WORKER'S PARTY UPDATE
As I have posted in an earlier entry, I have decided to pay Worker's Party headquarters a visit, at the behest of the coordinator of WP's magazine, "Hammer", held this Monday at WP headquarters.
By and large, it was an interesting meeting of sorts, and I was heartened to see quite a sizeable number of political creatures who have not been very much impressed by the ruling incumbent's abject failure to follow up with a satisfactory manifesto cum strategy to counter WP's very sound election campaign.
The meeting kicked off with Ms Sylvia's introduction speech, followed by a informal question-ad-answer session. The audience was subsequently broken down into various groups, each being attended by one WP member.
The exact topics discussed were wide ranging, and it would be difficult for me to write it down, as the discussions were not very organized, to begin with.
What I didn't get to do, however, was discuss issues with the magazine coordinator with regards to how I should contribute to the party proper, since she was occupied with her WP members.
Regardless, I shall be attending another meeting next week, if my schedule permits. Hopefully I can iron out certain issues, before deciding on how I should approach politics and its inherents.
PAP: Upgrading is a unique programme by Govt
This is Mr Mah Bow Tan reply to Miss Sylvia Lim's letter
It is really amusing that Mr Mah assert that only through this type of pork and barrel politics can we stay together and move ahead.
Maybe what he meant is that Hougang and Potong Pasir stay together and "become slums
", while the newer PAP wards move ahead and get repeated upgrades?
June 17, 2006Upgrading is a unique programme by Govt
I REFER to the commentary by Ms Chua Mui Hoong and the letters from Mr Basant Kapur, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Yee Jenn Jong on the upgrading programme for public-housing estates (ST, June 13 and 16).NO HOLDS BARRED
The writers argued that the Government has a fiduciary obligation to act on behalf of all Singaporeans who pay taxes and serve national service. I agree. Indeed, the Government has provided all Singaporeans with good and affordable health care, subsidised public housing, equal opportunity to receive a good education, and much more.
However, the upgrading of our older public-housing estates is over and above these basic obligations of the Government. It is funded out of Budget surpluses generated by the PAP Government. No other government in the world has anything similar, in terms of scale and commitment.
The PAP presented upgrading as one of its key programmes during the election. It asked for the people's support in order to carry out these programmes. Having received a clear mandate, the Government will now fulfil its promise to the people.
Upgrading is a national programme that will be implemented in all constituencies. But we cannot avoid prioritising upgrading, due to limited resources. It is not a question of generosity or otherwise by the Government, as Mr Yee suggested. Between PAP and opposition constituencies, other things being equal, PAP constituencies will go first, as the Government had made clear before the election. Ms Lim herself noted that no one living in an opposition ward expects special treatment, i.e. to jump ahead of PAP wards.
Ms Lim stated that election campaigns should be fought over long-term national policies which affect Singaporeans' lives deeply. Again, I agree. Unfortunately, during the election Ms Lim did not ask voters to think deeply about long-term national policies and support the Workers' Party because it offered better policies than the PAP. Instead, she told them to go ahead and vote opposition, even if they wanted a PAP Government and its policies, because they could safely assume that the PAP would win, anyway. If enough Singaporeans had taken her advice, the opposition parties would have ended up governing Singapore, even though at least two thirds of Singaporeans preferred a PAP Government.
Hence, the need for the HDB upgrading-priority policy, so that Singaporeans' votes will make a difference to their own lives in HDB estates, as well as decide which party will govern Singapore. Only then can our system of democracy work. Only then can we stay together, and move ahead.
Mah Bow Tan
Minister for National Development
After a hard-fought win at the polls, Goh plans for the next century
By Sangwon Suh and
Santha Oorjitham / Singapore
Aggressive and uncompromising it certainly was. A primary issue in the campaign -- and one which the PAP wielded effectively -- was the upgrading of government flats, a program started in 1989 to bridge the gap between old and new apartments. The PAP sent forth a clear message: wards that did not vote for its candidates would be placed last in line for the upgrading program. Said Goh to those who might have been leaning toward the opposition: "In 20, 30 years' time, the whole of Singapore will be bustling away, and your estate, through your own choice, will be left behind. They become slums."
The opposition (and the U.S. government) charged that it was tantamount to intimidation. Goh countered that it was fair play: if you want to be first in line for the PAP 's programs, vote for PAP candidates. The issue hit home in more ways than one: 86% of Singaporeans live in government-built flats.
Transparency in upgrading policy needed.
An incisive letter arguing for the need for transparency in upgrading projects.
Reproduced here for my own record.
June 16, 2006Extend transparency to lift upgrading by posting past and future upgradings on MND website
THE report on National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan's HDB lift upgrading policy ('Upgrading for all wards, but PAP first'; ST, June 11) reinforces the need for inherent checks and balances in government. In commerce and the professions, there are inherent checks and balances. What more of the serious business of government? Barring the unforeseen, Singaporeans will now have to live with a 82:2 parliamentary composition for up to five years.
As a Singaporean, I have been perturbed since 1997 by the People's Action Party's conditional upgrading of HDB estates pegged to electoral support for the PAP. I have no vested interest in this issue as I live in a residential district not near any HDB estate (so no spillover benefits) and I do not live in an HDB flat (so no direct benefits either). Hence, this letter is an appeal in the spirit of active citizenry.
Ideological agreement HDB lift upgrading is one area where all political parties are in perfect ideological agreement. Hence, this effectively demolishes the basis for the PAP (as the winning party forming the present government) to assert that a vote for the opposition means a vote against lift upgrading.
Party funds vs national funds Unlike the setting-up of PAP kindergartens using PAP party funds, lift upgrading does not use PAP party funds. If the PAP chooses to make upgrading a partisan issue it is perfectly acceptable, but the PAP must then use its party funds for such upgrading.
With widespread public housing ownership one of the tenets of our social legacy (the result of Singapore's societal evolution guided by the vision of our founding father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew), HDB upgrading is now a national issue tapping significantly the national budget. In fact, the scale of Singapore's public housing even pre-empts lift upgrading from being kept at a municipal level (which it should be), using municipal funds.
For better or worse, we are now locked into this national issue as a result of past government policy. But a national issue using national funds cannot continue to be bound into the future fortune of any one political party. What kind of dangerous precedent are we setting for Singapore?
Citizens of Hougang and Potong Pasir pay taxes Mr Mah said funds for lift upgrading come from national funds accumulated (or dissipated) by the effects of government policy. Government policy is driven by, among others, ministers and parliamentary secretaries whose salaries are paid by all Singaporeans (including those in Hougang and Potong Pasir) who are taxed directly and indirectly.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said we must now all unite post-GE 2006. But Mr Mah's recent pronouncement is not only 'not unifying' but also 'reinforcing divisiveness'. It is a red herring to talk about 'being fair' or 'levelling the playing field' - it is only natural that the PAP as a political party will do its utmost to reinforce its own survival and strength. This is as it should be. Singaporeans were not born yesterday. However, let's be precise and publicly accountable to all Singaporeans in the use of national funds.
Missing 'people factor' in upgrading criteria Mr Mah said that the age and physical state of HDB estates are two of three objective yardsticks applied in upgrading prioritisation (the third is the PAP support criterion). Strangely enough, despite the PAP efforts of the past 15 years or so to project a more caring image, the 'people factor' is jarringly missing in the proclaimed objective yardsticks. If such a caring image is not to remain a mirage, the PAP must 'walk the talk' and include estate demographics as an additional objective yardstick in this upgrading prioritisation. Lifts are more essential for the infirm, the elderly and the disabled.
Call for transparency Mr Mah announced 2015 as the latest year when opposition wards will be upgraded based on the PAP's present upgrading prioritisation criteria. As Singaporeans, most of us share with the PAP a national pride in our largely transparent track record to date. Since the PAP made upgrading a major electoral issue, this same transparency must be extended to upgrading prioritisation.
The Ministry of National Development needs to emulate the efforts of the Ministry of Health and post on its website the following upgrading information in a matrix for, one, past upgradings (that is, from the time upgrading was first effected to date) and, two, future upgradings (that is, projects confirmed within the next 12 months and projected within the next 12 to 60 months subject to budget availability):
- Type of upgrading (for example, lifts, walkways)
- Location of upgrading (for example, Marine Parade blocks 123 to 128)
- For past upgradings: date and amount of national funds spent on each
- For future upgradings: projected date and amount of national funds to be spent on each
- Present criteria for each of upgrading (for example, Marine Parade blocks 123 to 128: age, physical state, PAP support)
- Add a new 'people factor' criterion for each of such upgrading (for example, Marine Parade blocks 123 to 128: number of residents aged 55 to 59, 60 to 64 and so on, and residents registered as disabled or chronically ill which can be easily culled from the MOH database)
This proposal is viable because the age of HDB estates is a fixed factor, the physical state of estates is generally stable as Singapore is not prone to natural disasters, and constituency demographics do not fluctuate wildly given that land usage is fairly intense.
The year 2015 is a long time away if you see an arthritic 70-year-old 'ah soh' struggling with pain, going down the stairs to make her way to the polyclinic because she lives in Hougang, even though she is a Singaporean and paid taxes in her younger working days and has contributed to Singapore's development in her own way.
Khoo Meng Kuan (Ms)