This is going to be a really exciting, or as they say, watershed elections. Why?

This is the first elections in which the post-65 generation will form a substantial bloc of voters. This is not the same generation that intimately know the difficulties that our forefathers face in the transition from a colony to occupied state to independent country (although one minister might argue that we’re only a city-state.) This generation has it’s own set of difficulties- rising costs of living (housing being a subset of that), increased competition for resources such as healthcare, transportation and education (both outside our borders and imported within our borders); and an increasingly polarised society between the have and the have-nots.

Opposition parties (who have their own agendas ranging from personal glory to representation of the marginalised to a more middle ground as a representative of the people at large) can smell blood in the water and that is why so many of them are taking part this round. As much as the opposition want to argue that it has higher moral values and such, they can’t deny that they are contesting precisely because the fruit is ripe for the picking . After all, losing a 5-figure sum in the form of the election deposit is no joking matter if the ground sentiment showed that support for the ruling party was strong.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) also seems to know that things aren’t in their favour this round. Of course no one said it more directly than Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (Ground “not so sweet” for elections, says SM Goh, CNA, 18 Apr 11) but with other ministers joining the fray by defending their policies (Labour chief stands by “no minimum wage”,, 22 Apr 11; WP’s proposals on public housing raises serious concerns, says Mah,, 20 Apr 11) it seems that the upper-crust of the PAP are getting defensive as well.

Now the important question that I ask myself is, “How should I vote?”

Do I vote for someone because of their track record just as some politicians have suggested? (GE: Minister issues challenge to opposition,, 22 Apr 11) or should I use my own deductive reasoning to arrive at an answer? Perhaps, a mix of both is the right approach.

To start, at the macro level, perhaps I should look at the incumbent’s track record. After all, if their record has been good, it makes sense to guess that there’s a high chance they would continue doing a good job. If they haven’t, then there’s also a good chance that someone else would deliver better goods. So here is a sampling of the incumbents’ track record:

Security (here)
Environment (here)
Housing (here and here)
Transport (here and here)
Economy (here)
Social Welfare (here)
Labour Movement (here and here and here)

Now, to be fair, Singapore enjoys a fairly low crime rate and our economy rebounded very strongly from the depths of the recession. Having a society run like clockwork is also the hardest of tasks because of the interplay and influence of some factors on others (e.g. Think Intergrated Resorts/Casinoes bringing jobs and tourist monies but yet contribute to social ills). However, how much of this success can be attributed to our government versus the civil service machine?

As I’ve highlighted above, there have been failures. If I were thinking along the lines of a shareholder (citizen), some of my executives (ministers in the government) running the show would defintely have had to answer for these failures. The slap in the face is when no one steps up to the plate to be sincerely sorry for these failures and yet reward themselves further for doing far from a perfect job (here and here).

Revenues may be high but if expenses are high, leaving little for equity holders, equity holders would have abandoned ship a long time ago. The thing is that, with a country, a place one calls home, that isn’t possible. The best alternative would be to have an independent board that oversees renumeration and is able to veto any proposals that contravene the interests (in the broadest sense to include moral principles and direction rather than just revenues) that the equity holders have collectively endorsed.

It just isn’t sensible to have executive management in full control over the direction of the company. Growth at all costs is a proven and failed strategy (think Lehman, Bear Sterns, Enron, WorldCom and other failed corporations). And don’t even get me started on our government’s version of leadership renewal that gets interns in on full payroll. Interns shouldn’t be paid so much.