Need we worry about our reserves if opposition parties form coalition government after Polling Day?

By July 8, 2020Current

TL;DR – Would a coalition government formed by opposition parties subscribe to the PAP’s longstanding values of saving for future generations?

What if the oppositions, collectively, win more seats than the People’s Action Party?

It’s possible, and we’ve already walked you through in this article.

What would happen to Singapore if the PAP loses the 2020 General Election (GE2020)?

We have two more days to Polling Day, and I’m wondering if most of you have already made up your minds who to vote for.

Or are you planning to spend Cooling Off Day tomorrow to read through manifestos, Google the candidates and make a decision tomorrow?

Well, I’ve gone through the bigger political parties’ manifestos and let’s just say I’m worried. What if they win?

All I see in most of the opposition parties’ manifestos are basically wishlist of social programmes that promise to give more to Singaporeans. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind you.

But my questions are: One, how are we going to fund them? Two, how sustainable are they?

It should also be noted that most of the opposition parties are talking about holding off GST hikes, or even decreasing the rate.

And since we’re now facing the crisis of a generation.

We can expect the next few years to be really rough economically (Some people have said it’s gonna be worse than the Great Depression in the 1930s), there’s another critical question to ask. If elected and if they’re government, what COVID-19 plans do they have in terms saving lives and livelihoods?

Malaysia case study: Dr M said “We did not expect we’d win.”

During their last election, no one too thought that Malaysia’s long-term ruling party Barisan Nasional (BN) would fall. But fall it did, and four opposition parties came together to form a coalition government. They called themselves Pakatan Harapan.

Yeps, all past tense. Cos it’s really tough for different political parties, each with their own leadership teams and with own ideologies, to work cohesively together overnight. They had made 10 promises when the coalition was first formed, to be delivered in 100 days.

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But nope, they failed.

This was what then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said,

“While it’s easy to make promise during election, it is not so easy to implement them if you win the election.”

Dr Mahathir said that Pakatan Harapan did not expect to win the last general election and therefore made promises in its manifesto which were difficult to deliver.

“We thought we were going to lose. We put in tough things in the manifesto so that if we lose, the (BN) government would be in a quandary (after winning the polls).”

“But now, we are the government. We are victims of our own manifesto.”

Never say never.

Just like we weren’t expecting Trump to win. Just like we weren’t expecting the Leave camp to trimph in the Brexit referendum.

Now, back to Singapore.

Why can’t we use more of the Net Investments Returns Contribution (NIRC)?

It’s a recurrent narrative from the opposition parties and their supporters that the PAP/Government are not generous enough in their programmes. After all, we have so much in our reserves that we’re not even able to tell anyone, right?

And I’ll be lying if I say I’m not worried about about what if the opposition parties do win and form government after Friday.

With all their wishlists and spend-and-spend policies, and their eagerness to run to our war chest of reserves, I worry we will erode this very strong advantage that we’ve been enjoying.

Just in case you missed it, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan answered this question during a Facebook Live session earlier today.

He responding to a resident’s question on what becomes of the 50% cent of NIRC that cannot be used for government Budgets, and why it cannot be disbursed to Singaporeans.

Dr Balakrishnan, however, emphasised the need to save for a rainy day. He also reminded us that the current Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Government to dip into its reserves

I’ve hardly seen Dr Balakrishnan lose his composure. But in this clip, he got all choked up when he was sharing his personal story about his mother.


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Here’s the transcript if you prefer to read,

Qn: Every year we allocate 50% of the Net Investments Returns Contribution (NIRC) to the national budget. I’d like to know what happens to the other half. Also, why can’t the monies be dispensed to our fellow Singaporeans especially during these trying and unprecedented times. Thank you!

VB: Well, that’s another serious, deep question and well worth a straight answer.

First point, why do we even have reserves?

And the answer is we have significant reserves because the Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation operated on the basis of always, always spending less than what you earn. And over 55 years, we’ve built up that reserve. So never never forget that we’re one of the few countries in the world with significant reserves and it’s because of values. That’s the first point.

Now next point, or your next question was do we spend it in a rainy day. And if you look now, we’re in the middle of the crisis of a generation and we are using the reserves for rainy day. So there’s no question about that.

Your other question was why 50% for now, and what happens to the other 50% of the NIRC. There’s a very simple answer to that. We take half for this generation, we set aside half for the next generation. Simple and it seems fair.

Now let me give you a more personal take on this…

(Long pause… and you can see him getting emotional and all choked up…)

My mother never saw her father because he passed away one or two months before she was born. This was 92 years ago. So she knew what hardship and deprivation was. All her life after that, she couldn’t really spend money. She was always worried about a rainy day. And she was always saving and squirreling money.

She passed away 22 years ago. And, one of my enduring memories, because she knew she was going to pass away, was setting aside money for her grandchildren. And as I saw her doing that and making her arrangements, I knew this was money she did not spend on herself, kept and saved and squirreled away.

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She didn’t give it to me, but she gave it to the grandchildren. So I feel very very strongly about having savings and about preparing for rainy day.

And for trying our best to make sure that our children and our grandchildren will have a legacy and will have a starting line that is more secure than previous generations.

And so long as Singapore and Singaporeans retain these values, we’ll be alright.

And we will look after the future. No matter what happens.

And always always save for rainy day. Look after your family, give your children and grandchildren more than what you started with. So this is something I feel very very deeply about. Very personally about.

So if you think therefore that I’ve been too tight on expenditures for the present, I’m telling you why.

So yea, understand why.

Understand, too, that we now have reserves to help us because the past generations of Singaporeans scrimped and saved for us. So let’s keep these values of wanting to also leave something for our future generations.

As for the opposition parties’ manifestos and proposals, I’d like to quote Professor Ben Leong here. He was talking about the Workers’ Party in his Facebook note, but I think it applies to most, if not all, of the opposition parties.

Just because confirm don’t need to run the Government doesn’t mean WP should anyhow hoot for maximum electoral advantage.


(Featured image via)


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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