~ By Tan Kin Lian ~
In my view, it is both; and more inclined towards the latter.
Both candidates have good points and deserve the support of the voters.
Desmond Choo of the Peoples’ Action Party has been working hard and “wearing his socks out”. He has also promised to continue to work in the constituency, even if he is not elected in this round. He does get good media coverage – which is a benefit of contesting under the PAP banner.
Png Eng Huat of the Workers Party has been working in the grassroots in Hougang for five years. I know of this fact, as he was my former colleague. I know Png to be reliable, helpful and friendly. He may appear to be “low key” but I watched a video of his speech at the previous general election – and he talked sense!
Whoever wins on 26 May will be a win for Hougang voters.
I expect that this by-election will be a mini referendum on the performance of the PAP Government over the year since the 2011 general election.
Here are the positive points that voters can give credit to the Government
1. It carried out a salary review of government ministers and implemented a cut of one third of their previous salaries. Link.
2. It accelerated the building of HDB flats. When completed in a few years time, the new supply is likely to moderate or reduce the cost of HDB flats. Link.
3. It reduced the issue of work passes for foreign workers and declined to renew some existing passes. Link.
4. It invested $1.1 billion to provide more buses for public transport. Link
5. It launched the Financial Advisory Industry Review to look into consumer issues in the finance sector. Link
6. It promised to review the insurance schemes for medical and long term care. Link
These are commendable efforts, although many critics were able to find fault with the pace, extent and direction of these initiatives.
I give demerit points to the Government on the following issues.
1. It refused to amend the Internal Security Act, in spite of a similar act being abolished in Malaysia. Link
2. It delayed the calling of the Hougang by-election unnecessarily, which prompted a resident to take this matter to court. Link
3. It appeared to be rather weak, depending on a few experienced ministers to look after several key ministries and to rely on new ministers that are inexperienced in their portfolios.
4. It refused to recognise the flaws in past policies that caused the bad outcomes, and to make fundamental changes, preferring instead to “tweak” the ineffective policies.
If I were a voter in Hougang (and I am not), I would place my vote for the Workers Party. It is important to pass a message to the PAP Government that several existing policies need a fundamental review and change. They should also change their style of government and be prepared to listen more to the “common sense” of the people in deciding on the future direction of Singapore.
This article is published by The Online Citizen, 20 Maxwell Road, #09-17 Maxwell House, Singapore 069113.