Budget debate: Caregiving and climate change take centre stage
Issues include flood resilience, electric vehicles and more flexi-work arrangements
The debate on Budget 2020 entered its second day in Parliament yesterday.
And while the coronavirus crisis and economic issues were reiterated, long-term social issues took centre stage.
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Many MPS addressed the impact of climate change, stressing the vulnerability of Singapore to environmental changes.
Nominated MP Mohamed Irshad said that while Singapore needs to continue to invest in food resilience, it is also important to create an innovative ecosystem with positive feedback loops.
This is to ensure that the country can weather long-term import disruptions, and eventually enable it to feed people with local produce.
Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan said that while the Budget's initial injection of $5 billion is a timely move, what the Government intends to spend this money on is vital, particularly in light of threats such as coastal flooding.
He stressed that a holistic and preventive approach is important, adding: "There must also be a move to mitigate climate change while we still can."
Mr Tan, along with several other MPs, also raised concerns on the Government's plan to phase out vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040, including questions on whether we will have the necessary infrastructure and cooperation from the rest of the region.
MP and chief executive officer of ComfortDelGro Taxi Ang Wei Neng said that it replaces more than 1,000 vehicles on average yearly and are keen to replace them with cleaner vehicles.
Mr Ang suggested that instead of betting on just electric vehicles, Singapore should consider other alternatives to complement them, such as fuel cell (hydrogen) vehicles.
CAREGIVING AND PARENTAL LEAVE
Nominated MP Yip Pin Xiu and MPs Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC), and Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) were among those who called for more flexible work arrangements, child and parent care leave, and care options, in Parliament.
The MPs pointed out the need for more caregiving support in light of an ageing population and drop in the fertility rate.
Sharing an anecdote about driving his daughters to school, Mr Ng said six days of childcare leave might not be enough, particularly if the child falls ill or has a medical emergency.
He suggested the Government institute specific childcare sick leave, which parents can apply for with a medical certificate.
He also pointed out that many civil servants already enjoy some of these perks and suggested the need for all industries to have the same practice.
Ms Yip also spoke of the burden of caregiving on individuals, particularly women.
Along with other MPs, she called for workplaces to accommodate care, not the other way around.
She said Singapore should consider legislating the right of employees to ask for flexible work arrangements, in order to make it possible and easier for employees to request time off should they need to.
Ms Yip added that childcare leave should be converted to family care leave so that all workers have the option to utilise it for their dependants.