Voters are left wondering about PAP manifesto

Andrew Loh

Senior members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) have been calling on Singaporeans to scrutinise the manifestos of the opposition parties.

Mr Wong Kan Seng, in particular, had urged voters to “drill down to the details as to what exactly do they mean by their specific recommendations.”

Mr Wong, who is also the 1st Assistant Secretary General of the PAP,  said, “When people look at all these items, they should perhaps look into the details or perhaps ask for better explanation as to how these policies can be implemented.”

His remarks came days after the Workers’ Party (WP) unveiled its 63-page election manifesto. Comprising 15 chapters, it delves into various aspects – from the economy to civil liberties, from law to society.

The Singapore Democratic Party  (SDP) launched its alternative economic programme in a 47-page document in November last year.  The party had also unveiled in February its shadow budget for the nation even before the Government’s own budget in March this year.

Another opposition party, the National Solidarity Party (NSP), made available its 11-page manifesto on 21 April. (See here.)

The party which was earliest in presenting its “policy promises” for the elections, as far as its programme for the nation is concerned, is the Reform Party. It revealed its manifesto last year. (See here.)

The PAP unveiled its programme on Sunday at a big rah-rah gathering of members celebrating its youth wing’s 25th anniversary. The manifesto, a 13-page document, was roundly criticised for its brevity and lack of specifics. Even its attempt at a simpler video presentation was so badly received that the party had to disable the ratings and comments facility on the video. (See here.)

Its 2006 election manifesto too was slammed for lacking in substance.

Looking at all the manifestos, it is quite clear that the opposition parties are more willing to spell out their ideas and plans for the country than the ruling party; and that they have apparently given more thought into their programmes.

In defending criticisms from Singaporeans about its manifesto, the PAP’s Mr Lim Swee Say said the manifesto “is a compass that charts a firm, long-term course for the country.” He also said that “people should not just think about the micro aspects of policies.”

Mr Lim’s remarks are in sharp contrast and contradiction to that of his PAP colleague, Mr Wong.

It is a shame that the PAP, being the ruling party and one which is calling for Singaporeans to demand the opposition parties reveal the details of their respective programmes, should itself be so stingy in the details of its own programmes.

Indeed, as the party which is likely to be returned to power with a convincing majority in Parliament, voters should question the PAP on the finer points of its intentions.

For example, in its 2006 election manifesto, there were no mentions in the PAP programme of raising the Goods and Services tax to fund “programmes for the needy”, nor were there any revelation that the PAP Government would open the floodgates to foreign labour, nor did it spell out changes to the CPF scheme, or raising the retirement age or raising the CPF withdrawal age.

Could it be that it is precisely because these are unpopular policies that the PAP felt it was not wise to disclose these during an election?

If so, how then do Singaporeans make a “wise” and “informed” choice at the polls, the very same thing which the PAP is again asking Singaporeans to do?

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