The government is launching a major review of its policies, the second in 10 years, to prevent further setbacks in the next general election.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
FACED with rising public discontent, the government is launching a major review of major policies in an apparent effort to regain lost political ground.
The reappraisal, the second in 10 years, comes four years before it is due to face another general election that many observers say could result in further setbacks for the governing party. It will include a review of Singapore’s thorniest dilemma today — immigration and procreation — as well as issues like education, healthcare and housing that are also causing widespread unhappiness. This is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s first major initiative since his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, retired from the Cabinet last May. So far, the public has greeted it with mixed emotions, with some dismissing it as a public relations exercise that will not really lead to any significant changes. But there are some who believe that it is a genuine effort that Lee is compelled to embark on for political survival in preparation for the 2016 elections.
Public feelings against some of his policies, especially on immigration, still remain high since the 2011 election setback for his People’s Action Party (PAP). This latest initiative comes in the wake of several government measures that were seen as an effort to realign with Singaporeans, including:
- Controlling the inflow of, and education and housing benefits for, permanent residents that Singaporeans strongly resent;
- Planning to ramp up overloaded infrastructure, including housing, transport and public services over the next 10 years, according to Business Times;
- Conditionally easing the mandatory death penalty;
- Cooling excessive casino gambling by locals and raising maximum fines for any casino flouting of laws;
- and Diversifying Singapore’s food sources to give consumers more choices and at cheaper prices.
Now comes a general reappraisal of unpopular policies that have upset Singaporeans, especially the middle class that has kept the PAP in power for 47 years. PM Lee made the announcement on the eve of National Day even as Singapore resounded to a widespread rumour — proven untrue — that his father had died. The frequent speculation about his health has reminded Singaporeans how much sway the 88-year-old ailing figure still holds over the country. Lee once had heart surgery and now suffers from a neurological disease that makes it difficult for him to walk.
In his message, PM Lee announced that newly-appointed Education Minister Heng Swee Keat would lead a team of younger ministers to take a “fresh look” at existing government policies. Hours earlier, his father had emerged from hospital, walking out on his own. He attended the National Day Parade the following day, but speculation of his failing health continued to persist. It is the first time that PM Lee is reviewing major policies without his father sitting in the same Cabinet. Some of his backbenchers say he would leave “no sacred cows untouched.” It is taking place in the midst of political changes in Singapore with the once strong, widespread support for PAP continuing to be eroded. The political setting is rapidly transforming. An example: For the first time, the entire PAP leadership appeared in the National Parade not dressed in its traditional white outfit, but in red, the national colour. Since independence, PAP leaders had worn white to signify integrity. In announcing his initiative for policy review, PM Lee made no mention of politics or public pressure for change. Instead, he projected it as an effort to plan for the next 20 years, and appealed to all Singaporeans to take part in the deliberations. He promised to keep “Singaporeans at the heart of all we do” and would engage citizens to build a broad consensus for the future. “The world is not standing still. The next two decades will be very different. Singapore will encounter many new challenges and opportunities. “What future do we see for Singapore?” Whether it will lead to real changes that Singaporeans want to see will be crucially important for the PAP’s — and Singapore’s — future. “If it treats it merely as a political gimmick, it will be counter-productive come elections. “I think Lee knows the danger of lifting expectations and letting them down,” said an opposition supporter. Many Singaporeans, however, welcomed Lee’s initiative, with most people saying the country should give him a chance to show his independence without the control of his father. “People should keep an open mind on this and contribute their bit in helping to draft a Singapore blueprint that they want,” said an opposition voter in Aljunied constituency. Several MPs and government leaders told the Straits Times that in the coming public consultations “there should be no sacred cows” and everything should be reviewed. Still it is not easy to regain the trust of young Singaporeans under the current environment.
Recently, a 17-year-old junior college student used an expletive to criticise a deputy prime minister in his blog after a student dialogue. Although he apologised and was counselled, the episode shocked the country. It reflected the depth of feelings of young Singaporeans who see their future becoming bleak because of the arrival of mass new immigrants. It is even rubbing off on the milder Workers Party opposition. Some younger critics are getting disenchanted with it for not being aggressive enough in taking on Lee’s policies — an indication of the obstacle the government review is facing.
Seah Chiang Nee
Chiang Nee has been a journalist for 40 years. He is a true-blooded Singaporean, born, bred and says that he hopes to die in Singapore. He worked as a Reuters corespondent between 1960-70, based in Singapore but with various assignments in Southeast Asia, including a total of about 40 months in (then South) Vietnam between 1966-1970. In 1970, he left to work for Singapore Herald, first as Malaysia Bureau Chief and later as News Editor before it was forced to close after a run-in with the Singapore Government. He then left Singapore to work for The Asian, the world’s first regional weekly newspaper, based in Bangkok to cover Thailand and Indochina for two years between 1972-73. Other jobs: News Editor of Hong Kong Standard (1973-74), Foreign Editor of Straits Times with reporting assignments to Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and The United States (1974-82) and Editor of Singapore Monitor (1982-85). Since 1986, he has been a columnist for the Malaysia’s The Star newspaper. Article first appeared in his blog, http://www.littlespeck.com
“Seriously, the reason is that I don’t believe despite the latest attempt to kill sacred cows… the basic tenets of the PAP have changed.”
Please tell LHL and HSK that unless the public see real concrete steps to address all mistakes in policies, nobody will believe any wayang or PR the PAP engages in.
Due to PAP’s bullshit policies, I am discriminated as a divorcee from buying my own flat, living in a rental flat that need to pay “market” rates even though I cannot get a proper job because of FTs, and because of “prolonged” bankruptcy that does not give a second chance, I am reduced to the very poor that do not have enough money for 3 meals a day, you must be “fucking” mad to thank PAP for my predicament, what you are saying makes my blood boil and I want revenge come GE2016.
buted by Oogle.