Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lee Li Lian speech on Punggol east by-election 2013

Lee Li Lian speech on Punggol east by-election 2013
Good evening everyone! I am Lee Li Lian, the Workers’ Party’s candidate for Punggol East SMC.
I am very happy to be here to speak to you again. Thank you for coming tonight to show us your support!
I joined the Workers’ Party in 2006, more than six years ago. I met many of you in my walkabouts in GE2011 and you have shared your concerns with me. And you gave me 41 per cent of the votes. Thank you for your faith – I hope I can build on this for this by-election.
I have been working in the Eunos division of Aljunied GRC with MP Pritam Singh. During these past two years, I gained valuable experience in addressing the problems of many ordinary Singaporeans left behind by the PAP’s policies. This will better help me serve you as your MP.
I have met with young families who cannot afford to buy their own HDB flats or struggle to pay off their loans; elderly Singaporeans who have no savings or are struggling to pay their medical bills; parents who worry about the rising cost of education and increasing competition and  families who struggle to take care of both their children and elderly parents. I worry if our children can afford to live in Singapore 20 years down the road?
My fellow Singaporeans, like you, I am a heartlander working hard to make a living. I share many of these concerns.
Tonight I would like to talk about some of the problems that many Singaporeans, young and old are facing. Many of you shared some of these problems with me in 2011 when I was walking the ground then. Now 2 years later, many of these concerns still remain.
Punggol East has many young families – couples who are thinking of having children, or parents who already have children. Many also have to take care of their elderly parents.
Do you know that fees of childcare centres have gone up 34% in just five years?
In 2007, the average fee for a full-day childcare and infant-care programme was $680 a month. In 2012 it was about $914 a month.

In the same period, the number of childcare centres grew from 743 to 1,009. Usually greater competition means better prices. But this is in fact the opposite! Why? Because of rental costs.
Since 2009, “Anchor Operators” have dominated the childcare industry in Singapore. These Anchor Operators enjoy many public subsidies. They enjoy grants for:
(a)  rental cost;
(b)  set-up and furnishing cost;
(c)  teacher recruitment; and
(d)  manpower training.
These grants come up to an estimated $69 million since 2009. This is over half-a-million dollars of taxpayer subsidies per new childcare centre built by the Anchor Operators. In addition, Anchor Operators operate mostly from HDB void decks at rents of between $2 and $4 per square metre!
There are only two childcare centre operators that qualify as Anchor Operators. They are My First Skool – run by the NTUC; and PCF Sparkletots – affiliated to the ruling People’s Action Party.
If NTUC and PCF enjoy such huge public subsidies, why are childcare centre fees going up?
Young fathers today want to contribute to caring for their babies and easing the burden of their wives. Survey after survey shows that younger men are more involved in taking care of their children.
A number of businesses have signalled to the government that they are open to the idea of government-supported paternity leave because this is likely to increase productivity and well-being in the long-run. Wives have already expressed their support for longer paternity leave for their husbands.
So what is the government waiting for?
After worrying about the costs of living and having children, we then have to worry about our stressful education system. The PSLE in particular seems to end up being a hugely stressful experience for both children and parents.  Please do not get me wrong. I believe that healthy competition can be good.
But should a 12 year old child face the most important examination of his pre-teens life – an examination that may affect his entire future?
We are seeing unhealthy stress levels in our education system. We have students committing suicides because they did not do well enough for their exams. An estimated 1 in 10 children aged 6 to 16 suffer from mental health disorders. One child lost is one child too many.
While it is good that the Ministry of Education has decided not to name the top PSLE students in the media, to help reduce  competitiveness and stress, much more can still be done.
PSLE is still a high-stakes examination. If you do not do well at PSLE, you will always be struggling to catch up with your peers because of secondary school streaming. The formative years of our young children should also be better spent on nurturing their many talents and interests rather than forcing preparations for high-stakes examinations on them. We should study the feasibility of a primary-secondary school integrated programme and other ways to reduce the pressure to perform in the PSLE.
While Punggol East is a relatively young estate, we must not forget our senior citizens who have worked hard and contributed to nation building and growth of our country.
At the age of 75, most of our senior citizens are unemployed.  For those who are employed, they can hardly make ends meet.  This is why our seniors who are 75 and above should be allowed to use their Medisave for medical treatment without restriction. Medical cost has become a huge necessity as one grows older. At the age of 75 Medisave should be used to support immediate needs. Life expectancy in Singapore is 82 years. If our seniors cannot used their Medisave funds for immediate medical needs when they are 75 years old, when can they use it?
Allowing unrestricted use of Medisave for them will also ease the burden on families who have to take care of elderly parents and young children as well.
My fellow Singaporeans and residents of Punggol East, if we want to build strong and stable families and truly invest in the future of our nation, we need to get our policies right.
I am also an ordinary Singaporean. I grew up in a three room HDB flat. I am not a high-flier or government scholar. I did not do very well earlier in my schooling years but I worked hard and made it to Ngee Ann Poly and eventually graduated from Curtin University in Australia. In order to ease the financial burden on my parents, I did part-time work when I was just 15 years old.
I am running for this by-election because I want a better Singapore not only for us, but also for our children.
Residents of Punggol East, WP has the experience to manage the estate and constituency and I will strive to build a strong and engaged community in Punggol East. I will work my hardest to represent you and be your voice in Parliament.
Vote for our future. Vote for the Workers’ Party, and vote for me, Lee Li Lian, on polling day next Saturday, 26th of January.

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