PAP Manifesto Falls Short?

Singapore’s ruling party is getting little online support for its new platform. Was the effort simply too little, too late?

Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) issued a manifesto containing its election agenda on April 17 but it seems many voters—at least in cyberspace—aren’t impressed with it.

Released less than three weeks before the upcoming general elections on May 7, the manifesto mentions the PAP’s vision of a ‘vibrant and inclusive society with opportunities for a better life for each and every citizen’ in Singapore.

To achieve this vision, the PAP vowed to do the following: 1) Create opportunities for higher incomes for all; 2) Improve the lives of lower-income Singaporeans; 3) Bring out the best in every child; 4) Develop a vibrant city and an endearing home; 5) Help seniors stay active, healthy and engaged; and 6) Involve all Singaporeans in shaping the future.

Who would argue with this beautiful vision guaranteeing the right of young and old citizens to share in the progress of Singapore?

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Singaporeans who’ve criticized the manifesto have complained that it doesn’t include new solutions or ideas. They’ve said that the proposed programs have been tried before but didn’t make any difference at all in improving the quality of life in Singapore. They reminded PAP leaders that while government ministers are receiving some of the highest salaries in the world, income inequality in Singapore has increased. They cited as well the rising cost of schooling, health care and housing as among the bad legacies of the PAP.

PAP is the current ruling party in Singapore, and has been in power for more than five decades already.

Furthermore, critics noted that the publication of the party’s manifesto was late, since the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) had already discussed and distributed its election agenda a week earlier. Some election observers who compared the programs of the PAP and WP picked the opposition agenda as more appealing and substantive. In fact, the PAP document consists of only 25 pages while the WP manifesto is composed of 63 pages with detailed recommendations in 15 different policy areas.

Some voters also slammed the PAP manifesto for being too vague. Nigel Tan, the chief editor of The Satay Club, an online political portal, is disappointed that the manifesto contains only a ‘series of vague promises with neither details of specific policies nor information on how the various stated aims were going to be implemented.’

Through the manifesto, the PAP hoped to convince more voters, in particular first-time voters, to choose its brand of leadership. But in fact, that it was forced to release a manifesto in reaction to the opposition platform may be indicative of its desperation to reverse its declining popularity and reach out to alienated segments of the population.

So did the manifesto improve the PAP’s electoral chances? If online reactions are the gauge, then it seems the party still has some serious work to do in the next few days if it wants to secure another landslide victory in the coming polls.