Response to PAP West Coast Team’s Rebuttal of RP ManifestoPublished: 5th May 2011
We note the report on CNA dated 30th April 2011 as well as Mr. Iswaran’s and the PAP West Coast team’s recent comments*.
Mr. Lim is quoted as saying more details are needed from the RP on three of our manifesto proposals. We are delighted that he has made this request. However we do have a problem in responding. How exactly are we to supply these details? Mr Lim has made his request in the State owned National Press. Considerable space has been given to his rebuttal of our policies. Notably not one comment was included from The Reform party. We are denied a right of response in the same Press. We have been censored for several weeks now and two weeks ago all journalists simultaneously stopped calling me for my party’s comments and response.
The Reform Party has proposed a minimum wage which would apply across the board to all workers in Singapore, whether foreign or local. The minimum wage would be inclusive of employers’ CPF and Foreign Worker Levy. Certain sectors such as FDWs may be exempted from the minimum wage as Singaporeans generally do not compete directly with workers in this sector. Wages in Singapore for the less-skilled have been driven down by the very liberal policy on foreign labour and this would act to put a floor under wage rates. Mr. Lim has hinted that, if returned to power, the PAP would open the floodgates again as an easy way to maintain high rates of economic growth.
Minimum Wage has often been attacked by dissenters saying it will lead to job losses or drive up business costs too sharply. It is no more likely to do this than the Foreign Workers Levy scheme The RP wants to set the minimum wage at a level which would not drive up business costs too sharply. It is considering an initial level of around $5 per hour. As the minimum wage might lead to employers substituting Singaporean for foreign labour it might actually lead to greater employment among Singaporeans.
Please refer to our article on minimum wage**
Universal Health Insurance
Medisave and Medishield are inadequate to meet the needs of an aging population coupled with the rising costs of new medicines and technologies.
Among the drawbacks are the following:
Medisave is an out-of-pocket scheme that will be quickly exhausted should the patient contract a serious illness, particularly if this is accompanied by a prolonged period of unemployment.
Medishield is inadequate in coverage as there are high deductibles and co-pays. The payouts for different operations and treatments are inadequate to cover spiralling healthcare costs. The annual limit is $50,000 and the lifetime limit is $200,000. Once these limits are reached patients are forced to dip into their savings which could quickly be exhausted leaving them and their family penniless.
For instance a year’s chemotherapy treatment using the latest medicines could easily cost $80,000. Up to 75% of the cost of one treatment cycle may have to come from Medisave as the Medishield limit is too low.
Another example is the Medishield annual allowance for CAT scans which can be breached by the cost of a single scan.
The desire of the insurance companies to screen applicants and only cover healthy individuals (what is known in the industry as adverse selection) means that many patients with pre-existing conditions are excluded.
The RP proposal is to make coverage under the scheme mandatory for everyone replacing Medisave and Medishield. It would cover most medical conditions (excluding dentistry or opticians). The RP preference would be for private insurance companies to tender for the scheme and would make coverage mandatory. The premiums would be paid by employers and employees by earmarking a portion of CPF (just as under the present Medisave and Medishield schemes). If Singaporeans are unable to make insurance payments because of unemployment or illness then the government would pick up the shortfall.
Our proposal has been criticized by the PAP West Coast team as raising costs. This is being disingenuous as healthcare costs will have to rise with the rising cost of new treatments and technology coupled with an aging population. At the moment Singapore spends less than half the amount of other advanced countries as a percentage of GDP. On many indicators our healthcare provision (numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds) has fallen to the level of many of our much poorer neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam. We fare poorly on certain indicators like level of diabetes prevalence and survival rates for cancer.
In the long run we believe our proposal will save costs as it will lead to better coverage, a greater emphasis on prevention rather than cure and earlier intervention as people with potentially serious conditions are screened and discovered earlier.
Singaporeans currently face a cruel lottery in which through no fault of their own they may develop a serious illness which leaves them and their family members destitute. The RP proposal would prevent this.
We understand that our proposal to reduce National Service to eighteen months and then to a year was criticised but we were not given the chance to respond.
The Reform Party believes that the current NS scheme is an unfair imposition on the Singapore male as it cuts his potential lifetime earnings by two years. The cost of this should be measured in terms of the final salary achieved. We believe that Singapore’s defence can be secured better by a mixture of a smaller conscript army, a larger regular contingent and the increased use of robots and high technology.
The Reform Party would also push for adequate compensation for Singaporean males doing NS to reflect the economic cost and for foreign students who want to work here after graduation to either do NS or pay a lump sum tax to reflect the unfair advantage that they enjoy over Singaporeans.