18 August 2015

PAP upgrades its own Upgrading Carrot

Uniquely Singapore inception

Minilee is expected to dissolve parliament some time after the NDRS. Nevertheless, campaign season has already begun: the opposition has resolved its coalition talks to great success, and all parties have begun unveiling their candidates.

Trust the PAP to trot out more upgrading carrots. They've already begun in Sembawang, Tanjong Pagar, Jalan Besar, and Bishan-Toa Payoh. Presumably, some MPs did not got the party memo, which upgrades the HDB upgrading carrot into the GRC master plan carrot (see media reports on Tanjong Pagar and Jalan Besar).

On the face of it, such an upgrade makes sense: HDB upgrading feels like once off, given how much they can improve your apartment block. What else can a ruling party dangle over an electorate after it finally delivered age-old promises and rushed upgrading programmes all over the island after GE2011? We can't upgrade your HDB yet again so soon for that will be a pork barrel project, so how about some GRC MASTER PLAN?

But whose master plan is it?

Presumably because Teo Chee Hean now says an MP should be qualified as estate managers, the very idea that PAP candidates are now unveilling GRC master plans are proof of their superior worth.

Except that it's the URA that publishes the Master Plan for Singapore, last in 2014. And master plans for various areas (which coincidentally fall in line with GRC boundaries), last in 2013.

As the URA puts it: the Master Plan announces "detailed plans for implementation over 1015 years", and that "the detailed planning and implementation of plans for each town is a joint effort of many government agencies." 

Given the last URA national Master Plan was published in 2014, while the last area master plans were published in 2013, how much different are the PAP's GRC Master Plans from the area master plans that the URA has published in the last 2 years?

Is the PAP presenting the work of the URA as its own?

Is the PAP running for posts at the URA?

Should URA officials be running instead for parliament?

Is the PAP politicising the URA the same way it politicised the HDB? Yet the difference is, prior to the 2015 election, most PAP candidates would refer upgrading questions to an HDB official who would accompany them on the walkabout and block visits. It seems this year, the PAP has been emboldened and would prefer to present itself as the ultimate source of any GRC master plan!

A rotting carrot?

As early as 2006, Straits Times political editor Chua Mui Hoong tells us that "voters have become familiar with the upgrading stick-and-carrot approach". In 2011, SMU conducted a survey which proved the increasing futility of the upgrading carrot on Singaporean voters. National issues were at the top of their minds, not local ones.

It will be interesting to see if upgraded upgrading carrot (essentially old wine in new wineskins) is a nation-wide strategy of the PAP, or whether it is a carrot that is dangled for what the PAP believes to be marginal wards. Every bit of pork barrel politics helps, and every vote counts in a marginal contest. Or perhaps the PAP is counting on carrot-dangling to work well especially in aging and young estates.

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