My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

OTGV #1 - Feedback Session

Broadcast Date: 08/06/02

The Finance Minister's 2002 budget speech has come and gone.

Indicative of the rough times ahead, the budget unveiled some bitter pills for Singaporeans to swallow.

Join me Chong Ching Liang on this week's On the Grapevine as we feel the pulse of the rumblings from the heartlands on the unveiled budget.

As expected, the reduction of direct taxes such as corporate taxes took centre stage in a feedback session involving English-speaking Heartlanders and Member of Parliament and Union leader Halimah Yacob.

Most participants felt with the rise of indirect tax, the Goods and Services Tax or GST, next year, the rich will be richer while the poor will get poorer.

While most of the feedback participants understood the long term rationale for such drastic fiscal changes, most said the pill may be a tad too bitter.

Unionist Karthikeyan on the immediate financial squeeze for the middle-income Singaporeans.

"Majority of the middle-income are in the area where they have to immediately pay out and they don't have enough wealth creation yet. That's where they suffer and many of them are in the HDB housing which there's a rule that you can't downgrade now, you have to keep 5 years or 10 years. Because of that they have made the wrong move of buying a bigger house. So these are people who can't manage it for the time being. And they are not poor that they can go to the government to say do some help for me. They are in the middle income and above."

But the GST is but one of several sensitive issues.

Traffic is proving to be an even bigger rabble rouser.

Here's what one participant said about the night Electronic Road Pricing for the Central Expressway.

"You see, talking about the night ERP, they keep attacking the government, saying that this is wrong planning. It's not over congested. You plan the wrong thing: exit and the entrance... too close. Then you charge the motorist asking them to pay for all these costs. I think this is not right. "

The government's decision to offer more Certificate of Entitlement so that Singaporeans can buy more new cars is bewildering to some.

"Member of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon said, 'the government will break one of your legs and after that gives you a walking stick. So this is... majority of the people feel really touched their hearts. I don't know how the government can explain to the people. The government released the 5000 COEs, how to solve our problems? Traffic jams is always a problem and then now we want to put more car on the road to create more jam. And then we would create more ERP, create more revenue, earn more money, so how to explain to our people?"

Participants at the feedback session had voiced their concerns loud and clear, that most Heartlanders perceive that the government's push for the increase in indirect taxes, like the GST, ERP, as brushing aside their concerns.

Some of them, like a veteran unionist sounds seemingly disillusioned when he looks at the feedback process.

"Whether we have, we have such a thing or not? Even the policy we don't agree, can't say anything! We can only talk only, in the end, it's still carry out. You want to do anything, you want to consult people, take into consideration. I know you can say anything. Everything the government seems to do, they think they are always right but it's not always the case. If it is wrong, something will be changed. You know, they say that this policy doesn't suit at this point of time. But I think the view of the public is important. Maybe this point they should seriously looked into it. You want, you want feedback. Study the feedback carefully. "

New Member of Parliament but veteran trade union leader Halimah Yacob said it's not true that Singaporeans' feedback are not considered.

"It is now applicable to almost 90 percent of Singaporeans compared to Singapore shares which are much more restrictive. And then the other feedback is -- in the 1994 package -- when we had the feedback that look here you know, when we had the feedback that not everybody benefited and that is where because of the feedback, the government has the three thousand six hundred dollars. If you are a household, regardless of your house size if your household income is less then 3600 dollars and you're affected then you will benefit. You can go to the CCC and get help."

Madam Halimah said she does empathize with Singaporeans who've genuine concerns and fear.

But she stressed that the relief packages offered by the government will go some way in helping Singaporeans cope with the increased GST.

Madam Halimah said one way to chase away the initial fears facing Singaporeans on the impending changes is to find ways to explain the policies better.

"I think it is a question of perception. The explanation had not really gone down in that sense. You see like every issue when something that impact on the pocket, people are bound to react emotionally. I won't minimize the hardship. I think there are genuine feelings, you know fear. Sometimes it's a lot more of the fear also lah ... what will happen you know. So what we have to do is to do lot more explanation. So grassroots organisations have to go down and explain to people. I think that's important."

Chairman of the Feedback Unit Supervisory Panel, Dr Wang Kai Yuen

"People will start to see the effect in the government policies. The feedback unit is a valuable process to ensure that the views of the people are looked into. It is basically an independent channel for the public to air their views."

It is important.

In such tough times, Singaporeans need to be reassured that their government is looking after them.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Feedback Unit


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