NDR Speech 2013: A Step In The Right Direction But More Needed
19 August, 2013
AWARE is heartened by the policy shifts outlined by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the National Day Rally speech 2013. We applaud the government’s commitment to invest in every Singaporean to reach their full potential, through much needed reforms in housing, education, and healthcare.
Much, however, is left to be done to improve social mobility and inclusiveness in our nation, and ensure the overall well-being of Singaporeans.
Thank you, PM Lee, for granting Singapore and AWARE one of the key items on our wish list – universal, compulsory health insurance for life. With rising life expectancies, lifelong health insurance will meet the needs of our aging population. AWARE called for this policy in our recommendations for Budget 2013, and we are very happy to see the recommendation met.
We ask the government to adopt a gender-sensitive lens in the implementation of this policy. Healthcare must account for the fact that women live longer than men and with more years in poor health. Women, especially housewives, earn less than men on average, and are disadvantaged under the current 3M healthcare system which is tied to employment.
AWARE trusts that the government will take this into consideration in its ‘means test’ to determine eligibility for lifelong health insurance.
In the past months, the government has taken steps to make public housing more affordable and inclusive. Opening up BTO-flats to some singles, for example, is a great step that has seen a positive response from the public.
However, the current policies of the Housing Development Board disqualify all singles under the age of 35 from owning or renting public housing directly from the government. In light of the growing number of singles under the age of 35, we need a comprehensive review of this policy.
HDB policies need to be expanded to include groups such as divorcees, who are often ineligible for subsidised public housing. AWARE calls on the government to act on a recent report from the Government Parliamentary Committee on National Development, which recommends treating divorcees as first-timers for public housing. We would also like to see singles allowed to access additional government grants and financial support for housing currently reserved for married couples.
Additionally, housing policies should provide for particularly marginalised groups such as singles with disabilities or unmarried caregivers, who often fall through the cracks.
The government has said that ‘Our SG Conversation’ unveiled the core aspirations of Singaporeans which will serve as a guide for government policy. AWARE is glad that PM Lee announced strategy changes related to the areas of ‘Assurance’ and ‘Opportunities’, but we hope to see landmark shifts in policies affecting ‘Purpose’, ‘Spirit’, and ‘Trust’.
Purpose: We ask the government recognise that to Singaporeans, “progress” means more than GDP growth, and to therefore include ‘quality of life’ indicators such as environmental sustainability, a sense of well-being and happiness when making decisions for our future.
Spirit: Policies governing civil society and community action need to evolve, allowing Singaporeans to take ownership of the future of our nation. The government must liberalise the Registry of Societies Act and provide more space and liberties for people to organise, advocate, and carry out community-led initiatives. We would also like to see the government recognise and award public service by civil society members and everyday Singaporeans in the prestigious National Day Awards.
Trust: The government must also allow citizens to engage with it on matters that are important to the diverse communities that live in Singapore. It is crucial that Singaporeans have a say in government spending and nation building. Transparency is a critical part of building trust. AWARE calls on the government to release more socioeconomic data, disaggregated by factors such as gender, race, and age.