Low Thia Khiang got it absolutely right when he said, “This is the first Budget after the 2011 election. It points to the direction of future governing and the focus of government policy from focusing on economy to social policy, from the economy’s role to raising the wages of lower-income Singaporeans. This is a major shift in the government’s thinking and mindset. The government is therefore making a formal statement after much reflection after the 2011 election.”
And it not only us netizens who agreed with him. The international financial media say the same thing (Example).
Sadly the rest of Team WP did not live up to Low’s standards.
Sylvia Lim gave the DMP, Finance Minister a chance to imply that the WP only wanted the government to throw money at healthcare, not to use the money wisely. She had urged the government to raise spending on healthcare saying, “Singapore’s total expenditure on healthcare as a % of GDP was far lower than international standards. More importantly, … public expenditure on healthcare is also far lower than elsewhere … expenditure on healthcare is about 1.6% of GDP; nearly 4 times lower than the 6.1% global average …”
His reply was that the focus should be on outcomes, and that by 2016, healthcare spending would go up to 2% of GDP and by 2030 around 3.5% of GDP. He spoilt things for the PAP by raising the straw man of GST at 20% if the WP’s suggestion of ^% was adopted. Even my dog has heard of reallocating funds.
Show Mao talked of the need to do more for the poor. The PAP missed a chance to tarnish the halo around him that his fan bozs and gals have created around him. If Denise Phua or Lily Neo had only stood up to say, “You have been away too long, Mao. Look at figures since 2001. More has been done, and more will be done”, he would have looked silly and out-of-touch. Fortunately for the WP, it was Vikram Nair who tried to rough up Mao, with his “hurt feelings” and Nigerian Scam joke. Mao got away unhurt and Vikram looked as though his brains had been damaged by drinking water from a tank where an FT’s corpse was founding floating.
Then there was PritamS, who I had once half-joked that the WP should muzzle by taping his mouth. Allies of the PAPpies had tried to savage Show Mao for not naming the person whose tots he had put up on his FB site. As it was clear that he was not claiming authorship of the stuff, nothing happened but this incident should have gotten PritamS to attribute what he said in a parly speech. He didn’t and was taken to task by a minister. He compounded his initial minor failing by admitting he screwed up. He should have stuck to the line that as he had gotten permission to use the stuff, he didn’t do any wrong, and any way where was the harm? Footballers who do dumb things get fined by their clubs. WP should fine him.
As to the other three WP MPs, I can’t remember anything memorable they said. But at least GG didn’t gift the PAP any gaffes like the one he gifted them during the debate on ministerial salaries, when he said he didn’t know about the benchmark civil service grade that the WP had proposed ministerial salaries be pegged to.
Conclusion? OK but can do better especially Sylvia and Show Mao. And please WP, get PritamS a minder, a good one, or tape his mouth. He is the WP’s equivalent of the PAP’s Nairs (lawyers like PritamS) and Tin combined. The PAP can afford the Nairs and Tin, the WP can’t.
The WP should use parly debates to build up the confidence among us S’poreans that the WP can lead a coalition government after the next general election or the one after that. This they failed to do in the two show piece debates (ministerial salaries and Budget). But its early days yet.
Still the PAP shouldn’t get complacent. Tharman’s image as a technocrat is being spoilt by his soundbites on 20% GST if more has to spent, CPF annuity is assured and nominee gets all, and $1000 monthly salary can afford HDB flat. It’s not true that Tin Pei Ling is helping to craft his sound-bites, I’ve been assured. I’m checking if she is helping Shanmugan (“only about 50% of S’poreans pay tax”).
As for Mrs Chiam, I think a “D” is fair, don’t you? The Chiams are squandering the goodwill he has with S’poreans in their attempt to renew the SPP through Mrs Chiam. SIGH.