Saturday, April 29, 2006

Local Politics

I mean "local" as in within the locale, erm, as in within a constituency. Not "local" as in within Singapore.

And that is the state of politics in Singapore. The General Elections that happen every few years since I can remember always provided a stage for issues like "supporting the effort in reconstruction of Iraq", "extending compulsory education to Secondary education", "privatising retirement funds" or "managing rising medical costs".

But it almost always ends up as a political fight promising things like upgrading of estates so that they don't lose out and look like a relic from the 1950s, covered walkways, universal access for the handicapped/disabled, ramps, lifts stopping on every floor, fresh coat of paint, gardens, brightly lit walkways, the list goes on.

However much the local (Singapore) political scene tries to lift itself up, there is always a dearth of one important factor: quality opposition.

There is so much talk about First World this and Third World that. Well, I believe that MM Lee is definitely right that the government is First World. I am judging from the way the adminstration runs, how the public hospitals are managed, how the public transport works, how the education system is effective in making citizens literate, I stop myself from using the word "educated". To have a high literacy rate isn't much to short about. Vietnam is about the same as Singapore. We are world-renowned for having super maths and science standards. We have no Nobel prize winners but a higher percentage of us know the answer to 7 x 8 than the rest of the world. So the government and how the country is run, that's pretty much First World. But why use such lousy terms to describe the government and opposition?

Opposition, Third World? I suppose it's unfair to say that. You can really say they are Second World because First World and Third World, when they were first coined was to describe developed and undeveloped countries respectively. First World - capitalist, industrial developed, western. Third World - poverty, developing (varying degrees of success), dependence.

Second World is the industrial-communist bloc. Then USSR, China...The term is a little archaic now. So, no, can't describe the Opposition as Second World.

The local government, well, certainly runs like a well-oiled machine. Much credit to the ruling party behind it. The opposition, well, needs to tighten a number of nuts, replace worn-out chains and ball-bearings and run the machine consistently, not a start-stop wind-up toy.

If we take Third World to mean a lower standard instead of a different standard and if the state of Opposition is Third World, well, the competition is fought on Third World issues constantly then.

But that's what electioneering is about. Issues fought on are limited to those that matters immediately when the competition is sparse and we are comfortable. We don't have to move to issues like whether or not we should continue to wage a war in someone else's land, we don't throw chairs in parliament while screaming hokkien profanities about whether or not to maintain status quo with neighbours across the straits.

It's credit to the ruling party as well, in a sense, that the competition remains sparse and issues about covered walkways and a fresh coat of paint thrives.

'What does that tells us? All politics are in the end local isn't it? You got to deal with local issues,'

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