Political Science

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Had numerous intelligent conversations with my family and friends on this year's GE. Just wondering about some of the issues raised, hmm.

And this is really all very fascinating, me being a first-time voter and all. Really shouldn't be so ignorant about the political climate of my country.

The GRC system

PM Lee defended the GRC system with three main arguments:

1) This system forces the Opposition to search for and field the most worthy candidates.
2) The division of Singapore into GRCs ensures that the voices of Singaporeans across Singapore can be heard.
3) This system allows newcomers to enter the political system easily so that they can be groomed into future leaders of Singapore.

But can there be any way to improve the system? Enshrining the benefits of having GRCs does not negate its flaws:

1) The 2006 Singapore GE was held on 6 May 2006. PAP won with 66.6% and gained 82 (out of 84) parliamentary seats. If PAP won 66.6% of the votes, doesn't it make sense for them to gain 66.6% (instead of 97.6%) of the parliamentary seats?
2) The election boundaries shift with every GE. Some of my friends have been staying in the same place for the past twenty years but went from being in Hougang GRC to Cheng Sang GRC to Ang Mo Kio GRC. This political tectonic shifts create an uneven contesting ground.
3) Relative newcomers can enter the system readily. True, but is this really an advantage? Dr Chia Shi Lu is probably extremely capable. I heard that he was a President's Scholar and found out that he is a doctor with a long list of abbreviated credentials - MBBS, DFDC (CAW), FRCS (Surg), FRCS (Ortho & Trauma), DIC, PhD - that I don't understand. But the fact that he became an MP without being contested is discomforting.

http://www.pmo.gov.sg/content/pmosite/mediacentre/inthenews/primeminister/2011/April/GRC_a_good_start_for_potential_PM.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_Representation_Constituency (Wiki is still the easiest way to find information, haha)
http://www.sgh.com.sg/Clinical-Departments-Centers/Orthopaedic-Surgery/Pages/overview.aspx

The Promises

Most of the Opposition parties have manifestos that are disappointingly unoriginal (what the PAP is already doing or planning to do) or are mimicries (rather similar manifestos, hmm). Invest in R&D to help SMEs; smaller class sizes; minimum wage pension.

Their more original plans are shocking. Reducing the period of National Service to 1 year. Drawing from our foreign reserves, our savings.

Singapore is in the part of the world where there are numerous - sometimes even bloody - conflicts between adjacent nations. We are surrounded by neighbouring countries that can't wait to bully us. Both my uncle and brother, staunch supporters of having alternative voices in the parliament, agree that national defence can't be compromised.

And drawing from our reserves is a silly manner to come up with money. Breaking the piggy bank to build amenities and acquire services should only be done in pressing circumstances.

People's Action Party
http://www.pap.org.sg/ge2011incl/manifesto2011eng.pdf
Workers' Party
http://wp.sg/manifesto/key-highlights/
Singapore Democratic Party
http://nextgen.yoursdp.org/solutions
Reform Party
http://thereformparty.net/voting-rp/election-manifesto/
National Solidarity Party
http://mountbatten.nsp.sg/national-solidarity-party-manifesto-ge2011/

A few issues that must be considered by this GE's voters:

GST:
Found out that one of the Opposition parties proposes to reduce GST from 7% to 3% and abolish GST for essential food items.

Singaporeans are kiasu. I am kiasu. We want the best for ourselves and this is only natural. We want the best transport, healthcare and education systems. But where would the money for such infrastructure come from?

Inflation:
This rise in the costs of living is not a localised phenomenon. I remember reading that the prices of food in Australis have increased by 10% and the price of my favorite fruit, banana, has doubled. Guess that most Australians won't be buying the edible phallic symbol nowaday. Also, some state in Indonesia was planning to prohibit lavish marriage festivals to curb food wastage, all because of a supply shortage.

Compared to the 7 - 10+++ % inflation that other countries are facing, Singapore is actually faring decently. We are suffering, but less than what others are suffering.

CPF:
Our savings in the CPF are tied up in investments manage by Temasek Holdings and GIC. Apparently, the two GLCs made a 10 billion loss during the 2009 financial crisis. Is this why we have to be desperately old - 55 years old - before we are allowed to touch our savings. By then, we might not be able to enjoy them anymore.

I sincerely hope that our CPF system wouldn't grow to resemble American retirement plans, what some analysts have termed as a nationwide Ponzi scheme. Our younger workers will put money into the system while our older citizens withdraw from it. If there are more withdrawls than inputs, the system will collapse. If the pooled reserves are diminished by ill-judged investments, the situation worsens.

Housing:
MBT is doing a bad job, no doubt. Spiralling costs for flats are simply not sustainable.
Flats being investments (with appreciating value) or flats being homes. HDB, please place your priorities well. The two intentions, essentially, are exclusive. If a Singaporean sells his flat at a high price, he would have to buy another at an equally high price. Charging newly built flats at exorbitant prices will only deplete one's CPF reserves.

But this problem can't solely be attributed to poor management alone.

An uncle always repeat himself: Singaporeans are kiasu. I am kiasu. We want a roof over our heads and we want the most attractive units - highest, closest to the city, in mature estates, next to MRT stations, near parks and premier schools. Essentially, we want our homes to be appreciating assets as well. There are cheaper available units in Punggol and Sengkang, perhaps it is time to consider them.

https://www.cpf.gov.sg/cpf_trans/ssl/financial_model/wdl_assumption.asp
http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10321p.nsf/w/BuyingNewFlatShortlistedApplicants?OpenDocument
http://mrwangsaysso.blogspot.com/2011/04/mah-bow-tan-is-so-disappointing.html


Promoting from within

Sons of this and that past MPs. Wife of a permanent secretary. People unquestioningly loyal to the party. It would appear as though the ruling party is recognising its supporters for their endeavors and promoting from within. But someone whom I respect greatly called this "nepotism".

Lee dynasty, PAP Inc.

Is it really that bad? I'm really uncertain, not sure if the elected MPs would really be "unquestioningly loyal" or if this qualifies as "nepotism". More research into the past pariliamentary debates must be done, I suppose.

Who to vote for?

I had intended to vote for PAP. They did a good job and recognition must be given when it is due. While other countries are still suffering from the 2009 economic crisis, Singapore had recovered quickly. The Workfare scheme is ingenious; our government had provided subsidies for training and suggested that companies reduce the number of working days per employer instead of outright retrenchment. Besides, I really have no bones to pick with the healthcare, education, defence and transport systems.

My vote - one miserly slip of paper - probably wouldn't make a great difference. None of the Opposition parties - except for the Workers' Party - have credible plans anyway.

That was before realising that I will be voting in the Aljunied GRC. And that the Workers' Party is fielding their most credible team there.

Mr Low is a shrewd politician; by going all out, by eschewing a SMC for a GRC, he is leaving the voters with no choice but to vote for his 5 membered party or risk having no alternative voices in our parliament. Politics, without doubt, isn't a game. But it sure feels like one.

"Should they fail, there may be no check-and-balance in our parliament at all, do I want that?" My aunt asked.

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