Unlike other countries, our media does not conduct opinion polls to track the support level for the govt so the electorate is an uncertainty. One thing I'm quite certain about is the support for the PAP among the younger voters has declined considerably compared with 4 years ago when the last election was held. 4 years ago, if you sit with a group of young people, you may sense some dissatisfaction among them but they were still willing to give the govt some time to bring about positive changes and 'remake' Singapore. These days, it is hard to miss the frustration and anger among this group of voters. The anger and frustration come from very real problems such as rising cost of housing, overcrowding, increased competition from foreigners and work stress. It is not the problems alone that cause this frustration but the PAP govt denials and refusal to solve them add to rising anger. When HDB prices escalated, Minister Mah's approach was to deny they are expensive insisting that they are affordable instead of fixing the problem. The PAP denied any negative impact of massive foreign influx asking Singaporeans not to be 'small minded' and blamed Singaporeans for not being able to integrate well with foreigners[Link]. It is very clear that if the PAP govt is voted in without significant opposition representation, it will be more of the same - the much need changes that many Singaporeans look forward to will not come.
The PAP and the Singapore media are very good at portraying the alternative views and opposition parties as something from the fringe. The PAP is mainstream and all else are ill considered wild ideas that are unworkable . After years of conditioning many Singaporeans find it hard to think outside the framework the PAP cleverly uses to make its ideologically driven ideas acceptable to Singaporeans. It is actually the PAP that is non-mainstream and extreme in its policy making - constantly passing the risk and financial burdens to ordinary Singaporeans to create an environment favorable for govt-linked businesses. Its policies created the highest income gap in the developed world and a growing underclass struggling within our society. I'll go through one or two examples to illustrate this and later discuss why the need for change has become urgent.
2 decades ago, Singaporeans were told there was a need to bring in foreign expertise lacking in our workforce. That was the start of the Foreign Talent policy which morphed into a totally different animal today. In the past few years, the PAP govt opened the floodgates to cheaper foreign workers mainly from China and India for all types of jobs to pander to the demand of businesses here. The large number eventually stretch our infrastructure and caused our housing market to overheat. In terms of numbers per capita no other govt in the world even come remotely close to what the PAP allowed into Singapore in the past 5 years- the only countries with such huge influx are middle eastern states where the indigenous population sits comfortably on top of imported labor not compete against them for a living. It is not enough for the PAP pursue this policy that makes life tough for Singaporeans, they have to invent justifications that put the blame on Singaporeans for large influx - Singaporeans are too fussy to take up the jobs, fertility rate is too low and so on. Most of these are bogus, for example the low fertility rate of Singaporeans today has nothing to do with the need to import adult workers today because our current workforce was born 20-40 years ago when the fertility rate was much higher. The low fertility rate today can only be fixed by importing babies or workers 20 years from now. The real reason, I believe, for the huge influx is the PAP has run out of ideas to keep our GDP growing and resorted to opening the flood gates to cheap workers as a brute force approach to growth through population expansion. Many ordinary Singaporeans are made to suffer the consequences of depressed wages and greater competition. Our already large income gap got worse and we are seeing a rising underclass among the bottom 30% of our population.
The PAP approach to transport, healthcare and education is to keep its own expediture low and get Singaporeans to shoulder as much financial burden as possible. If the income gap in Singapore in is low, the approach may actually work. However, we with our income gap, it means that much of these resources/services, say healthcare, are allocated to those who are able to pay while those need it most from the low middleclass and below have to suffer very high financial strain. The COE system means that a car ownership may be given to a multi-millionaire's son for dating while a lower middleclass father of 3 with a disabled parent cannot afford to own one. The approach to make each Singaporean shoulder his own healthcare cost might work (although not well) if the income disparity is narrower however with the huge income gap, the top 5% can drive up cost by demanding the best most exclusive care while the middleclass are finding it harder catch up with the rising cost. This cost spiral is worsened by the PAP govt's aim to increase profits of the healthcare sector by bringing in rich overseas patients - if you go to a govt restructured hospitals such as Changi[Link to advertisement to market to foreign patients], you can find international health services offering healthcare to foreigners while there are insufficient beds for Singaporeans[Link] and the high cost of treatment has forced some Singaporeans to seek treatment in poorer developing countries such as Malaysia[Link]. The same minister responsible for this situation once suggested that Singaporeans send their aged parents to nursing homes in Malaysia because the cost of nursing homes in Singapore has escalated beyond what many can afford[Link] due to the scarcity of land....yet no PAP leader has ever suggested converting golf courses that occupy close to 1400ha of land, the equivalent of 2200 football pitches[Link] to hospitals for the sick, public housing for the poor and nursing homes for the old because our elites enjoy hitting a ball into a hole.
We cannot continue with the current policy directions of the PAP govt because the income gap grown to the point that makes many of the PAP policies unworkable i.e. a large segment of the populace will be worse off. We cannot expect any change from the PAP to bring about more balanced policies because their interests are diversified beyond that of ordinary Singaporeans to a complex network of business interests linked to the power-elites in govt. Balance in policy making will come only when the interests of ordinary Singaporeans are more strongly represented in parliament. The opposition parties offering alternative ideas are not taking us to the fringe but towards the center from the fringe where we are now located.
15 years ago, Singaporeans accepted the semi-authoritarian govt because other asian countries were either under strongman leadership (dictators) or military rule. Singapore was ahead in terms of political progress. However, after the Asian crisis, countries like South Korea and Indonesia became full blown democracies almost overnight and Singapore's authoritarianism start to look more out of place. The PAP made very weak attempts to address this by 'opening up slowly' (read very slowly, at a pace that ensures PAP's hegemony). In the previous elections 33.3% of those who had the chance to cast their votes, voted against the govt but the GRC system resulted in this group of people being under represented in parliament. My belief is this 33.3% has probably grown to 40% given more people have felt effects of various policies first hand in recent years. The PAP will resort to its usual undemocratic pork barrel politics promising expensive estate upgrading to those who vote for them. They know that Singaporeans work for decades to pay for their homes and estate upgrading which pushes HDB prices up in upgraded estates will attract votes despite the implementation of policies unbeneficial to ordinary Singaporeans. Singaporeans have to look beyond upgrading as a carrot and understand the long term consequences of current policies to make the right choice.