Thursday, 7 February 2013

What check? What Voters want, and what they actually get...

WP wants to check the PAP. They want voters to vote for them, to send WP MPs to parliament to check the PAP.

The Voters want their lives to be better (as defined by voters, not PAP). They want government policies to better reflect their concerns, and their needs. They vote WP, hoping that it will mean changes for the better.

Low Thia Khiang realised that there is disjoint between what the WP can do, and what the voters expect them to do.

This idea of checking the govt of the day is very American. Where the concern historically, is an unrestrained govt.

The whole US democracy system is based on the idea that Big Govt is bad. Thus the whole American political system is design to slow big govt down.

The check on govt is to ensure that govt does not implement changes because the people believe that big government is inherently bad government.

However here, where the people want the govt to DO things - fix flooding, fix transport problem, fix housing shortage, lower flat prices, fix school admission stress, fix examination stress.

The WP realises that it CANNOT give the people better policies. As an opposition, the best they can do is to STOP or SLOW down the PAP's policies which they feel will add to the people's burden.

But can they FORCE the PAP to reverse directions?

Unlikely. If the PAP were to reverse direction or go on a direction the WP wants, then they are as good as WP.

Take for example the speech from the WP on the White Paper on population.

WP proposes 5.9 m population by 2030. Lower and slower than the 6.9m that the White Paper projected.

See how easy it is? Why can't the PAP do this? Why do the PAP insist on irritating us with these overcrowded population projections?

Unless... these projections are simply that - a projection. Just like you would project your monthly earnings and expenditure... I earn $3000, I spent $2000, so I save $1000 every month, so by the end of the year I *project* that I will have $12,000.

So the White Paper is simply saying given current trends (TFR, marriages, immigrants, etc) ceteris paribus, we could have a population of 6.9million people by 2030 and we need to make sure we are prepared for this many people. That is almost 20 years away, and we need to make sure... we vote in as many opposition MPs as possible to prevent it from happening!

WP "proposes" an alternative projection of 5.9million people by 2030. Really? It is THAT simple? What is the basis of that projection? What factors were considered? What parameters were tweaked? What policies need to be changed? And in what way?

No need to answer those questions? Just pull the number out of a hat?

So this is the WP "checking" the PAP?

The PAP says 6.9m by 2030!

We CHECKED them. We say just 5.9 million enough already!

And if the population exceeds 5.9m it is because the PAP NEVER LISTENS! So vote them out the next election!

Never mind that the population is already 5.3+ to 5.4million. So 5.9m is only 0.5m more. From figures over the last 5 years, our population has been increasing at 0.1 million a year (rough eyeball estimate, it was 4.8m in 2008, 5.3m in 2012).

HERE is MY projection, in about 5 years, oh wait. The PAP says they will slow population growth from immigration... should I believe them...? The WP also say that they will CHECK the PAP, should I believe them...? Would they be able to, even if they wanted to...?

If growth continues like the last 5 years, we would hit 5.9 million in 5 years. If growth is halved, we would still hit 5.9m in 10 years. And if the "slow" trend continues at the same pace, by 2030, we would still be 6.3million. Short of the 6.9 million that the PAP says is a worst case scenario. 

But the point is this: if the WP thinks that pulling some numbers out of thin air is making policy, they are woefully unprepared to take over from the PAP. If voters think WP yelling 5.9million is offering them  an alternative voice, they are deluded. I can yell 5.8 million. It doesn't mean anything. Neither does WP's yelling 5.9 million. especially, if it is just a proposed, "alternative population projection". Based on what facts? Not stated.

It took the government a few months of consultation and consideration of the facts to come up with a white paper and the WP can just pull any number they like without breaking a sweat?


But they did put their resident number-cruncher, Gerald Giam on the task... and he proposes to use "economically inactive" persons of which there are about 418,000 from a labour force survey.

Apparently, he believes these economically inactive persons are just lazy bums who refuse to be economically active!

Notice, these are not "unemployed" persons. Well, they are unemployed, but they are not looking for work because well, some of them are "unemployable". They may be sick, disabled, or have some other health, medical, or social issues which preclude them from working.

Some are caring for other family members - a child, a disabled family member, or an elderly relative.

And quite a few may be furthering their studies.

All good reasons for being economically inactive. It doesn't mean they are just lazing around with nothing to do, just waiting for Gerald Giam to come up with a plan to put them to the service of the nation!

And this is the party that is supposed to be in touch with the ground? They just pluck numbers from the air and assume people will just fall in line with the plans?

I thought this was what the PAP does?

And this passes for what the WP can do to "check" the PAP?

It seems to me they are doing exactly what the PAP would do! But since they are NOT the ruling party, their "policies" would never be tested.

So so much for being a Check on the PAP.

How can PAP-lite check the PAP?


raytanlee said...

Two comments:

First, there is a fundamental difference between the PAP and WP points of view. The PAP derives the 6.9M figure based a desired GDP%. The WP derives the 5.9M figure based on the desired local-foreigner ratio. As national policies, both are achievable, both has pros and cons, both involve sacrifices. So if you say one party is pulling their figure out of a hat, then so is the other.

Second, regarding the figures being merely projections based on "current trends". That may be so. But the government has complete control over immigration, which forms the bulk of that 1.5M increase in the white paper. If they so choose to, they can severely restrict foreigners coming in with work visas, and they can be stricter in giving out citizenship. Or, they can be as liberal as what they are doing now. It's a policy choice. So no, your analogy that it is like a personal salary projection is flawed. Unless you're some hot shot, you can't really rubber-band your salary projections like you do with immigration.

Anyway, regardless of whether WP is effective or not, I feel it is at least important to present an alternative point of view in parliament. Or else all parliamentary "debates" will just be woefully one-sided.

El Lobo Loco said...

Yes. You are right. Both parties are pulling figures out of a hat. The difference is one is controlling the hat. The one you identified as having complete control over immigration, citizenship policies, and work visa policies. Which is the point of this post.

If WP claims to be a check on the PAP, they are misrepresenting themselves. There is no check in a Westminster-type Parliament. There is only stop and replace. And Low has already disabused us of the notion that WP is planning to stop and replace the PAP anytime soon.

And if the WP is just to present an alternative point of view, that is not a check. And if you are happy to just have an alternative view, then don’t be disappointed if there is no check on the PAP. And if people had voted for them to check the govt, they are not getting what they voted for, which brings us back to the point of this post.

Thank you.

raytanlee said...

I doubt Singaporeans know enough about the American system to associate WP's use of the word "check" with check-and-balances between branches of a tripartite government. It's a semantic distinction that is irrelevant in this case.

I presume when most Singaporeans voted for them, they had understood "checks" to be synonymous with scrutinize and criticize. And also to take actions to vote against unpopular bills, file motions to initiate certain actions, etc. -- the usual stuff that goes on in parliament. They might actually table a motion of no-confidence but I think that's an exercise in futility at this time.

El Lobo Loco said...

And again you're right. Singaporeans understood "check" to mean "check the progress of the PAP, stop them from making more policies that make me unhappy, make my life a little easier, a little closer to what I remember from the good ol' days."

So yes, your semantic distinction is irrelevant.

And with 9 MPs in parliament, WP can "vote against unpopular bills", even "table a motion of no confidence". But as you realistically and rationally conclude, it would be an exercise in futility. It will not slow the PAP down.

In other words, they can't check the PAP. They can't change policy. They can't even slow policy down. "Check" is a false promise that anyone who understand the parliamentary process will recognise.

Which means that for the average Singaporean, the PAP is not stopped, the people are still unhappy, their life is still hard, and we still move forward in time.

Moreover, Low has even said that effects of govt policies will take time to take effect, so even when the people's lives are better and easier, the PAP can take credit for it. WP has already surrendered any claim to take credit for it... or Low's words can be used against him.

The only way WP can make life better for Singaporeans is to take over the driver's seat. "Check", as it is understood by the average Singaporean is a lie. WP did not campaign on, "Vote us in and we will make parliament more interesting!" But you seem satisfied with this.

Low was in parliament for over 20 years, and Chiam was more interesting.

WP campaigned on making people's lives easier. Bread and butter issues - housing, transport, education, costs of living. Things that they have no power to change. They campaigned on making Singapore a kinder, gentler place. They campaigned on slowing things down. But if they want this, they have to take over the driver's seat and put their policies in place. Aiming for the co-driver's seat and promising a better life is disingenuous at best.

An electioneering tactic.

You have made two comments, neither of which undermined the hypothesis of the main post, and neither of which seems particularly incisive or well-thought out. Your comments add nothing in terms of an alternative view but at best is a different way to arrive at the same conclusion.

Please make your next comment count. I do not intend to engage in endless, meandering exchange of comments. Please make copies of your comments if you wish to keep them. They may be deleted in due course.