In recent days, we see the PAP introducing their new candidates to the press and to Singaporeans. You can find a series of video on YouTube in which the candidates summarise their life story, tell about their love of Singapore, how they succeeded in life and why they want to give back to society. Even though these people have chosen joined the PAP and, by virtue of that, generally have different views from me, I believe some of them are sincere when they say they want to help the poor and the elderly. They are sincere but they are also wrong - wrong to think they can help by joining the PAP...by joining the PAP they help to preserve the status quo, the ideology and perpetuate a system that yielded very poor outcomes for those in the lower rungs of our society.
In those YouTube videos, many of the new PAP candidates introduce themselves like this : they were from a poor family, worked hard and succeeded in life and so conclude that Singapore has a good system. Using their own extraordinary feats of social mobility they jump into the conclusion that the Singapore system is good despite the income inequality because social mobility gives everyone the chance to succeed.
"She was a 'good grassroots leader' and her experience helping her parents in their family-run coffee shop showed 'she knows what it is to be poor and to work hard" - PM Lee on Tin Pei Ling..
"From being able to travel to Hong Kong every year to see him, suddenly, we had problems getting pocket money," recounted Mr Choo, 33. He added that his father had to borrow money to put food on the table. "- PAP's Desmond Choo, telling his story.
"The 47-year-old senior vice-president at DBS Bank spent most of his growing up years not certain if there would be enough food on the table, or knowing if he would be able to complete schooling. His father was an odd-job labourer who carried rice and vegetables, and his mother worked in a factory to supplement the family income." - PAP's Mr Gan Thiam Poh's story.
I'm not going to exhaustively list all the bankgrounds of PAP candidates who are from poor families but they all said the same things - they understand what it is like to be poor, they joined the PAP to help poor people and the system we have is good because they have succeeded. One of the worst things a person who wants to help the poor in Singapore can do is to join the PAP govt. They will be required by the PAP party whip to vote for all sorts of policies that will harm the poor such as GST hikes, influx of cheap foreign labor, increase of retirement age etc and as PAP men & women they have to support an ideology that is against more direct help the poor, safety nets, minimum wage and greater rights and equality for workers. Worst of all, their success stories are used as testimonies to show that the "system is good" and no major change is required. For each of their great feat of social mobility, there are hundreds of thousands of workers struggling at the lower rungs It is not enough to tell these people that they could have made it or their children have some small chance of making it - the large and expanding income gap means their chances diminishes with each passing year. Most people are not born with the high intelligence (oops some you may disagree!) of PAP candidates - ordinary people have average intelligence and half the population have below average intelligence - telling ordinary citizens they have some chance of success or explaining to them their plight is due to their own lack of talent is not going to satisfy them. They can see that the inequality is built into the system and when the income gap is so large to amplify the differences among people, they will feel the system is unfair and unjust...
Lets not forget the system we have today is the product of years of undemocratic semi-authoritarian rule during which the rights and benefits of workers were reduced, independent unions disappeared and came under the control of the govt and headed by a minister. Under these circumstances, it was possible to push through policies that caused the economic inequality in our society to expand and our income gap grow to the largest among developed countries. Every 4 years, the PAP will introduce candidates who say they understand what it is like to be poor and want to help the poor...4 years later the cost of living rises, the income gap grows and they bring in even more PAP candidates who say they would like to help the poor. The truth is joining the PAP is a bad way of helping the poor because it preserves a system and policies that will not help the poor.