Singapore—How well the current crop of leaders from ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) handles the issues stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak is perceived to be a litmus test for their leadership, analysts say.
The issue, it seems, is one of public confidence, Inderjit Singh, a former PAP Member of Parliament told Reuters.
“How they handle a crisis, both the health and economic crisis, will give confidence to Singaporeans on the ability of the 4G team to manage the country,” he said.
Reuters further points out that even incremental changes in public support could possibly result in changes in policy that could affect the multinational companies that have made Singapore their home base.
In 2011, which marked the party’s poorest performance in PAP’s five decades in power when they still manage to secure 60% of votes— the Government decided to increase curbs on foreign labour amid public unhappiness concerning employment and property rates in relation to immigration.
Analysts are now saying how the 4G handles the Covid-19 outbreak eclipses other issues such as the influx of foreign workers and cost-of-living. These issues were expected to be front and center leading up to the next general election, which must be called before April 2021.
The Covid-19 outbreak, analysts say, has changed this, in the light of Singapore’s confirmed cases recently surpassing the 100 patient mark.
Reuters cited a poll by Blackbox and Toluna, research firms, which say that 62% of Singaporeans are closely following the news about the coronavirus outbreak, more than in eight other areas in Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
While Singapore has been lauded internationally for the measures that it has taken in containing the Covid-19 outbreak, analysts say the bigger challenge may be the economic fallout from the virus outbreak, given that it comes on the heels of the lowest economic growth the country has seen in 10 years.
Former nominated MP Eugene Tan said that while the public may forget about the government efforts in managing the outbreak, mistakes over handling the economic fallout from the virus outbreak could be harmful to PAP.
When the DORSCON alert was raised to orange early in February, panic buying of staples such as rice, noodles, and toilet paper ensued after what some officials referred to as a “misunderstanding” over the raised alert.
It took a video message from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in Chinese, Malay and English, to calm the public down and assuage fears concerning the virus.
Another possible misstep was a leaked audio recording from a closed-door meeting from a meeting Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing had with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), wherein he minced no words on how he felt about those who participated in panic buying.
Mr Chan, the Second Assistant Secretary-General of PAP who is considered a future party leader, drew a mixed reaction from the public with camps divided between lauding him for what they perceived as honesty and authenticity, and others calling him out for the disparaging way he referred to both Hongkongers and Singaporeans.
A political science professor at National University Singapore, Chong Ja Ian, told Reuters that this “mixed response” to important figures within the party would determine public satisfaction with how the Government is handling the crisis. Mr Chong said their response is being “couched as a litmus test for them.” -/TISG
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