who is Coordinating Minister for Social Policies. "Try to avoid that manner of argument, of painting everything in binary terms."

MP Lim reasoned that he did not think he was making a straw man argument when talking about a trade-off between efficiency and equity.

"I'm not suggesting that every policy that is currently in place is only geared towards efficiency, and likewise, I'm not suggesting that every policy that I have laid out in my speech and elsewhere is only geared towards equity," he said.

"Rather, it is about a continuum, and I am arguing that we can move more in the direction of favouring equity over efficiency."

MP Lim, however, acknowledged that given the current pandemic, formulating policies to aid in equitable redistribution of economic gains may not be suitable at this time, but called for the Government to set out its plans now with a greater dose of compassion.

MP Lim also conceded that in a time of crisis, a minimum wage policy "may not be ideal".

Leong Mun Wai pulled a 'Raeesah Khan' in Parliament on Telegram hearsay

Jan 13, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
On Tuesday (Jan 11), Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Leong Mun Wai claimed that he received feedback from residents, "that some teachers have already practised vaccination diferentiated safe management measures in schools".

When asked by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing to name the schools and teachers involved, Leong backpedalled and said that the feedback was through Whatsapp and that he would need to ask 'his' residents before making a clarification. He later disclosed that the feedback originated from a Telegram group called SG Concerned Parents.

After a terse exchange between Chan and Speaker of the House Tan Chuan Jin, Leong admitted that the chat group messages did not name any particular schools.

Indranee: When you make allegations against teachers and just cast it out there, you must be able to substantiate it

Leong's response drew a rebuke from Leader of the House Indranee Rajah who admonished Leong for making unsubstantiated claims.

Indranee rose and said: "When you make allegations against teachers and just cast it out there, you must be able to substantiate it. And that is why Minister Chan (had) asked, ‘Please provide me with the details of which school and which teacher so that the Ministry of Education can follow up'.”

She described Leong’s explanation on Tuesday as an attempt to “grandstand” or make broad speeches that have no bearing on the details requested by the Education Minister.

Leong Mun Wai another Raeesah Khan?

In August last year, Raeesah shared an anecdote in Parliament about details of a rape case she alleged was mishandled by the police. She later admitted to lying about the anecdote.

In 2014, Workers' Party MP Faisal Manap also made an unsubstantiated claim alleging that when he was a counsellor, he came across a couple who were having housing issues and advised to file for a divorce by the Housing and Development Board — so that the wife would be eligible to buy a house under the Singles Scheme and she could subsequently remarry her husband.

He later apologised for not verifying the authenticity of his anecdote.