Sunday, September 18, 2005

PM Lee: Elections coming!

Wooh PM Lee finally start hinting on elections liao! Here is the article in ST.

Sept 18, 2005
'My second year? Preparing for polls'

Expect more young people to run in the next polls, including those aged below 30,says PM Lee. And the PAP is confident of riding out any controversies

By Zuraidah Ibrahim

MR LEE Hsien Loong enters his second year as Prime Minister with his eyes firmly set on the next general election.

While not ruling out elections this year, he revealed that the People's Action Party (PAP) was still interviewing potential candidates and was looking to bring in more young people, including those aged below 30. The Government has until June 2007 to hold the general election.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Lee also expressed confidence that the People's Action Party (PAP) would ride out the controversies that punctuated his first year in office, including the casino issue and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) saga.

On the ground, he felt people were still worried about jobs but the mood was much better this year than last.

The wide-ranging interview at the Istana looked back on 12 months of the Lee Hsien Loong government, and sought the PM's impressions of his leadership style and his working relationships with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong.

Asked what he was looking forward to in his second year, he replied: 'Preparing for the elections. Continuing to strengthen ourselves. We are still interviewing people.

'We continue to reinforce the team and to refine the message because when you go, you have to have a longer-term view but you also have to have a message which resonates with the moment.'

On the controversial decision to allow two casinos - the most divisive issue of recent years - he said the Government probably did enough to win over most Singaporeans.

'I think, over a few days, we were able to change people's perceptions,' he said, referring to the intense debate in Parliament.

Some observers have predicted that the PAP would pay the price at the polls, or that it would have lost a referendum on the issue.

But Mr Lee said: 'I think, at the end, at least 60, 70 per cent, if we had gone for a poll, would have supported this, which was not the case before we made our pitch.'

He admitted he would have preferred not to tackle the casino issue so early in his tenure, but had to move because Singapore was 'pressed for time'.

'We could have held it off for 12 months or so but there's a risk somebody else will move first and we will have lost time,' he said, noting that Thailand had since announced similar plans.

Displaying the traditional PAP approach to governance, he added: 'I think you'll always have an eye as to the impact on the elections but you cannot be adding up your sums on every little item, or else you will never do anything you need to do.'

Asked if he aimed to sustain the PAP's winning margin when he leads the party into elections for the first time, Mr Lee said each general election was different. In the November 2001 polls, the PAP claimed 75 per cent of the votes and all but two seats.

'The last time we did it immediately after 9/11 and going into a rough patch, people were very worried about their future. And so we had a very good result,' he noted.

'I think this time it'll be a different situation. I don't think you can compare it with last time.'

From what the PM Lee has said, it seems that he is quite confident of the upcoming GE. But then again there had never been any doubt that PAP is going to win the next GE. So the main question is whether the opposition parties going to make more inroad in the PAP dominated parliament.

Of course given the kiasu nature of PAP, losing more than the 2 seats occupied by Mr Chiam of SDA and Mr Low of WP will be a major lost of “face” for them. So expect PAP to use its usual carrot and stick tactics during the GE. I will not go into the “stick” today but rather I will focus on the “carrots” I want. So here is my wish list!

Wish No. 1:

An anti-discrimination law to punish employers who sack female employees the moment they declare that they are pregnant.


As the recent news reports have suggested, this practise is becoming increasing widespread in Singapore. This is a major blow to Singapore’s efforts to introduce family friendly policies. I can imagine how a happy occasion is turned into a nightmare when a pregnant employee is sacked just when her family needs the income for the upcoming birth of the baby. So if the govt. is serious about increasing birth rate and promoting family friendly policies, the introduction of such anti-discrimination law is essential.

Wish No.2:

Tightening up of our labour policies by increasing the levies on companies employing foreigners. The Skilled Foreign Worker Levy is currently $80 and will increase to $100 from 1 January 2006, but I hoped that would be increased to $200 on the next budget day.


As I have mentioned in the previous post, the unemployment rate for resident labour force (i.e. PRs and S’pore citizens) is 4.5% in June 2005. This level of unemployment is unacceptably high for a country where social welfare for the unemployed is close to zero. Since it is unrealistic for the govt to provide unemployment benefits as it would be very costly and according to govt and most of the population that it would breed laziness (although I would argue that it isn’t true…), the next best option is to increase the levies on the foreigners so as to provide incentive for companies to hire Singaporeans.

Wish No.3:

Significantly reduce the level of road tax on diesel powered vehicles.


With the introduction of Euro 4 standard, a diesel vehicle can be even cleaner than a vehicle that runs on petrol. So there are no environmental reasons to restrict the number diesel vehicles in Singapore (gahmen last time say diesel polluting so must restrict lah). Moreover given the ultra high fuel price nowadays it would be much cheaper for Singapore to use diesel rather petrol. Of course there is an issue of loss in tax revenue as petrol is taxed while diesel is not (PAP is not call Pay and Pay for nothing one ok!). So there is a dilemma for the govt here, but it can impose tax of diesel while giving rebates to owners of the commercial vehicles. The exact process has to be worked out by the govt, but hey we don’t pay them millions for nothing right?

Wish No. 4:

I wish that the govt could start looking into a workable public pension plan that runs concurrently with the CPF for elderly citizens above 70.


This is probably the most unrealistic wish of all, however it is my personal favourite lol… Singapore’s population is aging rapidly hence there is a real need to look after the welfare of the elderly. Moreover this scheme would give Singaporeans a stronger sense of ownership of their country and provide an incentive for more PRs to convert their citizenships to a Singapore one. However this will be a very expensive policy and money have to be found to fund this program. I personally propose that the benefits that the PRs receive to be significantly cut back and this together with the revenue generated from the two new casinos… eh no Integrated Resorts… should be able to fund most of the cost. If these are still not enough new tax can be imposed on luxury goods to fund the program.

There are certainly more election goodies that I hope would be given out by our generous govt., but I will leave the listing of my fantasies to another time. Ciao!


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