On Immigration, the AHPETC thing, and Political Freedom
A recent dialogue session at NUSS saw an exchange between representatives of 10 political parties including the PAP and WP. To be honest, this has got to be the first time that I’ve heard of 10 political parties talking about policy to each other, and it’s a shame that I wasn’t there to see the spectacle that it likely was. News sources identified several issues that were discussed during the dialogue session, which included immigration, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) Report on Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East (AHPETC), and political freedom, which I will briefly discuss in that order.
Immigration has been a hot button issue for some time in Singapore. Ever since the population white paper came out in 2013, the magical figure of 6.9 million has been thrown about whenever we complain about overcrowding. As many Singaporeans take to social media outlets to complain of overcrowding and our train system encounters its first few major breakdowns, the prospect of welcoming more people onto our tiny island so that they may chase their dreams and build their lives seems impossible. Add to that the concerns of a socio-cultural mismatch arising from viral photos and/or videos of foreigners being caught doing terrible things such as the PRC woman defecating in front of Holland Village MRT station, or the Caucasian man verbally abusing someone for wearing a t-shirt that was not to his liking.
Yet, aside from the larger economic implications a halt to immigration would bring, it is strange that we, a nation of immigrants, would speak against people in that situation now. Many of our grandparents or great grandparents came to Singapore just a century ago or less in search of the same fortune and opportunity that these migrants seek Add to that the fact that nearly all of these migrants are working and economically active, powering our economy ahead through doing the jobs that we Singaporeans regard as undesirable as well as complementing our skillsets in engineering, finance, and other knowledge work. This fellow puts it very well, albeit a little coarsely (and from a British perspective).
AGO and the Whole AHPETC Thing
As a taxpayer, it is understandably concerning that the dollars that are flowing into my government’s coffers or that of my contributions to my town council are not being maximised. Its bad that there were lapses both at AHPETC and other agencies including the MOE, MOH, and IDA, and those responsible should indeed take a little more responsibility than just saying sorry and expecting us to move on. Concrete evidence that controls will be put in place to prevent future lapses from occurring again will need to be presented, and those responsible for the lapses should understand that no amount of explanation could repair the resulting damage to their reputation. Yet, to be fair, talk of this AHPETC saga is indeed getting a little old. I personally grow a little weary of hearing about this so many times, and would rather have a little more pre-election airtime on other issues. What happened to those discussions on education, healthcare, housing, the economy, and labour that we used to see?
Political freedom has many aspects. As a society, we are not quite yet at a level of political freedom that would allow organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan or Communists to be registered as legitimate political organisations and be allowed to organise events and activities in public. Yet, the past few years has seen quite an improvement in political activity in our country. A proliferation of articles written by citizen journalists that openly slam the PAP government and how busy Hong Lim Park is seems to attest to the fact that Singaporean society is slowly learning to embrace and make use of their freedoms. It’s difficult for me to comment on the precise workings of this freedom, the various aspects that make up political freedom, or to test its true extent, but I personally don’t feel stifled in any way from expressing my opinions and beliefs, although I probably cannot say the same for everyone.
I will probably provide a greater depth in subsequent articles, so do look out for them!