Will policy changes reap political dividents? It's hard to say

Will policy changes reap political dividents? It's hard to say

SINGAPORE - No sooner had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered a National Day Rally (NDR) speech that he said heralded a "major shift", than the opposition Workers' Party characterised it as a step in their direction.

From removing the age limit and exclusions on MediShield insurance, to shortening loan tenures to calculate the affordability of HDB flats, the WP said these were policies it had "long advocated for".

This highlights a new dilemma for the ruling party in enacting measures desired by a large majority of voters.

These may not automatically pay off in increased support as in the past, as they come in the wake of consecutive electoral defeats - last year's Hougang by-election, and this year's Punggol East by-election.

As National University of Singapore Associate Professor Reuben Wong puts it: "There are two possible responses from the voter: the PAP is doing the right thing, so I should support them; or to get the PAP to do this, vote for the WP."

While observers say it's too early to tell which way the scales will tip, there are several factors which they say brighten the picture for the PAP.

First, some of the new policies, especially in health care, will satisfy those who swung away from the PAP for tangible, bread-and-butter reasons, which new policies like MediShield Life now address.

Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Gillian Koh cites baby boomers as one such group. In a post-2011 GE survey the IPS did, this group evinced a shift away from supporting the political status quo. A big reason, she argues, was their concerns about health-care bills and burdening their children.

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