Parliamentarians debate to have clarity on both side’s viewpoints: Murali 


Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency Murali Pillai emphasised that parliamentary debates aim to provide clarity on the ruling People’s Action Party and Opposition ‘s viewpoints, and factors that shape policies, not just “talk for the sake of talking”.  

Mr Murali, 56, a Senior Counsel and a partner at the law firm Rajah & Tann, will join the public sector as Minister of State for Law and Transport from July 1. 

In Parliament, the two-term MP has frequently questioned opposition MPs on their policy positions. 

During this year’s Budget debate, he countered Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh’s point about needing more information to better inform the debate. He also warned against populism taking root in Singapore. 

In 2022, Mr Murali argued that the doomsday predictions the Workers Party made about the effects of GST increases on the less well off, did not materialise. The PAP Government has countered this by having features and schemes to help lower income citizens. Through the GST, Mr Murali opined, the government has maintained fiscal discipline and achieved positive economic growth.  

More importantly, with GST, the Government is able to spend more money on healthcare, education and social programmes that improved the lives of Singaporeans. The system is also a fair one, with GST vouchers returning over $1 billion to Singaporean households. Indeed, around 70 per cent of net annual GST collected, is in fact paid by tourists, foreigners and the top 20 per cent of resident households.  

He said he has no doubt his fellow colleagues would have “absolutely no issue responding to points they see as lacking merit” as they speak their minds. 

However, he stressed the importance of not talking for the sake of talking in Parliament. 

“We need to talk to clarify what both sides can agree on, disagree on, and the factors that go into policymaking,” he said. “If Parliament is tuned in only for exciting debates, it may not serve its true purpose.” 

Murali credits the GPC for providing input to important bills

With his new appointments, Mr Murali will step down as Chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law on July 1. He said that over the past few years, his GPC team provided input on several important bills including the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA) and the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA).  

“I’m grateful for the opportunities where Ministers shared their legislative plans. Members participated actively in discussions despite their busy schedules,” he said. “I’m glad we provided input that hopefully helped Ministers formulate their presentations to Parliament.” 

“We are always endeavouring to balance competing interests.”: Murali 

On transitioning from a backbencher to an office holder responsible for tackling issues, Mr Murali acknowledged the challenges. 

He said: “As a back bencher, we ask questions. As a front bencher, we answer them. The questions provide an opportunity for deeper discussions to recognise trade-offs inherent with each proposal and forge progress through implementation.” 

“The government does not have all the solutions. We continuously engage stakeholders for feedback, look for ways to better the status quo, and explain trade-offs and hard truths involved.”  

“Everyone acknowledges that if there is an easy solution, there’s absolutely no reason why the government cannot implement it. However, we always strive to strike a balance between competing (stakeholder) interests,” he added. 

Mr Murali cited ERP 2.0 implementation as an example, noting that while everyone recognises the value of a car-lite society, people’s views differ when it personally impacts them.  

“As a front bencher, it is not enough to explain. We must persuade and bring everyone on board, which is a heavy responsibility.” 

Murali Pillai

ICYMI, read about Murali’s thoughts on joining the public service.