It is interesting to note that PM Lee has actually shot himself in the foot in the unconstructive debate on constructive politics. Instead of a debate on our pressing issues, PAP MPs, as usual, were merely trying to win a battle of words.
According to PM Lee, the 5 qualities of constructive politics are: (I’ll just list three)
1 “Effective policies which improve Singaporeans’ lives” Ordinary citizens have experienced an increasingly lower standard of living for the last decade. Low wage workers have even seen wage stagnation. Housing has remained less unaffordable; it has not “remain affordable” as frequently mentioned in the government’s mouthpiece. The additional buses have hardly alleviated overcrowding during peak hours. Many urgent medical cases are still given appointments months or even up to a year at public hospitals. Medical conditions could have worsened, resulting in a higher hospital bill and even premature death. 3 weeks ago, a friend was informed that he needed an MRI scan to confirm the possibility of a tumour. The earliest appointment was in 3 months’ time.
PAP score: 0 (policies not effective as Singaporeans are worse off)
2 “Putting forward good leaders” Good leaders must have good track records and judging from our ministers, most have not proven they deserve their million dollar salaries. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had helmed the MOM from 2008 to 2011. He somehow did not realise the issues relating to the import of foreign manpower were creating havoc in our lives. Minister Khaw Boon Wan, infamously known for his $8 heart bypass operation, had helmed the Health Ministry for 7 years from 2004 to 2011. From 2001 to 2012, the number of hospital beds fell from 11,936 to 10,755. Lim Swee Say, minister without portfolio and NTUC chief, belatedly adjusted the salaries of Fairprice non-executive staff by up to 15.8 per cent after Prof Lim Chong Yah’s recommendation for a “shock therapy”. etc. In the eyes of many Singaporeans, we do not have good leaders. The government did not put forward good leaders but has been recycling failures within the system.
Good leaders plan ahead. They do not need citizens to tell them hospital beds are in short supply, housing is insufficient or public transportation sucks. If we did have good leaders, citizens would not be perennially complaining. Bear in mind Singaporeans are a very tolerant people and we only vocalise our issues when we have been severely affected.
PAP score: 0 (Good leaders are also exemplary. They are aware that their legal action can bankrupt and ruin ordinary citizens’ lives and will never do so. They are magnanimous and are always on the citizens’ side)
3 “Having a robust and open debate”. We never had this in parliament and that’s the reason for our unhappiness with all the issues singlehandedly created by the PAP. Where the CPF issue is concerned, the PAP decides and citizens are simply expected to accept blindly. The population white paper was merely discussed in parliament, giving the impression of an ‘open debate’. But we should ask ourselves what is the purpose of a debate when a decision had already been made by a handful of PAP politicians. Needless to provide other instances.
PAP score: 0 (due to PAP MP’s numerical superiority in parliament, every proposal brought up for “open debate” will be approved by parliament. “Open debate” is akin to going through the motions, locally known as ‘wayang’. The “open debate” in its current form does not serve Singaporeans.)
By PM Lee’s definition, the PAP has failed the constructive politics test.
“Housing will remain affordable for Singaporeans, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged …”. Housing affordability cannot be confined to only new HDB flats; this is PAP’s definition of ‘housing’ and not the commonly accepted definition of ‘housing’. In the transcript of PM Lee’s debate on President’s address, there was no mention of resale HDB flats which have remained out of reach for the masses. The government should not come up with its own convenient definition.
Where resale flats (public housing) are concerned, prices have almost doubled from a decade ago. The HDB Resale Price Index was 104.1 in 2004 and has climbed to 198.5 in 1Q 2014.
The problem is therefore years from a solution because it has festered for 2 decades. Building 52,000 flats during the last 3 years did not address the housing problem and the fact that such a large number of flats were built and had little impact on prices confirm the severity of the housing problem.
It is extremely misleading to state “housing will remain affordable for all”. It is illogical to claim that housing will remain affordable when housing has been unaffordable? (‘remain’ means to continue in the same state or condition)
The PAP does not believe in constructive politics since it has always decided on what’s best for Singaporeans. It’s brand of politics is probably “instructive” ** where citizens are expected to listen to instructions and be an obedient follower.
When housing is not affordable, PAP instructs citizens to purchase new HDB flats and this just about settles the affordability issue for the PAP. When there were too many births, official instructions informed us to “Stop At Two” or face punitive measures. When the situation reversed, we were told to produce more and incentives were offered. On MRT trains and platforms, we have been told to report suspicious characters for more than a decade until we are all immune to the message.
Practitioners of instructive politics are control freaks and dissenting views will not be tolerated. They also make use of the mainstream media to cast doubts in the minds of citizens. One such article:
With reference to the above article, we all know the Ass Tee will never substitute ‘opposition’ for ‘PAP’. It appears the press is the one assisting to raise questions on the role of opposition.
I find it strange for PM Lee to even take aim at the WP’s performance in Parliament. How an opposition party performs in Parliament is for voters to decide. Obviously PM Lee did not vote for the WP so why the disappointment? By questioning the WP’s performance, does PM Lee intend to help the WP improve to serve citizens better? Is political point scoring in parliament constructive and helps to improve our lives?
Ultimately, voters will decide if policies have benefitted us. All this debate on a definition and taking pot shots at the opposition is anything but constructive.
“… if we had not intervene on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what people think.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, Apr 20 1987 Constructive politics?