Many Singaporeans who voted for the PAP in 2015 appealed to the patriotic emotions still running high from the SG50 Celebrations and the death of Lee Kuan Yew – a watershed moment in Singapore’s history. It didn’t help that the opposition was besieged by infighting and lacklustre candidates. The PAP won nearly 70% of the popular vote – a number that political parties in matured democracies could only fantasize about. But given the events of the past 3 years, it appears that the PAP hasn’t learnt its lessons from the past. On the contrary, the party has exploited its mandate to execute its agenda and reshape Singapore in its image. Often times, this resulted in adverse policies that directly undermine the well being of Singaporeans and threaten our very democracy
1. Destroying national heritage
From the Rochor Center, to Dakota Crescent, the Sungei Road Thieve’s Market and the Ellison Building, Singapore’s national heritage is slowly being demolished to make way for future infrastructure projects.
In spite of the government’s pledge to make Singapore “car lite”, construction on the North South Expressway, Singapore’s 11th highway is expected to commence this year. Connecting the northern hubs of Woodlands and Yishun with the CBD, the highway will cut through several prominent landmarks.
2. Approving higher gas and electricity prices
In December 2016, SP Services announced households will pay a higher electricity charge of 5.6 per cent for the first quarter of 2017. With the increase, the average monthly electricity bill for families living in a 4-room HDB flat is expected to rise by $4.30, from $76.88 to $81.18. The Energy Market Authority, a statutory board under the Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore simply rubber stamped the tariff increase. In 2018, gas tariffs were raised yet again for the months of May to July.
3. Higher S&CC charges
After giving out $86 million worth of Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates to 840,000 households in 2016, the PAP Government decided to raise its S&CC for 15 PAP town councils in the 2017 Budget. The increase is set to be executed over 2 years, the first stage takes effect from 1 June 2017, ranging from $0.50 to $9.00 per month for HDB one-room to executive flat home-owners. The second stage will take effect on 1 June 2018, with HDB flat owners paying $0.50 to $8.00 per month.
4. Changing the Constitution to block Tan Cheng Bock from running for President
Despite what the PAP Government tells you, the changes to the Elected Presidency were clearly politically motivated. In a stunning repudiation of meritocracy, the PAP unanimously voted to change the Constitution to reserve the 2017 Presidential Elections for only Malays. Nevermind that we’re “not ready for a non-Chinese PM”, minority representation in the Presidency was suddenly a pressing issue because Tan Cheng Bock announced his candidacy. To add insult to injury, Halimah Yacob was “elected” President on September 11th, 2017 when the other two Malay candidates were disqualified on Nomination Day. This sparked a massive public backlash with the hashtag #NotMyPresident trending for weeks.
5. The Trans Pacific Partnership
Throughout the 2016 US Presidential Election, a key talking point raised by both the Trump and Clinton campaign was the Trans Pacific Partnership. The TPP was a controversial trade agreement negotiated in secret by representatives of the world’s biggest banks, multi-billion dollar corporations and lobbyists. With clauses that allowed corporations to sue countries if its laws “hurt their future profits”, it’s unsurprising to see why the TPP’s critics labeled the trade deal as a “corporate takeover” or “NAFTA on steroids”. For all its criticisms, the TPP still had the ardent support of PM Lee. In Singapore, there was hardly any debate in Parliament. Singapore would ratify the TPP no matter how much criticism the trade deal received. Only the surprise victory of Donald Trump doomed the TPP to be relegated to the trash heap of history. It was an embarrassing defeat for PM Lee who spent the later half of 2016 cheer leading the ratification of the TPP.
6. Introducing the ARF for motorbikes
If there was ever a perfect situation to use the phrase “daylight robbery” , the new ARF scheme for motorcycles would be it. With the COE prices of motorbikes at an all time high, the PAP government decided that wasn’t enough and introduced an additional layer of financial burden for motorbike buyers.
Riders who buy new motorcycles may soon have to pay higher taxes on their vehicles, with the introduction of a three-tiered system for the Additional Registration Fee (ARF).
The current ARF rate of 15% will apply to motorcycles with Open Market Values (OMVs) up to $5,000. After that, the next $5,000 will be subject to a rate of 50%, and the remaining OMV beyond $10,000 will be subject to a rate of 100%.
7. Raising the price of water by 30%
One of the most unpopular measures announced in Budget 2017 was the 30% hike in water prices. In his address to Parliament, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat failed to cite key statistics such as the cost of water production – a major determinant of price. Instead, he decided to justify the hike by saying that water prices have remained unchanged for 17 years.
Yishun MP Lee Bee Wah even had the temerity to suggest that the hike in water prices was to “raise awareness of the importance of water”. MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah suggested that Singaporeans need to “bite the bullet” with higher water prices and raise their income to solve rising cost of living. Such snide remarks from the ivory tower did little to allay the anxieties and financial burdens of low income households. The 30% hike in water prices will affect everyone. Businesses who see their utilities go up will pass the costs to consumers.
8. Introducing the Carbon Tax
If the 30% water price hike wasn’t bad enough, Budget 2017 had more misery in store for Singaporeans – The dreaded Carbon Tax. The carbon tax announced in Budget 2017 will push up costs for power generators by hundreds of millions of dollars. These costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers.
The carbon tax would translate into a rise in electricity prices of 0.43 to 0.86 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), or a 2.1 to 4.3 per cent increase, according to estimates from NCCS.
The median household living in a 4-room HDB flat paying around $72 per month in electricity bills could see an increase of $1.70 to $3.30 monthly. Companies and businesses who require fuel for transportation of goods – Delivery companies, transport companies, restaurants, retail stores, supermarkets, food courts, wholesalers will see an increase in the cost of doing business. Likewise, these costs will be passed to consumers in the form of higher prices. As with every adverse government policy, it’s the poor and working class that will suffer the most.
9. The fake news witch hunt
The new buzzword of our time is “fake news”. Yet, when Parliament’s Select Committee on fake news convened to gather public feedback, it quickly became clear what sort of agenda they had. The committee’s sessions quickly turned into high profile witch hunts with Law Minister K Shanmugam taking the lead in grilling prominent human rights activists and academics. Rather than an open conversation, the hearings closely resembled interrogations one would normally find at show trials in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. There are now legitimate concerns that new fake news laws will deliberately target anti-government websites and alternative news in a heavy-handed effort to stifle free speech. Of course, the usual culprits of fake news such as those peddled by the state media will be off the hook.
10. Raising GST to 9%
In Budget 2018, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that GST would be increased from 7% to 9% between 2021 to 2025. Nevermind the fact that our reserves are in excess of $1 trillion or that our budget surpluses are at all time highs, Parliament forced through the budget with every PAP MP voting “yes”. Back in the 2015 election, WP chief Low Thia Khiang was lambasted by PM Lee for suggesting that the PAP could do a policy u-turn once they secured a sizeable electoral majority. Now it appears that Low Thia Khiang’s warning was prophetic. Not satisfied with adding further financial burdens on Singaporean families, the PAP went after Sylvia Lim, with Ministers like Heng Swee Keat, K Shanmugam, Indranee Rajah, and Grace Fu demanding her apology for daring to suggest that the government might have been dishonest in its decision to implement the GST hike.