The Workers’ Party: A Case of Misrepresentation

Is this a fair description?

Is this a fair description?

Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang circulated a document in Parliament yesterday detailing the policy differences between the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and the WP. I must say that the WP’s paper cannot be further from the truth. The WP has grossly misrepresented the PAP, and such wrongs must not go uncorrected.

Before I begin, let me state that I have my own reservations about the PAP’s policies as well, but that does not preclude me from criticising weaker alternatives and setting the record straight on what the PAP has put forward. It is one thing to pick a side, and it is one thing to completely present a distorted version of policies.

Low Birth Rates

The WP stated that the PAP Government relies solely on monetary incentives ‘to entice young couples to have more babies and hope birth rates will improve’.

I don’t see it this way. But let me state clearly that I do believe that there are limits to incentivising childbirth. Barriers to birth must be tackled as well.

In fact, many people have cited the costs of having and raising a child. Responding to such concerns, the PAP Government has stepped up the amount of funds for young parents to cope with the costs. Is the WP trying to say that such a method is immoral?

Also, it must be noted that the PAP is in fact devising a multi-prong approach to tackling the problem of declining fertility. If Mr Low had paid attention to what Minister Grace Fu was saying in Parliament on Tuesday, he would have realised the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) package includes paternity leave, shared parental leave, priority in housing, medical and healthcare support, and better work-life measures among many others.

Hence, to merely simplify the measures as throwing monetary incentives is incorrect.

The WP said it believes in ‘institutional reforms’, but if speeches by its members are anything to go by, details on what these reforms entail are at best patchy and unclear.

Shrinking Citizen Core

To be fair, I like the WP’s proposal of ‘recovering citizen birth rates’. It’s a more careful approach than granting new citizenship status annually. Other than suggesting that foreign spouses be granted citizenship, the WP is very much silent on how it intends to do so. And for the record, foreign spouses are granted citizenship status after a period of being Permanent Residents.

However, the WP has once again misrepresented the PAP’s measures on tackling a shrinking Singaporean core. Again, if Mr. Low had listened, Ms. Fu stated that ‘the most important way to strengthen the size of the Singaporean core is through encouraging marriage and parenthood’.

Immigrant Integration

This is where I think the perspectives of both parties should simply come together.

The PAP Government is extremely reliant on the People’s Association (PA) and has set up Integration Committees (INCs) led by grassroots leaders for this express purpose. Surely, having a grassroots approach is better than having no approach at all.

The WP, on the other hand, believes that integration through family ties and educational institutions should be key. I don’t dispute that either.

So, is it that difficult to have the best of both worlds and simply integrate both methods? Harmonious integration is win-win for both newcomers and locals alike. No one loses from better and stronger relationships and understanding.

Ageing Population

On this count, I believe the WP to be guilty of painting the PAP as an uncaring political party, which obviously I don’t believe to be the case. My suspicion of the WP’s intentions is further fuelled when they bold the words ‘resource’ under the WP column and ‘burden’ against the PAP column.

In other words, this is blatant politicking. Don’t believe me? Examine their wording. It’s absolutely repulsive.

Whilst I agree that senior citizens should have the opportunity to work if they want to, they must not be forced to work if their health prevents them from doing so.

It is disingenuous to say that the PAP views the elderly strictly as a ‘burden’. Has the WP forgotten that the PAP has repeatedly made the case for taking care of the elderly because they have contributed to Singapore with their hard work and it is only right that they be taken care of in their golden years?

Furthermore, is it a sin to acknowledge the fact that as human beings age, the body of the elderly is not the same as its youthful counterpart?

If we can agree that ageing does bring about its physical limits, then we can agree that some of the elderly, due to poor health, will need people to look after them. And given that our workforce will really shrink, is it then wrong to bring in immigrants and foreign workers to help out with looking after them?

By painting the PAP in such a manner, the WP is genuinely naïve if it thinks that the task of caring for and looking after our seniors, with a smaller workforce is going to be a walk in the park. The WP needs to learn how to call a spade a spade. If it doesn’t then it will really be guilty of doing, in the words of its chief, ‘kicking the can down the road’.

Slowing Economy

PAP Ministers Tan Chuan-Jin and S. Iswaran have cautioned against the WP’s stance on the economy. There was a heated exchange between the two parties on the issue of raising the labour force participation rate and the need to calibrate foreign labour.

The issue of a slowing economy goes beyond labour participation rates and it is therefore not as simple as what the WP has made it out to be. The issue of growing the economy is not limited to numbers alone.

Infrastructural

The WP painted a rosy self-portrait by suggesting that infrastructure be developed for the ‘quality of life’ of the current population. The WP then went on to say that the PAP was building for an ‘immigration tsunami’.

Such claims are ridiculous. Immigration or no, infrastructure has to be developed. It is a necessary part of development in any modern city. The Downtown Line and Circle lines were definitely not built for immigration.

Consider this: do foreigners vote for the PAP? No. Singaporeans do. Would the PAP be so stupid as to court the votes of foreigners? Obviously not.

Conclusion

What this episode tells us is that the WP can and might politicise anything and everything for its own gain, even if it entails having to misrepresent its opponent’s stance in Parliament. This is hardly becoming of a credible alternative. There can be no credibility in deliberately misunderstanding and oversimplifying complex and nuanced policy positions. Yes, the PAP’s policies might be flawed in certain areas, but certainly, that is no excuse for misrepresenting what it has put forward on the record for all to see.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Workers’ Party: A Case of Misrepresentation

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 8 Feb 2013 | The Singapore Daily

  2. Well, the PAP too has politicized the whole white paper. First they announced the infrastructure ahead of the Punggol BE, without mentioning that this was to “build ahead of time” for the increased population. So if we take the announcement of the infrastructure buliding at face value, we might think it was to solve the current infrastructure strain, or if we are cynical, it is solely to win votes in the Punggol BE. Then after the white paper is released, the people know that the announcement is actually in integral part of the PAP plan to increase the population. So the PAP has practiced a tactical deception on the people. Politicizing it or not, it’s our personal opinion. Only thing is, it may turn out to be a strategic error.

  3. One reason why integration of new citizens should not go through the PA is because it allows the PAP to get first dips with the new citizens, influencing the chances of more future votes to swing their way.

  4. “What this episode tells us is that the WP can and might politicise anything and everything for its own gain, even if it entails having to misrepresent its opponent’s stance in Parliament. This is hardly becoming of a credible alternative.”

    So ? The most important thing to us now is “are they doing for the sake of all singaporeans” ? We just need to choose a lesser devil. So be it .

    You either choose WP to do its best to speak for Singaporeans , or you can choose the PAP the deceptive party that do anything for sake of money and staying in power even to extend to replace its master with foreigners to dilute vote and voice. Until a better credible alternative, if it ever exists, and if ever get majority support, challenge WP, we just pick WP.

    Bear in mind, that opp party and incumbent are politicians, and we trust the politicians that promote our interest foremost, and it will be very naive and gullible to believe that politics is not about promoting party’s interest. What is important is whether the party can inspire confidence and trust of the people to support the party, and this is what all it matters.

    Even if what you observe is true, all we need to do is just pick a lesser devil . Just pick a choice that sensible to you at current situation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s