'Most feel Govt has got major social policies right'

'Most feel Govt has got major social policies right'
(from left) Mr Henry Kwek; Mr K Shanmugam and Mr Louis Ng at a press conference to introduce candidates for Nee Soon GRC at Nee Soon East PAP Branch on Aug 26, 2015.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Most Singaporeans feel that the Government has got major social and economic policies right since it began moving towards greater state support, Law Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday, though he added that it did not necessarily mean an increased vote share for the PAP.

Speaking at the introduction of new candidates for the PAP's Nee Soon GRC slate, which he leads, Mr Shanmugam said even though most people acknowledge that the Government is doing its best to respond to long- and short-term issues, local factors and intangibles may still come into play at the coming polls.

Answering a question on how the party would win back the "protest vote" that saw its vote share sink to 60.1 per cent in the 2011 polls, he said economic factors like the 2008 global economic crisis played a role in the 2011 election result.

No incumbent government around the world went through an election in the 2008 to 2012 period without suffering losses, said Mr Shanmugam.

But he emphasised that the PAP Government's shift to the left in social policies was not a "kneejerk reaction" to the elections, echoing a point made by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in a speech earlier this month, when he said that "the world did not start in 2011".

Referring to the 2007 Workfare scheme which tops up wages of low-income workers, Mr Shanmugam said: "From 2007, those changes were made, and they were made with a view to impending social, demographic, substantive economic change.

"And you see over the last eight years those changes being put in place one at a time."

He recognised, however, that there were issues which the Government acted on, such as resentment over the long wait and high prices for housing, that were "specific to 2011".

"The key is that the Government showed that it is trying its best to deal with the issues that arise," said Mr Shanmugam.

"The critical thing is, have we got the major policies right starting from 2007?"

Given ground reaction, the answer is largely positive from Singaporeans, he said.

Asked about the likely Workers' Party (WP) challengers in Nee Soon GRC, Mr Shanmugam referenced the opposition party's troubled management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

"What I will say is our town council has never had its accounts qualified. It's always run a surplus because we husbanded the resources carefully. We spent $26 million on helping our residents and nevertheless ended up with surplus," he said.

Both the WP's own auditors and the Auditor-General's Office could not give AHPETC's accounts a clean bill of health.

Mr Shanmugam added: "The voters will have to decide whether they want to subsidise any of the town councils that's in deficit."

"I am sure that issue will come up, because when there's a deficit, as has happened before, one way of covering the deficit is merging it with another town council that has got a healthy amount of money."

This article was first published on Aug 27, 2015.
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