In the lead-up to the 11 September polling day, it seems that the Workers' Party (WP) can almost do no wrong. Their rallies have seen extremely high numbers in attendance and their candidates' speech soundbites have been well-received on social media.
Until this report by The Straits Times which reported on WP's NCMP and East Coast GRC candidate Gerald Giam comments which said that the Government's U-turn in the immigration policy has hurt businesses.
Giam was speaking to the media on Tuesday (8 September) at a walkabout in Simei. He further said that the WP did not cause 'pain' to businesses and workers, as WP is suggesting solutions to a problem caused by the People's Action Party (PAP). He added that it seemed the Government did not plan for infrastructure when population grew 'at such a huge pace' from 2000 to 2009.
He said that businesses need time to plan labour projections and a sudden policy change hurt businesses more.
These comments, however, did not seem to go down well with netizens. Many responded on ST's article Facebook post questioning Giam's comments, here are the top-voted ones:
Most of the comments called Giam out for saying that the foreign manpower policy U-turn had hurt businesses. This is because Giam and the WP had previously argued for zero foreign labour growth during the 2013 Population White Paper debate in Parliament.
Giam, at the debate, had said he did "not think there is anything wrong with having zero foreign workforce growth in the next eight years" in the context that resident workforce growth could reach 1%. This exchange can be found on Giam's personal blog.
Furthermore, WP chief Low Thia Khiang also had an exchange with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament in 2014 over Low's comments on zero foreign labour growth. PM Lee had asked pointedly whether Low and the WP stood by its stand that they advocated for zero foreign labour growth. Low had responded with the following:
We had made a calculation at that point in time while debating the Population White Paper and that if you continue to allow the foreign workers to grow it will be untenable in the future population growth and thereby we decided that we need to keep the population number in check and one way of doing it, of course, is to freeze the foreign workers’ growth in numbers.
Our calculation was that probably within the existing number of foreign workers, you can still move (them) around in some sectors that don’t need so much of foreign workers thereby you can still get by with the zero foreign workers’ growth.
We understand perfectly the possibility and the trade-off. That is our position at that point in time. We have not objected subsequently, or grilled the Government, for why are (they) not doing it because that is our view, that it should have zero (foreign worker) growth, but the Government decided otherwise that is their way of doing it. We have said our piece but we have to respect the decision of the Government to move on. But our message has got across. We cannot sustain continuously the kind of population growth plan the Government is planning and I am glad to hear today that Prime Minister is saying that the Government is taking a very serious view on tightening and watching the growth of population.
The exchange continued:
PM Lee: Mdm Speaker, after all this complicated explanation, I don’t know whether Mr Low Thia Khiang still stands by what was said in Parliament in the White Paper debate last year. Because if he really does, after all the explanation, he should say, we have too many foreign workers now, send home 70,000. Then we will know where he stands. But after telling me you can massage this and some people can do (with) less and others will need more – that is easy to say, who is going to do the massaging? Of course, the Government. And that, is the mark of a sub-standard Opposition.
Mr Low: Mdm Speaker, I disagree. This is not the mark of a sub-standard Opposition. This is the mark of a responsible Opposition not to jam up the Government; allowing the Government - after giving our view, debating it – allowing the Government to move forward, not to jam up the Government. It is a mark of a responsible Government and a mark of first world Parliament.
PM Lee: Mdm Speaker. We have to call a spade a spade. If we have changed position and your previous position was wrong, say so. If you hold by your position, have your guts to reaffirm it and take the consequences. But to weasel away, play with words, avoid the issue and then claim to be responsible, that is what we fear can drive Singapore’s politics into the same place where many other countries have gone.
Top photo by Kelly Wong