Sunday, Apr 19, 2015Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

The mood at half-time

The Straits Times hosted a roundtable on April 23rd to discuss the findings of its survey of people's perceptions of key policies, three years after the 2011 General Election and at the mid-point of this term of government.

The five panellists for the roundtable were Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim, PAP Member of Parliament Hri Kumar Nair, Nominated MP Eugene Tan, Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore's sociology department and Dr Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies. They spoke on the Government's performance and people's desire for checks and balances, and fielded questions from close to 30 participants from the universities, civil society and private sector.

From left to right: Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore's sociology department, Nominated MP Eugene Tan, Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim, moderator assistant political editor Robin Chan, People's Action Party MP Hri Kumar Nair, and Dr Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies. -- PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Checks and balances

Ms Sylvia Lim of the WP and Mr Hri Kumar Nair of the PAP face off on the issue of checks and balances in the political system. In the Straits Times survey of 500 Singaporeans aged 21 and above, 35 per cent said checks and balances was a very important factor in their choice of MP, higher than for other factors like candidate's attributes and national policies.

The Government's half-time score

The panellists assess the progress made on hot-button issues like housing and transport since the 2011 GE and what that might mean for the next election. The ST poll found that the Government's shifts in social policy have boosted confidence in its handling of housing, ageing, the poor and health-care but dissatisfaction over transport and foreign workers continues to simmer.

Non-bread and butter issues

Panellists respond to a question from the floor about the increasing prominence that non-bread and butter issues such as freedom of speech and LGBT or lesbian, gay, bixesual and transgender issues are likely to have in future elections.


The survey found that immigration and foreign worker issues are important to fewer Singaporeans than the poor and the elderly. Nominated MP Eugene Tan expressed surprise and predicated that foreigners would be a key issue at the next election.

Single Member Constituencies vs Group Representation Constituency

Time to do away with GRCs and have only single seat wards? PAP MP Hri Kumar Nair and ST Forum contributor Yeoh Teng Kwong debate the merits of such a move.



According to conventional wisdom, voters tried to teach the ruling party a lesson in the 2011 General Election. If so, the People's Action Party could be said to have spent the past 21/2 years on make-up classes.
Given the anti-foreigner vitriol of recent years and the howls of protests against the White Paper on Population last year, who would have thought that foreign workers and immigration matter to far fewer Singaporeans than the poor and the elderly?
In any country around the world, housing, health care and transport must rank among the most important bread-and-butter issues that a government must get right.
Concerns over the old and the down and out in rapidly ageing Singapore are weighing on the minds of many here.
Even as the Ministry of Education considers how best to adjust the Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system, a question gnawing away at the back of the minds of some is whether a national examination at age 12 is necessary at all.