Yet another excellent and well written article from the Financial Times. If you want to know what is actually happening on the ground you have to turn to a foreign business focused newspaper. I just realised that you need to subscribe to the paper to get the article in its full form.
By John Burton in Singapore
Published: May 4 2006 03:00 Last updated: May 4 2006 03:00
Singapore prides itself on a predictability born of efficiency. Elections are no exception. The long-ruling People's Action party, which holds all but two of the 84 parliamentary seats, will be returned with another thumping majority when the city-state goes to the polls on Saturday.
But there will be tension in the outcome nevertheless. The near-certainty of PAP victories has turned general elections into something more akin to plebiscites gauging the public mood - and, this time, there is a new starkness to several social fault-lines that cleave Singaporean society.
Much of the PAP's success rests on five decades of economic achievement, which have made Singapore a model for aspiring Asian countries, not least China. But the current election campaign demonstrates that the island, which embraced free trade principles from its founding in 1819 by the East India Company, is grappling with the consequences of globalisation.
Although the economy is expected to grow by a vigorous 6 per cent this year, the gap is widening visibly between rich and poor. The nation's youth express either apathy or cynicism about a political system that is founded on rigid social control but is increasingly breached by technology: much unofficial public discourse now takes place via internet news groups and chatrooms.
Sensing chinks in the PAP armour, the three main opposition parties are contesting more seats than they have in nearly 20 years. They are fielding candidates in more than half the constituencies, up from barely one-third last time.
"There is a wind of change across Singapore that makes the PAP's margin of win unpredictable. It is coming from an emerging number of voters who are not impressed, and may even be resentful, of the way Singapore is being run," says Seah Chiang Nee, a former newspaper editor.
To continue reading the article:
SOME STARTLING STATISTICS FROM THE ARTICLE
-Although unemployment is low at 3.4%, the rate is nearly double for those over 40 with little education.
-A recent government survey showed that the income of the poorest 20% fell nearly 15% in nominal terms between 1998 and 2003 to an average of US$505 per month.
-Although Singaporeans have one of the world's highest rates of home ownership, at more than 90%, house prices have fallen by 30% since the mid-90s, meaning many are sitting on paper losses.
-Households in the top 20% earned about 21 times as much as those in the lowest 20% in 2000, a government survey shows.
-In 2004 Singapore had the world's sharpest rise in the number of millionaires at 22%, according to the latest World Health report by Merrill Lynch & CapGemini.
-Days before the elections, the PAP distributed S$2.6bn in cash as "Progress Package" payments with a focus on the needs.