In a Facebook post published on Thursday (5 Dec), former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Yee Jenn Jong said that the unhappiness on the ground prior to the 2011 General Election (GE2011) saw a swift response only after the ruling party suffered its worst results at the polls since independence.

GE2011 was considered a watershed election for several reasons. It marked the first time in two decades that the only two incumbent opposition MPs moved out of their respective strongholds and contested in Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), risking a situation where there would be “no elected opposition MPs”.

Despite the ruling party’s reminder that the election will determine “Singapore’s next generation of leaders”, the final results saw a 6.46% swing against the People’s Action Party (PAP) from the 2006 elections to 60.14%, its lowest since independence.

While the PAP met most expectations to sweep into power and claim over two-thirds of parliamentary seats, it won 81 out of 87 seats, and lost Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party (WP) – the first time a GRC was won by an opposition party. Including Hougang SMC, the WP ended up with six seats in Parliament, the best opposition parliamentary result since independence.

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The election sent shockwaves in the ruling party camp and changes swiftly followed to quell the unhappiness on the ground. One of the major changes that took place was a ministerial salary cut.

In 2012, for possibly the first time ever, Singapore’s ministers took a pay cut. An independent committee reviewed the ministerial salary scheme and recommended the following salary cuts, a year after the watershed GE2011:

  • President’s annual salary to be slashed by 51 per cent to $1.54 million;
  • Prime Minister’s annual salary to be cut by 36 per cent to $2.2 million, along with the removal of pension;
  • Full minister’s (MR4 level) annual salary to be reduced by 37 per cent to $1.1 million, along with the removal of pension;
  • Prime Minister’s salary to be pegged to double the MR4 salary;
  • MP’s annual allowance to be cut by 3 per cent to $192,500; and
  • The entry MR4 minister’s salary to be benchmarked to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore citizens, with a 40 per cent discount.

The Government accepted the committee’s proposal. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s annual salary was slashed to $2.2 million, where it has remained for the last six years.

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The ruling party subsequently regained valuable lost ground in the following election. GE2015, which was held six months after founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away and about a month after Singapore celebrated its 50th National Day, was the first since Singapore’s independence which saw all seats contested.

The PAP won its best results since 2001 with 69.86 per cent of the popular vote, an increase of 9.72 per cent from the previous election in 2011. Out of 89 seats, the PAP contested all and won 83, with the other 6 seats won by the WP.

After the election, several Singaporeans saw the cost of living going up. The water price was increased by a hefty 30 per cent while electricity tariffs consistently rose. The Government then announced that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will rise by two per cent, from the current seven per cent to nine per cent, in the near future.

As the next election looms, WP member Yee Jenn Jong reminded Singaporeans that it took a poor showing at the polls for the ruling party for unhappiness on the ground to be addressed. He wrote:

“Prior to 2011, there were so much unhappiness on the ground. Only a poor general elections showing prompted swift action. Ministers were rotated out. Flats were build rapidly, hospital beds rammed up, transportation infrastructure and maintenance more seriously looked into, and much more. Policies that were considered radical and risky prior to 2011 became possible.”

About a month ago, another WP politician said that the lesson from the 2015 General Election (GE) is that a strong mandate for the Govt will mean a rise in the cost of living and taxes.

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Dennis Tan Lip Fong – who currently serves as NCMP – said in a Facebook post published on 11 Nov: “It is obvious to many that the lesson from 2015 is that strong mandate for the government will mean increase in cost of living (including cost of utilities and public transport) and taxes (GST).”

Referring to the Government’s controversial parliamentary motion to get two elected WP MPs recused from their town council, he added that it is “difficult to talk about trust with a party which does not practise fair play in the political arena.”

The curious timing of the impending GST hike

Singapore Prime Minister’s annual salary jumps from $42,000 to $2.2 million within 50 years