At the risk of over-summarising, here’s a run-down of how a panel discussion on the G’s half-time report went. Please refer to earlier blog post on the report.
- The G is in a pickle, said the non-partisans on the panel. It’s got about two years to shore up its score with the people who seem to want more checks and balances but don’t seem to want the G to have more power to solve their “problems’’ which could really be unrealistic expectations.
“So the current situation looks something like this to me: A Government out of its comfort zone and unable to quite meet the expectations of Singaporeans and a citizenry demanding what the Government could not reasonably deliver considering the trade-offs, while entrusting it with less power than it used to have.’’ – sociologist Tan Ern Ser.
“The second half of this term of Parliament is short simply because time is of the essence in wanting to try to fix the many hot button issues and put bluntly, time is running out. And in many ways like what Ern Ser says, the population may have some unrealistic expectations.’’ – NMP Eugene Tan.
2,, Different groups of people have different expectations – and confidence – in the G’s ability to solve problems, with the most anxious being the middle-aged, sandwiched class. (Actually, methinks it’s a case of whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full.)
“Now, look at another age category – the 35 to 44. They are less approving than the average of how government is doing now in elderly, the poor, healthcare and transport. When you ask them about the future, they are less likely to express confidence than the other groups, in the areas of the poor, health care, housing, transport as well as foreigners’’ – academic Gillian Koh.
“There is assessment of how their lives are being affected now, but there is also a realisation that not all problems can be solved straightaway and also an appreciation that things are being done that will lead to better outcomes.’’ – PAP MP Hri Kumar
- Both the People’s Action Party and the Workers’ Party members have to abide by the Whip, which holds their parliamentary votes in line. PAP MP Hri Kumar noted that WP has never uttered a contrary position to its own party line to which WP’s Sylvia Lim replied that this was because they are too small a group in Parliament and risk looking divided. Then they crossed whips…
“How many times have you heard a WP MP give a different view from the WP? Zero. A WP MP has never, in the time I’ve been in Parliament from 2006, stood up to say ‘I’m taking a different position from my party’. So if you think our Whip is thick, theirs is thicker and theirs is obviously more painful.” – PAP MP Hri Kumar
“I don’t think many people would be comfortable with the fact that you have a whole House full of MPs from one party no matter how much they talk… because in the end you know that the party Whip comes in and that’s about it.” – WP MP Sylvia Lim
- Although immigration did not figure as the top hot button issue in the survey, it is the root of a lot of complaints about cost of living and accessibility, maintained the non-partisans. PAP’s Hri Kumar rebutted with charts on what the PAP had done to counter the impact of the foreigner influx – but which seemed to have gone un-noticed.
“The only question is whether it will manifest as an issue in and of itself or whether it will be fingered in a whole variety of other hot button issues, but certainly it will materially affect how Singaporeans assess the Government. And immigration is complex and it may not feature so prominently because no political party or candidate wants to be labelled as xenophobic or anti-foreigner; neither would any one party want to come across as a staunch supporter of more immigration. So you’ll see the parties continue to gingerly tread around this particular issue.’’ – NMP Eugene Tan
“There was a huge credit side which no one wants to talk about” – PAP’s Hri Kumar on the $5b Job Credit Scheme which saved jobs.
- Everything thing boils down to the big question. How will Singaporeans vote in the next election? Will good governance matter?
“There is an implied assumption in this survey that perhaps the way voters view policy progress or lack of progress will determine how they vote. While we do talk about all these policies and how they might affect the election, in the end how people really vote…could be affected by other things.” – WP’s Sylvia Lim
“There’s a very good chance that as our democracy progresses, the margins will become thinner and thinner…So it is all the more crucial that we hold the opposition’s feet to the fire because as the margins become very thin there will be a … possibility that an election will actually see a swing. And if it swings, people want to be assured that the new party coming in will have the capability to lead.” – PAP’s Hri Kumar
“I think the Government will need all the time to the end of the point in order to get the performance up for people to really feel that the changes have mattered, they have made a difference in their lives.” – Academic Gillian Koh