SingFirst’s Inaugural Dinner
Speech by Secretary General Tan Jee Say on 22 March 2015
Good evening, fellow members and supporters of Singaporeans First and friends,
Thank you very much for coming to this dinner to celebrate the inauguration of our new party. We meet tonight in solemn circumstance. The man who has had a dominant influence on our lives in the past 50 years is passing on. While we wish him a good recovery, we must be ready to accept the inevitable. A newspaper in the region asked me how I felt. I gave the reporter the following assessment of Mr Lee Kuan Yew:
” Deng Xiaopeng assessed Mao Zedong overall to be 70% good, 30% bad for China. I would describe Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s contribution in 2 phases : 70% good, 30% bad for Singapore in the first half of the past 50 years, but the reverse 70% bad, 30% good during the last 25 years. Even after he stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990, he exerted great influence and the continuation of his elitist policies has created a sharply divided society with the biggest rich-poor gap and the highest economic inequality among developed countries.
Singapore is dominated by a self-serving powerful elite class that has been ranked by the Economist at top 5 in the world on its crony capitalism index, meaning Singapore is fifth in the world among countries ‘ where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper ‘, coming after Hong Kong, Russia, Malaysia and Ukraine.
For the second year running, the Economist has also ranked Singapore as the most expensive city in the world. We have become the most stressed, the unhappiest and the least emotional people in the world according to international surveys including Gallup’s. The situation has become so dire and helpless that in a recent local newspaper survey, half of citizens said they do not want to be born again in Singapore, while only 30% want to and the remaining 20% are not sure (70-30, a coincidence?).
The true Singapore society is vastly different from the picture that the PAP government constantly paints to the outside world. Is it any wonder that, according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 26% of Singaporeans trust their government leaders to tell the truth? In other words, the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans do not trust the PAP to tell the truth. What does this tell us about the legacy of Mr Lee Kuan Yew? “
Anger and Mistrust
After more than 50 years of nation-building, don’t we Singaporeans deserve a much better Singapore? Yes definitely.
That’s why a group of us got together last year to form Singaporeans First to enable us to provide an alternative vision of a new, different and better society where people come first before economic growth. We want to address the anger, fear and hope of Singaporeans. More and more Singaporeans are getting angry with PAP as each day passes by. Those already angry have become angrier. Why? Because PAP is not addressing our problems adequately or do so reluctantly and in small measure.
Nearly three quarters of Singaporeans or 74% do not trust the PAP. Will this big mistrust translate into votes against the PAP? It should. But many Singaporeans are still gripped by fear. Fear that the country will collapse, that investors will run away, that they will lose their jobs or that their estates will be neglected. The PAP feeds on and encourages this unfounded fear.
Their latest attempt is to paint the opposition as incompetent manager of town councils. But they will fail. Remember that town councils were set up to disadvantage the opposition. But despite all the booby traps, our friends in the Workers Party have done an excellent job in looking after the estates under their charge.
The real solution is to return the management of estates to the HDB like in the past, so that residents benefit from overall economies of scale and pay a uniform fee. This way, charges will be kept low for all residents all over Singapore and no estate will be overcharged. But we can do so only if we are voted in to form the government.
Can we convince Singaporeans to vote in an alternative government? We at SingFirst believe we can. It requires a lot of hard work.
We must offer hope of a better society to Singaporeans. Just before the recent National Budget was presented by the DPM and Finance Minister, SingFirst proposed a comprehensive social package for Singaporeans consisting of a $6 billion social security net and an $8 billion social investment programme. The social security net will provide free education to all Singaporeans, from primary school to university, monthly cash allowances to children up to the age of 12, 90% subsidy on childcare centre fees, substantial transport allownaces, old age pension of monthly cash allowances to all senior Singaporeans aged 60 and above, huge increase in healthcare subsidy, unemployment insurance benefits and phasing out of GST. Our social investment proposal will mean more schools, hospitals, childcare centres, nursing homes rather than portfolio investment in overseas projects or companies like foreign banks, beauty product companies which do not generate jobs for Singaporeans nor businesses for our local companies.
Our social package costs $14 billion a year. The funds for this package will be provided by the returns from investment of our national assets. The returns exceed the cost of $14 billion by several billion dollars. Hence our social package will not bankrupt the country. In fact, Singapore has been accumulating huge surpluses of $20-30 billion almost every year because the government has over-taxed Singaporeans and under-spent on our social needs.
It is your money that has been salted away, they say for a rainy day. But we have had several downpours, even floods in Orchard Road. It is high time that we make good use of our money in these large surpluses.
We have the vision and programmes for a new and better Singapore, a Fair Society with Strong Families and an Esteemed People. What we need to do now is to organise ourselves and convince Singaporeans that we have the passion, commitment and determination to push through our proposals and realise our vision.
We need more Singaporeans to join us in this mission. We want to work with our friends in all opposition parties. We hope to begin discussions soon. When we have the numbers either by ourselves or together with other parties, Singaporeans will then be convinced that we are serious about changing the government to improve their lives. We urge all Singaporeans with a passion for Singapore to come forward and join us. Do not wait for others to do so or under-estimate yourselves.
Yes, you can. Together, we can.
Please enjoy the rest of your dinner. Thank you.