I refer to two letters published by TODAYonline in relation to the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) announced by the government recently. In the first letter, “Beware the danger of making policy promises too far into the future”, the writer points out the pitfalls of a government that seems able to commit future governments to a scheme that will only occur in circa 20 years. In making his erudite point, the writer cautions against indulging “a political incumbent with its expectation of longevity in office” as this could run the risk of “breeding complacency, arrogance and a sense of entitlement.” Further he warns that this would also set “a dangerous precedent of meeting present-day political pressure by building up public expectations to be met by future governments.”
In reply to this letter, another letter was written where the writer also astutely points out “that the incumbent Government of the day — whether the PAP or any other political party — has a duty to plan for both the short-term and long-term direction of country.” He goes on to say that it would be an “even more dangerous premise if the Government did not do so as we would end up with an administration of the day that runs on short-term planning based on electoral cycles, and that is more interested in retaining their incumbency instead of focusing on long-term nation-building thereby causing Singapore to lose its political stability.
While I agree with both writers to a certain extent, I would go a step further on questioning the rationale behind the scheme and whether or not it really does amount to planning ahead. It is argued that in announcing Vers, the government is planning ahead. Is it though? Given that the details have not yet been worked out and that it was only announced because the issue of housing has become such a hot topic, is this scheme rushed out to ensure electoral majority in the rumoured 2019 general elections? If this is indeed the case, can this be considered long term planning or is it a short term effort to yield short term results under the guise of long term planning?
For me, this particular Vers scheme is not about the government planning ahead. Nor is it about the government assuming that it will be in power 20 years from now. To me, it seems like an effort to show people right now that it still has relevance for the future and that we need to vote for them. Whether they have really thought deeply about what lies further ahead is anyone’s guess.
I can accept the ruling party’s desire to court its voters with promises of the future. That is to be expected. However, I would urge voters to look at the issues that matter more to them at the time of the election. Is it to guarantee a future that may or may not happen? Or is it to take a chance and see if more diversity in Parliament can lead to change that may lead to more accountability. Everyone has a point of view and I don’t suppose there is a right or wrong answer. I just hope that when the votes are cast, people are clear about what they want and hope to achieve – not to be blindsided by things that may or may not happen 20 years from now.