Wednesday, March 29, 2006

As the run up for the election heats up, the mudslinging would sure follow. Already, the incumbent party has signalled it's intention to win back the two wards that has eluded them for so long - Potong Pasir and Hougang. This possibility could well turn Singapore into a one party state, if the opposition does not win any other constituency. Is this lack of opposition going to affect Singapore adversely? Or would it be for the better?

The PAP has promised that they would carry out estate upgrading in the two opposition wards if they manage to bring them back into their rule. With the elaborate access to sinking funds for the opposition, the PAP can use this 'upgrading' card to promote itself. But is this trump card the only issue of contention? For years, the PAP has bemoaned the lack of contributing ideas into the political scene. They have blamed the public for the lack of political apathy, seeking to only live out the 'Singapore Dream' of a nice house, car and money to spend.

However, has there been an active promotion of political activity? The answer is no. Every election, whether by strategy or not, the PAP has only seek to promote 'upgrading' as the reason to vote for them. They have never seek to consult the opinion of the public in other key aspects of the government. Only a group of elite members in the party knows best, and that in their opinion is the way to run the country. The recommendation of the casino, the CPF reduction for employers and the Temasek Holdings acquistion of Shincorp are just fine examples of the strict policy of government-knows-best.

An active debate must be promoted in the parliaments for issues that concern the nation. After all, the nation belongs to the citizens and not just a small group of elites. They may know what is best but is it really the best? Surely by opening up to public scrutiny, the government can carry out their decisions more wisely and carefully.

Which leads me to the question of the dilemma facing the voters in this upcoming election. The need for check and balances has always been a strong reason for not voting the whole PAP into the parliament. The adverse effect that may result of this outcome may be oblivious to the many young voters that are eligible to vote currently. This is because, the last time the PAP was in total control was more than a decade ago. Times have changed and more people in Singapore are getting better educated. And if we return to the days of a one party rule, it may not be what a situation that Singapore needs.

On the other hand, voting the opposition in would mean that the constituency would be living in obscurity for the next five years as the government has stated clearly that they would not carry out upgrading for areas in which they are not in control. With the opposition hands tied, they too cannot afford to carry out sigificant changes for the better of the estate.

One way is to open up this process in where the opposition wards are entitled to upgrading as well. After all, the people of the opposition wards pay taxes and it would be unfair to them if their money were used to upgrade the other estates and not theirs just because they voted for the opposition. Yet, by allowing this to happen, PAP would be seemingly countering their best trump card in the election.

No ruling party would design policies that will be detriment to their stay in power and I am sure, if one day, the opposition rise to power, they too would create rules that would make life difficult for parties contesting against them.

The worrying lack of voice in the parliament may be a strong reason to vote more opposition in but I believe that this may not be the only way to solve the political apathy of Singaporeans. By seeking to be more consultative instead of appearing to be consultative could be the key to better governance. And if the PAP can adopt this policy, Singapore would be a better run place, with or without the opposition.

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