by Wendy Low, Progress Singapore Party candidate for Tanjong Pagar GRC
Today, I have taken the time to write about a few points I feel every eligible voter should read and digest before heading to the polls on 10 July.
1. Controlling Mandate
PAP will likely return with a controlling mandate. Even if PAP loses the 5 GRCs (Aljunied, West Coast, Choa Chu Kang, East Coast, Tanjong Pagar for e.g.) and 5 SMCs (Bukit Panjang, Hougang, Yio Chu Kang, Marymount, Kampong Kerbau) that are most hotly contested, PAP will still retain about 68% control. This mandate will still drive most of the policies and bills that are to be passed.
Importantly, Singapore is built on a strong foundation of civil service and systems. Our public sectors such as the police force, transport, education, legal systems and hospitals will continue running operations seamlessly regardless who is the incumbent. Therefore, there is no reason fearing voting for alternative voices as it will not “rock the boat”.
Let’s picture this, a country is like a ship. The government is just like the ship’s captain, it dictates the ship’s directions. The public sector is like the crew members on the ship such as the chefs, engineers and cleaners which keeps the day to day activities running. The crew members will continue to perform their responsibilities and the ship’s passengers will continue to enjoy the facilities of the ship.
2. No To Strong Mandate
PAP will have a controlling mandate but we should not give it a strong mandate.
If you contrast the resulting policy changes from GE2011 and GE2015, which the average of 60% and 70% mandate, it will be clear why.
After losing Aljunied GRC and having a reduced mandate of 60%, PAP did some serious soul searching and unilaterally sought to correct policy shortcomings, like in housing, care for the elderly and the needy, and also the middle-income group. Significantly, the “genuine concerns” of Singaporeans were finally acknowledged. The basis and level of salaries for the President, Prime Minister, political appointment holders and MPs were reviewed and several adjustments were made.
Conversely, with the strong mandate of 70% votes after GE2015, many policies were implemented which increased costs of living, for example. The new ERP system that would charge by distance travelled was announced in 2016. There was the 30% water hike. In Budget 2018, it was announced that GST would be increased from 7% to 9%. The public transport Council announced in December 2018 that bus and train fares would increase by 7%.
Is it in Singaporean’s interest to give the PAP a strong mandate ?
3. Exaggeration of Strong Mandate
Next, the idea of a strong mandate (70% or more) required to tide Singapore over a crisis is overstated.
As mentioned above, PAP will already likely return after GE2020 with a controlling mandate (60% or more). They do not need a strong mandate to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Many political parties with a significantly smaller mandate have performed well in the current pandemic. For example, New Zealand’s Labour Party controls only 46 out of 120 seats and is in coalition with two more parties. As of two days ago it only reports 1533 confirmed cases of Covid. Likewise, Tsai Ing Wen’s ruling DPP controls only 61 out of the 113 parliamentary seats but reports only 449 cases respectively without an economic lockdown.
Some voters have questioned if a multi-party system would reduce efficiency.
But the recent Covid has shown that the incumbents are not efficient – there is the infamous u-turn on the policy of mask wearing. The circuit breaker was arguably imposed too late after an increase of unlinked cases in the preceding month. Conversely, long term policies can benefit from more robust discussions, for e.g. on HDB and CPF instead of relying on a one direction group think.
As Spiderman says, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. It is dangerous to have only one party in the government. An alternative voice serves to question the ‘whys’ behind a country’s decision, just as every company needs an audit department to check on their accounting system. This would be fair and prevent conflict of interest. An alternative voice seeks to question the government the reason behind why Singapore has five airport terminals for example. Even companies have audit checks to prevent discrepancy in numbers and abuse of power or status. If there is no alternative voice, our country may be run in a way that does not best benefit her people.
4. Competitive Politics
A person who has been excessively paid and put in assured employment will likely just be “going through the motions” as they have become lax and comfortable. This is what has become of our incumbents.
In these recent years, there has been many lapses that occurred during the government’s tenure such as multiple SingHealth data leaks, transport breakdowns, and the outbreak of COVID-19 cases, particularly amongst our foreign workers living in dormitories. Despite these devastating events, the people in charge of the respective ministries are not being held accountable for these lapses.
Imagine if Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world, suddenly loses market share. Will the board of directors aim to terminate the product engineer in the company or would they terminate the CEO? Change starts from the top. If the current head of a ministry is not capable of managing his responsibilities, at a very basic level, they should step down to make way for someone else that is more capable. At such a prime job position, there should be no room for mistakes. If one is not able to manage, they should not longer stand in the way as they are an obstruction to the improvements that can be made, for the benefit of the citizens of Singapore.
5. Stability Is Different From “Status Quo”
Parliamentary regulations will provide for rules of engagement. There is no fear of destabilising society with a multi-party Parliament. Also, there is always room for improvement, better policies, better engagements and better leadership.
Conversely, what you do not want is to remain running on the same spot, staying in status quo whilst the rest of the world speeds ahead. Because when that happens, it is not status quo that results. It is regression and extinction.
One example is when Nokia, whom was a giant in the mobile phone industry, refused to adapt to smart phone technology as they wanted to do what they were “comfortable” with. This resulted in them being out of the mobile phone business eventually. Kodak is another example.
In Singapore’s context, what is the last major Singapore grown business that has made it to the international platform? And even for our GLCs, where are they in terms of the most cutting edge growth in media, new energy, investment, logistics and transportation?
Many of us feel that our lives are “not bad”, acceptable and “okay to get by”. Why are we settling for “not bad” when we can get better? Can you imagine if back in the days when Lee Kuan Yew was in charge, would he have this mentality to settled for “not bad”? Do you think Singapore will be able to progress from a fishing village (as is the incumbent’s narrative) to a vibrant city like today?
6. “Nice” MP v The People’s MP
There is no free lunch in today’s society.
Voters sometimes think that their MPs or the incumbents are “nice” or caring when they receive vouchers or rebates. The starting premise is wrong – the monies are from taxpayers and not the ruling Party.
And no matter how “nice” an MP is from the government Party, they are limited by group think and the Party’s whip. They cannot vote against POFMA, they cannot vote against any increase in GST for example, and no matter how “nice” they are, this enforced consensus will lead to more oppressive policies, making life more difficult in the long term.
Cost of living had already been increasing steadily in better times.
This year the incumbent had given out the biggest budget in our nation’s history tapping into past reserves. Whether or not this economic catastrophe could have been avoided remains debated. More likely than not, giving the incumbent party a strong mandate this General Elections would result in significant increase of fees and taxes to reinstate the reserves that they have tapped.
In totality, we need to understand that returning a controlling mandate may be inevitable this election but a strong mandate for the incumbent could lead to a further regression in the economy and unending hardship without substantive improvement of innovation and productivity. We Deserve Better, and the decision needs to be made for renewal of leadership. Starting from this election.