Transport still a major bugbear: ST survey

Most say progress made in handling housing, health care, elderly, the poor

Commuters during the peak hour period at Raffles Place MRT station on Oct 7, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Commuters during the peak hour period at Raffles Place MRT station on Oct 7, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Three years on from the 2011 General Election, a Straits Times poll finds the Government's shifts in social policy have boosted confidence in its handling of housing, ageing, the poor and health-care issues.

But dissatisfaction over transport and foreign workers still simmers, with more than a quarter saying government performance in these two areas is now worse than in 2011.

When asked to name the Government's biggest achievement since the country last voted, 26 per cent said housing, pushing it to top spot. As for its worst failure, 45 per cent said transport.

Those are some key findings of a Straits Times survey of more than 500 citizens aged 21 and above. It was conducted by research firm Asia Insight shortly after the end of the Budget debate on March 5.

With the Government now midway through its five-year term, more than six in 10 approved of what it has done for the elderly, the poor, health care and housing. Seven in 10 said that they had confidence in how these issues would be dealt with in future.

Political observers and MPs said it was no surprise, given the plethora of social policies rolled out over the past few years, headlined by an $8 billion health-care package for 450,000 pioneers in this year's Budget.

These are part of the new way forward that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined at last year's National Day Rally, which will see the Government and community doing more to support individuals.

But on transport, with train breakdowns and soaring certificate of entitlement prices, only 39 per cent said they saw improvement. Almost as many said the Government's handling of transport issues has deteriorated.

In particular, one in two said train services have worsened since 2011, though two in five said bus services have improved.

With a slew of cooling measures and an increased supply of new homes, four in 10 said it has become easier for first-time buyers to own a home. A quarter disagreed, suggesting more price moderation is desired.

Survey respondents were asked to rate Singaporeans' overall satisfaction today and three years ago, and about seven policy areas: health care, housing, education, transport, the elderly, the poor, and foreign workers and immigrants.

One trend that emerged was of the young and old being largely more satisfied with government policy today, while those aged 35 to 44 and those on middle incomes feel strained and are less confident about the future.

These are indications of the challenges ahead for PM Lee and his team in the second half of their term.

In a Facebook post last week on Parliament's mid-term break, Mr Lee said Singapore is in transition and "we are adjusting to new domestic needs while navigating an uncertain international environment".

Against this backdrop, the Straits Times survey found six in 10 said Singaporeans are satisfied with policies today. Five in 10 thought that was the case in 2011.

Said Nominated MP Laurence Lien: "The Government has done relatively more in the areas of health care, the elderly, the poor and housing, and there has been better publicity of these government actions."

But when it comes to transport and foreign workers, fewer changes on a day-to-day basis have been observed, he added.

That is the experience of daily commuter Neo Yiling, 26, who said the trains are more crowded and have frequent delays.

National University of Singapore Associate Professor Reuben Wong said the survey results indicate that people feel more reassured that the Government is now taking social issues and the cost of living seriously, and "finding ways and means to resolve (them), especially for the most vulnerable".

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