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Pritam Singh calls for interest-free SkillsFuture loans to boost training

Workers’ Party chief advocates for interest-free SkillsFuture loans in Budget 2024, aiming to bridge the gap between aspirations and reality.



SINGAPORE: Speaking on the first day of the Budget debate in Parliament (26 Feb), Mr Pritam Singh, Workers’ Party chief and Leader of the Opposition, advocated for the government to introduce interest-free SkillsFuture loans.

Mr Singh expressed the Workers’ Party’s support for Budget 2024 but highlighted a growing mismatch between aspirations and reality.

He suggested that offering interest-free SkillsFuture loans could address this issue.

While acknowledging the importance of the SkillsFuture top-up announced in the Budget, Mr Singh emphasized that an interest-free loan would further facilitate training and skills development.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced during his Budget speech (16 February) that Singaporeans aged 40 and above will receive an additional S$4,000 (US$2,970) in SkillsFuture credit in May, on top of the S$500 credit received at the age of 25.

Mr Singh stated that the Workers’ Party sees the deployment of SkillsFuture credits towards economically productive courses with employment outcomes as an important policy initiative of the Budget but also believes that many of the courses are likely to cost more than S$4,000.

He proposed the introduction of interest-free SkillsFuture education loans, a policy that was a prominent feature of the party’s manifesto for the 2020 General Elections.

These loans could be targeted towards courses in high-growth industries or other economically significant areas, he continued.

While acknowledging the government’s efforts to invest in the future, Mr Singh suggested that more could be done.

Nurturing human capital

He highlighted the need for greater investments in human capital, especially given the rapidly changing workplace landscape.

Steps must be taken to address the widening gap between what Singaporeans aspire toward and the reality they face, Mr Singh said.

Addressing the widening gap between aspirations and reality, Mr Singh referenced the Forward Singapore report, which encouraged a broader definition of success beyond the traditional “5Cs” (cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country club membership).

He said, “The reality is that things are very difficult for not a small number of Singaporeans today, regardless of what definition of success one deploys.”

He cited an OCBC survey indicating that 23% of Singaporeans can only afford their basic needs, and 79% do not have a retirement plan or are not on track with their retirement plan.

This, he suggested, could jeopardize the social compact if the middle of society feels financially insecure.

During his speech, Mr Singh also called for greater transparency from the government.

He referenced concerns raised by private sector economists about the combination of large cash handouts and a lack of information about Singapore’s fiscal strength.

Mr Singh then reiterated his previous calls for the government to be more open about Singapore’s reserves and to disclose figures on carbon tax revenue.

He emphasized the importance of such transparency for rational discussions on fiscal matters and for alternative visions to emerge.

Highlighting the need for a political environment fit for Singapore’s purposes, Mr Singh stated, “Singaporeans need to know how much there is to spend and where the money comes from.

These are basic requirements for having rational discussion on fiscal matters and for realistic or alternative visions to emerge,” he said.

He requested that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) explain how the government plans to deploy S$40 billion for Forward Singapore policies.

Mr Singh emphasized that just as the PAP calls on the Workers’ Party to present its alternatives, the PAP should also lay out its proposals.

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Pritam still don’t get it or pretend to wayang just the same.
Train what? Skill what? Skill future for what?
FTs are just taking the jobs!
Boleh land 3.56 and going to 4 to 1!
Skill locals for food delivery?
This is the kind of oppo …oppo voted for!😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣🤣

All caring Govt would not just ask ppl to upgrade while providing No solution to employment. It is not the first time as a Non Representive of the ppl to speak and say that it should work as a package with employment … No just creating jobs on One State neglecting the other State. How lousy your 2 states solution!!!!!