Saturday, September 12, 2015

On the National Swing

The votes are in and PAP has won big this GE with 69.89% of the popularity vote, a 9.79% increase over 2011. This was a surprise to many political analysts but is a timely reminder that the middle ground exists, that the political battlefield is not just a division between the opposition and the PAP. 

It is also a reminder that ultimately, the middle ground who do not vote along party lines have the biggest impact and surprises up their sleeves. That they have the capability to provide the government with a true barometer of how their policies fare, since they do not vote according to sentiments or alliances but to sound policies and judgments. 

It is hard to determine the size of the middle ground. But the best opportunity came during the Presidential Elections in 2011, when we had 4 Tans trying to get into the IsTANa. 

There was:
  • Tony Tan, the PAP backed candidate who scored 35.2% of the vote. 
  • Tan Jee Say and Tan Kin Lian, the pro-opposition candidates and who scored a combined 29.95% of the vote 
  • And Tan Cheng Bock, the most middle ground of the lot who scored 34.85% of the vote. 

This in itself is very similar to the voting sentiment on the ground where the opposition scored 30.11% in GE 2015.

Middle ground voters have been a difficult lot to tie down and have traditionally been silent. When we step up to criticize PAP policies, we have been told by hardcore PAP supporters (such as Calvin Cheng) to migrate if we hate Singapore so much.

And when we mention that the opposition needs to get its act together and that we don’t want just any troublemaker in parliament, we have been told that we are unpatriotic or self-serving. 

Although, some of the effects of swaying the middle ground could be due to the SG50 sentiments and the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, I believe that the current voting percentages compared to 2011 is an endorsement of how the average Singaporean really feels across 3 important issues.


In 2011, we had just come out of 5 years where there were only less than 6000 BTOs built a year (the lowest in Singapore's independent history), leading to escalating costs of housing and lack of housing for young couples. 

Post 2011, HDB has ramped up housing construction to record levels and put in place a slew of measures to cool the property market. Subsequently, wait times for BTOs have come down significantly enough that this hot button issue appears to be on its way to resolution.

Foreign Workers

Another key issue in 2011, was the influx of foreign workers/talents who have crowded the work force. However, since then there has been a slew of action such as:
  • More checks on firms hiring foreign PMEs to support Singapore workers, under the Fair Consideration Framework. 
  • The Singapore Jobsbank, where employers are required to advertise their job vacancies for at least 14 days before they can submit applications for Employment Passes.
  • Singapore has also seeked to cut quota on Foreign Workers (having seen the growth in the foreign worker workforce fall from 7.61% to 2.58%. 
  • We have also seen Tan Chuan Jin, the Minister of Manpower holding closed door talks to encourage banks and other industries to hire more Singaporeans or place greater emphasis on developing Singaporean talent.

Empathy in Public Policy

Thirdly, another issue is the lack of empathy in public policy. Post 2011, the ruling government has created more channels to listen to ground sentiment, pushed unpopular ministers such as Mah Bow Tan and Wong Kan Seng out of the Cabinet and spent $8b on the Pioneer Generation Fund to recognise the contributions of first-generation Singaporeans born on or before 1949.

In the end, Singaporeans have spoken and the message is that if the PAP listens and puts in place policies that benefits Singaporeans, we will vote for them. 

Finally, I would like to congratulate to the PAP on a landslide victory. This is a huge endorsement by voters that you are moving in the right direction, but, although there has been marked improvement in 2011, that the work is not over. We place the trust of the nation in your hands for the next 5 years.  


PS: To the opposition parties. The results are a time of reflection. Although in general, Singaporeans want more opposition voices in parliament, we do not want any Roy, Han Hui Hui or Cheo Chai Chen in Parliament. We need quality candidates and not just troublemakers. I hope that with this result, the non-Worker’s Party opposition parties can get its act together. 

The NSP, the biggest opposition party in 2011 is in shambles due to in-fighting and over inflated egos. The RP has been lying in bed with the wrong crowd, choosing to pick from among the pariah for its candidates. Hopefully in 2020, we can see more qualified opposition candidates who are in a better position to bring alternative voices to Parliament.


Anonymous said...

Hello Lam,

This comment is not related to your current post here. But I am not sure where to put a request here. Hope you could indulge us (non accounting savvy folks) on this.

HDB incurs $2.02b deficit in last FY -

Any idea how a govt org could insure such a high deficit, given that we have been told that we are a well managed govt? What does this deficit mean?

Any insights into this is most appreciated. In particular, I like the way you put it across in simple-to-under-way for lay persons like myself.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lam,

Typo error in above request. It should be "simple-to-understand".

If for whatever reasons, you do not feel like it, or you do not have the time, it is okay. Just let me know as it is.

Thank you.

The Alternative Investor said...

Good question. I'll explore that in a future post. Have been on business travel so haven't been updating

Anonymous said...

Hello Lam,

I am not sure if you have come across this,

While there are good calculations and extrapolation done, I feel that something seems to be amiss. For example, if we were to consider the next tier of high income earners, $500K to $1M, their combined income tax is higher than those at highest tier of >$1M.

Hence, without defining the "rich" and considering the other high income earners tiers, the data seem incomplete and hence, extrapolation falls short to become conclusion.

What do you think? Thank you again.

PS> Not sure if there is breakdown available on the # of earners, income brackets (eg. $250K to $500K and etc), combined income tax, to make these calculations more complete.

The Alternative Investor said...

There is one error in his numbers. He mentioned that "lower earners contributed $41.8bn" and that if we increased the tax by 1% it will give us an additional $4.1bn.

That is wrong because 1% of $41.8bn is $0.41bn not $4.1bn

Based on his assumptions, to raise $0.41bn, the taxes on high earners who had a combined income $8.63bn, the increase is another 5% approximately

Anonymous said...

Hello Lam,

Yes. A great catch. Thank you.