Insight: Thoughts from a first time voter

I used to be filled with excitement with the prospect of voting for the first time. The chance to make an impact on the nation’s future and finally be able to put forward what my vision of Singapore should look like. But as the writ of election was issued, the gravity of my choice dawned on me.

I am a voter of Holland-Bukit Timah. One would say that it is a rich man’s constituency with 45% of our residents living in private housing. I used to be an ardent supporter of the opposition, strongly believing that we needed to be a more open and diverse society. I adopted views such as high taxes for the rich and lowering the amount of immigration into Singapore. But as I grew up, I realized that without the PAP’s leadership in the past, the Singapore of today would not exist. 

The PAP has been a steady hand to guide through Singapore over the last 55 years. During a time of crisis, often we would go with the devil we know, rather than then the devil we don’t. In this Covid-19 crisis, I would say that the PAP hasn’t done badly. They have been able to deal with the crisis effectively, as well as doing their best to protect jobs in Singapore through the Jobs Support Scheme and policies like rental waivers. 

They have responded to the economic fallout as best as a government could. They were able to balance our public health concerns with our economic worries. I would say that they dropped the ball with regards to the foreign dormitories, but hindsight is 20/20. Not only that, the opposition parties barely had any criticism of the PAP’s Covid-19 handling besides the issue of the initial policies on mask wearing. 

For example, the SDP’s Dr. Chee criticised the PAP for a mask policy U-Turn. But, Dr Tambyah, the chairman of the SDP, mentioned in March that masks should not be worn unless you are sick. The government was simply following the advice of the WHO (at that time). Unless Dr. Chee could have seen into the future, such criticism is unwarranted. 

The foreign dormitory issue is just a small part in the larger problem of our over-reliance on cheap foreign labour. Overall, this is where I feel the PAP falls short. This very problem will plague us for years to come. We must be able to move our workforce forward and not stigmatise the construction industry. The entire industry is looked down upon. I remember hearing in my childhood that if we didn’t study hard, we would end up being a construction worker. We need to be able to provide jobs in the construction industry which are well paid and highly respected. 

Additionally, we need to take advantage of automation and help to train our workers to be more productive (by harnessing these technologies). This is already probably being explored by the Emerging Stronger taskforce. But I implore the PAP to set out their vision for this “new” Singapore as we enter a post Covid-19 world. This overarching theme of “What Singapore will look like in a Post Covid-19 world” is what I as a younger voter would want to know. 

Ultimately, this is what I will be deciding my vote on. One problem we face in Singapore is that we have a ruling party with monopoly in Parliament. This monopoly means that groupthink emerges because all PAP backbenches must tow the party line. But competition of ideas and a proper debate on the direction we want Singapore to go in, will only be good for Singapore. 

Covid-19 has shown us that we have many blind spots, from our over dependence on foreign labour to the weaknesses in our social safety nets. The old methods of the PAP will not work in the future. We need to rethink the way we deal with automation and globalisation; we have a constantly changing global world order with its rising sentiments of nationalism and protectionism, climate change is an issue that should not be ignored either. 

No one person or party has the ideas to all these issues, and it would be a fallacy to believe that only the PAP’s ideas can steer Singapore through these challenges. This can only happen if we have robust debate in parliament with elected opposition members there to challenge the PAP. This will force the PAP to defend their own policy positions and articulate how other methods will not work as well. It can also help the government tweak the policy positions should the opposition present a fresh and new perspective on the solution to any problem. 

As a young Singaporean, I do strongly believe in robust debate as well as ensuring that there is a check in parliament. These will help the PAP government ensure that they remain focused on providing people centric policies, and not policies aimed at economic growth at all costs.

I don’t agree with every single policy the SDP has proposed. But I do support their education policy of reducing class sizes to less than 20, as well as abolishing the PSLE. 

They want to achieve the goal of having stronger social safety nets in our society to ensure people can meet the very high cost of living in Singapore. They want to exempt GST on rice and other necessities such as water and electricity bills. It may be idealistic of me to think like this, but this election is not just about getting through the Covid-19 crisis, but how we want to see Singapore in a post Covid-19 World. 

In the coming days, I will be observing how the two different political parties engage the issues and will decide based on their contrasting visions for this “new” Singapore. 

I hope that parties will stick to the issues rather than resort to character assassination and insinuations that opposition party leaders are anti-Singapore just because they hold different views from them or support our loving critics in society. Such detours in the national discourse does not deepen the conversation but only serves as a distraction from what actually matters – Singaporeans and the future of Singapore. 

— A Disgruntled Millennial Voter

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