Home > Politics > SG Election (2) – Background

SG Election (2) – Background

It seems unthinkable to many people (non-singaporean) that why is there a wind of change in Singapore. GDP for 2010 was 14.5%, which is obviously great for the third largest economy in ASEAN (This report suggests that it surpasses Malaysia, and now behind Indonesia and Thailand). Malaysians flock to Singapore for better income and career prospective. My facebook status has the statistic:

~1 million Malaysians now living in diaspora (including non-residents)
~60% of them go to Singapore, 400k residents, 200k nonresidents
1/3 of them are classified as "brain drain"
47% of tertiary-educated foreign-born residents in Singapore are Malaysia-born

In the recent years, you see a lot more Malaysians, Chinese, South Asians and many more nationalities around in Singapore. Great education, great healthcare, great income and yadda yadda, it is very hard for the foreigners not to love this country, and of course, the PAP government.

But the discontent of Singaporeans, not necessarily towards the government (as they are trained to not get angry at the government), is rising.

I think the seed of the sense of change is planted, some time during the 2006 general election, when PAP sees 8.7% popularity votes swung away from it. I was then watching the election from afar, well to be precise, reading stories online and watching TV news during the counting (I never see a single campaign material then, the area I was in has no contest). And in internet forum, me and some Malaysian-in-Singapore (MiS, eh, I can make abbreviation too, right?) were then discussing the results, armchair-style. One forummer commented “when the chio bu (leng lui, hot girls?) become aunties, you expect to see more and more people wanting to change”. Youth, similar to many part of the world, is the main driving force of change.

Ever since then, more websites that air dissent voice towards the ruling elites. Yes, from my observation, the huge discontent comes from the elitist attitude of the PAP. The grassroots vs the elites. People feel disconnected from the government, or the “top layer” of the country. It’ is quite easy to use the ministerial pay to illustrate the clash of classes (but bear in mind it’s more complicated than this):
How do you sell the idea of having a Prime Minister whose monthly income is 37 times more than the median monthly household income ($5000 in 2010)? When the people witness how the “scholars” are fast-tracked into top-layer of civil services (which undoubtedly carries incredible pay)? Rest assure the class issue is BIG in this election, the three rallies I went to mentioned it.

One Filipino asked Singaporean friends, during a drinking session, “so how much you think the ministerial pay should be, and to ensure they don’t corrupt?” (Though the official reason for the lucrative pay is to attract private sector talents)."Much less of course, they can’t even take care of a terrorist!”. How much shall they pay the leaders? No idea, but they definitely think that 2.2 million USD per year is not right. Oh, and the terrorist was Mas Selamat Kastari. The then home minister Wong Kan Seng might sweat a bit when tabling the white paper regarding the incident in the parliament, but what do you expect from an 82 vs 2 parliament? Any head rolls? Definitely not any of the expensive politician. Accountability, another huge issue in this election cycle. Parliament needs more oppositions to beef up the government’s accountability, so says the opposition.

Another big issue that dominates all parties election manifesto, is immigrant issue. Foreign talent or FT as the Singapore (aka land of acronyms) people like to call. Yeah, I am one of the foreign thrashes watching this “watershed election” and attended the election rallies, rather stealthily Smile with tongue out. One in three human you see in Singapore is not Singapore-blooded. I’m studying/working in Singapore for 8 years, and you can definitely feel the abundance of immigrants. In KL, we complain about not being able to eat “local” food as most of them are prepared by foreign workers. Well, ditto to Singapore! Annual growth rates between 2006 to 2009 of different group of Singapore population are as follows:

Singapore citizens 0.8 to 1.1%
PR 6.5 to 11.5%
Non-resident 4.8 to 19.0%

Increase in competition results in stagnant wage rate. Not unlike in Malaysia lah. In fact a friend of mine commented:

Employers definitely love foreign workers. Less complain, many of them don’t have many friends here hence more likely to work hard and be loyal to you. Also, their work passes are tied to the employer, so you can’t afford to lose your job as you’ll end up becoming a tourist!

“It’s like taking a holiday, I don’t even need to bring my passport”, said National Solidarity Party (NSP) star leng lui candidate, Nicole Seah, probably the Hannah Yeoh of Singapore. In a way, she does highlight the social impact of having such huge number of immigrant.

According to Workers Party (star, too) candidate Chen Show Mao in one of his rally, The minister said immigrants ratio will be pegged at 1/3 of total population. He asked, why 1/3 and not 1/4 or any other number? “Did he ask you?” “NO!” “Shall we send more people into the parliament to ask him?” The 30k odd crowd cheered. I clapped my hands, oh well, it certainly is interesting when you yourself is an immigrant Smile with tongue out

Apart from identity crisis, another issue of concern is the foreign workers dormitory. In Pioneer SMC, which is part of the Singapore core industrial area, PAP candidate said he will propose to install CCTV in each flat. NSP candidate said in the rally, “We shall just move the dormitory to Joo Koon (right next to Pioneer) side, which has no residential area! Then we won’t need (expensive) CCTV!”. Presence of foreign worker seems to affect the locals, socially or in terms of safety, or if according to the candidate, the public behaviour such as littering and spitting and whatnot.

Singaporean is VERY disturbed by the booming of immigrants, sure-topic for day-to-day chit chatters.

PAP fielded 20+ young “new faces”, citing some of them coming from private sector or poor families. The government is expected to appoint more unelected Non-Constituencies MP (NCMP), “members of the opposition parties who were appointed as members of the Parliament of Singapore even though they had lost in the parliamentary election.” (Only 1 NCMP currently). Also, PAP government has since slowed down the number of Permanent Residents (PR) intake, and increased foreign workers levy charge.

PAP is smart enough to address these issues, but is it enough to stop the wind of change?

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