Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his colleagues running the Ang Mo Kio GRC constituency witnessed the marriage vow renewals of 90 couples on Sunday (May 26). One of the Members of Parliament, Intan Mokhtar, reported on social media that the event took place as part of Singapore’s bicentennial celebrations.
Sharing photos from the event, she wrote: “On Sunday, I joined PM Lee Hsien Loong and my fellow Ang Mo Kio GRC GROs Grassroots Advisers (Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Mr Darryl David, and Dr Koh Poh Koon) in our bicentennial commemoration event ‘Happily Ever After: Then and Now’.
The ruling party MP added: “We were joined by more than 90 married couples who renewed their commitment to each other. It is so heartwarming to hear them pledge their love and devotion to each other…brought tears of joy to my eyes.”
The Singapore Bicentennial refers to the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore. The government seems to have year-round plans to commemorate this anniversary, much like the year-long celebration commemorating Singapore’s 50th year of independence — “SG50” — that came in the 2015.
The government even convened a Singapore Bicentennial Office, under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office. On the official bicentennial website, the authorities tout the event as complementary to SG50 and that it can be seen as a “prequel to SG50.”
Interestingly, barely a month after the SG50 celebrations culminated with Singapore’s 50th National Day, an election was called and the ruling party recovered from the watershed 2011 election that saw it lose a Group Representative Constituency (GRC). The People’s Action Party (PAP) won its best results since 2001 with 69.86% of the popular vote, an increase of 9.72% from the previous election in 2011.
Some speculated that the election was timed to coincide with SG50, which came with a SG50 cash bonus for citizens. Political observers had also speculated at the time that the government may have had called a general election earlier than had been expected during the last cycle, to capitalise on the wave of goodwill that poured forth after the passing of Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew.
There is also speculation that this year’s bicentennial celebration, which comes with a Bicentennial Bonus that will cost S$1.1 billion to be paid out to citizens, could signal that the next election will be held as early as this year, given past election trends.
The general election before 2015 was preceded by Budget 2011, in which the government distributed $1.5 billion worth of “growth dividends” to Singaporeans. Eighty per cent of citizens received $500 to $700 each that year.
With the trend of one-off cash bonuses preceding general elections in recent years, it may come as no surprise to some if the next election is called as soon as 2019.
If this happens, Singaporeans may be hit with a tax hike in the form of the two per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) increase, two years into the new government’s term.