PAP changing tack but same weak arguments

Howard Lee

In a sure sign of desperate times, the People Action Party has stooped to a new low.

Fielding none other than the holding (yes, Parliament has dissolved) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, if for no other reason than to be assured of front page coverage in every daily, the PAP has finally attempted to address the group that they have neglected for so long, loosely termed “the middle income”. Read it here.

Clearly, PAP is aware that they are losing the front on what was purportedly the hot-button issues for the election, since the opposition has taken every opportunity to demonstrate, with real numbers at times, to show how they have not delivered on reducing cost of living and clarified policies on foreign talent. As such, it would seem that they have decided to change tack and start a belated appeal to the middle income.

But why the middle income? Because say what you like about influence of first time voters, it is middle income earners, most well into their working lives, who make up a large percentage of the voting population. Statistics show that we have roughly 1.5 million aged between 30 and 55 – think supporting children and elderly parents, and the term “sandwiched class” pops to mind.

It is a broad generalisation, as middle income and sandwiched class might not be synonymous, but let’s take it that they do form a significant part of the population, and by all counts, this group has been mostly left out of all the goodie bags thrown at the nation all these years. Now, the holding PM would like to take time “to assure (them) that they have not been forgotten, even if they may have felt “a little bit left out from the discussions””.

Lee can say anything he likes now, but the truth is that the middle income has been out of the care equation for a long time. But let’s take it with a pinch of salt, and see what he has to say.

Today reported that, “In particular, he paid attention to this “sandwiched” group’s anxieties over the affordability of public housing – hinting that the income ceiling for a wider range of HDB flats could be tweaked in time to come.”

Only a hint? So much for the PAP chastising the opposition for their lack of concrete plans.

Need I also remind that we are now being served this after holding Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan, secured a multi-part series in Today, replicated in his so-called blog and eventually compiled into a book, and subsequently had a six-minute long video produced to the same effect. In this series, Mah took pains to convince us that HDB prices remain affordable for most Singapore families. With 1.5 million middle income earners, I would assume that he was referring to this group.

Yet here we have his boss contradicting him in saying that more can be done. Who are we supposed to take seriously now? More importantly, what concrete steps can we expect to follow from this “hint”?

But there is more to come. Lee claims that education options such as School of the Arts and the ITE colleges have been introduced so that our future generation can “develop their abilities and aptitudes and not everybody has to squeeze everyone though the same narrow funnel”.

Hang on, that sounded like what Reform Party candidate, Ms Vigneswari d/o V Ramachandran, is proposing to do more of at a recent rally. Only difference is, she also brought up the inequalities created by the school streaming system. In a very real sense, the streaming system is the very first narrow funnel that all students go through before they are 12-years old. While ITE has done a great job in training our students for vocations, and I for one am very proud of our ITE graduates, it does not account for the inadequacies of our streaming system.

It ends with an attempt to brush aside all the points that the opposition has brought up in their rally calls – “While there are still other issues which have caused Singaporeans “anxiety or unease”, such as foreign labour, Mr Lee stressed that the Government appreciates and empathises with these concerns and is taking measures to “try to ease the difficulties for Singaporeans”.”

So, after an over-watched television debate has been persistent in telling us that the increasing migrant population will be a hot-button topic, it has now been relegated to “other issues”?

At the end of the article, I felt vaguely insulted, not least because I am one of the “sandwiched class”.

Insulted for being told that the PAP has the most concrete plans for the nation, but now to be given this vague hint of things to come that would not likely bear fruit, unless Mah gets voted out on grounds of incompetence.

Insulted that, to this point, the holding administration has not proposed anything really new to allay the concerns of voters about rising costs of living and immigration policies, preferring instead to fall back on current achievements and Grow-and-Share packages.

Insulted that I am expected to believe that the solution to help the middle class is to grow the middle class – in effect, actually adding more competition and pressure without anything more imaginative to resolve existing issues.

Ok, maybe I wasn’t just vaguely insulted, but if you are one of the “sandwiched class” folks, do let me know what you think. But from my sandwiched perspective, the PAP needs to review its position for this election and stop contradicting itself, or they will start to sound wishy-washy amid the hurly-burly.

The writer is a sandwiched classer. Some people are not. Those are the facts, yes.


The Online Citizen
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Nonsense and irresponsible, says Low Thia Khiang of PAP accusations

The following is the transcript of Mr Low Thia Khiang’s rally speech on 3 May. In it, he addressed allegations by the PAP Aljunied GRC candidate, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua. Mrs Lim had questioned if the accounts of Hougang Town Council, chaired by Mr Low, was “messy” and whether “they are holding back till after the elections so that whoever wins Hougang will then inherit the account?”

Here is Mr Low’s response.

Dear Voters of Punggol East, Seng Kang West, friends and fellow Singaporeans, good evening.

We have entered a critical phase in this election. PAP has shown its hands. They have embarked on a personal attack against me to try to discredit me. The Prime Minister has personally gone down to Aljunied GRC to campaign for the PAP team led by 2 ministers and a future speaker of Parliament, three veteran PAP heavy weight candidates. And MM Lee has also come out to make fun of our team as compared to the PAP’s.

I believe they will also make use of the media to mock me. Please be careful of what you read in news paper and what you see on TV. Please come and attend our rallies in the next 2 nights and help us to spread the message, and keep checking our web site wp.sg

First, I want to respond to Mrs Lim Hwee Hua’s accusation about Hougang Town Council’s Account. She said: “Is it messy or are they holding back till after the elections so that whoever wins Hougang will then inherit the account?”

Do you believe that Low Thia Khiang is dishonest? Do you believe that if the account of Hougang Town Council is messy, I can survive for 20 years?

The account of Hougang Town Council, like any Town Council account from the PAP, has to be audited by a public accountant who must be approved by the Ministry for National Development. After the auditor completed the audit, it has to be submitted to the Ministry for National Development and Auditor General for approval. After which, like all statutory boards, it has to be presented to Parliament and each MP can have a copy of it.

If the account is messy, how come MND and Auditor General approved it? Why is Mrs Lim, who is a minister and an MP, making this kind of comment now? She has received a copy of the report on Hougang Town Council and had not made any observations earlier. Why shoot such irresponsible comments on me now? What is she trying to do?

May I remind her as well that during the Lehman crisis, Hougang Town Council is one of those who did not lose any money! We have always handled our funds prudently.

Next, she brings in the issue of the privatization of the HUDC estate at Hougang Ave 7. She says that Hougang Town Council has not given the pro-tem committee formed for the purpose of privatization on the portion of the sinking fund balance, to be transferred to them after the privatization. This is again totally misleading.

The HUDC estate is part of the estate managed by the Town Council. The expenditure of the estate such as repainting works, reroofing works, building maintenance and other expenses are all taken in one single account under the account of Hougang Town Council which includes the HDB flats. This was what I took over from the PAP when I was elected in 1991.

Now that these blocks are to be privatized and they will manage themselves, the accounts have to be segregated, including the expense attributed to the blocks. The balance will then be transferred to their account as required on the date decided by the HDB.

This is the first time Hougang Town Council has needed to do this, we want to be sure that the account separation is done properly and we do not have experience in this area, so what did we do? Hougang Town Council wrote to HDB on 23 August 2010 after the HDB sent its briefing note to HGTC on the privatization process on 23 August 2010. We asked for advice and guidance on the method and principles we should use to separate the account as well as format for the accounts to avoid future dispute on how we have arrived at the final amount to be transferred to them.

The HDB replied to the above query on 24 Nov 2010 and said that HougangTC will have to decide on the basis of splitting the account. Hougang TC then started preparation for the process by discussing with the auditor the job scope and modification of the computer system to capture the expenditure and receivables separately.

The auditor was then appointed on 17 March 2011 and the certified apportioned sinking fund based on audited account as at 31 March 2010 was completed on 11 April 2011. HGTC is now in the process of capturing the expenditure apportioned to the HUDC estate between 31 March 2010 and 31 March 2011. Once the audited account for the HUDC estate is completed and presented to Parliament, HGTC will give a copy to the pro-term committee.

The HDB privatization briefing note to Hougang TC stated that the role of the TC is to hand over the operating and sinking fund to the Management Committee upon legal privatization. According to HDB who informed HGTC on 6 April, they have obtained the required consent for privatization but the expected duration to legally privatize the estate is 2 and half years!

I have called for a report on this issue, Hougang Town Council has given me the correspondence between the Town council and the HDB and between the pro-term committee chairman. The Pro-term committee chairman was informed of the steps HGTC has taken.

Therefore, we have done everything correctly. Why does Mrs Lim Hwee Hua decide to take up the case and suggest that the account of Hougang Town Council is messy and I, as chairman of Hougang Town Council, have done something wrong. I leave it to you to guess her intentions. Don’t you think that if I had done this, I am quite sure that I will be sued.

It is tiring during election time to deal with this kind of issue, instead of using my precious time to tell you more about Workers Party message and policies, I have to end up wasting time answering such nonsense accusations.

I will tell the PAP: if they suspect that I have done anything wrong with the account, do report me to the CPIB. Do not hookwink the voters at this critical time when polling day is near.

This is the PAP’s usual tactic: Do you still remember at the last election, the case of CCTV footage from the Election department?

All this is calculated to distract the voters and the Workers’ Party from delivering its message.

Election is a serious matter. I will be focused in the next 2 days to urge the voters to Vote Workers’ Party, towards a First World Parliament.

———-

Visit the Workers’ Party website here.

———-

Here’s the video of Mr Low’s speech:


The Online Citizen
20 Maxwell Road #09-17
Maxwell House
Singapore 069113
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That makeshift cubicle at the void deck

The following article was first published on 25 March 2011.

The makeshift cubicle that served as the office for Mr Chiam’s Meet The People sessions for the past 27 years

Andrew Loh /

Seeing Mr Chiam See Tong up close is inspiring. Anyone who thinks that age or the two strokes he suffered in recent years have dented his spirit would be highly mistaken. The veteran opposition politician is as stout-hearted as he has always been.

As I waited for him to end his Meet-The-People session on Thursday at Block 108 in Potong Pasir, I was struck by the sight of what must now be legend – that singular table sited at a corner of the void deck, partitioned for privacy by aluminium panels into a makeshift cubicle.

That’s where Mr Chiam has conducted his MPS for 27 years.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) – that is, the Government – has refused to provide offices for opposition Members of Parliament (MP). PAP MPs conduct their MPS’s at the air-conditioned offices of its PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens premises. And since opposition parties do not have their own chain of kindergartens and their MPs are not of the PAP, the PAP would say it is thus not appropriate to have opposition MPs use the PCF spaces.

Mr Chiam’s void deck cubicle is truly a symbol of how utterly petty our politics is, as played out by the ruling PAP.

As a Singaporean, I am ashamed that we would treat an elected Member of Parliament this way.

But Mr Chiam is unfazed.

“If a person … really wants to be an MP,” Mr Chiam says, “he can work the ground and he can show himself to the people – that he is hardworking and he is for the people. I think he will get elected that way and show that he is a true representative of the people.”

And as such, Mr Chiam does not believe in the Non-constituency MP (NCMP) scheme. “I don’t believe in going into Parliament by the back door,” he says. “[The] NCMP is not really elected by the majority of Singaporeans. It is a token of the PAP.”

I was curious about what the veteran politician thought of the six new PAP candidates unveiled so far. “They look very impressive on paper,” Mr Chiam says. “They have to win the hearts and minds of the voters, isn’t it? And that is a difficult task because it takes time. You can’t [befriend] a person overnight.”

Turning to his health, I asked if he is able to withstand the rigour and stress of an election. “Well, you must remember I was a sportsman in my early days,” Mr Chiam says.  “I was a school swimmer. And when I say school swimmer, I mean school swimmer,” he says with evident pride in his voice, “because I’m from ACS (Anglo-Chinese School).  It’s somebody to be a school swimmer in ACS. You must be strong and fit.”

Those who still doubt his physical ability should visit Bishan-Toa Payoh on Sunday where he will be conducting his walkabout, Mr Chiam says. “Then you see whether I am fit or not,” he added. He is expected to lead a team to contest the area in the elections in his bid to win a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) – something which no opposition party has achieved so far.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC is helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng. Mr Wong on Wednesday had questioned the opposition’s intention in wanting to win a GRC. He asked if this was to satisfy personal ambitions and questioned if the opposition winning a GRC has anything to do with benefiting Singaporeans.

“Is it about the interest and missions of political parties or an individual’s interest to create a legacy or to make history?” Mr Wong asked. Mr Wong also challenged the opposition to reveal their candidates early so voters can scrutinize them.

“Most of Singapore already know the candidates of the opposition,” Mr Chiam says. “Opposition like to talk a lot. They inadvertently reveal the names of their candidates. I think everybody knows who is standing at Bishan Toa Payoh. In fact I announced my candidacy about a year ago. How can you say that we did not reveal?”

Mr Wong seems to have alluded particularly to Mr Chiam when he asked if the opposition’s reasons for wanting to win a GRC was so that its candidates could leave a legacy – a personal ego trip rather than out of consideration for the future of Singapore.

“We are not so small-minded,” Mr Chiam says. “Our purpose is mainly to expand the opposition. At the moment as you know opposition only has two MPs in Parliament. PAP has 82. If the opposition captures a GRC, that will be a big psychological blow to the PAP. It’s no longer an impregnable fortress.”

And Mr Chiam added: “Any step that the opposition does that dents the PAP is one step forward for the voters.”

Mr Chiam remains just as sharp as he ever was.

Perhaps Mr Wong should be more concerned about his own legacy. Besides going down in history as the minister who let a limping suspected terrorist escape – not once, but twice – Mr Wong has only won in one election, despite having contested six General Elections in total so far.

His first and only victory was at his very first election – in Kuo Chuan SMC in 1984. After the Government introduced the GRC system in 1988, Mr Wong has had five walkovers.

What a contrast to Mr Chiam’s six consecutive contests and victories!

History indeed will remember Mr Chiam as one who went about quietly in his work in serving the people, in spite of the odds and the mountains he has had to climb, put in his way by a ruling party which apparently holds an elected representative of the people in little regard – if he is not of their ilk.

Mr Chiam’s legacy is, really, that of humility and steely determination. He has contested in eight General Elections. Won six of them – and going on his ninth. As far as I know, no other MP in Singapore’s post-independence history has such a record of six consecutive outright wins.  Not even Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (five).

So, Mr Chiam has nothing else to prove to anyone, least of all to Mr Wong.

He does not need to win a GRC, in my opinion, for his name to be remembered. Indeed, his 27 years of service is testament enough. Yet he continues to serve despite his physical condition.

But perhaps what is most inspiring to me is that Mr Chiam’s example shows that serving the people does not have to include multi-million dollar paychecks and posh or ostentatious surroundings.

All it takes, really, is a bit of heart.


The Online Citizen
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Maxwell House
Singapore 069113

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PAP Aljunied MP’s most famous moment

The following is an excerpt from Mr Wang Says So.

Today I will tell you a story. It is a sad story, so sad that it is almost like a Taiwanese soap opera.  Unfortunately, it is not fiction, but a true story. (And here is the SPH newspaper report to prove it).

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in Aljunied (we don’t know her real name, so let’s just call her Julie). She was 53 years old, and she had a 17-year-old son (again we don’t know his real name – let’s call him Ah Teck).

Julie was poorly educated. She had only studied up to Primary 6. She worked as a part-time cleaner, earning $400 a month to support herself and Ah Teck. Meanwhile, Ah Teck had low IQ and was attending a special school for mentally handicapped kids. He also had thalassemia, a blood disorder.

Ah Teck’s father had run away several years ago and could no longer be found. So there was absolutely no financial help from him.

One day in January 2009, Julie was at work. She was standing on a chair to clean a fan. Suddenly, she slipped and fell. She broke her wrist. Thereafter Julie lost her job, for she could no longer perform her cleaning duties.

Read the rest of the story on Mr Wang Says So.


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No evidence in MM Lee’s claims on HDB prices

Tan Lay Kuan

Intrigued by MM Lee’s claims that housing prices would collapse if the citizens choose the opposition members as their MPs, we have conducted a little study to validate this “hard truth”.

For this study, we have chosen to zoom in on an interesting section of Toa Payoh Lorong 8 where a cluster of 4-room HDB flats with the same floor area (82 sqm) are completed between 1975 and 1978.

The reason for this choice is that the cluster of similar flats are split between Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (Blk 226 and 227) and Potong Pasir SMC (Blk 214, 219, 220, 221 and 222).

Hence, the specifications (i.e. location, design, floor area, age) of this cluster are the same, with the only exception being that some of them are in opposition ward while others are in government hands. Comparing their resale prices would allow us to validate MM Lee’s statement. In addition, the blocks in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC had been upgraded while those in Potong Pasir SMC had not undergone any significant makeover.

Methodology:

Analysis of a similar cluster of 4-room (82 sqm) HDB flats along Toa Payoh Lorong 8, completed between 1975 and 1978.

·         Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (Blk 226 and 227)

·         Potong Pasir SMC (Blk 214, 219, 220, 221 and 222)

Data:

Resale Price of Flats between May 2010 and April 2011, taken from HDB Infoweb.

The resale price and unit data (see Attachment 1), taken from the HDB Infoweb, are analysed as shown in Attachment 2. Unfortunately, the data points for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC flats are probably insufficient to provide conclusive evidence. However, a simple analysis of the average selling price indicates that the flats in Potong Pasir SMC seem to be more expensive than those in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. The main reason could be that most of the sales are on higher floors in Potong Pasir SMC. Hence, we further analysed the average selling price based on the level of those units.  The flats are found to be more expensive for Potong Pasir SMC for those units between 1 to 10-storey.

However, for those above 10-storey, the average resale price is higher in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. The difference of $11,000 though, is not a lot when compared to other probable variables such as the level of the unit (see highlighted resale values of 2 separate Blk 219 units on different levels in Dec 2010 where there is a difference of $40,000) and the upkeep/interior design of the unit (see the $32,000 difference between 2 separate Blk 220 units on same level in Oct 2010).

Summary of the Average Resale Prices between May 2010 to April 2011

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (Blk 226 and 227)

Average Price (All)                           = $ 345,745.43

Average Price (1 to 5 storey)       = $ 332,500.00

Average Price (6 to 10 storey)    = $ 341,072.67

Average Price (11 to 15 storey)  = $ 366,000.00

Potong Pasir SMC (Blk 214, 219, 220, 221 and 222)

Average Price (All)                           = $ 351,300.00

Average Price (1 to 5 storey)       = $ 334,142.86

Average Price (6 to 10 storey)    = $ 350,800.00

Average Price (11 to 15 storey)  = $ 355,000.0o

In conclusion, we cannot find evidence of MM’s claims in our study that the HDB resale prices would collapse if a constituency goes over to the opposition or that there is a significant difference between the property values of HDB flats on government and opposition wards, holding other variables (i.e. location, design, floor area, age, level of unit) constant.


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HDB – Shorter loans better?

Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Length of loan is not the issue: Mah Bow Tan” (Today, May 1).

It states that “It is not the length of the loan but the percentage of monthly income repayable to the housing loan that matters. But if people are not happy with the 30-year loan for whatever reason, they can always take a smaller loan.”

The reason why most flat buyers take a 30-year loan, may be because their cash-flows are unable to support a shorter loan, given the sky-rocketing HDB prices.

Even the lowest range of new BTO four-room flats has an average price of about $255,000.

After the minimum down payment of five per cent, the monthly repayment on a 30 year loan is $970.

How many can afford shorter loans?

How many households can afford to pay more than $970, since a shorter loan as the Minister
suggests, would mean $1,099, $1,296 and $1,627, for a  25, 20, and 15 year loan, respectively.

Available Housing Withdrawal Limit

Other than a new flat with a HDB Concessionary Loan, all other HDB flat transactions are subject to the Available Housing Withdrawal Limit (AHWL).

Once the AHWL is reached, CPF can no longer be used to pay for the mortgage.

The AHWL is calculated as the CPF Ordinary (OA) and Special Accounts (SA) must have 50 per cent of the prevailing Minimum Sum (MS), once the total CPF used exceeds the Valuation Limit (original price or valuation, whichever is the lower).

For example, at the current MS of $123,000, once the CPF utilised exceeds $255,000, if the OA and SA is less than $61,500, no further CPF can be used.

So, for a 15 year loan, the AHWL may be hit after just 12 years and 5 months.

For a 20 year loan, it’s after 15 years and 7 months.

Therefore, opting for a shorter loan for new flats on HDB loans, or resale flats on HDB or bank loans, may be a risky move, since most people may not have enough cash to pay when CPF cannot be used.

Highest prices in the world?

These issues may be exacerbated by what are arguably the highest prices as well as the fastest growing public housing prices in the world.

The HDB Resale Price Index (RPI) grew by 11.1,  5.1 and 8.4 per cent per annum, over the last 5, 10, and 20 years, respectively.

This was higher than the Private Property Index (PPI), which grew 10.5, 3.9 and 6.4 per cent over the same periods.

Using the assumption that new flats’ prices were pegged to resale prices under the Market Subsidy Pricing policy, one could discount the four-room average price on a year-to-year basis to derive an estimate of historical prices.

On this basis, a $255,000 four-room average price in 2011, may be around $150,000, $158,000, $133,000 and $50,000, about 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago.

Are there any countries in the world that have public housing prices that increase faster than private property?

After all, isn’t the primary objective of public housing to provide affordable housing to ordinary and particularly lower-income Singaporeans?

As an indicator of affordability, how much did median households income increase during these periods?

For example, median household income only increased by – 1 and 5 per cent for 2009 and 2010, against a 8 and 14 per cent increase in HDB prices, respectively.

Prices = Profits = Ministers’ pay?

Since in a sense, the HDB controls the supply and pricing of HDB flats, how much profits have been made over the years, under its Market Subsidy Pricing policy?

Also, to what extent has this contributed to GDP growth, and correspondingly Ministers’ remuneration which have a GDP growth component, and maybe a performance bonus too?


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Single-party govt made up of elites and scholars not good for S’pore

Alicia Wong

I am political but I am not partisan. What this means is that I distinguish between party and government. A party, even if they have been the single party in the government for a long time, does not make a government.

A government speaks for its people, and therefore needs to consist of many diverse voices that can speak for different sectors, tend to different needs and raise awareness about different causes.

The fielding of Tin Pei Ling as a candidate is insulting to me, the voter. I do not vote for people I like. I vote for the person who has a voice, who has something to say in Parliament. Because that person is my representative in government. My vote, my one single vote that I submit once every five years, is for someone who can speak for me. I am not voting into Parliament someone who will just say ‘yes’ to every proposal and who will then take home a million dollars, which will come from the taxes I pay.

Singapore has come a long way from a small fishing village to a modern state. Nearly 50 years ago, as a small nation-state struggling for survival, a single party in the government met the needs of the population. Today, Singapore has five million people, with a population that is diverse, with people hailing from different nations and cultures. Even more, we need a government that is diverse.

If I vote for the opposition and not the PAP, it is not because the PAP is a bad party. It is that we need more good parties.

Why is one not enough? Because we need to progress and grow, not just as an economy, but also as a society and as a nation. We cannot have 1.3 billion people to choose talents from, but the government of Singapore in the 21st century similarly cannot be limited to the same talent pool made up of the elites and the scholars.

Change is always scary, but what is scarier is the thought that we want to keep sticking to ways which is serving us less and less efficiently.

I do not understand the fear mongering, the constant threat that if some opposition parties make it to Parliament, it would be the end.Take the analogy about the co-driver, for example. Why is having more diverse members in Parliament so threatening that it would derail Singapore’s future and progress? It is easy to talk about checks and balances when you are only one party. It is not easier, but definitely more accountable, when you have more diversity and more voices.

We are reminded about the track record of a single party in the government. Yes, we have always had carrots and sticks, but carrots and sticks come with a law, the Law of Diminishing Returns. The truth is there is only so much upgrading an estate can take without becoming a construction site. The truth is, a better quality of life is not just about the lift that stops at every floor. In my community, in this country, of which I am a proud citizen, I want to know that the elderly is taken care of. I want to see that animals are given a standard of welfare and rights. I want to know that everyone can afford their own flats without spending 30 years of their lives paying for it. I want people to be able to enjoy their lives.

Yes, it is true that rising costs and inflation is happening around the world. Yes, the single party government has been trying hard to deal with it. Well, then they need more help, from more good people. From countries like the USA to Australia to our neighbours in Malaysia and Thailand, working adults my age can all afford to buy their own homes. Nowhere else is the cost of public housing pegged to market rates. Just five years ago, a 3-room flat in Holland Close cost $300,000. Today, that same flat cost $420,000. That is a whopping 40% increase, for public housing. In that period, how much was inflation? Three to four percent? And what would be the average increase in salary in the same period? Or wait, was there even an increase?

Another feature of the track record is the claim that they provide the best candidates and they have an A-team with enough reserves. A recent reserve that was fielded is Dr Chia. We know nothing about him and his grassroots or people work. The only piece of information that has accompanied every news report about him is, he is an ex-President’s Scholar and he had straight As. I suppose, for a single party, that is good enough. But I am not the party, I am a Singaporean, so that is not good enough for me. Because that scholar does not speak for me anymore than he does for the average Singaporean who makes up at least 80% of our population. I want more good people with different backgrounds to come up with solutions that are able to serve the different sectors of society.

Minister Ng Eng Hen was right when he said, “Voters care more about whether a candidate can improve their lives and be trusted to be in government, than about how intelligent he is.” Yet, the very basis of PAP candidates for Parliament is their academic results and awards. They are all scholars who are paid well, because, as we have been told, it is to prevent them from leaving for the private sector. I seriously have a problem with having ministers who are in Parliament because of the financial rewards. I look at the other parties and they are made up of people from all walks of life, from executives to lawyers, ex-scholars and business persons. They represent Singapore. They are missing a track record because the same thing happens every election. They have never been given a chance to serve the people and to speak in Parliament. One question: is Hougang any worse than the other GRCs?

If things seem more complicated now, it is because they are. A single party government may have been a strength in the past, but in the world today, it is limited and narrow. Gaps and misses are becoming more frequent and apparent. Let me look at some of these complications that have risen.

Housing

The housing issue, for example, is very complicated. The system which has been developed and in which we are trapped in has become complicated. A house is not just a house. Housing in Singapore is tied in to our CPF, our retirement and inflation. In addition to that, it is also linked to profits and to marital status. The current situation is untenable because HDB flats will soon be out of reach of the lower-middle class. It just does not make sense that the cost of public housing that is supposed to be affordable and within the reach of every Singaporean cannot be revealed. I am simply not convinced that the same people who developed and knotted the system is able to see us through the necessary untangling.

New Immigrants and Foreign Labour

With the influx of the new immigrants and PRs, and the injection of foreign workers, there are serious issues that are social and not merely economic. This would include issues like culture and integration. Then there are the related ethical issues, which is not economics, but is pertinent to Singapore as a society. Examples of these would be the ethics of employment of foreign labour, the state of care and welfare for foreigners etc. The singular decision made to bring in a large amount of foreigners is purely utilitarian, but was the common good of Singapore society even an afterthought? Has Singapore as a society made up of individuals and people been neglected?

Transport

Distance-based fares work for countries with a large land area and infrequent public transport system. In a small country with frequent and regular public transport, distance-based fares take advantage of the human desire for convenience. It does not make sense to penalise people who have a direct form of public transport to their destination. It does not make sense for the students who are rushing for class on crowded public transport to change buses or trains just to save a few cents. Who knows when the next bus will come along? It does not make sense for the elderly for whom it is inconvenient to dis-embark, wait and try to get onto another bus. One wonders if another scholar who has not experienced our public transport during peak hours wrote up the proposal which was then accepted by another group of scholars in power.

Personally, I am not concerned about the sexy dramatic issues, like Mas Selamat or the floods. I am concerned about the ability of a single party government to discern everyday issues that Singaporeans face, from housing to transport to employment and integration. Year after year, election after election, scholar after scholar: no one has spoken for the people. The issues are not dealt with until election time. If the single-party government is doing such a good job, then why worry? Why plan so carefully for when the carrots should be distributed? Why wait for election fever before cooling measures for housing are applied? Why – if the government is to serve the people and not just to stay in power?

The writer is from the AMK GRC in which a single party will dominate again, so she really cannot understand why a single party would fear more diversity in the government.

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Picture from msn.


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