Singapore Elections Watch: Progress Singapore Party and re-run of Tan Ching Bock

Photo by Kentaro Iwamoto for Nikkei Asian Review

There’s been a lot of recent press around the launch of the Progress Singapore Party which was founded by Dr Tan Ching Bock. If you’re not aware, Dr Tan was a member of the PAP, rising all the way to the top of the PAP CEC, and a PAP MP until his first retirement from politics. He is also noted for almost winning in a 3 way contest for President in 2011, losing by a very slim margin to the then PAP endorsed candidate and former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan. If reports are to believed, then the party has a few goals that it intends to run on.

  1. Job priority for Singaporeans
  2. Reduce the number of foreigners through a re-negotiation of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (ISCECA)
  3. Preferential treatment of homegrown companies especially for government contracts
  4. Lower the voting age from 21 to 18

While we await more information from the party on what may further be included in their platform. 2 things struck me when reading the article. The first thing was the continued, in my opinion, rant on how foreigners are taking the jobs of Singaporeans and by proxy the argument would be that they are deflating the wage market. Though the mention of the ISCECA would indicate that the they do not fear all foreigners just the ones of the brown variety. Coming off the latest race-related controversy, it is interesting that this new party has chosen to focus it’s ire against foreigners against the brownest of foreigners.

A plain viewing of this action would seem to indicate that this is just a racist party line, and their desire is to reduce the number of brown people in Singapore that they feel are disturbing the “natural” balance. However, without more information I would not accuse the party of a racist platform because it can be argued that a number of companies have abused the privileges of ISCECA to bring in Indian professionals on rolling 2 year visas as a cost saving mechanism. It is however, quite unlikely that ISCECA would be renegotiated without ruffling feathers and instead more could be done in creating a positive hiring environment for locals so that they can pick up critical skills and experience. While the intent seems good from a local angle it does carry with it a number of nationalist sentiments, which have been growing globally. This is more unique in a country like Singapore which has been able to benefit disproportionately from globalisation and free trade. While I agree that laws and regulations should be put in place to prevent the abuse of using foreigners in all positions, it should not be turned to the point that companies feel that they have to hire people that don’t add value to their operations. A balance must be struck and we should avoid a deep dive into nativism.

Second is the platform to reduce the voting age to 18. To be honest, this seems more like a vote grab than anything else. There appears to be no reason for the reduction besides the point that other countries already do it. The fact is there aren’t really many in depth studies that have indicated when the “brain” approaches maturity though if we take a leaf out of the insurers textbook young people shouldn’t get the vote until their 25 when their propensity for rash actions drops. At the end of the day the brains and people develop at different speeds and due to different experiences. In fact I would argue that if they want to drop the voting age to 18, there should be a corresponding law that prevents people over the age of 80 from voting, after all at 80 you really don’t have that long of a runway left to be impacted by policies today. Or we could do away with voting ages entirely. As long as you exist you get to vote, and in your youth your parents may act as your regents to vote for you or what really should happen is that they educate you on the process so that you can vote wisely. Kids are wise, and I’m sure many of them can make good choices. But if the party is just proposing a 3 year drop – it speaks to a naked vote grab that is purely manipulative.

While I may have drawn some early conclusions on the party, I would encourage everybody to take a closer look at the people and the policies so as to arrive at your own conclusions.

Progress Singapore Party –

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