Since I have no voting power in the upcoming elections, I thought I’d indulge in some fantasies, imagining how my one vote, when counted, would change everything.
It’s 02:35 on 8th May. A nation is gathered around their TVs, eyes glued to the screens; sleep forgotten. The roads are eerily quiet for a city that is constantly on the move. Clouds have been building since dusk and the night sky grows increasingly white. The air is thick with anticipation and not a single leaf rustles. The ruling political party has lost 40 seats. History has already been made but it isn’t done yet. There’s one last vote and this would either give opposition parties half the seats or PAP the majority, albeit a much smaller one. A huge bolt of lightning strikes and its light is seen across the island. The faces of crestfallen PAP members are momentarily lit and many break into a small smile; it’s a good sign surely. Seconds later, the stillness of the night is broken by the sound of rumbling thunder. It reverberates as it gathers momentum rising to a crescendo. The last vote – mine – is in the hands of the vote counter. As he prepares to read it, the explosive clap hammers home the final verdict.
In an instant, the sky opens up and a torrential downpour falls upon the citystate. In an instant, everything changes.
Better General Elections management
There are several points here and we know why things are the way they are. It’s not right; and I think all these tactics have made SG a highly immature and unsophisticated nation.
- Fix the boundaries/constituencies once and for all. It’s absurd that the lines are redrawn so drastically each election, and most of all, they don’t make sense.
- Change it all back to single member constituency. This group thing is complete groupthink. Absolutely rubbish policy
- Fair notice for voter registration. This is a result of what I’ve just experienced. The Elections Department should issue a letter to all eligible Singaporeans a month before the closing date. This is to ensure all Singaporeans, especially the ones who have been away for a while, can check the register and update the records accordingly.
- Lower the nomination fee. In 2006, the fee was S$13,500. This time, it’s $16,000. That’s an increment of 18.5% (I hope my math is right!) just for the nomination fee. A little bit steep, isn’t it? To truly appreciate the meteoric rise of the fee, look here. On what basis did the fees increase? Why even? I don’t know what the party line is. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with ensuring only people who are serious / qualified run. But why is there a need to? The results would speak for themselves anyway.
This cartoonish system needs to end soon. It makes a fool out of all Singaporeans.
Shorten NS to 4 months or do away with it
I believe something’s wrong when more money is spent on defence than education and healthcare, and I don’t buy the reason it’s ‘cos we’re a small country surrounded by large neighbours. That’s essentially saying we don’t trust our neighbours; and makes it easy for us to disregard them. So who’s antagonising whom?
But let’s go one step back. Why is it that SG feels threatened? Historically, we’ve never had conflicts with each other on the war scale – we’re not in the same boat as Pakistan/India or Palestine/Israel. I think our neighbours have better things to focus on than SG. In the unlikely scenario of escalating tensions, I’m pretty sure other countries would step in to mediate before allowing for a war to break out. I mean, this is the 21st century.
On the subject of tensions, why not work on building strong interdependent relationships with our neighbours? This would minimise tensions, and should WWIII break out ever, we’re more likely to have their protection.
Low danger doesn’t mean no danger, of course. We could have a military academy to recruit those who want to serve, and train all citizens in first aid, handling weapons and other back end stuff. Four months is plenty of time for that or it could be incorporated into school even so no need for NS. So I’m not advocating zero defense. I just don’t think we need a force that is so large or advanced. Not when the resources can be better spent on more important things such as aid for the poor, education, healthcare, and:
Land for urban farmers and artists
Now that more land is available ‘cos SG has done away with a lot of NS camps, space can be put aside for urban farmers and artists. SG could have vertical vegetable farms, 60 storey high. Plots can be rented out or sold. There are so many benefits to this. It’d be a great escape for many people, families can grow their own vegetables or fruits and trade, gardening’s an excellent stress reliever, connection to nature revitalises the soul; queue tourism and also creation of a new industry and SG can lead the way in city farming and rurban (rural/urban) development.
If I’m not wrong, Japan already has such a building underway. But times have been hard on that country, and if there’s one thing the SG government is good at, it’s making industries sprout overnight.
Other sites would be for artists with mix live/work spaces. We can finally develop and nurture highly skilled craftspeople. There’d be pottery studios, welding workshops, glassmakers, bespoke furniture designers, multi-media studios, etc. A SG art form or style may emerge that would finally anchor us in a unique culture we can proudly promote.
These won’t bring massive economic growth but life isn’t about economic growth. We need to feed the artist in all of us, in whatever shape and form, to lead healthier, more holistic lives. We need space that lets us breathe, that lets our imagination and handiwork go wild. That is living.
- Schools will be merged from primary through to higher education. Only at 18 will students have to apply for tertiary education.
- Reduce classroom sizes to 25 at most.
- Introduce subjects such as political science and law from the get go so that all Singaporeans understand our constitution and law, and develop an interest in shaping SG.
- Fewer exams and tests. Assessments in the style of The Apprentice with good rewards. After all, that’s real life – real issues, real pressure, real lessons, real results.
We’ve had years of nation building and have achieved first world status. Yet, our education system hasn’t improved. Classroom sizes are still at 40 kids per class, almost every child now goes for tuition, and from conversations I’ve had with parents, the system only seems to be getting worse ‘cos teachers now don’t even know how to teach the syllabus as it’s changing so often. Incredible! In the worst way possible.
These changes would require more schools, more teachers, more people in the education sector. As Tan Jee Say said, these are good jobs for Singaporeans, fit for a nation of well-educated people. Why is that bad?
Cut dependence on public housing
I think SG should really aim for 70% (I’m being arbitrary here; a smart urban planning person should come up with the magic number) true home ownership. Why do 70% of Singaporeans still live in public housing? Not that public housing is bad. The quality is good and there’s nothing wrong with an HDB flat per se. I’m just saying that the government shouldn’t be the majority home/landowner. I don’t see why they need to be, and I think having all that ownership has allowed them to control supply of land and manipulate cost. Left in the hands of private developers, together with better controls over foreign ownership, we’ll see a different boom in property development, and prices will reflect what Singaporeans can afford. They will finally really own their property, HDB flats will finally be for those who most need it and we can finally rid ourselves off this property obsession.
Comprehensive public transport services
To control the car population, why not have more taxis, and mini buses that go around estates frequently? Make it so convenient, there’s no need to buy a car.
Taxi fares should also be cheaper and exempted from ERP charges. From conversations with taxi uncles, it’s implied the high fare is needed to cover the high rental fee. But if the government is able to view taxis as a good form of alternative transport, then taxes to bring in taxis should be very, very low, thereby reducing cost of the vehicles too, which should translate to lower operating cost, lower rental charges and cheaper fares. Right? The same could be done for mini buses too.
By flooding the island with a more comprehensive network of public transport services, there’d be less need for people to buy a car, thus reducing the number of private cars on the road and therefore clearing the road congestion. Easy, no?
- Ministers should not earn more than the US President. I don’t have a figure in mind, but it definitely shouldn’t be more than the man who has the most difficult public service job on earth. To constantly link SG’s ministerial pay to that in the private sector and saying no one will do the job and be incorruptible if it isn’t well paying is to completely miss the point about jobs in the public service AND display a lack of morality. What of NZ and Denmark that shares the same spot as SG, and other top countries on Corruption Perception Index list?
- Make the President work harder; give him more to do! For f*** sake, he’s earning $4million.
- Include an Information of Freedom Act.
- Restore our rights to freedom of speech and expression; the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and the right to form associations.
- Ensure no one can be sued, arrested or fined by the government for their opinions and findings on Singapore. We need healthy debates and discussions to grow. Not lawsuits and fear. This would also enable SG to become a real media centre, creating a new industry with good jobs. (And while we’re creating a new media industry, fold Mediacorp and SPH. We don’t want PAP mouth pieces. Let’s start over.)
New national anthem and pledge
No disrespect to Mr Zubir Said for composing the current anthem and whoever came up with the pledge, but I think there’s an emptiness to both the anthem and pledge. The words have no heart and are not grounded in values – progress, wealth, prosperity, onward, success. These are all very driven, material words. I know wealth and prosperity can mean other forms of riches, but let’s not pretend. When a person says someone is wealthy or prosperous, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? And let’s tone down the pledge for a democratic society since…well…it’s not really happening.
We need an anthem and pledge that encompasses ‘soft’ values. It should unite the people to defend the land, to love the country, to seek a righteous path and various other emotionally heart stirring words. This is the stuff that’ll give meaning to SG. Not this wealth and prosperity malarkey.
I could go on, but all fantasies come to an end when the real world calls. So excuse me while I get on with things. I hope it’ll give Singaporeans food for thought though ‘cos there are alternatives. Policies can be changed when they’re not working. It doesn’t have to be this way.