By Sierra the Italic
The PAP seems to be making town council management the key issue this election. While it is true that keeping a housing estate in a good state is important, I believe this is not the most important of issues confronting the nation.
Members of Parliament are elected to represent their constituents in Parliament and to decide on policies, and not to be estate managers. Some might argue that running town councils effectively is an indication of a political party’s ability to run a country well. The trouble with this argument is that running a housing estate does not require really a long term view.
Some forward thinking might be needed when it comes to building a hawker centre, bus interchange, or shopping centre, but these are not issues and decisions that have a direct impact on the country.
The issues that have long term consequences, such as population growth and economic development, are the bigger concerns that voters want to hear about from political parties as these are the issues that affect the whole country.
As I see it, there are four big issues that need to be addressed in this election: the transport system, future leadership, economic growth, and housing and cost of living.
It is rather disturbing that MRT breakdowns are so frequent that there are now even digital displays to show if the trains are working or not. Look at this chart showing the incidence of lengthy breakdowns over the last few years.
Some may say that the MRT lines that frequently break down, the North South Line and the East West Line, are already close to 20 years old and so the problems are inevitable. On the other hand, train networks in cities such as London are centuries old and yet function well.
I believe that Singaporeans should give the government some time to solve this matter as the transport system is a long term issue and solutions will take time. One point to consider, though, is that Tokyo, which has a much bigger population than Singapore, has a very efficient train system. Clearly the argument offered in Singapore, that “even the world’s best train system will break down if everyone takes the train at the same time”, does not apply everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, our frequent breakdowns are due to an inadequate infrastructure for our population size?
The idea that Singapore will sink without the PAP is an idea I do not agree with fully. There is no basis for saying that Singapore will be destroyed if the opposition comes into power. After all, the PAP was once an opposition party, and yet they changed Singapore into what it is today. (The credit, however, should not just go to the pioneer leaders of the PAP but also the pioneer citizens who worked to achieve our status today.) The opposition might not seem ready to take over the government after this election, but in time to come this might well change, especially as some of the opposition parties are now attracting high-calibre candidates.
Singapore’s economic growth has been slow since 2011 (see the chart below). This may be inevitable as we are now a developed economy. The government appears to want to push for stronger growth by expanding the workforce, which is why we have that controversial 6.9 million by 2030 population growth target. I believe in economic growth, but not at the cost of the people. Also, good infrastructure must first be put in place.
Housing and Cost of Living
In 2008, the HDB resale index broke through the 100 mark in the fourth quarter. This year, in the second quarter, it was 135. Just 25 years ago, it was around 24 to 25. The cost of HDB resale flats has reached a level where it will take 20 to 30 years to pay off HDB loans. Public housing, I believe, should be affordable, with loans that can be paid off within five to 10 years. Public housing should not be driven by the profit motive.
Also, for two consecutive years, Singapore has had the dubious honour of having the highest cost of living in the world for a city. The financial burden of many Singaporeans has grown as the cost of living has increased faster than wages. This is an issue the government should address.