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.