Let’s analyse the good professor’s views. Before I disappoint anyone, I need to point out that I’m more or less in agreement with his prediction. It’s not that I don’t support the opposition, but there are harsh facts about the electorate that must be faced.
Prof Singh pointed out that it is difficult to disentangle the history of the PAP with the history of Singapore, the opinion of Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Mr Lee Hsien Yang that this is no longer Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP notwithstanding. It’s just like many 小粉红 who do not know of any China other than the one that is ruled by the CCP. The phenomenon of 党国不分 is as prevalent in China as it is in Singapore. The fact that “the Party”, whether it’s the one in Singapore or China has a finger in every pie only further entrenches the concept.
However, I do take issue with Prof Singh’s broads strokes in painting a picture of prosperity with credits due solely to the PAP. Let’s take a look at the US. The markets took about 25 years to recover to their pre-crisis peak after bottoming out during the Great Depression. In comparison, it took about 4 years after the Great Recession of 2007-08 and a similar amount of time after the 2000s crash. The market didn’t just recover. It soared along with corporate profits after 2008. The question is, who got rich? Your average American school teacher? Have incomes and purchasing power increased along with these glowing figures? Back in Singapore, something similar is happening. Many people whose skills cannot be considered irrelevant by any stretch of the imagination are losing jobs or have stagnant wages. In fact, the majority of us have been affected. We have been forced to be cheaper, better and faster while the elite keep getting rewarded for keeping the numbers looking good.
No, Prof Singh, there are many disgruntled people out there who do not think that the government’s sterling performance in the field of macroeconomics has benefited them in any tangible way. At most, they can boast about Singapore’s superb infrastructure and glitzy public buildings while keeping mum about their vacuous bank accounts.
So what do you do? You do what you are allowed to do. You go on social media and complain. You badmouth the government in bars and coffeeshops, in buses, trains and especially taxis. You make Tik Tok and YouTube videos to poke fun of government policies and ministers who say that cotton grows on sheep. People do all that but the final commandment is “Thou shalt not rock the boat”. Consider this interesting YouTuber who has more views than most of my videos.
Of course, most of it is pure crap, but he sounded a word of warning to Singaporeans. The opposition would destroy Singapore. Our women will work as maids overseas. Our men will become sailors and construction workers. From my decades of experience dealing with Singaporeans, I can tell you that this scares the hell out of many, many Singaporeans. They all believe that it can happen rapidly and certainly if the reins of the country were to fall in the wrong hands. This YouTuber’s simplistic views on Singapore’s destiny without the PAP lurk in the subconscious minds of many vocal detractors of the PAP who still end up voting for them.
Prof Singh also mentioned the Tan Wu Meng and Ivan Lim debacle. To me, these are just side shows. People who dislike the PAP (yet lack the guts to vote against the party) take such rare opportunities to cast their inconsequential votes of disapproval. I wouldn’t be too worried if I were the PAP. Yes, people know how to be righteous and stand up against bullying when it happens to others. But when it comes to casting a consequential vote, it’s all about how a PAP defeat is going to affect them. They are very aware that one way or another, the system will punish them. They will lose “connected” MPs who can do them favours when they sound out their problems at meet-the-people sessions. Who needs nice people? Only money and authority can get things done in this country.
Would they sacrifice these conveniences and opportunities for the sake of principles and beliefs? Not if Singaporeans remain the kiasu, kiasi and gian png people I’ve always known. Only a stubborn and dignified minority would vote against Ivan Lim if he didn’t withdraw. There’s a good chance that many will still look forward to having him and Tharman at meet-the-people sessions than the nice, caring but otherwise powerless opposition MPs. It doesn’t matter if PAP has lost its monopoly on the best candidates. I know they’re trying not to look complacent, but frankly, it doesn’t even matter who they put on the podium.
“GE2020 will be like 2015, it will be another ‘freak election’, because of Covid-19. But what is more exciting to come is GE2025. It will be a referendum on the 4G leaders and not the 3G leaders… the PAP will have to prove themselves.”
I agree with Prof Singh on this. Covid-19 is going to be a major factor deciding the outcome of GE2020. More than ever, simple, incompletely educated Singaporeans would subconsciously pine for MPs who can do favours. GE2015 taught me an important lesson. Social media may give a very accurate picture of the sentiments on the ground, but Singaporeans being Singaporeans, will likely do the kiasu, kiasi, gian png thing again this time. There are many irksome issues like cost of living, inadequate hospital beds, taxes and delayed CPF withdrawals and yes, their conscious minds speak out against a system that lacks kindness, compassion and generosity. In the voting booth, however, the subconscious mind plays to the fears of that incompletely educated YouTuber. Prof Tommy Koh once said that he would die for Singapore. Most people here don’t have such lofty ideals and detachment from the self. They are not even prepared to sacrifice a bit of convenience. Hence, I do not expect a result very different from GE2015. Not only do we not deserve our artists and poets, we also don’t deserve our opposition MPs, most of whom had worked even harder than those who hold full time jobs and multiple posts in various companies.