For people in this short-attention social media world, political debates might be “tl;dr”.
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin noted as much when the Committee of Supply (COS) debates over Government spending and direction ended on the evening of Mar 7, 2023; they ran across seven days for about nine hours each.
Singaporeans need the COS debates, though. These debates help the PAP Government decide how to use its limited funds across all Ministries for issues which affect Singaporeans every day.
In that spirit, here is a quick guide to the COS: PAP leaders invoked Beyonce on the Budget, Goldilocks on climate change, Phua Chu Kang on Government ads and Harry Styles on the Singapore Sports Hub.
Beyoncé: Is Budget 2023 “to the left, to the left”?
Budget 2023 is generous: Up to S$2,300 in cash and up to S$600 in MediSave top-ups per person, among other gifts. More PAP Government CPF contributions for hardworking platform workers and low-wage workers.
Plus: double the paternity leave for new dads and up to $80,000 in grants (it used to be S$50,000) for first-timer families buying a resale flat.
On the other hand, there are increased taxes for properties worth above S$1.5 million and higher additional registration fees for luxury cars.
To quote Mayor of North West District Mr Alex Yam (Feb 24), who in turn quoted Queen Bey:
“Two Finance Ministers ago, I characterised the 2015 budget, which was announced by SM Tharman at the time, with Beyoncé’s lyrics: ‘To the left, to the left’.”
Mr Deputy Speaker, I’m not about to sing another song. But this budget has been described by some analysts as perhaps the most distributive in recent years. A number of good things have been said about it by residents and friends that I’ve met since its delivery on the Feb 14.”
Goldilocks: Juuuust the right pace for green procurement
Climate change is the great battle of our time. From 2024, the ministries and stat boards will consider the sustainability practices of their vendors — their energy efficiency, packaging waste and carbon footprint.
This green procurement shift starts with large construction and ICT tenders, which are more than 60 per cent of the value of Government procurement contracts. It will first cover 5 per cent of the evaluation points, expanding after review, so the Government can expand the adoption of sustainability criteria to more public sector procurement sectors.
As Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said on Mar 2:
“We are balancing the pace. It’s a bit like the Goldilocks problem, you know? Not too hot, not too cold, just right. So we shouldn’t go too slowly. But neither should we go too quickly. But we should do it just right.”
Phua Chu Kang: Government ads must reach every Singaporean
Yes: Every Singaporean. Even if (to reference Ah Beng contractor extraordinaire Phua Chu Kang) people are holidaying in JB or Batam.
Or if, like Uncle or Ah Ma, they don’t necessarily speak English.
They, and other members of the public, need to know about Government programs and initiatives. Especially when they need help, or in times of crisis. The PAP Government does not commission ads for feel-good political ends.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How gave an example (Feb 28) to Members:
“Last year, the Government spent between S$175 million and S$200 million dollars, or around 0.2 per cent of total Government expenditure on advertising and Government’s advertising spend increased during Covid-19.”
“This was necessary to keep the public informed on the pandemic crisis as it unfolded and the Government’s responses. Members may recall the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns like Get your shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi featuring Phua Chu Kang and Pak jiam buay?, by our getai celebrities.”
BLACKPINK and Harry Styles: Singapore Sports Hub for world-class entertainment
With the Government now in charge, the Singapore Sports Hub is becoming a place for all Singaporeans. It brims with so much potential as part of the Kallang Alive sports and entertainment precinct.
The Chinese New Year Stadium Waterfront Carnival was held recently at the Sports Hub, and student-athletes now play there during the National School Games. In fact, the National School Games finals, National Stadium Open Houses and grassroots events will come soon to Sport Hub.
All these help nurture a Singapore with strong bonds of mutual trust and community
One other direction in which the Sports Hub is heading: World-class entertainment events.
As Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong outlined (Mar 6) :
“In the coming months, Singaporeans can look forward to world-renowned entertainment events, such as Harry Styles and BLACKPINK, as well as marquee sports events, such as the World Table Tennis Singapore Smash happening this week and next. And the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens happening next month.
We also have FIBA, which is the International Basketball Association, holding its Intercontinental Cup in Singapore for the very first time. Sir, there is a whole suite of activities for everyone, from community and sporting events for children, youth, families, and seniors, to international marquee events.”
Maybe the Sports Hub will one day go “to the left, to the left” too.
What’s certain, though, is that COS 2023 was an all-of-Government effort for Singporeans and Singapore, strengthening the social compact laid out in Budget 2023, so that we can start “Moving Forward in a New Era”.