Govt gives citizens every reason to elect it

This is my reply to MM Lee’s comments on Singapore’s brand of democracy reported in the Straits Times on the 7 Mar 2007.

According to the MM, the Government solved the housing problem by using the CPF to build flats that are sold to Singaporeans at cost price. This runs contrary to our common understanding of what really happens. While the Government may have solved the housing problem, it remains to be seen if our people, if left to our own devices wouldn’t have been able to find ways and means to house ourselves. One only has to look at Hong Kong and Taiwan to understand how people can house themselves in the absence of an all encompassing provider. The only difference we might say is the regularity and cleanliness of our housing environment compared to the haphazardness of other countries because of the precise planning and control in the housing development we have here. Furthermore, the CPF is like a cheap way for the government to borrow money from the people while the average citizen probably pays more than five times what it costs the HDB to build his flat.

But the MM is right on one account. The flat is indeed ‘substantial’ so that the average citizen is forced to slave for decades just to earn the right to hold it for 99 years. But he rarely gets to own it for 99 years and will be forced to relinquish his highly ‘substantial’ possession, only to be given another flat and as yet another debt.

Likewise the overnight increase in property value due to upgrading is only on paper, which cannot be realised unless the owner sells his flat. But where is he going to stay after he sells his flat? Unless he chooses to move to Hougang or Potong Pasir, chances are he would end up buying some other ‘upgraded’ flat at a premium that cancels out his earlier ‘windfall’.

Similarly, there is no reason why a change of government should result in having no jobs. There may be transition periods but when the dust settles, the experience of Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and even the recent coup-led government change in Thailand shows just how resilient the people and their jobs are to government changes.

Behind every reason the MM has given to its citizens for voting it lies another reason for not voting it. At least one out of every three citizens sees this and is brave enough to choose not to.

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