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Robust debates can help shape policies, says WP’s Giam

SINGAPORE — Parliamentarians continued to weigh in on the topic of constructive politics yesterday, with Workers’ Party (WP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giam saying robust debates that focus on the issues at hand can help shape policies to benefit Singaporeans.

Mr Gerald Giam. TODAY file photo

Mr Gerald Giam. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Parliamentarians continued to weigh in on the topic of constructive politics yesterday, with Workers’ Party (WP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giam saying robust debates that focus on the issues at hand can help shape policies to benefit Singaporeans.

“We must not presume that vigorous and passionate debates will lead to gridlock and paralysis,” he said. At the same time, he cautioned against politics that “descends into unnecessary political attacks” and loses focus on issues that citizens care about, causing people to become cynical about the political process.

If the WP assesses that a policy goes against Singaporeans’ interest, it will oppose it and propose alternatives where possible, Mr Giam said. “If the policy is good for our country, we will support the Government for the benefit of our people. This is how we play the role of a constructive Opposition.”

The speech prompted Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Member of Parliament Janil Puthucheary to accuse him of “sound-bite politics”. Dr Puthucheary pointed to how the NCMP had cited an example of a family given only S$50 a month in financial aid by a Community Development Council and called it “going for the hyperbole of the one fact and one number to score points”.

“The facts are out there, we need to keep calm, check the facts, look at the reality and not the hyperbole,” he said.

Referring to Mr Giam’s point that the MediShield scheme is collecting more in premiums than it pays out in claims, Dr Puthucheary said there would be risks if it was ensured that payouts were the same as premiums collected.

Mr Giam then clarified that he was not suggesting payouts be equal to premiums, merely that the loss ratio of MediShield should be higher, given that commercial insurers in the United States were mandated a loss ratio of 80 to 85 per cent under ObamaCare.

Dr Janil, however, dismissed the comparison as invalid, adding that he was “loath to use the US as the be-all and end-all for a model”.

Nominated MP Laurence Lien weighed in, saying that leadership is not only about good answers and policies, but getting citizens involved. For example, good healthcare is not only about the infrastructure, but getting people to re-examine their diets and lifestyles. “The crux of the matter is that it is not just about doing things for the people, but doing things with the people,” he said.

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