“Singaporeans have to consider whether opposition parties can deliver on the ‘laundry list of things’ they have laid out in their manifestoes, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday” (Ask Who Can Deliver, Says DPM Teo, Mr. Gerrard Lai).
Manifestoes are important documents for political parties; for the average voter, reading and possibly scrutinising a party’s manifesto is the best and quickest way of comprehending policy proposals and socio-economic recommendations. Amidst the assortment of news articles and commentaries, flipping through a manifesto is an effective and efficient way of aggregating the party’s engagement with on-the-ground Singaporeans, and cognisance of bread-and-butter issues. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s contention that manifestoes deserve thorough analyses – in the report “Ask Who Can Deliver, Says DPM Teo” (April 20, 2011) by Mr. Gerrard Lai – is fair; after all, the clauses in the manifesto cannot remain as mere rhetoric for exposition.
Nonetheless, beyond the pragmatic feasibility of the various suggestions expounded in the manifestoes, these detailed pieces of documents have proven to be especially significant in the past weeks: providing fodder for constructive debate. In particular, the Workers’ Party (WP) manifesto – which covers a plethora of areas from governance and civil liberties to education, transportation et cetera – has generated considerable buzz. It has provided an important starting point for substantive discussion, principally between politicians from the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) and the WP, as reflected by the activity on newspaper forums and online platforms. Rather than launching unsubstantiated salvos on existing housing and labour policies, the WP has successfully spotlighted contentious national concerns, accompanied with calls to action.
The aforementioned proliferation has enriched ongoing dialogues, as proponents and opponents from both parties piece together arguments and appropriate responses. Evidently, the manifesto is not simply a “book of promises” per se; its perspectives – if valid and workable – would potentially provide productive avenues for discourse. It can also prevent individual comments from being taken grossly out of context.
Naturally, given the variety of benefits of a wide-ranging and detailed manifesto – like the ones published by the respective Opposition parties – questions have been asked of the PAP and its manifesto. In comparison to the documents introduced by the Opposition parties, the PAP’s manifesto lacks content, and fails to substantially – and specifically – address particular dissatisfactions highlighted over the years. While the current administration can conveniently point to its track record and assert that it has more at stake with campaign promises – since the chances of it returning to Parliament with a majority are high – the manifesto could expound on future improvements. In retrospect, information can be provided on how oversights or specific incompetence in the past five years can be holistically addressed, thereby heightening accountability.
If more effort can be dedicated to the development of parties’ manifestos, Singaporeans will gain speedier understanding of the issues at stake, and be exposed to valuable insights – put forth by the candidates and politicians – on how to improve the status quo.