Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stop comparing Singapore with Third world countries

By Gerald Giam

It never ceases to amaze me the kind of examples some people will use to drive home their point that the PAP is the one and only party capable of leading Singapore forever and ever.

In a letter to the Straits Times forum yesterday titled “PAP’s self-renewal a boon for the nation”, Jeffrey Law praised the PAP’s efforts at “self-renewal”, and in the process took a swipe — or rather three swipes — at neighbouring countries for their far-from-perfect political systems.

He started by saying: “It can be disquieting to know that some politicians in the region indulge in money politics and resort to buying votes.”

Was he referring to politics in other countries or in Singapore?

In the last three elections since 1997, the PAP has been dangling multi-million dollar HDB upgrading programmes in front of voters, telling them if they voted for the PAP, they will get lifts on every floor and nicely spruced up estates. If they didn’t, their estates would become “slums”.

During the 2006 election campaign, the PAP dangled a total of $180 million in front of Hougang and Potong Pasir voters in an effort to get them to vote for their candidates instead of the incumbent opposition MPs. $180 million! That’s $4,540 for each of the 39,647 voters in those two wards!

And that was not all. Just 5 days before polling day in the 2006 elections, the PAP government released $2.6 billion — euphemistically called the “Progress Package” — to the electorate.

Back in 2001, three months before the elections, the government also released $2.7 billion in “New Singapore Shares” to Singaporeans.

There was never a repeat of cash giveaways of this scale in between elections. These giveaways way exceeded the amounts used to buy votes in other countries.

So tell me, who really is engaging in money politics?

The author then went on to lambaste the Philippines because former president Joseph Estrada is planning to run again for President. Perhaps he is not familiar with the concept of a proper democracy whereby any citizen can run for President, subject to minimal eligibility hurdles, and it is up to voters to choose the best man or woman. This is not the case in Singapore, of course, where the presidential candidates are subject to ridiculously stringent eligibility criteria and are chosen by a group of Establishment figures in an opaque selection process.

He then gave a supposedly negative example of how it was common for six or seven candidates from different political parties to compete for a wakil rakyat (people’s representative) post in a small district in Indonesia.

Excuse me? What’s wrong with several candidates competing for one post? What is the ideal number then? One, like in most constituencies in Singapore?

Finally, he did a survey of one person, who remarked that politicians (in Indonesia) were more interested in gaining power and wealth than looking after the welfare of the people. How is Mr Law so sure that this applies to all politicians in Indonesia? And how does he know that it doesn’t also apply to some of our politicians? After all it is not the Indonesian ministers who paid themselves multi-million dollar salaries.

But even if all the above are true, why are we, a developed country, being compared with Third world countries all the time? It’s like comparing apples with oranges. Shouldn’t we compare ourselves with other First world countries like Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand, Denmark and Netherlands?


LseYale said...

Gerald, regarding your comment on why Mr Jeffrey Law compared Singapore to 3rd world countries. The reason is because Singapore IS a 3rd world country in many aspects.