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Robin Chan, Charissa Yong
Monday, Apr 28, 2014

Singapore

Little time left to fix trouble spots

The Straits Times | Robin Chan, Charissa Yong | Monday, Apr 28, 2014

Professor Tan Ern Ser (Left) and Eugene Tan Kheng Boon

Time may be running out for the People's Action Party (PAP) Government to fix issues that people are unhappy about, said Nominated Member of Parliament and Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan.

Just two to three years remain between now and the next general election, and the PAP Government has its work cut out for it when the second session of Parliament begins in May, he added.

Panellists at a Straits Times round-table also pointed to how voters continue to hold the PAP to higher standards than the opposition and predicted that the ruling party's winning margin may well thin in future.

Beneath the ticking clock to the next polls, which must be held by January 2017, lies the bigger question of whether the electorate's expectations are realistic in the first place.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said Singaporeans still expect the Government to be paternalistic in terms of material provision and security, but less so when running the country. He summed this up as a situation of "a citizenry demanding what the Government could not reasonably deliver considering the trade-offs, while entrusting the Government with less power than it had".

Professor Eugene Tan said transport infrastructure, for example, cannot be put in place overnight but the "anger quotient remains high".

Observing that the next general election "promises to be the watershed election", he predicted that the stand-out issue would be immigration - "the mother of all issues in our political landscape". He traced complaints about transport, housing, cost of living and national identity to immigration.

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim said one issue that still needs to be addressed is inter-generational poverty, as she has met families who appear "stuck in the poor category".

While she noted the work done by the social sector, she said that a more focused plan to uplift families and help children to have a better life was needed.

Looking further ahead, Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser and PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair said winning margins at the ballot boxes would get slimmer.

As Singapore's democracy matures, Mr Nair sees it probably heading the way of the United States, where President Barack Obama beat his Republican opponent by 51 per cent to 47 per cent of the popular vote in the 2012 election.

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