PAP GE2020 Manifesto aims to offer hope to Singaporeans in “facing the crisis of a lifetime”. COVID-19 crisis takes centre stage, reminiscent of the SARS outbreak of 2003 and marked the beginning of a new internet world and the advent of budget carriers.
Similarly, COVID-19 crisis intersects with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution but set against a backdrop of rising nationalism, trade protectionism and closed borders, with the return of manufacturing to developed economies as countries scramble for self-sufficiency in essential goods.
We have heard this message for training, transforming and growing our economy on repeat for decades past. The only thing new this GE are various schemes to protect jobs, stabilise businesses. Every responsible and responsive government has done so too and even Heng Swee Keat thinks it is nothing special.
There was no clear strategy however to address Singaporeans’ employment anxieties, persistent since the watershed GE2011. The groundswell unhappiness then was due to unfettered mass immigration (as opposed to selective immigration), complaints of discrimination against citizens in securing jobs by foreigners who are gaming the system. These anxieties never abated.
On 22 June 2020, MOM scrambled to impose new rules to ensure fair hiring. This move reflects the incumbent party’s admission that Singaporeans have been discriminated against. The timing of the release of these new rules is too coincidental when dissolution of parliament was announced just the day after. One cannot help thinking that it is a meek attempt to appease public anger before going to the polls.
Training programs are irrelevant in securing Singaporeans’ employment when less qualified foreigners get a foothold through being favoured by the foreign investors who come from the same country as them, their nepotistic networks and other back doors. The target of 100 thousand jobs, is no guarantee that 100% of jobs will go to Singaporeans. The huge numbers of jobs that goes to foreigners in the past to create paltry few jobs for Singaporeans is not a source of comfort.
“COVID-19 has forced a global pause and a re-set” which presents a “unique opportunity to re-shape and re design our future”. Apart from these motherhood statements, PAP did not reimagine a new post-COVID world.
The usage of technology accelerated during the pandemic where work from home, online meetings and telemedicine is a reality. Robotics and AI have become more advance, readily available, and widely adopted. This transformation involves remote working, Minister Teo Chee Hean recognised this could present both opportunities or competition.
PM Lee’s assertion that Singapore has strengths that is difficult to replicate is a true statement. Thus, to remain as a business city without having to import workers is a plausible strategy. With the advent of AI, it would be bane not boon to have a large population in the future as AI displaces humans for most jobs.
PAP failed to reimagine a new post-COVID world where we are in good position to leverage on remote working with workers across the world without bringing them in while creating valuable jobs for Singaporeans. This could potentially shift the model from mass immigration to selective immigration. We have seen how mass immigration has displaced citizens in the workforce, ever since PM Lee took over the helms in 2004.
The change in immigration model could rebalance the ratio between citizens and immigrants to ensure they integrate with us, not the other way round. Population decrease may also bring down the cost of living. At the same time, salaries could go up and business can still be competitive as it has a base of workers in Singapore complemented by lower cost centres elsewhere.
PAP is simply not interested to innovate and swing the balance in favor of the Citizen.
The definition of Sustainable Living is narrow. It is just more of what we have done- planting trees and using more solar energy. Alas, such a narrow definition of sustainability. It could have been a wholistic approach to sustainability to cover sustainable population, sustainable infrastructure, sustainable values.
With one stroke, PAP could have reinvented Singapore and addressed citizens’ concerns but alas, all our complaints and unhappiness swept under the PAP carpet.
Instead of addressing the total human needs – unhappiness, anxiety, instability, stress, lack of confidence in the future, PAP is narrow in its matrix which focuses on economic, healthcare, and physical environment.
WE STOOD IN A TIME WARP FOR A DECADE
SG Conversation was almost a decade ago. PAP GE2020 Manifesto offers nothing fresh and a lot of what Singaporeans would like to see remains undelivered.
So NO Reset, N0 Redesign and No Imagination, Same Sufferings Only.