Speech in response to COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment No. 3) Bill

This Speech was given by Mr. Leong Mun Wai in Parliament in response to COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment No. 3) Bill, on 11th May 2021.

Mr Leong’s speech in Video format can be viewed below: (Video Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information, MCI )

  1. Mr Speaker, Sir, this Bill is to provide financial relief to help our local construction companies (“contractors”) to defray the increased migrant worker cost as a result of the further tightening of entry restrictions for migrant workers.
  2. We empathize with the difficulties faced by our contractors who have been severely ravaged by the Covid pandemic but there are also many other considerations to be made before we can support this Bill.
  3. First and foremost, who is going to pay for the financial relief. Under the Bill, an independent Assessor is appointed to assess the foreign manpower cost increase as a result of the tight migrant worker situation and the assessed cost is to be paid by the property developer.
  4. However, with the surging property market now, the property developer can easily pass on the increased cost to the property buyers, many of whom are Singaporeans. If this happens, we will be imposing another indirect tax on our people who are also suffering under the Covid pandemic.
  5. The way to prevent that is to first dampen the bullish sentiment in the property market. And reining in property prices is what we need to do now in order not to exacerbate the social inequality in our country.
  6. In addition, for our people, especially the younger couples planning to start a family, who are facing a housing shortage and long BTO queue at the moment, it would also be good policy to rein in the aggressive property purchases of the foreigners.
  7. Hence, an appropriate solution is to increase the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) to reduce foreigners’ demand, dampen the property market and raise revenue to pay for the financial relief for the contractors. In this way, the foreigners and the property developers who may have to lower prices to retain buying interest, will be the ultimate payers.
  8. Next the Government may not want the contractors to sit on their laurels after the new measures kick in. The current problem is partly caused by the contractors having relied on foreign labour for far too long. So the relief assistance we give to the contractors must come with commitment from them to accelerate process redesign and automation. The Government can integrate the relief measures into the Built Environment Sector Strategy.
  9. This is also a great opportunity to attract some of our Singaporeans to rejoin the construction sector because contractors can now pay higher wages as the wages of migrant workers have shot up significantly. But the Government has so far not taken any initiatives to encourage this.
  10. If the Government dares to take the bold move to make a bigger increase in the ABSD, there will be even enough additional fiscal revenue to provide for renovated public rental units or subsidized private rental units to Singaporean couples who are waiting for their BTO flats. In this way, we maintain our family formation rate and total fertility rate preventing a Covid gap in our future population structure which may become another future problem.
  11. Mr Speaker, this Bill is a single-objective defeatist policy. It is defeatist because we are succumbing to the effect of a migrant worker shortage inflicting damage to our contractors and then worsening the housing shortage which directly impact our lives.
  12. However, this need not be the case if we are prepared to bear with short-term inconveniences to shake ourselves off the addictive reliance on foreign labour with the right policies over time.
  13. If we increase the ABSD, restricting the number of migrant workers will not worsen our livelihoods. Instead, our contractors will have more time to adjust to a new supply chain and may increase employment of our local workers; our young Singaporean couples get their rental flats; and all these paid by the foreign buyers of our local properties.
  14. Mr Speaker, Mandarin please.
  1. 议长先生,本法案的目的在于提供财政援助,帮助我们的本地建筑公司(”承包商”)支付由于进一步收紧外国劳工 (外劳)的入境限制而造成的工资成本增加。
  2. 我们同情我们的承包商所面临的困难,他们受到冠病大流行的严重破坏,但是在我们支持这个法案之前,还要考虑到其他问题。
  3. 首先,也是最重要的是,谁来为这次的财政救济买单。 根据该法案,一个独立的评估员将被任命来评估由于外劳市场紧迫而导致的外劳成本增加。 评估后的费用将由房地产开发商支付。
  4. 然而,随着现在房地产市场的飙升,开发商可以很容易地将增加的成本转移给房地产买家,其中许多是新加坡人。 如果这种情况发生,这将是对我们人民征收多一种间接税。
  5. 防止这种情况的方法是首先抑制房地产市场的看好情绪。 而为了避免加剧我国的社会不平等,抑制房地产价格也是我们现在需要做的。
  6. 此外,由于我国人民,特别是计划组建家庭的年轻夫妇,目前面临着住房短缺,因此控制外国人的过度购买行为也是一项好政策。
  7. 因此,适当的方案是增加买方额外印花税(ABSD),以减少外国人的购屋需求,抑制房地产市场,并以印花税的收入支付承包商的财政救济。 这样一来,外国人和房地产开发商将成为最终的付款人。
  8. 接下来,政府可能不希望承包商在新措施生效后坐享其成。 目前的问题实际上是由于承包商长期以来依赖外国劳工的结果。 因此,我们必须督促承包商加速工作流程的重新设计和自动化。 政府可以将救济措施纳入改革建筑环境部门的战略里。
  9. 这也是吸引一些新加坡人重新加入建筑行业的绝佳机会,因为在外劳的工资大幅上涨之下,承包商可以给新加坡工人支付更高的工资。 但政府并没有采取任何行动鼓励这方面的发展。
  10. 如果政府更大胆地增加印花税,就会有足够的额外财政收入,为正在等待政府组屋单位的新加坡人夫妇提供翻新的公共租房或补贴的私人租房。 这样一来,我们就可以维持家庭的形成速度和总生育率,防止未来人口结构的缺口,给下一代埋下另一个问题。
  11. 议长先生,这法案只是一个单一目标的失败主义政策。 因为它让我们屈服于外劳短缺的阴影里 - 就是外劳短缺会造成承包商的损失,然后使住房短缺恶化,直接影响我们的生活。
  12. 然而,如果我们运用适当的政策,情况就不一定是这样的。在我们推荐的增加印花税政策之下,限制外劳人数不会使我们的生活恶化。 相反,我们的承包商有更多的时间来适应新的供应链,并可能增加我们本地工人的就业机会;同时,我们新加坡的年轻夫妇们可以被分派租房。 而这些费用都是由外国人房地产买家来支付的。
  1. Mr Speaker, Sir, this Bill is one more opportunity for us to reaffirm our confidence that Singapore can survive and do better with a different economic model. This model will focus on developing and training our well educated local human resource and strategically, bring down the number of foreign workers over time.
  2. We urge the Government to consider our proposals seriously and amend this Bill. Thank you.

Find out more about the team driving the Progress Singapore Party

Stay Updated

Subscribe to our Newsletter