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Singapore after the GE

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: What changes, if any, should the 2015 general election results spell for policymaking in Singapore? How would the GE outcome shape the political landscape here?


Max Loh

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: What changes, if any, should the 2015 general election results spell for policymaking in Singapore? How would the GE outcome shape the political landscape here?

Max Loh
Managing Partner, Asean and Singapore

THE election results reflect the importance of trust - that it takes a long time to build trust and continued effort to sustain it. Using business as an analogy, the government as trustees and stewards must strive to be responsive, connected and insightful so as to deliver exceptional outcomes for their "clients" - in this case, the electorate.

Post-2011, the government has been seen to be more responsive to policy feedback and public sentiment; more connected and engaged with its constituents via an expanded use of outreach channels; and has demonstrated a clear comprehension of how it will lead Singapore towards a compelling shared future.

The strong mandate secured is seen as a big win for the country given the clear endorsement of policies by the electorate. At the same time, there remains a recognition that diversity of views for better outcomes continue to be valued and a consultative and collaborative approach will be necessary for future policy-making.

Dhirendra Shantilal
Board Director and Head, Asia-Pacific
Fircroft Group

MORE than anything the election results are an endorsement of the status quo. Singaporeans have made it abundantly clear that they have no appetite for significant change in the political landscape.

The more consultative approach taken by policymakers as well as politicians since 2011 has won over the majority of Singaporeans. Since 2011 we've seen concrete action on matters of public concern - immigration, transport, public housing, to name a few. The government has been rewarded and this was seen in the strong rebound of support. So what this result calls for is more of the same - open and responsive governance within a stable framework.

The only danger is that responsiveness can veer into populism with policies crafted to win votes and not necessarily to ensure the long-term success of Singapore. The government needs to tread a fine line between catering to the demands of citizens and balancing this with our long-term economic needs - skills, jobs, training, welfare, scaling back foreign talent while maintaining growth. The government must continue to engage the citizens at all levels.

Matt Harris
Chief Executive
AIG Asia-Pacific Insurance Pte Ltd

THE outcome of the general election is a resounding vote of confidence for continued good governance and the stable environment that the Singapore government has created, especially at a time of regional and global political and economic turmoil.

A strong government that provides political stability and policy continuity is paramount in creating an attractive business environment. As we look to the future, this strong support for the government will continue to bolster business confidence in Singapore. We have already seen robust policies which have ensured a skilled workforce and low unemployment, and maintained Singapore's edge as one of the leading countries to do business.

The policies must continue to focus on the labour market and promotion of a Singaporean core to ensure that Singaporeans have abundant opportunities to excel, and for businesses, higher productivity and greater business growth.

We are excited about the opportunities ahead as Singapore embarks on its next 50 years and builds on its sterling legacy.

John Bittleston
Terrific Mentors International

THE first reason to be grateful for the election result is the stability and solidarity it shows the rest of the world. In uncertain times a confident Singapore needs to be reinforced externally even though we know it internally. World commentators have said how good it is to see Singapore strong and independent. To be a world player Singapore has to signal its next big move.

Territorially restricted, there are opportunities all around us to do the equivalent of what Kennedy did when caught in the doldrums. He sent America to the moon. Singapore will not go to the moon but we need a big project to give us goals for the next 10 years. It will be a government priority to provide that scene-changing, politically educating purpose. The young PAP coterie recognises the need for Singapore now to look outwards. We are no longer a parish but a grown-up state.

Florence Ng
Managing Director
Straits Talent Private Limited

AS a business leader, I am pleased to see continued confidence and stability in our government. It is good for commerce and international trade. It is good for business. It creates jobs. The PAP's landslide win shows that Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot. Ultimately, most of us vote with common sense, all things considered.

Since GE 2011, the government has adopted a more consultative and engaging approach in policymaking and this has been appreciated by the new generation of discerning voters. This paradigm shift is healthy for our political landscape and long may it continue.

The opposition parties are promising a re-match in the next GE and this will no doubt keep the PAP on its toes. We have matured as a nation and voters are more politically savvy. Gone are the days of walkovers. While the need for diversity in Parliament is important, it should not distract from our nation's main goal - to continue to stay relevant on the world map. With no natural resources to fall back on, human resources are all we have; we simply cannot afford the dramatic revolving door politics that go on in other nations.

Dileep Nair
Singapore High Commissioner to Ghana

MOST psephologists have listed a litany of factors for the PAP's recent landslide election victory, without pinpointing which are the most important. Uncertainty about the future looms large in the minds of the electorate. Everyone is concerned about jobs, cost of living and security, especially given what is happening in the countries around us. These issues matter more than anything else. The PAP is seen as the party that can best assure that these bread-and-butter issues are squarely addressed.

The similarity is striking with the Conservative Party's stunning win in the UK elections in May, when UK voters, who are also worried about jobs and living costs, expressed far more confidence with the Tories' handling of the economy. The PAP now has to reach out to all Singaporeans, even to those who opposed them, without any triumphalism or hubris, to rally the country together and seek pragmatic solutions to make this a cherished home for all.

As for the opposition parties, they will have to work on their manifestos to convince the electorate with cogent arguments that they can be trusted to manage the economy even better than the PAP. Ironically, this may prove to be an easier task when there are less uncertainties on the horizon.

Toby Koh
Group Managing Director
Ademco Security Group

SINGAPOREANS have spoken. Many may moan about the policies and practices of the PAP. But when it comes down to a real choice, the proven and reliable PAP is the obvious and chosen.

This clearly shows that Singaporeans are still conservative and not ready for radical change. We are generally satisfied with the PAP's performance since 2011. The PAP's increased assistance to the elderly and low-income is a popular move in the correct direction. Many middle class and high-income earners I have spoken to do not begrudge more financial benefits to the elderly and poor even when the likely source of funding is higher taxes.

The PAP is now comforted that rational policies that are well thought out and communicated to Singaporeans do resonate with people even though there was a thin layer of vocal disagreement. Engagement with voters on an even closer level seems effective and essential from the election results. Investors and stakeholders in Singapore can now clearly see why the country is a model of political stability in the past and most certainly into the next few terms. 

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director

IN giving the ruling party a strong mandate to continue governing Singapore, the electorate is expecting them to continue to be less arrogant, to eventually discard the leaders-know-all posture, listen more, consult more, and to tap the collective wisdom of all, including the Opposition. I think not every idea from the Opposition is inferior, weak or unworthy. 

In today's volatile, uncertain, complex environment - which demands teamwork and reliance on others to be successful - a humble political party might perform better than one that believes it has the answer to everything. It is clear to the electorate that the ruling party has learnt lessons from under-planning (which is no different from bad planning) prior to the 2011 elections, which led to the many problems relating to transport, housing, health care and foreign workers.

In the new political landscape, the civil service, government agencies and ministries will have to work harder to be seen to be more apolitical in rendering service and support to all Members of Parliament who are constitutionally elected to serve Singaporeans and Singapore. 

The electorate can look forward to a political landscape in which parties can agree to disagree, respect one another's perspectives and engage in robust, constructive debate, to collectively take Singapore successfully into SG100. Above all, going forward, any political party aspiring to govern Singapore should know that a more discerning and informed electorate expects clean and honest politics.

Laletha Nithiyanandan
Managing Director
Talent Design Potential

PROPERTY prices and the cost of living in Singapore have been escalating rapidly and this is pushing business firms to look at other locations that are more cost effective. It also creates a constant uncertainty for businesses; despite the many benefits Singapore has to offer, it still has to make sense financially to operate here. Business sentiment here needs to improve and this can happen if the cost of running a business here is reduced so as to attract job-creating ventures and retain them in Singapore.

The political landscape here has changed for the next 20 years at least, because of the influx of new citizens over the past decade. Their priorities and aspirations are different from the Singaporeans who were born and bred here. Integrating them into Singapore is something the government needs to actively focus on; perhaps bring back some of the campaigns of the past like the courtesy and road safety campaigns.

Kenny Yap Kim-Lee
Executive Chairman & MD
Qian Hu

SOME neutral voters might have been put off by the aggressiveness of the opposition party supporters and were perhaps offended by their remarks. The voters do not hate the opposition parties, but they fear their supporters. That might have led them to vote for the ruling party so as "to be safe".

The ruling party should continue to be humble, consultative and compassionate. But they must also put the interests of the nation first and push through policies, even if they are not too popular, such as the population policy so as to ensure the sustainability of our nation.

Rohith Murthy
Managing Director

THE 2015 General Election results have given the PAP a clear mandate and reflects voter satisfaction with many of the policies implemented post 2011 election. We do not foresee any major change of course to the policies and political landscape in the near future.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did speak about grooming the next generation of leaders in the Cabinet and we could see a potential successor clearly identified before the next election. A clear mandate for the PAP will also strengthen both local and overseas consumer and investor confidence in Singapore, despite an uncertain international environment.

K Ravi Kumar
Shaw Chair Professor and Dean
Nanyang Business School, NTU

THE raft of media coverage, locally and internationally, on the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and on Singapore's golden jubilee celebrations contributed to a very positive view of how well Singapore has done, both economically and socially.

With such affirmative assessments from the developed countries and top international media, Singaporeans may feel quite content and proud of the administration that has got them such kudos.

In my view, the above contributed to the GE results, which assure Singaporeans, investors and the business community of policy continuity and stability. Set against the backdrop of current economic and political volatility in the region, Singapore's steady and sustained growth, pro-business and pro-education-development policies will bode well for Nanyang Business School (NBS) and other tertiary institutions.

Institutions of higher learning like the NBS will flourish in tandem with the nation, to meet the growth in demand for formal business education, and groom business leaders to lead in Singapore and the region.

Michael Smith
Country Manager
Randstad Singapore

THE government's resounding win at the election demonstrates the high level of public confidence in the way it has handled the country's main concerns, such as the labour market. The result paves the way for the government to progress the important issues impacting Singapore amid today's global economic uncertainty.

One of these issues is to grow workforce participation rates among women and older workers in a bid to tackle the demographic changes afoot in Singapore. With declining marriage and birth rates, combined with increased life expectancy, by 2020 there will be one person over 65 for every four people of working age.

Future policies should encourage employers to further embrace diversity at the workplace, and think differently about how to integrate employees of different generations, genders, nationalities and cultures.

With the strong mandate, the government now has a critical task to ensure a core Singaporean workforce. Randstad is committed to working with the government to help mentor, coach and shape young local talent and prepare them for fulfilling careers.

Nirvik Singh
Chairman & CEO
Grey Group Asia-Pacific

THE overwhelming win by the PAP is a vote of confidence in the party's policies and track record. With a majority win of 69.9 per cent of the votes, it is notable that they could not have done it so decisively without the votes of the younger generation. The resounding victory comes amid the uncertainties in the region - Malaysia's domestic political turmoil, China's economic slowdown, and then the uneven recovery in the US and Europe. For an export-driven country like Singapore, political stability is of paramount importance.

While the PAP has implemented policies to address important domestic issues such as housing, public transport, immigration, health care, and retirement affordability, the next five-year term will see the ruling party take on further challenges such as an ageing workforce and a move away from traditional manufacturing towards a Smart Nation vision. This they hope to do by putting in place infrastructure, policies and an ecosystem that sees the people, businesses and government all working together in unison.

Singapore has succeeded beyond expectation in its first 50 years, and there seems to be an overriding confidence that it will remain on this path of success.

JY Pook
Tableau APAC

2015 reflected a coming-of-age for Singapore with events that galvanised us like never before. Together, we grieved the passing of our founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, marked our golden jubilee, and accorded the government a strong mandate to take the country forward.

To preserve this sense of togetherness, we are seeing more listening, consultation and collaboration between government and stakeholders from the onset of policymaking. While we become more sensitive to emotions of the populace, we must also complement intuition with rational, data-driven decision making. McKinsey and others have done extensive studies on how organisations that do so are more productive, and are more likely to see higher returns.

Tableau's expansion in Asia-Pacific is a prominent chapter in our international growth story and Singapore, with her clean, transparent, and fair policies, is the hub and heart of our operations. As more voices go into policymaking in Singapore, we believe that enabling policymakers to see and understand the data that is generated from these voices, will also enable the right policies we need to thrive in a smarter future.

Kim Douglas
Vice-President and Managing Director
SapientNitro Singapore & Hong Kong

THE PAP's manifesto includes the desire to be a "Smart Nation, where daily life is enhanced and made seamless by technology", and this provides an intelligent insight into the future of Singapore's political landscape. The policymakers have been given a clear mandate to keep Singapore as the best place in the region to do business and they see technology as key to determining success for companies here. Singapore will become the world's early adopter and demonstrate a clear bias towards hi-tech solutions and an education system that embraces tech innovation.

I also expect to see policies that will support investment in becoming the "global capital of ideas, innovation and thought leadership". That means continuing to attract foreign investment and a global workforce that will inspire, cultivate and complement Singaporeans.

It's my belief that the PAP's support for upskilling and technology will help Singapore's policymakers drive the future of Asian economies and the country's ever growing influence on the global agenda.

Daniel Soh
Managing Partner
Leadership Advisory Inc

THE Singaporean values of meritocracy, embracing diversity and pragmatism are values that we carry deep within us. Hard work and good performance will be rewarded, that is the reality everywhere. This is seen (for the PAP) in our recent general election.

It is important that our political leaders continue to find and create opportunities or platforms to interact and mingle with people on the ground. It is often difficult for leaders to stay grounded, if leadership is practised from an ivory tower and policies are formulated in isolation.

I also believe that integrity is a fundamental virtue that any political leader must possess before we evaluate his or her capabilities. As Warren Buffet is quoted to have said "... in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you." A leader who is authentic and embodies integrity, conviction and passion will naturally draw loyal followers.

Ronald Lee
Managing Director
PrimeStaff Management Services

INDEED, the large victory margin came as a surprise given the general sentiment on the ground and online chatter leading up to the election. I am hopeful and have strong faith that the results will not lead to complacency on the part of the ruling party.

Moving forward, I suggest that Members of Parliament should undertake the position on a full-time basis and not hold another full-time job concurrently. This would enable them to dedicate more time to work the ground, maintain better visibility and stay connected with more people to explain existing and new government policies and bring awareness to the many benefits that the government is offering, which many people, especially the less educated, are unaware of. This would also help dispel the notion that PAP MPs are proud and arrogant. 

Acknowledging that total acceptance of the party by the population is impossible, I believe the suggestion above would be the best opportunity for the PAP to work towards reversing the strong and sometimes misguided anti-government sentiment - or the results could just swing the other way the next time round.  

Zaheer Merchant
Regional Director (Singapore & Europe)
QI Group of Companies

ARGUABLY, the results of GE 2015 may not spell any policymaking changes. The reality is - and as a review of the PAP manifesto and policies in the past three years shows - the government has set in place certain long-term measures. These touch upon broad-ranging aspects from CPF, MRT enhancements, medical and healthcare policies, to population demographics.

If we are expecting any "hidden surprises" of policymaking for the populace, we may well find none since there has been transparency in what proposed plans are in store. There will be refinements and tweaks, of course, depending on how certain policies are viewed.

The overall election outcome and the significant vote swing will make for easier policy implementation, but as long as the policies are beneficial overall, this is positive. As for shaping the "political landscape", a simple comparison of the GE2011 and GE2015 results shows that voters are swayed by cogent reasoning and good policies. Clear communication of effective policies have a bearing on political outcomes, and as long as this continues, it can only make for both a better government and debate.

Gerald Foo
Walton International Group

GE2015 threw up many interesting outcomes. First, democracy is not only seen in action but is very much alive. For a long time, detractors and critics of Singapore had sneered at the lack of "true democracy" because of the way elections were conducted. The fact that for the first time all 89 seats were contested and 2.46 million voters had a chance to vote put paid to this criticism once and for all.

Second, the perceived fear among some citizens about contesting or criticising the ruling party for fear of retaliation by the government can also be dismissed, judging from the slew of opposition candidates, many with impressive credentials, and the harsh statements against the government made during the campaign period. In fact, the election also showed an electorate that is maturing, capable of deciding the kind of future it wants for the country.

Finally, the incumbent party's victory has established the PAP as arguably the longest democratically elected political party in the world. A phenomenal feat achieved against a backdrop of a formula of clean, honest and effective government.

Annie Yap
Group Managing Director
AYP Group

WITH the PAP winning 69.9 per cent of valid votes, this strong mandate and support for the ruling party reflects the kind of policies that Singaporeans look towards. They want the government to address hot-button issues directly and come up with sound policies to provide solutions to problems. Since 2011, the PAP has been working hard to address issues such as cost of living and retirement adequacy. Being able to deliver their promises on these issues was definitely a reason why Singaporean voters renewed their confidence in the PAP.

Responsible and honest politics also matter. This GE outcome also shows that Singaporeans are not looking for opposition just for opposition's sake but consider carefully  how sustainable and purposeful proposed plans are. Policymaking in Singapore has to be pragmatic and relevant, especially in this digital age where people are a lot more vocal expressing their views on the Internet.

Vijay Iyengar
Agrocorp International

THE 2015 election results were a resounding win for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the People's Action Party. While the Opposition had made some waves with charismatic speeches and well attended rallies during campaigning, the electorate was not swayed and stuck with the PAP's track record and its vision for the future. The PAP's message this election has been for more of the same with regards to the policies and structures that have taken us into SG50, with a few subtle changes to ensure that Singapore can continue on a path of continuous and inclusive growth. As DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned in a recent speech, the various policy changes geared to an inclusive Singapore had been set in motion long before the last two general elections.

The PAP constantly emphasised during electioneering that it was important not to mortgage the future for current benefits and the electorate was convinced both by the merit of the argument and the manner in which government ministers went about explaining the various policy measures put in place, including those on foreign labour, health care and CPF.

The government will continue to put forward policy measures geared to a more caring Singapore, and committed to long-term but possibly lower growth in the years to come. In an uncertain world, with political and economic challenges, this is not going to be an easy task.

The issues raised by the Opposition did get traction with some of the electorate. It will be important that the PAP, with its increased mandate, addresses these issues in a manner that is both beneficial and seen to be beneficial to all Singaporeans. At the same time, the Opposition needs to coalesce its organisations and messages to produce a sustained effort, one that is active throughout the five years and not only during the election process.

Robin C Lee
Group COO
Bok Seng Group

THE message for the ruling party cannot be any clearer than what this GE has given. Surprise it may be, but it is a well-deserved mandate. The decision of voters to give their ballots to the ruling party did not just happen in recent weeks; it was the culmination of all the actions of the government between 2011 and now. The 2011 GE result was a "yellow card" for the PAP as there were quite a few issues that irked Singaporeans. Change is not the word for policymaking now; rather, continuity is.

It's absolutely vital now to continue to entrench the work and policies done since 2011 to continue improving the life of Singaporeans. These are the taming of property prices, building of more affordable HDB flats, caring for our pioneers with love and respect, helping Singaporean PMETs to compete fairly in the job market, improving transport reliability and narrowing the rich-poor divide. Yes, I feel the government has effectively addressed most of the fundamental concerns and the mandate confirmed that we are on the right path to further thrive as a nation.

David Leong
Managing Director
PeopleWorldwide Consulting Pte Ltd

AN almost 70 per cent vote share for the PAP is a remarkable feat; it's quite implausible in democratic elections in developed countries. The PAP government is unlikely to change its policymaking style because of this strong mandate. In fact this strong mandate only confirms that what has been done in the last four years - including in education, health care, jobs and Pioneer Generation benefits -  are generally well accepted. The PAP government has transformed from a high-handed, top-down governance approach to a consultative, bottom-up style with a heart. This is shown through PM Lee Hsien Loong's words and actions.

This GE outcome is an affirmation of the PAP's scorecard since 2011. With this, the PAP should move in to strengthen the social safety net, build social cohesiveness among the different demographic groups, and build a stronger Singapore for the next 50 years.

Dora Hoan
Group CEO
Best World International Ltd

THE PAP won the 2015 election. In fact, it is also a win for voters.

The 40 per cent group of "neutral" voters have cast their vote in favour of the PAP this time, largely because they could feel the PAP's change and sincerity in engaging with the people. They also hope the government can continue to maintain its integrity and non-corrupt governance.

The voters' greater hope is that the PAP will implement good policies that are advantageous to our country, the people and businesses, after receiving such a strong mandate. We look forward to having a good balance between economic and social policies. The ruling party must also continue to strive to do more "right things" because Singapore voters have awakened - they now know how to vote to protect the best interests of the people and the country.

Christophe Duchatellier

THE unemployment rate has remained low and stable for the past five years, with total employment reaching nearly 3.63 million.

The tight labour market will continue to place upward pressure on wages. However, these wage increases can only be sustained through productivity growth, with the upgrading of jobs and skills.

Policymakers should calibrate Singapore's labour market policy towards even higher workforce growth as well as strengthening the local employment rate, especially in the services sector.

For the remaining part of 2015 and 2016, it is important that we continue to support restructuring towards a manpower-lean and high-end economy driven by productivity - especially in the manufacturing sector and domestic-oriented services. Overall productivity growth is not likely to see a significant uplift this year, but the government has rolled out excellent programmes to support this area. SMEs, as well as MNCs, will be able to get advice to increase their productivity and reach the government's target of 2-3 per cent annual growth over a 10-year period to 2019.

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