- Title: Jobs, pandemic on top of Singaporeans' minds ahead of general election
- Date: 7th July 2020
- Summary: SINGAPORE (JULY 5, 2020) (REUTERS) PEOPLE'S ACTION PARTY CAMPAIGN POSTERS AND FLAGS NEXT TO WET MARKET
- Embargoed: 21st July 2020 06:45
- Keywords: Lee Hsien Loong Lee Hsien Yang People's Action Party Progress Singapore Party Singapore economy general election government pandemic parliament policy
- Location: SINGAPORE
- City: SINGAPORE
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA001CLT6G5J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Job security and the government's handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are among issues of concern for Singaporeans ahead of the city state's upcoming general election.
The election, on July 10, serves as a referendum on a new generation of leaders, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew - planning to step down in the next few years. His People's Action Party (PAP), which has never lost an election since independence in 1965, is expected to win another five-year term comfortably.
Nevertheless, citizens are still concerned about the lingering economic fallout from the pandemic.
Tan Zhi Gang, who owns a small durian shop in northwesten Singapore, hopes to continue to receive the government subsidies that have helped his business weather the past few months.
"I hope the government can provide us with a little more rescue packages to help us small and medium-sized businesses," said Tan, as he unpacked a new shipment of durians from just over the Malaysian border.
First-time voter Xuan Na said she and her fellow classmates are worried about their job prospects when they graduate from university next year.
"I think (for) me and my friends, one of our top concerns are employment opportunities. We are worried that we won't be able to land a proper job after graduation, or even before graduation," she said.
Concerns about immigration and jobs have dominated discussion during the campaigning as the city-state faces its deepest ever recession due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A migration surge in the first decade of this century and friction over the toll on infrastructure and competition for jobs contributed to PAP vote dropping to a record low 60% in 2011, after which it tightened rules around hiring foreigners.
The pandemic also highlighted Singapore's heavy reliance on foreign labour. More than 90% of Singapore's COVID-19 cases have been traced to dormitories where foreign migrant workers from South Asia and China were forced to quarantine.
Opposition parties have criticised the government for its handling of the pandemic. Lee Hsien Yang, the estranged brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, threw his support behind the newly-founded Progress Singapore Party, and has said that the migrant crisis was "avoidable".
Singapore's government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. They have also waived foreign worker levies for companies to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine. But now with the future of the economy at stake amid the pandemic, voters are more concerned about their own job opportunities rather the plight of migrants.
"I have no doubt that we must do the right thing, not just for these nine days to win votes, but to make sure that we make the right decision which will enable Singaporeans to have the best chance to have good jobs in a growing economy," Lee Hsien Loong told media on June 30, nomination day for candidates running in the general election.
The general election could have been held as late as April 2021, but Prime Minister Lee said in late June that it was not clear when the pandemic would end and his government needed a fresh mandate to steer Singapore through the social and economic challenges it posed.
The timing of the election is often tied to when the ruling party perceives a "strategic advantage," said Eugene Tan, a professor of law at Singapore Management University (SMU).
This year a record 11 parties will be contesting the 2020 election: the PAP will stand in all 93 seats, followed by the new Progress Singapore Party (24), the Workers' Party (21) and the Singapore Democratic Party (11). The rest will stand in 10 or fewer.
(Production: Joseph Campbell, Yishu Ng)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None