As campaigning for the General Election draws to a close, Dr Ng Eng Hen, the organising secretary of the People’s Action Party, on Tuesday night (Sep 8) noted how much good had emerged from the heat of the hustings, and offered some pointers to those still undecided about who to vote for on Sept 11.
Labelling the decision a big one “that will set the direction for the future”, he asked voters to consider several factors, the first being that Singapore’s challenges will not go away in a few days.
Dr Ng noted how the plethora of views aired on topics affecting Singaporeans, such as population, economy and cost of living, over the last few days of campaigning shows how the country is maturing as a democracy.
“During any General Election, we all expect that political opponents will try to score points ...whatever the views, I did not sense any fear in any of the candidates. In fact, all candidates of all parties are speaking freely. Nobody said ‘I dare not speak freely’,” he said, adding jokingly that, in fact, most had to be cut short because of the 10pm cut-off time for rallies.
But, when the excitement of elections fades and the dust settles, Singapore still needs to be governed, he cautioned during a 30-minute speech at Toa Payoh Stadium last night.
“After the general election, our challenges will still remain the same as before the election. Not only will the challenges remain, but even bigger problems are on our horizon,” he said.
EXTERNAL, INTERNAL CHALLENGES
Dr Ng cited challenges both external — such as terrorism, ISIS, rising nationalism of surrounding countries — as well as internal, with zero local workforce growth from 2020 and nearly one million elderly above 65 after 2030. “So I say, after the general election, (it is) time to put aside our differences, bring in as many ideas as we can, wherever they come from. So that we can lessen, if not solve, the problems that have been brought up.”
Next, he said, was that the problems Singapore is facing will have to be dealt with, as previous governments have done. “Whatever the issue — cost of living, foreign labour, PMETs — we deal with them as we have before. We spell out the issue, we state the goal we want to achieve … And then we look at what we want do to, weigh the trade-offs. We get the support of the majority of Singaporeans … and then make sure that the country can afford it, make sure that our children don’t get indebted,” he said.
But just as the founding generation did, the current generation has to give more than what it receives, said Dr Ng, “That’s the right way to run the country and run the Government, not put debt on our children,” he said, adding that this was how the Government had solved problems of resettling the population in flats and shifting away from vernacular to bilingual education in English schools during Singapore’s early years.
“We solve our problems … not by shouting (matches), jeering, not even by rallies … You solve problems by dealing with the realities squarely, you work with Singaporeans, listen and engage with them,” he added.
Finally, Dr Ng said, Singaporeans should remember that the future is not just about overcoming challenges, but also improving the nation to ensure SG100 will be “even better”, quoting founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
To this end, he cited projects that are under way to achieve this goal, including the relocation of the ports and transformation of the South, expansion of Changi Airport in the East, rejuvenation of North-Eastern towns after relocating Paya Lebar Air Base, as well as developments in Sembawang and Woodlands in the North.
“The third generation of leaders in government have started these programmes, but I will tell you honestly, it will be the fourth generation of leaders and Singaporeans who must complete it,” he said.
The next generation of leaders will have to tackle other issues, including improving social support and community building, he said, adding: “I have not even mentioned security, economic restructuring, environmental issues (such as) the haze.”
His bottom line: “To solve all these problems to make your lives better, we need more capable ministers, we need more good Members of Parliament to help us. And this is why we ask for a strong mandate.”