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Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

It just seems like "more of the same" as the saying goes. I don't want to sound jaded but I am. I am not ungrateful for the various financial incentives that are being doled out to citizens ranging from the Merdeka Generation Package to bonuses being handed out to 2.8 million Singaporeans. However in lieu of the rumoured general elections said to take place some time this year, it is hard for me not to be skeptical of these incentives. Could this disbursement of largess potentially be construed as a sweetener ahead of the elections?

This suspicion is not unfounded. After all, hasn't it been a trend for the government to announce financial incentives ahead of general election announcements? For instance, the government announced the GST vouchers in 2014 and 1.6 million Singaporeans received letters of GST vouchers and other financial incentives in 2015. The timing could well be coincidence but if so, it was certainly a very well timed one.

What about the tacit fear mongering that has taken place over the last 12 months or so? Remember the constant reminders on the threats of terrorism and national security? Does this not strike a cord when compared with the general elections in 2015 when the Peoples' Action Party (PAP) were keen to inject fear into the hearts of Singaporeans of an unruly non PAP government taking the helm?

Every political party wants to win as many seats as possible in any general election and they would of course use what is within their power to incentivise voters to vote for them. However, in Singapore's unique position as a democracy with one dominant party in place since the 60s, are we reaching a point where the incumbent party in power no longer has new tricks in the book? It just seems to be the same thing every time - injecting fear and distributing largess.

Will Singaporeans be easily bought this time round? That is anyone's guess but lest we forget, these financial incentives may well have a catch. Remember the hotly debated potential increases in GST? This increase will probably only take place after the general elections of 2019. When looking at things from this perspective, will any financial incentives handed out pre general election be enough to cover potential increases in the GST? Are the financial incentives really incentives or just an illusion of generosity and prosperity?

I know that the PAP has recently announced a raft of new faces to rejuvenate the party and its leadership but new faces does not amount to change. Change requires mindset shifts and fresh ideas. Does the PAP have this? Looking at the recent moves ahead of the rumoured general election, I am not convinced.