Broken Trust, Broken Policies

by singaporearmchaircritic

Like a sore loser, the PAP quickly attributed its Punggol East defeat to some act of God – the “by-election effect.” We lost, not because we are incompetent but because of forces beyond our control. It appears to be a term (in the league of “ponding” and “freak flood”) PAP spin doctors conjured up to save face, and to mollify its dismayed, hardcore supporters.

PAP would be deceiving itself if it genuinely thought it lost because of the “by-election effect”.

Punggol East voters, among which 76% are below 50 years old, had sent the ruling party a very clear message on behalf of the middle/sandwiched class. The pro-opposition supporters had voted tactically by channeling their ballots to the Workers’ Party, and had stood their ground despite the fatter and juicier carrots dangled by PAP this time round.

Despite being younger and better-off, Punggol East voters felt squeezed by the rising cost of living. A Bloomberg report interviews a resident who said, “I asked myself if my life and my standard of living have improved in the last few years, and the answer is no.”

This echoed the sentiment of not just many Punggol East voters but disgruntled Singaporeans as well. Some of us may remember the halcyon days under PAP rule, in a far less crowded Singapore where inflation was manageable and income actually grew. Delivering economic goods to the people had always been the bedrock of PAP’s legitimacy. But that legitimacy has been shattered in the short span of a few years. For what is the purpose of economic growth, if not to make life better for the people?

The Post-Election Bomb

In my last blog post, I cautioned about being too optimistic over the string of benefits PAP dished out amidst the hustings. Today, what DBS Vickers “anticipated” in the Population White Paper came true: Singapore could have 6.9 million population by 2030.

To many, this scenario of packing 6.9 million people on an island of 716 square kilometers is nothing less than a nightmare. Singapore’s population density is already 7,422 persons per square kilometer in 2012.

The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) claimed that it had “embarked on a year-long public engagement effort to gather the views and suggestions of Singaporeans” in the preparation of the Population White Paper. Among the 2,500 pieces of feedback it received, the key suggestions pertaining to the immigration issue are:

  • Set tighter controls on the inflow of new immigrants
  • Set more stringent criteria to ensure quality and commitment of immigrants
  • Greater differentiation in benefits for Singaporeans, commensurate with National Service obligations
  • Provide more information on our immigration framework and criteria

Have these feedback been incorporated into the Population White Paper? After engaging 2,200 persons from “all walks of life,” has the NPTD adjusted its earlier policy recommendation of 25,000 new citizens per year?

Apparently not, from this infographics.

Then what is the whole darned purpose of the “National Conversation,” of gathering feedback from the people?

A White Paper is defined as “[a] policy document issued by the Government to explain or discuss matters.” The NPTD Population White Paper will be “debated” in Parliament when it sits on 4 February 2013.

Given the overwhelming majority of PAP Members of Parliament, there is no question where the debate will be heading – towards a total endorsement of the policy recommendations and continued population influx, despite the message sent to the PAP by the Punggol East electorate and many Singaporeans.

Dear readers, would you vote for your MP in GE 2016 if he or she approves of the immigration targets drawn up in the Population White Paper?

I will analyze the White Paper in depth in my next post.