Monday, 25 February 2013

Political Blues

WP has released their "Blue Paper" as a counter to the Government's White paper.

Devadas does a critical review of their Blue paper here.

I shall not rehash his critique.

But I thought the line: "Kitsch slogans hung on a line of wishful thinking" was an apt description.

As well as the observation that:
the WP population paper... is actually a cupboard empty of original ideas. All its policy recommendations are borrowed ideas from existing or proposed policies of the PAP. Boosting the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), raising the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of women and keeping the elderly employed and active are policies that have been in place for several years.
In other words,  it is exactly the same as the PAP's proposal... but DIFFERENT!

Which is not to say that the Blue Paper is a complete wash. There are interesting, valid and good ideas. But that's all they are: ideas. Or as Devadas puts it, kitschy slogans.

The recommendations or proposals in the Blue Paper lack specifics, and ultimately credibility.

For example, in chapter 5, para 5.9 (page 30 of their paper, yes I did try to read it. I say "try" because I had to skim past the sloganeering), there is a table of land use, where WP counter-proposes land use numbers against the Government's proposal.

They commented on and amended land use figures for commerce, ports, defence, among other uses. Their rationale for supporting some of the original figures from the government like parks, community institutions, reservoirs and "land transport infrastructures" were simply because it was in line with what they believe. Or more cynically, what they think the people want.

For housing, since they proposed a lower population figure, they basically pro-rated the land use for housing based on their lower population projection. This is logical, if a little simplistic.

The kicker is that they then pro-rated land use for commerce, ports, airports, defence and utilities based on the reduced population!

That is beyond simplistic, and right deep in stupidity territory.

The land requirement for a port depends on the level of port activity, storage area needed, circulation area, and amount of traffic on average and at peak. It has nothing to do with the population, or if there is SOME correlation, it would be a very weak correlation.

Same for Airport. And commerce. And industry. And Defence.

I will concede that perhaps utilities may be correlated to population, but a straight-line correlation? Simplistic.

The problem is that without a Shadow Cabinet with their MPs or even staffers assigned to specific portfolios, this is the kind of half-ARSEd analysis they have to resort to.

And really, this kind of simplistic analysis is worse than no analysis. Low Thia Khiang has already acknowledged that WP has constraints. It is unfortunate that the WP is choosing to fight a battle it cannot win it is not equipped or armed for.

BUT, they seem to also understand that this is a battle for which the outcome is not likely to be clear for years, if ever. So they have nothing to lose, and politics to gain.

Again, Devadas puts it most eloquently: The WP is strong on politics, but weak on policies. The PAP is weak on politics but strong on policies.

However Singapore can no longer  afford to face this choice, but will need a government that is strong in politics and policies.

The loser, will be Singapore. I would have much preferred to see WP pursue a course that would entrenched democracy in Singapore.

Instead of this political adventurism and opportunism.





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