(Or “Why the PAP could turn the tables in the next GE: if the Opposition remains complacent)
Although what the PAP is doing is observable to the Opposition parties and their fellow travellers on the Internet, they seem blind or indifferent to the PAP’s actions, or both, because of their assumptions and prejudices. Worse, the major Opposition parties are complacent, what with the problems at WP, NSP and SPP (More of this on Monday in a CNY Special — gossip I heard while feasting and gambling).
Two Sundays ago, (as part of his ang pow strategy?) PM promised that, despite the economy slowing down, the government would improve the education and public transport systems, and build more homes so that young couples can start their families. These remarks were made at a Lunar New Year event in his Teck Ghee constituency, part of the Ang Mo Kio GRC. He also officiated at the re-opening of a wet market and food centre where he said more of such markets will be built over the next few years, with the aim of keeping food prices affordable. Not long ago, such markets were being to a commercial company which promptly increased rentals. He said nothing then. And the HDB and Comrade Mah gave grumblers the finger.
Then last Saturday in his CNY message he said Having children is ultimately a personal decision for families to make, but Government will do its part to reduce the anxieties and burdens of parenthood. Baby Bonuses already help families with the costs of raising children. We are also doing more to help parents balance work and parenthood, including extending maternity and childcare leave, and encouraging companies to offer flexible working arrangements for employees with children. We are committed to helping young couples obtain their first HDB flat as soon as possible. With government support, childcare has become more affordable, and childcare centres are expanding and providing many more places than before. The critical factor now is not more financial incentives, but creating the supportive social climate and attitudes that will encourage couples to have more children.
This presses so many “hot” buttons: freedom to choose to have babies, social environment, financial help in raising children and affordable housing for the young.
What with the building of more public flats (despite the slowndown, and possible recession, Comrade Mah must be rolling his eyes in disbelief) and now taking a serious attitude towards other issues that upset voters (transport, education and the rising cost of living and the cost of raising a family, social and monetary, it looks like the government and the PAP have learnt the lesson that “It’s the voters, stupid”.
In the past, we would be told to tighten our belts to survive the slowdown. But given the still high levels, by global standards, of ministerial pay, and Grace Fu’s bitching about her pay cut, it would not be politic to tell S’poreans to lower their expectations. Better to follow the Roman emperors who made sure the populace of Rome had plenty of bread and circuses (gladitorial games). And S’pore has the money, despite what the SDP and Goh Meng Seng say. Even SDP’s most famous ex-member says so. To TJS, S$60bn from the reserves is “small change”. So does Citi, an investment bank**.
Even as late as November, I wasn’t too sure if the PAP and government had learnt the lessom of the May and August elections. In November, newbie PAP acting junior minister (and ex army brigader) was leading raids on foreign workers quarters. Judging from his remarks on Facebook, I assumed he wanted to see if the quarters were fit for human habitation, not whether there were illegal FT workers.
I was thinking to myself, he had better focus on the latter, given that the PAP is perceived by many true blue S’poreans as the “Pro Alien Party” and that the PAP should learn from the HK experience.
The once popular pro-democracy Civic Party suffered a series of defeats in neighborhood council elections in October last year in HK, as pro-Beijing politicians successfully tapped anti-immigrant sentiment as well as public hostility toward environmental measures perceived as harming employment and increasing the government’s construction costs.
The Civic Party had been gaining ground in previous elections, but ran into trouble this year as lawyers who are prominent in the party took on social and environmental causes that were unpopular among many Hong Kong residents. The most divisive issue has been whether more than 200,000 household workers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, can eventually become eligible for citizenship.
The government and governing PAP is focusing on issues that affect the lives of ordinary S’poreans, shumething the Opposition parties especially the SDP have done for a long time. I hope bleeding heart liberals (especially those writing on or reading blogs like TOC) understand why. There are no votes (and eyeballs) to be won in helping foreigners, convicted criminals and dolphins.
Charity begins at home. Or to put it more nicely, “Conserve compassion: S’poreans come first, second and last”.
Build more homes, improve education and public transport, and keep the cost-of-living from rising too fast; and we shall see that the following comment by Catherine Lim is nothing but liberal, anti-PAP, bourgeois, elitist wishful thinking, “”PAP fatigue” among Singaporeans that is a result of PAP’s lack of nurturing Singaporeans politically, and failing to provide the proper environment for political education and growth.”
And who will care then if ministers pay themselves millions of dollars. I mean even the WP’s “base’ ministerial salary is $852,500 versus the PAP’s $1.1m. Waz 25%? The voters know that if the WP becomes part of the government, they will take the difference and keep quiet. I mean I don’t hear the WP MPs offering to take S$11,000 each, and publicly donating the balance to a charity.
One way the PAP and government can go wrong is that the PAP and govmin don’t do “circuses”. They don’t know how to spend tax-payers’ monies entertaining voters.
The other way is that they love FTs too much, thereby negating the message they are trying to send S’poreans that “S’poreans matter”. We are always hearing that less FTs, less propsperity from the local MSM, quoting alll manner of ministers, officials and “experts”, usually from local universities (esp from SMU) and broking houeses. The latest is variation on the theme that FTs are good for S’pore: yesterday, ST reported an economist from Merrill Lynch, an investment bank, as saying, “Part of the reason for the sticky inflation is that policies such as the tightening of the inflow of foreign workers are keeping wage costs high. These are being passed onto the consumer.” Knowing the reputation of the economist in question, ST most probably left out the other factors he cited, focusing on FT shortage.
FT love also means that the measures to cut back FTs will be not be serious, and enforced lightly, annoying S’poreans.
So there is al to fight for. The PAP’s continued decline is not assured, neither is its revival.
*In a report dated December 2011, Citi said meeting higher expenditure needs without running a fiscal deficit will not be a problem for Singapore’s government. While the fiscal surplus may shrink, its economist estimates that the government can draw on an additional $1-3 billion in net investment returns, without breaching the 50% cap on the amount of long-term expected real returns on reserves.