The 2011 elections in Singapore has been an education for me. It
demonstrates the power of the democratic process and importance of checks
and balances in any kind of organization. Power corrupts and absolute power
Singapore is like a Hollywood movie; it looks perfect. 9% GDP growth, 1.9%
unemployment, 11% of households are millionaires, highest home ownership,
etc, etc. However everyone feels that something is not right. There is a
growing discontent among the citizens. Are we irrational, are we just cry
babies who likes to complain? The problem with statistic is how you choose
to look at the numbers. On the flip side another set of numbers paint a
very different picture.
9% GDP growth, but real median household income grew at only 0.3% for
residents (citizens and PR). That same number becomes 2,8% when you include
the foreigners. If you take the average instead of the median number, the
household income growth quickly reaches 3.8%. To put it in simple terms,
all of the growth is benefitting the foreigners and the richer people. Look
who is getting the raw end of the deal. Of course only some data are
publicly available. When you triangulate and make intelligent guesses,
probably more than 50% of the citizen household here are experiencing
negative real growth in household income despite the robust growth in GDP.
1.9% total unemployment doesn't tell you that 2.7% of residents are
unemployed. With intelligent guess, citizen unemployment is probably close
to 4% in these wonderful times. 11% of households are millionaires; no
wonder the GINI coefficient in Singapore is 0.48%, higher than most
developed countries in the world. (GINI coefficient measures income
disparity in a country).
This is just a very simple analysis based on public data by a common
citizen. In the wise words of Austin Powers; it smells like shit, by god it
is shit. It is not surprising that people on the street is unhappy and
feels that something is not right despite all the hoopla. As I have just
demonstrated, looking at the numbers closely tells a very different story.
This has shown through in the polls. 60% is not a strong mandate and it
will get worst unless the PAP start acknowledging the problems and deal with
it. The first step to deal with the problem is to stop denying that there
is a problem.
WP has shown us that if you put out strong candidates, you can win the
election. I am sure that more credible candidates will look to WP with
confidence and I am sure more will come forward in the next election. I
totally disagree with PM when he said that we do not have enough talent in
Singapore to form 2 parties. That is utter nonsense. The persecution of
opposition in the past has driven out many credible leaders. That is the
The credibility of WP and that strong challenge during this election has
shown us that checks and balance are important in politics. It has forced
PAP to deal with the issues and even apologize. This would be unthinkable
just a few days ago, when MM still regarded the PAP as a sacred religion
where repentance is the only way to salvation.
This brings me to the GRC. The intention was to ensure minority
representation, but this is a thinly veil excuse to carry a bunch of MPs who
are not up to scratch. The reality is that PAP cannot find enough talent to
win every seat hence the "buddy" system of averaging the good with the bad.
There are many other ways to solve the issue of minority representation.
The GRC is not the way. When the GRC was introduced there was no
referendum. This is a major change to the constitution. Since we have a
one party government, there was no checks and balance to this fundamental
change in our constitutional rights.
This election witnessed the tragedy of the GRC. Like most things in life it's
a double edge sword. We lost a great minister in George Yeo. Both parties
played a gambit and unfortunately he was sacrificed for the greater good of
the system. George Yeo would have won any SMC hands down, but he was
sacrificed. On the other hand we have many candidates who would have never
won on their own ticket, instead getting a free ride into parliament through
the GRC. Where is the justice in this system.
Now it is 5 more years of analyzing the results and redrawing the electorial
boundaries. Instead, the PAP should refocus on addressing the issues head
on and remember who is their boss. It is certainly not the foreigners.