By Rachel Zeng
Come every election, one can always place sure bets that dangling carrots will be aplenty. Among them will definitely include estate upgrades, improvements to local infrastructure and public transport. More often than not, these suggestions will come from one party – the People’s Action Party (PAP) – and at times coincidentally, or strategically, just a few months before Parliament is dissolved. There is one condition however – the constituents have to vote them into Parliament.
This holds the constituents hostage, making them choose between wanting an upgraded estate and infrastructures or the candidates who they think will represent them best in Parliament. This distracts voters from other critical issues that matter nationally. This also raises an important question. Given that such conditional “rewards” are being promised from voting in the PAP – is the civil service and public transport companies operating based on partisan politics?
Being taxpayers who contribute to the national coffers, we should be entitled to equal access to public funds when it comes to improvements to housing conditions, services, roads, pathways and amenities in the constituencies we live in, regardless of who we vote for. In an ideal and egalitarian system, these projects should come as required and based on criteria such as the age of these public housing, roads and other structures, assessment of safety, and whether these projects are necessary to improve well-being of constituents (such as gardens, covered walkways, more street lights, etc).
They should also fall under the jurisdictions of various ministries with no bias applied, and the Members of Parliament’s (MP’s) role is to highlight the needs and requests of the constituents so that an assessment can then be made on whether and how public funds should or should not be dispensed. If the request for improvements is rejected, the MPs and constituents must then have the right to appeal, and ask for reasons why their proposals and requests are denied. All these must be made available and accessible on public record.
Similarly we should question if public transport companies grant priority to constituencies where PAP MPs are elected when it comes to making additional bus services available. If it is indeed the case, such a practice should no longer be allowed. Public transport is both a basic need and a right as it is a service that brings people to places all around the country. It will also not do the national economy any favor, especially because a good public transport system essentially allows many of us to travel to work in an economical and environmentally friendly manner compared to the use of private vehicles.
Perhaps one can suggest that the alternative parties do not spend enough time surveying and thinking of ways to improve public housing structures and infrastructures, and confidently provide their constituents with beautiful brochures depicting an artist’s image of how the place will look like once these improvements are completed. All they can do is propose suggestions based on what they have surveyed from their walkabouts in the constituencies as well as based on feedback gathered during their interactions with the constituents.
It is the nature of competitive politics that candidates seeking election and re-election will make promises to voters. We may never see the end of “goodies” being dangled in front of us in the form of estate upgrading and other public works.
It is however time for us voters to finally understand that the elected Government – whether one party or a multi-party coalition – holds responsibility of ensuring that public funds are distributed equally for such constituency- or estate-based projects, instead of casting the impression that all new and shiny things are only available to constituencies represented by a single party in this case, PAP.