Thursday, October 24, 2013

Democracy in Singapore: Representational Mismatch

A huge problem facing Singapore now is the problem of housing.

When I read that HDB flats are costing upwards of $700,000, seriously wtf.

And the only one to blame for this is the PAP - (the People's Action Party) - the ruling party who has governed Singapore 100% since the 1960s.

90% of Singaporeans live in HDB (Government Housing) apartments. Sidenote: Unlike most Western nations where public housing is considered the absolute pits - in Singapore, it actually is pretty good. And all praise to the PAP for setting up a good system there.

But back to the angst - the PAP which has controlled the Govt since the 1960s - is directly responsible for land and public property development and to a slightly indirect extent, private property development as well.

Back in 2003 - Singapore actually had a property surplus. There were apparently 80,000 units unoccupied. Now we have a huge shortage - largely due to the Govt's liberal immigration policies.

I think Singaporeans have a right to be pretty angry about this huge blunder - esp when the PAP keeps on harping about how it needs to pay the world's highest salaries to its top civil servants and political leaders. I mean, you pay top dollar and how did this shortage happen?

The problem is due to the huge disconnect that we have with our political leaders and the rest of the public. Now, wait having said that - this is a huge problem with most democracies.

The political leaders do not represent their constituents. In Australia, most of the politicians are ex-lawyers, union officials, for example.

In Singapore, they are all elites, really successful smart people. Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Accountants, Army officers etc..

How are they suppose to represent the needs of the majority of the people?

If I may use a crude analogy - how do you expect a Shark to understand the problems of a reef fish? Why would a greyhound understand the problems of a mouse?

Doctors, lawyers, accountants, all of them being paid really really high salaries which effectively cocoon them from the tribulations of the masses. When the price of food hikes up by 100%, or the cost of bread rose by $1 - heck, if I'm being paid $10k a month, that wouldn't trouble me much. But for someone on $1k income, that is dreadful news.

The problem with Singapore is the lack of proper representation - esp when the Govt continually redraws electoral boundaries for some "funny" reason - maybe fengshui whatever.

But its also how the Govt draws its political candidates from.

I'm not sure whether the govt is aware of the class divide - Doctors and a normal sales person do tend to think a bit differently.

I'm not advocating anything radical. Just highlighting the need for a wider representation. Maybe what Singapore needs is for a lower house of Parliament to represent a wider group of its citizens. I can hear you laughing about this - but seriously you think the high flying Minister who is earning a million dollars or more a year can really appreciate the problems of a salesgirl earning $1k a month?

We need more people in Govt that can empathize with its citizens.

I'll add a personal story to this. My father was a brilliant man. Hardworking, dedicated, clever, smart, intuitive - but sadly lacking in some empathy. He had a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Manchester Uni which he completed in record time.

I was different. I wasn't smart - let me rephrase that, I was not technically as clever as he was. 

Trying to get him to help me with my Math problems in Primary School was like trying to get a Bear to teach a fish how to wrestle.

I still retain frightening memories from my dad's math tuition lessons - that was over 30+ years ago.

He just couldn't understand how I couldn't do simple math sums. Shouting at me to help me understand didn't help either. I needed someone to help me grasp the problems conceptually. He couldn't help. It was like a Swan trying to teach a dog how to fly.

The problem when you get a brilliant successful person as a leader - he might not be able to relate to the problems of ordinary people or devise workable solutions for them.

Let me end this with a joke:

So there was a bartender and two guys at a bar - the New Asia Bar at the Swisshotel. 70th floor.

This dude tells the other two - "D'you know the air is so thick up here that I can walk out into the open air and not fall?"

The other patron said, "I'd like to see that."

So he walks out the window, stands, and walks back in again. "Try it!" he tells the other patron.

The other patron is amazed and walks out the window and falls immediately to his death.

The bartender, glumly tells the surviving patron. "Superman, you ought to stop that party trick."

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