Singapore

Voters sent message of economic pain: Shanmugam

This article is more than 12 months old

Minister says PAP also keenly aware of voters' desire for diversity of representation in Parliament

The deep economic pain being felt by Singaporeans due to Covid-19 and a desire for diversity in Parliament are the two key messages voters sent the Government in the recent general election, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said.

While the nearly $100 billion package across four Budgets has helped blunt some of the impact of the pandemic, segments of the population - including those aged between 40 and 60 as well as small businesses in sectors like construction - are hurting very badly, Mr Shanmugam said in an interview with Money FM 89.3's Claressa Monteiro broadcast yesterday.

That is why apart from short-term "blood transfusions", the Government is focused on saving Singaporean jobs. And where that cannot be done, it has to "try and save every Singaporean - try and train them, give them other options to tide through this period".

"We cannot by ourselves wave a magic wand and create economic growth in the context of a global deep recession, but we can tide through and help our people," said the minister.

In a conversation billed as a look at hard truths from GE2020, Mr Shanmugam said the PAP is keenly aware of voters' desire for diversity of representation in Parliament.

He disagreed with the view of some commentators that the 27 new faces the People's Action Party introduced at the recent hustings were perceived as capable but boring, or that they did not have the same appeal as some of the candidates that were put up by the opposition.

"I would say it's a difference between perception and reality," said the minister.

"If you look at the PAP candidates in the eight elections that I've been in, this is probably the best slate of young candidates - fresh, full of energy, full of ideas, they want to do things."

Asked if the PAP was shifting its search for candidates away from its traditional grazing grounds of the civil service and the military, Mr Shanmugam said the party's underlying principle is to choose people it thinks can best serve residents, and "not start with preconceived ideas that military is bad or military is good, civil service is bad or civil service is good".

"The essentials you look for are the same: the person, does he have energy? Does he have the heart to serve? Is he willing? Is he capable?

"Those questions are fundamental and they don't change," he said.

On whether GE2020 showed that young and first-time voters want the PAP to move towards a more liberal and populist style of governance, Mr Shanmugam said he did not think that was the case.

"They were, in my view, no different from younger voters of previous generations - they want fairness, they want justice, they want to feel that they are part of a system where people are able to express themselves, and they want good governance and they want the party in government to produce results," he said.

"And, you know, it's not an unfair expectation."

Singapore Politics