Now who is the pork barrel champion?

It has become a familiar pattern. Whenever PAP leaders want to emphasize a point about how wise and capable they are, they cite negative examples from other countries and contrast it with Singapore.

Tuesday in Parliament was no different. Despite the PAP itself inching closer to the sacred kitty (i.e., the reserves) by increasing the proportion of investment income the government can use, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a long speech about how important it is to safeguard the reserves from “pork barrel” spending.

Of course, he was not referring to pork barrel spending by the ever-prudent PAP. He was implying that if Singaporeans elected any opposition party into power, that party would exhaust all our hard-earned reserves.

Mr Lee cited the examples of Norway and Australia, which according to him both came under populist pressure to spend their reserves during the heat of elections.

In Australia, he said, candidates John Howard and Kevin Rudd had promised multi-billion dollar packages if elected, so much so that major newspapers started a “pork-o-meter” to keep track of the cost of campaign promises.

In Norway, Parliamentarians set the rules then subsequently “broke the rules” on spending caps on their reserves.

I wonder why the PM decided to stick his foot in his mouth when Parliament had already voted unanimously for his government’s proposed spending increase.

Did he not realise he sounded a tad hypocritical?

Since the 1991 election, the PAP has used pork barrel promises in the form of HDB upgrading to further its political objectives. It declared that it is completely justified in upgrading the flats of constituencies that voted for them, and bumping opposition held wards to the end of the queue — a truly non sequitur kind of logic.

In the last election, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong promised $180 million to upgrade Hougang and Potong Pasir flats, without even thinking through how the government was going to fund that spending, as he admitted months later.

How about the $2.6 billion “Progress Package” dished out days before Polling Day? Does that smell porky enough?

It is amusing that he cited Australia as a negative example. Kevin Rudd actually proposed less spending than John Howard — and won.

The newspapers came up with a “pork-o-meter”. Well at least they were educating citizens about politicians’ populist proposals. I don’t recall our local papers pointing out that selective upgrading promises were pork barrel spending, or that election cash giveaways could be considered vote-buying in many developed countries.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

14 thoughts on “Now who is the pork barrel champion?”

  1. Well, that’s how they choose to run it their way..And that’s why we call it uniquely Singapore. When I heard about this, I had exactly the same thoughts, progress package, upgrading program, etc….

  2. Initially I had doubts about my ability to comprehend him. Perhaps, I was not scholarly material and thus had the wrong impression …

    PM’s logic is getting more warped each day.

    I mean, PAP is doing what Norway had done.

    And kudos to the Australians, they did not buy the pork barrel incentives and voted Howard out.

    And to say the least, I know for certainty is that, you need a referendum to change the country’s constitution in Australia.

    In Singapore, only a few MPs and a PM will do.

    When was the people consulted? This is making a farce of a country’s constitution.

  3. For one thing, I still remembered one of the PAP election candidates offered to buy the people over by offering the voters shark’s fin soup almost free-of-charge.

    It only goes to show that our PAP leaders are willing to stoop so low just win an election.

    What else are they not capable of doing ?

  4. “There will not be a bus fare increase next year”.
    “2% GST increase is to help the poor”.

    How much credibility left?

  5. This is nothing unusual. Most politicians in all ages and in all countries will use any means to secure their political survival. This is a fact of life. As voters, we must acknowledge this. There is no point in reproaching the politicians for doing what that’s in their natural inclination to do. We can only reject them by voting wisely.

  6. I am not sure which other democratic parliamon as few opposition members?

    i saw the clips of LTK speaking in parlimon and i felt sad for the people. The ones not speaking were laughing at something when he was speaking. sigh…

  7. smallvoice585 – But the thing is that PM’s political survival was NOT at stake. He just got a unanimous parliamentary vote!

    I don’t buy the PAP mantra that if you don’t like what we’re doing, just vote us out. Voting is just one component of democratic engagement and accountability. In between elections, citizens should be reproaching politicians who do wrong. If they mend their ways, good for them. They got my vote again. If not, we’ll have to decide whether the opposition’s ways are better and vote accordingly.

    Alan Wong – Good point. That was Eric Low in Hougang, I believe, who was giving away free sharks fin soup.

    Oh I forgot to mention how a certain someone said he was going to “fix” the opposition and “buy” over his supporters.

  8. The can fix some, they can buy some but they cannot fix and buy all!

    Why do they have so high a salary, yet talk so cheap?

    I concur with Selamat Wong on the clip that I saw on TOC of LTK’s view on Elected Presidency. The leaders on the video at 1:14 show the contempt they have for the oppo members of the parliament.

    My disgust and cringing feelings at

  9. Dear Gerald Giam

    Experience has taught me that in the adult world, criticism and reproach are seldom met with repentance and change. A hardening of position and extreme defensiveness are more likely outcomes.

    Therefore, it is counter-productive to point out the obvious immoralities and undesirabilities of political practice. Perhaps, the only real way of effecting political change is to exercise our vote.

    Even so, we have not escaped from the unresolvable dilemma between voting for an objectionable known entity (PAP) and an unproven and probably incompetent other (The Opposition). Therein lie the false and unfree choices democracy forces us to make.

  10. >>For one thing, I still remembered one of the PAP election candidates offered to buy the people over by offering the voters shark’s fin soup almost free-of-charge.

    Hhmm…can we expect Muthu’s curry for SG’s 600 FT-turned-singapapore residents in next erection?

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