ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, RESPONSE TO BUDGET 2020 SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker, Sir
I congratulate our Finance Minister for presenting this very caring and heart-warming budget which will take us through the difficult circumstances caused by COVID-19. It is like a very much needed vaccine to support our economy especially the badly affected sectors, and also to protect jobs for our people. Having said that I would like to raise a few pointers for the Minister to consider.
Stabilising and Supporting Our Economy in the near term
In Chinese please.
In Malay please.
Saya juga menerima maklum balas daripada beberapa pemandu Grab dan Gojek bahawa mereka tidak layak menerima pakej sokongan bagi pemandu sepenuh masa, kerana mereka tidak memenuhi jumlah minimum pekerjaan yang dilakukan ekoran permintaan yang berkurangan dalam tempoh tersebut. Jadi, bolehkah Menteri meneliti golongan ini?
Saya juga ingin menggesa syarikat teksi mempertimbangkan untuk mengurangkan harga sewa teksi sehingga Dorscon kembali ke hijau. Ramai pemandu teksi berkongsi dengan saya bahawa pendapatan mereka berkurangan sebanyak 30-50 peratus. Pengurangan harga sewateksi bulanan sebanyak 50 peratus akan membantu merak mangharungi masa sukar ini.
Addressing Climate Change
Mr Speaker, I will now move on to climate change. Are we exploring our full potential for photo-voltaic (PV) systems?
A photovoltaic system employs solar modules, each comprising a number of solar cells, which generate electrical power. Are we ready to allow town councils to install PV panels on roofs and vertical areas such as lift shafts? A case in point is MPC@Khatib, our covered multi-purpose court that can accommodate 4 basketball courts.
During its design we enquired if PV panels could be installed to harvest the solar energy.
As usual, I always explore ways to make Nee Soon South cleaner and greener. But unfortunately, the answer from HDB then was “No”. Maybe at that time they were not ready, so I would like to urge to review this.
Developing People for the Future
Many residents welcome the Skillsfuture top up which is very useful. I urge the government to monitor if course providers raise their prices as a response.
I note there is a reduction in S-pass sub-dependency ratio ceilings (DRCs) for construction, shipyards and process sector.
It is good that the government has a long-term view to reduce Singapore’s reliance on foreign labour. But if we do not have a pipeline of Singaporean labour for construction and shipyards, then cutting the DRCs might be an additional burden on companies. This could leave the companies no choice but to relocate out of Singapore, especially shipyards. May I ask what are the plans to ensure that we continue to create good jobs for locals and have a steady pipeline of local PMETs for the construction, shipyards and process sector?
In facing the COVID-19 difficulties, it is important to have the entire industry, i.e. developers, contractors, consultants, subcontractors, suppliers and all stakeholders tackle the challenges cohesively as a whole. In the same way as how the relief measures are rolled out for the hospitality and retail sectors, the same should be done for the property and construction sector. This sector should not be neglected.
Many local contractors also told me that they feel discriminated in recent few contract awards. In the LTA Jurong Regional Line Projects, for example, four out of seven contracts were awarded to foreign contractors. Another example, LTA awarded N112 tender to a foreign contractor though our local contractor submitted the lowest tender. The lowest tenderer is an established home-grown contractor. Why pay $6 million more to a foreign contractor? I know there is such thing as PQM (Price Quality Method) scoring.
But if there is a gap in the capabilities of our local contractors, then we should handhold them and nurture them. We need our home-grown contractors to grow, to feel that they are supported and to build up their experience, their portfolio so that one day they can venture overseas.
If we don’t even support our own contractors, who will support them? Can we consistently apply the policy of BUY SINGAPORE FIRST?
New budget measures aimed at boosting the retirement incomes and employability of seniors are a step in the right direction, but I feel we need to understand residents needs better and get the priority right. I had seen cases where residents do not have enough money to service their mortgage loan or no roof over their heads, but they have money in the retirement accounts. To many residents, having a roof is more immediate and more important need than providing for retirement. How can we help them?
And, I feel financial incentives alone may not be enough to encourage businesses to hire and retain older workers. This requires more in-depth study.
I move on to issues that residents are facing. Noise pollution from vehicle engines is a common occurrence faced by Nee Soon South residents and I am sure in many other parts of Singapore too.
If I may refer to a Swedish report published in 2009 which found people who were regularly exposed to traffic noise in excess of 50 decibels were 40% more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who lived in quieter neighbourhoods. So, the implication is besides the noise nuisance, they also create health issues, and a cost to society.
There are technologies used in other countries: UK use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) tech to dish out fines to drivers over excessive noise. Calgary, a city in Canada, is using Sound Camera and fine motorists with excessively loud vehicles. Similarly, Abu Dhabi Police has invented a noise-measuring camera, which will help officers take action against abnormally loud cars. There are also intelligent speed bumps that flatten when you are driving within speed limit. Is Singapore exploring some of these new technologies? Any budget allocated for these? And, will there be more stringent action against car workshops which do illegal modification to the motorcycles and cars?
Town Councils are essential in improving the environment of HDB residents. But often, TCs are hampered by some regulations. For example, Nee Soon Town Council has been flying drones for its estate inspection but due to the regulations, our drone inspection could only be carried out during weekends. Can these regulations be reviewed and relaxed?
Another example, some town councils have been asking the HDB since Jan 2018 to allow TCs to procure our goods and services online. Currently, government is on GeBIZ but TCs are not allowed to make use of GeBIZ for procurement.There are e-procurement platforms that we could adopt but HDB has not come back to us on our request. Can we get some timeline for this? Also, can I ask MND to consider providing additional grants to TCs for older flats or flats built for the silver generation for the maintenance of silver-friendly facilities such as the Alarm Alert System. Such systems and others are expensive to maintain.
I’m happy to hear that HIP II is being implemented. On this note, can I request for flats in Nee Soon South, those which were built in 1987, to be among the first few batches? My residents have been waiting for the programme for a long, long time.
Mr Speaker Sir, despite the issues I raised, I want to put my speech within the right context. I fully appreciate DPM’s thoughtfulness and insightfulness to swiftly get into the thick of things, given that this Covid-19 only came to attention in January. He was able to adroitly dribble his way and roll out so many measures across so many fronts.
He was able to assess the impact on our economy and the ramifications globally and work out the packages, without forgetting the packages for our seniors and for families. And while doing all these, the coronavirus was still evolving, no one knows how severe it would pan out. Even as we gather here today to debate, the virus is rearing its ugly head in many places worldwide. I think it is very fitting that we assure DPM that we stand behind him and he is not alone.
Perhaps my thoughts would be best expressed by quoting the lyrics from the Liverpool FC song about when you are walking through a storm, hold your head up high. Don’t be afraid of the dark because at the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky.
Mr Speaker Sir, I won’t sing, I can’t, and I don’t want to empty this House. But I have this to say this to DPM:
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone.
Mr Speaker Sir, I support the Budget.
Watch the speech here