The apology manifesto

The biggest sign midway through the recent election campaign that the People’s Action Party knew it was in trouble was when none other than the prime minister himself said “sorry” twice at a rally held in the financial district on 3 May 2011.

But if you look carefully at what he said, the errors he admitted were errors of execution or implementation. Nowhere did he concede that any of his government’s policies were wrong or had caused suffering. His promise to “do better the next time” was one of smoother implementation of the same policies, not of changing course.

Furthermore, the specific examples he apologised for were accidents or acts of God that were poorly responded to, such as the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari or the flooding of Orchard Road. The big issues  — widening income gap, immigration and preference schemes for foreigners, public housing pricing policy that contains an inherent bias towards escalating prices — he hardly touched on in any substantive way.

I suggest you read the Straits Times article (at left) again and see for yourself.

It was also noticeable that as far as I know, no cabinet minister echoed PM Lee Hsien Loong’s words in the days following. Most of them kept their heads down. As I have told several reporters who asked me for an opinion, I do not know whether

(a) this was an election tactic or genuine on the prime minister’s part, nor

(b) the promise “not to lord it over people” will not be forgotten once the election passed, nor

(c) other ministers will block him from carrying out any meaningful reform, even if Lee was personally sincere about it.

To mean anything, these words have to be backed by action. I think the following ten-point plan should be the minimum proof of sincerity:

The First Manifesto

1. Drop the following ministers from the new cabinet to be formed: Vivian Balakrishnan, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Lee Kuan Yew.

2. Halve ministerial salaries immediately.

3. Publish the full accounts for the Youth Olympic Games.

4. Henceforth publish the transactional prices at which the Housing and Development Board pays the Singapore Land Authority for land.

5. Henceforth peg selling prices of new public housing as follows:

(a) smaller flats pegged to the mean of the 3nd decile of houshold income;

(b) mid-sized flats pegged to the mean of the 4th and 5th decile of houshold income;

(c) larger flats pegged to the mean of the 6th decile of household income.

6. Complete all urban rail projects on time and initiate construction of two more metro rail lines by the end of the next parliamentary term.

7. Promise to achieve a reduction of the Gini coefficient of household income of Singapore citizen households to 40 by the end of the next parliamentary term, with a longer-term Gini target of something in the mid-30’s. The Gini coefficient of household income is a measure of the income gap between the rich and the poor and a reduction of the Gini coefficient means the shrinking of this income gap; effectively it means lifting people out of poverty and addressing the problems of an escalating cost of living. There are multiple ways of doing this; the exact tools can be left to the government to decide so long as the target is achieved.

8. No increase in the total population (citizens + permanent residents + foreigners) by more than 0.5 percent per annum.

9. Abolish group representation constituencies and create a new, independent Elections Commission with rules as to how to draw up electoral boundaries that are compact and topographically sensible and with voter population in any constituency not to vary by more than 10 percent from the mean of all constituencies.

10. Repeal the Internal Security Act.

The above are what I think will be needed to mollify widespread frustration, and banish scepticism that the apology is just an election gimmick. But do not mistake the ten points for what will satisfy me. These alone will not be enough to win me over. I will want another ten more:

The Second Manifesto

11. Introduce proportional representation for at least one-third of the seats in Parliament.

12. Require all members of parliament to work as such (and as heads of respective town councils) fulltime, except if they take up political appointments in government.

13. Lower the candidature qualification requirements for the presidency.

14. Publish accounts of our sovereign wealth funds.

15. Detach all magistrates,  judges and judicial officers from the Executive branch; locate them in a separate Judicial branch overseen by an independent commission responsible to its charter and  the President; the commission to have the power to appoint judges. All Supreme Court judges should have fixed tenure to retirement age and no judge shall have renewable terms or term extensions as is presently the case.

16. Set up a comprehensive healthcare safety net

17. Abolish the death penalty

18. Abolish the Societies Act

19. Abolish all censorship, leaving only a rating system in place; abolish collateral controls (e.g. venue licensing, good-behaviour bonds) that make certain rating classifications censorship in all but name; and last but certainly not least,

20. Repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, and inscribe into the constitution guarantees for non-discrimination on grounds of gender and sexual orientation, in accordance with United Nations human rights standards.

73 Responses to “The apology manifesto”

  1. 1 Eugene 10 May 2011 at 16:35

    Alex you should set up a party and adopt your 10+10-pt as the manifesto.

  2. 2 patrick 10 May 2011 at 17:02

    Why are you obsessed about ministerial pay? Other than how it erodes our leaders’ moral authority, resentment is the only reason for begrudging them of their pay.

    • 3 yawningbread 10 May 2011 at 19:28

      It’s not just me who is “obsessed” with ministerial salaries. Out of 19 issues surveyed by the PAP in an internal poll, it came out as the one with the third-highest dissatisfaction level. The PAP knows that a huge majority of Singaporeans are disgusted about this matter, however you would have noticed that Lee Hsien Loong’s apology makes no mention of this.

      • 4 Coward 10 May 2011 at 21:04

        Furthermore, if PAP is good enough to notice it, the extreme ministerial salary has set themselves extreme expectation by the public on their performance, almost that of a superman. Hence any failure or mistake is simply unacceptable to the public. Super salary means superman performance, means unrealistic expectation.

      • 5 patrick 11 May 2011 at 00:33

        I agree with you on this – it will be the PAP’s own undoing.

      • 6 patrick 11 May 2011 at 00:39


        I agree with you on this – it will be the PAP’s own undoing.


        Yes, everyone knows that it is widely unpopular and politically unfeasible. But is this resentment good enough a reason?

        There are practical considerations too. In the Singaporean system at least, political office holders are placed at the top of the civil service payscale, so any reduction in pay will cascade downwards. Everyone from ministry staff, stat board staff, soldiers, teachers, to social workers will feel the pain in some amount. Not the best way to attract much needed talent into the government, nor a solution to rising costs of living. Of course, this objection goes away if the ministers stop holding civil service pay hostage to their own.

    • 7 Robox 10 May 2011 at 23:14


      I don’t know how much Economics you have in your bacground, but what we refer to in Singapore as “ministerial pay” would be called “economic rent” in formal academic studies. And going by the criteria for an individual to earn economic rent, none of the PAP MPs have ever qualified.

      But you don’t need formal academic studies to explain this injustice; it can intuitively felt – and it already is – by a widespread section of society.

      • 8 patrick 11 May 2011 at 22:29

        Robox, I suggest you not fling around terms you don’t understand. Your awkward coining of phrases such as “formal academic studies” suggests that you did not have much of it yourself.

        What makes you the final adjudicator of whether people deserve their economic rent? What makes a fatcat CEO deserve the rent more than someone in the public sector? Just because the CEO is in the private sector? Just because you have your own sorry little prejudices about how PAP MPs and ministers just shake leg and collect pay? Please, you do not know how challenging the work is and from the looks of it, you’ve never seen them in action. It takes more skill and nerve than you can comprehend. And they certainly deserve their rent more than any rent you’re getting.

    • 9 Poker Player 11 May 2011 at 10:07

      What employer is not obsessed by his employees’ pay?

      Especially when he knows other employers are getting more for less. See Finland, Hongkong …

    • 10 Emerald 11 May 2011 at 11:55

      Think back to why people are upset with T.T Durai’s pay. T.T Durai was also a man of vision, capability and talent.

      Begrudging his pay, or our ministers’ pay (sans the shock effect), is a reaction to how he or our minsters expect the people to make a sacrifice (work harder, take a pay cut, give more, etc) yet they continue to draw a comparatively exorbitant salary themselves.

      The people needs a safeguard/ assurance to know that our ministers are motivated by the right reasons… and next time they ask people to moderate their demands, best if they can lead by example.

  3. 11 Denise 10 May 2011 at 17:03

    Wow Alex,

    In comparison to PAP’s manifesto, your 20 points is enough to start a new political party, all you need is Captain VW and the rainbow league of super friends!

    Jokes aside, the campaign period of 9 days seem a little short, much of your 2nd manifesto had no airing at all! Poigant needless to say.

  4. 12 drmchsr0 10 May 2011 at 17:19

    Ahem. I’d like to interest you in these changes, if you will.

    1. Retire the following Ministers: Vivian Balakrishnan, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, Lee Kuan Yew. Pensions optional.

    2. Reduce ministerial salaries to about half to three-eights of current value and a restructuring of the ministerial wage system to keep in line with the private sector’s practices, pegged not to the GDP, but to internationally-recognized indicators like the GINI coefficient. If they want to be paid like CEOs, then they’d better like having a pay system not unlike a CEO’s. Deferred bonuses and all.

    8. A full investigation regarding the absolute land capacity of Singapore to be carried out within the next… 2 months to determine the total percentage increase of foreign labour/talents (capped at 0.5%, preferably less). That is to be published, made public, and understandable in terms the average person would understand. If one has not been carried out yet.

    13. Include also the reduction of the 16K per head needed to contest in elections.

    17. The abolishment of the death penalty for all crimes but first-degree murder, and even then, only when the accused has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be guilty of the crime by a panel of judges (which should be, by then, independent from the ExCo), with the police force ensuring (to be determined by the panel of judges) that the case is completely, fairly and thoroughly investigated.

    19. Could I interest you in an ombudsman office, independent from the ExCo as well?

    20. Include as well signing and ratifying The UN Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities Charter and actually ratifying the UN Human Rights Charter, if we have yet to do so.

    • 13 11 May 2011 at 12:54

      @ drmchsr0

      Death penalty must be abolished full stop

      • 14 Whos afraid of the astroturfers? 14 May 2011 at 13:28

        Sorry but I personally disagree with abolishing the death penalty. Don’t want to explain why. It’ll take too much of my brain cells.

  5. 15 Repent? - You Can't Be Serious 10 May 2011 at 17:27

    Quote from Vivian Balakrishnan:

    ” …. he said that the election has been a good learning journey and at the strategic level, many PAP policies are right but their implementation and communication can be improved.”


    Respectfully, I understand the above is a highfalutin way of saying:

    “It’s business as usual”


    “We’ve dug ourselves into a hole. We will continue to dig. But we promise to use better tools in the future.”

    I stand ready to be corrected if I am wrong.

    • 16 Ken 10 May 2011 at 22:54

      He’s also saying that the policy-makers were right, it’s just that those implementing the policies on the ground (i.e. civil servants) screwed up. What an insult to the civil service.

      • 17 Hellesbore 11 May 2011 at 08:16

        To be fair, Ken, those who write up the policies in depth are also civil servants. And I do have friends who are part of this policy-making group who try very hard to talk the higher-ups into kinder policies that cater better to the typical Singaporean. So it’s not reaaaally the policy-makers, you’re referring more to the policy-proposers and finalizers. But I’m quibbling. We know what you mean – just that I want to clarify on behalf of friends who are the ones who spend days and nights crafting the policies in full on behalf of these ministers, whose advice is rarely taken, and who try to better things for us but often fail.

      • 18 terence 11 May 2011 at 12:54

        If that is true Hellesbore, then it shows what the PAP talk about changing from within is impossible.

        And yes I can also tell readers that it is the civil servants who craft the policies.

  6. 19 market2garden 10 May 2011 at 17:40

    You are right.
    I also noticed it (the apology), and VB’s ST today of “change in style” but never ever mentioned “any wrong in substance” confirmed it.
    It proved that the ruling party still don’t get the core part of the problem.
    Based on that, I would see PAP’s next GE the winning margin reduced further – cost of perhaps 4 to 10 parliamentary seats.
    Groupthink seriously exists in Lee Administration.

  7. 20 Tanky 10 May 2011 at 17:55

    I can’t agree more.
    But to be realistic, having the PM agree to study the 10 + 10 points and give his feedback within the next 3 months will be a major accomplishment.

    • 21 Lorong M 10 May 2011 at 21:23

      “3 months”? I think one has to wait 5 years for the PM to consider them!

      My 2 cents worth: why didn’t point 1 include Goh Chok Tong? Is it because the Cabinet needs a jester? Raymond Lim and Lui Tuck Yew should also be on the list, IMHO.

  8. 22 Anonymous 10 May 2011 at 21:04

    “1. Drop the following ministers from the new cabinet to be formed: Vivian Balakrishnan, Wong Kan Seng, Mah Bow Tan, LEE KUAN YEW.”

    Are you kidding me? No way will he drop his own father lah, seriously.

    Points 2, 9 & 10 are definitely never going to happen, and none of the points in the Second Manifesto you proposed are ever going to have a 0.1 probability of happening.

    Point 2 – A 1/4 reduction is the only likely possibility.

    In other words, the PAP is never going to really change. Maybe a few policy adjustments here and there to mollify the electorate. Overall, I expect we are going to see “More of the Same” for the next 5 years.

    • 23 yawningbread 10 May 2011 at 22:38

      You don’t get it, do you? We ALL know they’re extremely unlikely to do any of that. It is to set up an appraisal system so we the people can judge what apologies are translated into meaningful action. It’s like drawing up a budget for a project even when we know the idiot running the show will bust the budget. That way we can measure how badly he has performed and hold him to account. If we don’t draw up a budget he can turn around and say “But I was not bound by any budget or target”.

      • 24 Anonymous 11 May 2011 at 10:53

        I understand that. But I think your “Budget”, even the First “Mandatory” Manifesto Budget, is too unrealistic. We are just placing tons of overly high expectations for change which the PAP will never ever meet within 5 years or even 100 years. That is setting a Budget so high, that the PAP is guaranteed to fail to meet all 10 points and prove their “minimum sincerity”.

        As you have noted yourself, PM Lee only apologized for the execution/implementation/communication of policies. He did not concede that some of his policies are fundamentally wrong and/or that his team would consider different paradigms.

      • 25 yawningbread 11 May 2011 at 18:08

        “As you have noted yourself, PM Lee only apologized for the execution/implementation/communication of policies.” Well, then remind people again and again that that was all he conceded, and not ago around thinking that a new dawn has arrived. Or do I detect a over-readiness to forgive and forget, because it is too frightening an idea that we should hold our government to task?

  9. 26 Coward 10 May 2011 at 21:06

    Post May7 disastrous results, PAP ministers continue to focus on ‘lack of effective communication’ rather than bad or wrong policies. PAP looks increasingly incapable of learning and correcting itself. They are not blessed.

  10. 27 azureoct 10 May 2011 at 21:30

    good list!

    How about not making life difficult for opposition MPs so that they can serve residents effectively in their constituencies too? And not forgetting, stop withholding upgrades in opposition constituencies. They probably don’t realise that if they act in a fair manner, people will view them more favourably.

  11. 28 Auchen Toshan 10 May 2011 at 21:52

    Heartening to find you finally setting modest, achievable goals!

  12. 29 Francis Sim 10 May 2011 at 22:00

    I personally agree with the first 10 points but not all of the next 10 points. I do hope that ministerial salaries are reduced at least by 20%. I am not sure if appointment holders are still on the pension scheme as I heard that they still all. Time for the pension scheme to be scraped.

  13. 30 Fox 10 May 2011 at 22:02

    It would be nice to include a Freedom of Information Act with the usual restrictions on matters of defence and security in your manifesto. Points 3, 4 and 14 would be unnecessary if we had a FOI Act.

  14. 31 sloo 10 May 2011 at 22:05

    We can all hope, dream and wish…….

  15. 32 ziggy 10 May 2011 at 22:11

    a)create a cpf constitutional fund deduction, this fund can be used by citizens to challenge unconstitutional acts of the executive by funding lawsuits against government abuses.

    b)create a fund to empower all political parties so as to level the playing field in the name if democracy

    c) limit the PM to three terms

    d) minister s declaration of assets

    e) adopt the UK Ministerial Code of conduct and ethics

  16. 33 prettyplace 10 May 2011 at 22:30

    Some points are good ones. I must admit how difficult it must be for Alex to come forth and put up such matters.
    It is indeed easy to comment and hope it will come through for the betterment of Singapore.
    However, to produce such actions are way harder and everyone knows that.

    I sincerely hope that the apology and desire to work towards a Singaporean centered Singapore comes forth.
    It is yet to seen and for that to happen, time must be provided as well.

    Nevertheless, good article and request Alex.

  17. 34 Alan Wong 10 May 2011 at 22:41

    I think he has no other choice left but have to effect some kind of change especially in some of the unpopular policies. Whether the changes will be effective or simply cosmetic, it will however remain to be seen.

    If not, 5 years down the line people will be questioning his credibility if it has become a fact then that there was really no sincerity on his part and that his past apology was simply a political gimmick.

    Do you think that PAP will be that stupid enough to risk losing another couple of seats to the opposition ? Don’t forget that even the PM may lose his own seat if he is not too careful and that will be even more humiliating for PAP than losing Aljunied.

  18. 35 Paul 2 10 May 2011 at 22:50

    “Other than how it erodes our leaders’ moral authority, resentment is the only reason for begrudging them of their pay.”

    I disagree. Even though ministerial salaries may only account for a small percentage of the country’s total budget, consider this:

    The expenditure by the Society for the Physically Disabled in FY09/10 on charitable activities was about $9.1 million, of which $5.3 million – more than half – consisted of employee costs. How many cabinet minister’s salaries does it take to fund the whole SPD? You do the math.

    [This example is particularly galling because support for the physically disabled is one of the areas in which the government has abdicated responsibility. For example, many public areas are still not wheelchair accessible, the introduction of wheelchair-accessible buses is left to the leisure of the bus operators, etc. Legislative support is lacking, let alone financial.]

    Now of course I’m not suggesting as a general principle that money for funding social programs should come from cutting ministerial salaries (a better solution is needed), but I maintain that there is more underpinning popular resentment over inflated ministerial salaries than pettiness.

    Ministers’ salaries are funded by public money, and it’s fair for people to expect that public money be disbursed in more equitable or socially responsible ways.


    • 36 terence 11 May 2011 at 13:33

      Did anyone read the latest report that at the UN assembly on Human Rights, Singapore will not budge on its stand concerning the Death penalty as the majority of Singaporeans are for the Death penalty and therefore the Singapore Government has no legitimate authority to abandon the Death penalty.

      Then if the Singapore government has abdicated care for the physically disabled as you said, does that imply that the majority of Singpaoreans does not support having the Singapore government do more for the physically disabled.

      I find that in certain areas, the Singapore government does not have the moral guts to do more. That is why Singapore and the Singaporea government is not first world status. George Yeo wants change but it is near impossible for him to go against the behemoth that is the PAP.

  19. 37 thetwophilo 10 May 2011 at 22:50

    Like trying to extract blood from stone or only when pigs sprout wings and fly!

  20. 38 Ken 10 May 2011 at 23:05

    Hi Alex, let me add to your lists above my own wishlist, really an elaboration on points you’ve raised:

    (i) remove Lui Tuck Yew and Raymond Lim from Cabinet; Lui’s ministry is in charge of communicating the policies of government and hasn’t done a good job; Lim’s ministry has not only done little, but demonstrated no will to do anything substantial to address the problems of over-crowding and irregular arrival schedules which plague our public transport system and lower the quality of life for Singapore commuters.
    (ii) on top of halving Ministerial salaries, peg them to median income growth rates, not GDP growth rates.
    (iii) review the distance-based fare system; undertake a comprehensive review of bus and MRT services and routes to address congestion, overcrowding and irregular frequency.
    (iv) amend or repeal the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.
    (v) on top of repealing the ISA, appoint independent committees of inquiry to produce reports on the validity of all detentions involving political prisoners since independence.

    Also wanted to point out that PM Lee’s “apology” was no apology at all. “And if we didn’t quite get it right, I am sorry but we will try and do better the next time.” A true apology cannot be conditional; he is sorry only if his government didn’t quite (herein another qualifier) get it right. Who decides whether or not he “didn’t quite get it right”? The PM himself? And what if he doesn’t think so? Then there is no apology at all. Interestingly, the foreign press picked up on this. Most of the major newspapers – kudos to them – wrote of the apology as something “reported by the Straits Times”, not attributed to the prime minister. PM could have just said – “I’m sorry we didn’t get it right. We will do better the next time.” (saves him seven whole words.)

    This “apology” reminds me of another – Wong Kan Seng’s in the aftermath of the Mas Selamat fiasco. “This should never have happened (note the passive voice). I am sorry that it has,” he said. Yes, I think a lot of people were sorry that it had happened. This was not an apology; it was an expression of regret and empathy, akin to telling someone, “I am sorry that your dog ran away,” even if you had no part in its escape. WKS could very simply have said – “I am sorry that we allowed him to escape”.

  21. 39 Paul 2 10 May 2011 at 23:17

    Hi Alex,

    In your post on 29 Dec 2009 you made the following observation:

    “the chief driver of opposition politics today is a dislike, a visceral dislike, of the PAP’s style. They hate the PAP more than they disagree with its policies.” (

    This is what worries me about the PM’s strategy of ‘apologising’, and the rhetoric we’ve been hearing in the past few days about soul searching and so on. That section of the electorate whose unhappiness with the PAP stems from ‘style’ rather than policy considerations may easily be mollified by tweaks that are ultimately only palliative. So it’s great you’ve come up with this list of specific goals against which we can compare the PAP’s real progress in time to come.

  22. 41 YawningBreadParty 11 May 2011 at 08:19

    George Yeo said yesterday that PM Lee decided to apologise after a talk with him.

  23. 42 yuen 11 May 2011 at 08:22

    did LHL’s humble apology bring votes? yes but the effect was personal, it does not carry to Aljunied and elsewhere; still, the increased vote in LHL’s own electorate shows that, despite the prevailing sour mood, some personal good campaigning can reverse the trend; hence, the poor performance in other areas shows shortcomings in campaigning, PAP cannot simply rely on headhunting candidates with good career track records to beat opponents; to be effective they would need to establish a better link with voters locally

    • 43 twasher 11 May 2011 at 11:07

      I’m not sure what LHL’s increased winning margin means, because the opposition team in AMK GRC this year was much weaker than the one he faced in 2006.

  24. 44 market2garden 11 May 2011 at 08:30

    For the Mumber 6 point Train Issue
    The ruling party has to seriously consider to build a North-Western MRT so ease to Jurong East Interchange Congestion and increasingly crowded Western Corridor.
    Possible Route: Yew Tee (existing), Chua Chu Kang (existing), Bukit Gombak (existing), Bukit Batok West, Jurong Canal, Chinese Garden (existing), Jurong Gateway, Pandan Reservoir, West Coast, Kent Ridge (existing), Portsdown, Bukit Merah, Kampong Bahru, Tanjong Pagar Heritage, Tanjong Pagar (existing), Shenton Way, Marina Bay, Marina South.
    Just my wishful thinking.

  25. 45 Caleb 11 May 2011 at 08:47

    I would abolish GRCs entirely as well. If the PAP really cares so much about minority representation, it could impose a quota (i.e. each party has to field at least x% of y minority race among its candidates) but with candidates contesting in single-members constituencies only.

  26. 46 anony 11 May 2011 at 08:48

    There is no way that PAP will change their policies. Business as usual. After all, they have a 60% majority mandate supporting the PAP and that is the MAIN REASON why their current policies will continue into the next 5 years.

    Good luck to those 60% who supported the PAP. I did not becos I knew there was no sincerity in those apologies.

    Let’s face it, if your friend committed an unfair act against you and apologized to you 5 years later, you deem your friend’s apology sincere?

  27. 47 Andrew 11 May 2011 at 08:53

    The “sorry” of the PM is enough to swing votes by a few percentage points and saved the PAP some seats. The “sorry” strategy buys PAP some time. MM says the young forgets easily but many people remember that MM is not exactly a person who will simply accept apologies.

    Your excellent manifesto will not be implemented, at least not so soon. The PAP will do enough to get votes. The leopard never changes its spots. The change from the PAP will come from their heads and not from their hearts.

  28. 48 huntergal 11 May 2011 at 09:00

    great post, I especially like your manifestos especially the first one. You can consider joining one of the parties.

  29. 49 YT 11 May 2011 at 09:06

    I think another very important and particularly pressing point especially at this moment is the separation between the PAP and the state. As the new Workers’ Party team in Aljunied prepare to take over the town council it seems likely that basic amenities previously accorded to the ex-PAP team will be denied to them. It will be a crying shame if this results in them having to conduct meet-the-people sessions at void decks again. I do not believe that the interests of Singaporeans are best served when opposition MPs have to operate with their hands tied behind their backs. May I propose that at the very least the incumbent MP of each constituency be accorded the rights and respect that he or she deserves, regardless of whether he or she comes from the PAP or not.

  30. 50 rngdg 11 May 2011 at 09:25

    on HDB:

    only PR of 10 years and above are allowed to purchase HDB for only residential purpose regardless of occupancy period.

  31. 51 Leslie Lim 11 May 2011 at 09:25

    To be brutally honest, they have a ‘strong’ mandate.

    If we had more voters who were brave as lions, we might be able to turn the table around the animal farm (i.e. force a change).

    Alas, the reality is that we had more voters who are meek as mouse (afraid of reprisal from the MIW, so voted for MIW).

    So we Sporeans have to repent for 5 more years, and hope that MIW don’t come out with any dirty tricks to tilt the ground to their favour.

    The only way to force a genuine change from MIW is to drastically drop the support.

    • 52 Casey 11 May 2011 at 11:51

      I think there’s a lot of people out there who voted PAP (even though they have real misgivings about PAP policies) because the opposition candidate/party in their ward is simply not viewed as credible or any better than PAP. In that sense, they are pragmatic and responsible voters. And I suspect this group of PAP voters is much larger than those voters who voted merely out of fear.

      Conversely, if the opposition had fielded teams with similar quality to WP’s “A” team in Aljunied in all wards, I think the swing of votes against PAP would have turned out much greater, and there would have been more opposition MPs in Parliament.

  32. 53 T 11 May 2011 at 09:32

    /// patrick 10 May 2011 at 17:02

    Why are you obsessed about ministerial pay? Other than how it erodes our leaders’ moral authority, resentment is the only reason for begrudging them of their pay. ///

    Because that is the single biggest grouse. In fact, many of the other causes of resentment and unhappiness can be traced back or linked to high ministerial pay.

    Mat Selatmat’s escape. People won’t be baying for blood if the minister is paid $200k or $500k a year, instead of more than $3 million a year. Ditto for the floods.

    High pay and high bonuses – KPI linked to GDP growth. Hence massive import of foreign labours.

  33. 54 Wong Wai Saow 11 May 2011 at 10:39

    Hi Alex,
    I have read all of your contents. You know that politicians are such that they will always change their medicines but not the person. As such, PM Lee Hsien Loong and SM Lee Kuan Yew will stay. The rest of the MPs’ can leave.
    If I were appointed into the government, I would be the first to appoint you as an Ombudsman because of your fairness. What is right and what is wrong got to be and can be rectified.
    I like your first manifesto on points 7 and 9. Perhaps point 14 should be reviewed also.
    The abolishment of death penalty of all crimes touches me the most as it is really humane and we should follow the British law.
    Last but not least, regarding halves ministerial salaries immediately,I would like to highlight and I have a strong doubt that that cannot be done. In fact, when each time, there is an inflation, the ministers will complain that their salaries are much too low. And each time, with their resentment, they will pull their jacks up and increase their own salaries first. This is not the first time we have seen. Surely everybody is against it. The question is why so much?

  34. 55 Tony 11 May 2011 at 11:42


    I would add two items to your manifesto:

    a. Reduce the voting age to 18 years as it is in most other countries.

    b. Abolish, or at least reform, national service for men. This may have been required in 1965. It is not required now.

    In the immediate future, Lee Hsien Loong could generate goodwill by dropping Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong as cabinet ministers. The idea that because you were Prime Minister once you should be in the Cabinet for life is ridiculous. If they had any humility they would step down voluntarily.

  35. 56 Margaret 11 May 2011 at 13:00

    They are in self denial, which will be their undoing.

  36. 57 solecurious 11 May 2011 at 16:02

    Great lists and great start, Alex.
    Whether PAP fulfills them or not, we Singaporeans MUST FIRST have a dream. If we cannot stand united behind what we want- we are giving away our mandate by allowing PAP to make cosmetic changes and sell back to us the upgraded 2.0 of the same-old policies.
    THAT is not change. It’s the same crap with a nicer packaging.
    UNLESS Singaporeans can articulate clearly what we want, we cannot expect PAP to make any significant difference. Like any branding campaign, the message we send to PAP has to be clear and consistent (whether in WP’s voice or SDP’s voice).
    So I applaud Alex for taking on this exercise and getting the ball of a Singaporean Dream rolling.
    Now, we need the opposition to read the manifestos. They can articulate similar ideologies in their own words and specify their own timeline to meet these targets.

    About ministers’ salaries – I am not jealous of the huge pay-outs but it is NOT sustainable for such a small country.
    For a better picture of the total remuneration, read SpareTyre’s link
    FYI – the reason for handing out pension was to compensate civil servants and gahmen officials for the below-private-sector pay. Now they can enjoy BOTH = better than private sector.
    I am stumped by PAP’s greed and brashness.
    Here are my arguments:
    I am not an economist but it’s common sense that we have an aging population with low population growth (hard to turn back the clock on our successful birth-control policy decades ago). Who do you think will be carrying the burden of the baby boomers’ CPF pay-outs for the next 10-20 years or more? Why do you think PAP kept pushing our CPF withdrawal date and the sudden HUGE influx of Tom, Dick and Sally?
    I cannot be the only one who can figure this out – remember the gahmen tried to reverse the stop-at-2 policy by asking graduate mothers to have more babies and the huge tax deduction if you have 3 babies before a certain age??? Those reversal policies obviously are not panning out as expected. Not to mention the colossal losses GIC and gahmen-related businesses sustained, further draining our reserves.
    So now, we need foreigners to make up the number. Singaporeans, as a whole, are in the lose-lose quadrant. Cramped quarters and delayed CPF payment = WRONG policies. We ended up paying for them.
    In comparison, the most powerful nation, USA, is NOT paying their politicians half as much. Their government oversees more than 300 million pop over a large geographical area (NY City alone is already bigger than the whole of Singapore). You think their politicians are not savvy or eloquent enough to make their case? Their challenges are not as complex? They don’t have enough scholars on their team?
    It is unconscionable to pull wool over our eyes and “legally” rob the country’s reserves. All in the name of attracting and keeping talents. This is the wrong premise for anyone entering politics in the first place.
    In short, ALL our politicians will be well taken care of. But what will become of the common people with their meagre pay-out? If there’ll be any money left! The total disregard of the people’s welfare and their hard-earned money is highly unbecoming. PAP just got bolder! Since when do they need our mandate? They blatantly ran with it. What’s the point of 2 half-hearted apologies? I didn’t buy any of it.
    Unless I see REAL, SUSTAINABLE actions. Even if it means I have to take a long term view and be patient. Not quick plugs like flooding the country with foreigners.

    Finally on LKY. If he doesn’t retire gracefully with his legacy somewhat intact, he’ll sully his own reputation and blow up his party. Sad ending for someone who had done great things for this country. I really don’t want to see this happen. But it’s not my decision.

  37. 59 Thor 11 May 2011 at 16:10

    I agree that they should be held accountable. But they did not promise any specifics except revising HDB income limit and GST. In that sense, I think it’s difficult to pin them down. But I guess people must learn to live with the consequences of their choices. However what I fear is the further dilution of Singaporean voices by importing new citizens and even more sophisticated gerrymandering now that voting patterns of almost entire electorate is known.

  38. 60 Casey 11 May 2011 at 16:53

    For me, to prove sincerity, he has to remove fat cat ministers in these ministries:

    1) MTI: for coming up with “GDP growth at all costs” economic strategy
    2) MND: for runaway housing prices
    3) MHA: for too many foreigners in the country that eroded our national unity

    This is akin to applying private sector discpline for ministers who earn private sector renumeration and cannot perform.

  39. 61 T 12 May 2011 at 03:24

    It would be instructive to keep a keen eye on subsequent Parliament sessions. This would be the next visible battleground to assess how the respective party manifestos (of primarily PAP and WP) will be fulfilled, compromised, or even modified through the nature of law-making and policy debate that will be carried out over time.

    I also find it useful to revisit a previous article from Alex. In “Deadlock bogeyman”, Alex illustrated the possible Parliament configurations to debunk the myth that the (increased) presence of opposition parties in Parliament would significantly impede the process of decision-making. In several of such Parliament configurations, Alex focused on conflicts. Whether they occurred within the incumbent, within various opposition parties or between the incumbent and the opposition.

    Given the General Election results, there are new dynamics that can be considered with respect to the new Parliament to be formed. (It is assumed that WP will be the only opposition presence)

    1) Given the increased awareness of politics due to new media, a gradual opening of traditional media and actual participation in voting, there should be an increased viewership of Parliament sessions from now on. In addition, there will be an increased sensitivity towards political debate. This means that even if the PAP has a super-majority in Parliament, it cannot afford to act in a manner as obstinate as it has done before. There will be an increased degree of genuine debate.

    2) The gap between the best PAP candidates and the best WP candidates has narrowed. This might lead to a tougher fight for the PAP in defending its plans, especially if 8-9 WP MPs and NCMPs can present a united and substantive front in asserting compelling alternative proposals and lines of logic.

    3) The gap between the “lowest” PAP candidates and WP candidates has widened, in favour of the latter. There is an increased likelihood for the PAP to make “slip-ups”. I wonder how Ms Tin will fare against Ms Sylvia Lim? Or Mr Chan Chun Sing (who had a walkover in Tanjong Pagar GRC) against Mr Low Thia Khiang?

    4) As noted by Alex in “Deadlock bogeyman”, “PAP backbenchers (will) need to show up for parliamentary sessions more often”. This would be to cater to (1) but it will also increase the probabilities of the events listed in (2) and (3) to occur.

    5) There may be an increased space for certain PAP candidates and WP candidates to be on the same side for particular issues. Although precedents to this in the last Parliament are few (e.g. Dr Lily Neo’s battle for increased PA assistance against a few of her colleagues), I do believe that there is a group of PAP candidates who want to do good in Singapore in the most unobstructed way i.e. by joining the PAP and abiding by the Party Whip for the sake of being able to contribute (however limited) to Singaporeans and not so much for truly believing in PAP-style governance.

    Given the increased presence of fully-elected WP MPs and the new socio-political background in (1), this group of PAP candidates may overcome their own fears and inhibitions to assert viewpoints that they have always held but were “shy” to do so in Parliament before as they were in conflict with the PAP mainstream policies. Such emergent behavior might affect the (supposed) unity of the PAP and open up opportunities for WP to form alliances with certain PAP candidates, depending on the issues being debated in Parliament.

    Note: Another example debunking the uniformity of the PAP (opinion) lies in the differing PAP MP viewpoints towards Section 377A of the Penal Code.
    Although WP does not focus much on Section 377A, it will be good for WP to give it more attention, in addition to other issues that might bring out divisions within the PAP.

    On a concluding note, WP’s improved presence in Parliament also opens up one key path between the Legislature and the population. This path, if paved well, will fulfill its election motto of “1st World Parliament” and also solidify its groundwork efforts.

    This path constitutes the possibility of realizing good ideas that can come from anyone in Singapore by giving them a full airing in Parliament.

  40. 62 Fly on the Wall 12 May 2011 at 04:00

    Excellent manifesto. But to be honest, I doubt if even 1 or 2 things mentioned on your manifesto will be implemented by end of 2011. The election results and what LHL said has confirmed my suspicions that change cannot come from within the PAP. Perhaps LKY still wields too much power in the party, or the ministerial high pay has drawn the wrong type of personalities, they are on their high “elite” pedestal ignorant of their faults and failures (reminds me of the last emperor of Ming Dynasty, till the very end, he blamed his failures on generals and ministers and had many of them killed).
    Politicians must ultimately recognise they serve the public (they are public servants too) and not the other way around. They appear to have forgotten what “public” means (public = ordinary people in general; the community). As a result, public transportation, public housing have been treated as money-making corporations (serving the public is not #1 priority).
    If the ministers are not going to reduce their own pay as I suspect, I suggest they each hire a consultant (they can afford it) to vet their speeches before they make a public statement to avoid any gaffs. Apparently their subordinates are not doing a good job. LHL, MBT, LSS, WKS, VB have said so many silly things, I feel paisay for them.

  41. 63 A. 12 May 2011 at 18:45

    Your 20 point manifesto strikes a chord with me. How does one get heard in this country anyway? I really don’t know. No, I’m not complaining (well, not this time). I mean… I really don’t know. I’ve lived here all my life, and always been told to keep my head down and hope for the best.

    Social media? Facebook petitions?

    No one’s gonna take those too seriously.

    Official Feedback Units? Well, they hear what they want to hear, make a report on those and discard the rest.

    Anyway, on the issue of ministerial pay – I’m no expert on anything despite having some formal academic education, but just my 2 cents:

    Well, the executive arm and the legislative arm is supposed to be separate, right (separation of powers)? The Cabinet ministers just happen to sit (conveniently) on the fence dividing the two. Is it possible to separate completely the legislative assembly and the various heads of the executive part of the government? If this is done, then there could be some justifiable pay revisions (at least because the list of duties for each position has been reduced). This could help when cascading down to the rest of the civil service, with the lower positions not being affected at all. Perhaps only the higher echelons will be affected, if at all. By the way, I use ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ just for the sake of brevity, not prejudice. I hope everyone understands.

    Well, anyway, it’s just one way. I’m sure others have better ideas.

    My feeling is that there is an artificial mental block in terms of reducing the pay of ministers. The pay revisions cascading down to the lower ranks is what I feel VW calls ‘an old coil of rope’. There is no need at all to touch the salaries of lower-paid civil servants, but an urgent need to drastically reduce the present ministers’ pay. Why are we obsessed, besides resentment? Well, Sylvia Lim says it all for me here:

    Oh well… here’s to the next 5 years of ducking around (I hope not).

  42. 64 KAM 13 May 2011 at 02:40

    I think you meant well and spelt out good points. However, dog cannot change from eating shit. So what is a 10 % swing? If PAP lose another few seats, they still have more than 2/3 of house.
    I think it is damm naive to think they will do any of your points.

  43. 65 Thor 13 May 2011 at 10:37

    Dear A.,

    Thank you for sharing Sylvia Lim’s speech. I am so impressed. I think this is required viewing for all Singaporeans. Is there any way to make this video more public? Thank you, yawning bread for providing this platform. Aljunied residents, you have made an excellent choice.

  44. 66 FEDUP 14 May 2011 at 22:44

    “Lee Hsien Loong currently earns an annual salary of S$3,870,000 (US$2,856,930),[18] an increase of 25% from S$3,091,200 (US$2,037,168),[19] making him the highest paid head of government in the world.”

    What does it cost the PM to say sorry twice?
    But it still cost the taxpayers to pay him making him the highest paid HOG in the world!

  45. 67 cb 14 May 2011 at 23:05

    Congrats, you’ve got point 1 of your first manifesto!

    Now we need substance, not style.

  46. 68 TWOG 14 May 2011 at 23:10

    Okay, 1/4 of #1 has been fulfilled – Lee Kuan Yew is quitting the cabinet. And as a bonus, so is Goh Chok Tong.

    1/4 down, 9.75 more to go.

  47. 69 dan 18 May 2011 at 17:34

    i just scanned the comments here and, of course, it was full of cynicism that LHL would do much of anything on these lists. I too shared that view when I first read it, as did you Alex, i gather.

    BUT MY GOD. Who would have predicted the resignations of LKY + GCT? Who would have predicted the cabinet LHL just announced? With the exception of VB, the PM has virtually met your first demand, and arguably exceeded it by throwing out GCT and RL also.

    MY eyes are trained on their salaries now, as per your point #2.

    • 70 yawningbread 18 May 2011 at 21:58

      Would have been better if Vivian Balakrishnan too was chucked out, but I guess making him minister in charge of drains and sewers is at least a move in the right direction.

      • 71 Robox 18 May 2011 at 22:58

        Alex, we should indeed rejoice. Vivian has been relegated to the gutters where he belongs.

  48. 72 1 June 2011 at 13:20

    Hi Yawning Bread,

    In his so called Apologies x 2;

    First – I’m sorry but we will …. (not sure it’s an apology)
    Second – We should apologise, taqke responsibility…. (this is definitely not an apology). The actual meaning is that we should and we did not.

    There far too many got caught by his speech thinking that LHL bowed down to pressure and “apologised”. Evrybody got it all wrong.


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