The "one participant" mentioned in the article is me. I wonder why I was not mentioned by name when I clearly pre-registered myself before the event and used my actual name and not a pseudonym to chat with Mr. Gan Kim Yong and Dr. Amy Khor.
Throughout the roughly 40 minute exchange, Mr. Gan and Dr. Khor kept reiterating the official government positions, without properly addressing why the positions were adopted. Mr. Gan, when he disagreed, did not even specify why he disagreed, but rather chose to ignore the specific queries. When Mr. Gan stated some positions, I asked if they were mere 'hypothesis' and 'myths', which questions Mr. Gan completely ignored.
Dr. Khor was more engaging. Although she too did ignore some queries, at least she was courteous enough to acknowledge me by name during the webchat; and spontaneous enough to say where she agreed and where she disagreed.
As reported by the main stream media The Straits Times, when Mr. Gan said that it was better for the unemployed get a job so that "they can move on", I asked about need for financial security in the interim between loosing a job and finding another one. To which Mr. Gan replied that upgrading of skills with training allowances and financial aids (if necessary) from the community development councils. I replied to Mr. Gan that while I agreed with him that upgrading of skills was necessary, it may not be the only tool available in the event of retrenchment or unemployment; and that financial security for the retrenched should not be a matter of "hand-outs" in the form of allowances and financial aids (which could be very belittling to the retrenched worker), but that it should be a matter of RIGHTS for the worker.
In the webchat I highlighted why Unemployment Insurance was an important right of the worker which should not be denied; because unemployment insurance:
- provides the security of time for the unemployed worker to seek new opportunities or even to re-skill;
- maintain adequate level of consumption in society;
- gives financial institutions added incentives to lend even in times of economic crisis; because they have the added assurance of a higher chance of repayment even in the event of retrenchment.
Mr. Gan did not reply to these points.
Dr. Khor suggested that such initiatives may be a disincentive for the unemployed to remain unemployed. To which I said that although there may be 'some' who may abuse the system; they are a minority and that the majority actually do not want to remain unemployed. I also said that our policies should not be devised with the mindset of fear, that they are going to be misused by the minority; but in a way to benefit the majority. We should deal with the abusers and misusers on a 'case-by-case' basis; and not the other way around. Dr. Khor agreed that "thankfully" not many were misusers of such initiatives.
There were many other things we discussed in the webchat; like for the need to have harmony among the government, corporations and workers (union). To which I replied that harmony can also exist in dissensions.
But the point which was not debunked in the webchat is that Unemployment Insurance as a matter of right, is an essential tool to help the unemployed so that "they can move on"!
See also Harmony Isn't Hype in TODAYonline. I was the one who asked if the "tripartite celebrations were mere "hype". When Mr. Gan said that "Years ago strikes were common. But we changed that." I remarked that our very freedom was bought at the price of strikes and that the founding fathers of modern Singapore, including Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, rode on the back of protests.