JOBS AND LEAVE
The WP secretary-general then raised questions over specific Budget announcements.
He asked how the new Job-Skills Integrators initiative – to help employers enhance training and placement of workers – differed from past efforts such as professional conversion programmes and SkillsFuture frameworks.
Mr Singh also asked what performance indicators would be used to determine the effectiveness of Job-Skills Integrators, as well as the fiscal outlay set aside for it.
On the extension of the Senior Employment Credit – which provides wage offsets to employers who hire older employees – Mr Singh said employers could be given more support, noting that the Government pays up to 3 per cent of wages for workers aged between 55 and 64.
During his speech, he also addressed suggestions – made in the wake of paternity leave being doubled – to excuse men from National Service (NS) duties for the year of their children being born.
“Speaking as an NSman, I would be very cautious about moving in this direction,” he said. “I would suggest leaving it to unit commanders to determine how best to accommodate the specific requests of their servicemen, as they have been doing for many years already.
“If a unit is having a major exercise or conducting a critical operation, the needs of the Singapore Armed Forces or the Home Team agencies cannot and should never be compromised,” he added.
RETIREMENT AND HOUSING
Turning to retirement adequacy, Mr Singh said the WP supported the rise of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) income ceiling to S$8,000, but he sought clarifications on whether the Government considered allocating a higher percentage of CPF funds to the Special Account.
This, in his view, would serve the retirement needs of Singaporeans better, due to the higher interest of the Special Account.
For the increase in CPF grants for resale flat buyers, Mr Singh raised concerns about home prices rising to match the new grants for eligible first-timers.
“This could happen as a response to the increase in grants. But more likely, price rises could happen because buyers will be tempted to bid more for a flat they want because they know have the additional grant to enhance the price they can pay,” he said.
He also called for more details on the valuation of land for public and private use, including how such sales of private land below market valuation intersected with the Government’s call that HDB land not sold at market valuation would amount to a “raiding of the reserves”.
“The Government should reply to these questions, which are asked with a view to considering alternative approaches to the valuing of land for 99-year leasehold public housing,” said Mr Singh.
“These are questions that members of the public are interested in, particularly since the details and principles of this subject has not been significantly ventilated in public.”