Singapore Politics - Insights from the Inside

Friday, July 29, 2005 

Truth of Evening ERP Charges
Facts from Fiction & the Mismanagement of LTA

SINGAPORE: From August 1, motorists heading north on the Central Expressway between 6pm and 8pm must pay evening Electronic Road Pricing charges.

Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong said if the new ERP charges could ease congestion on the CTE, Singapore would not need the proposed North-South Expressway.

There are presently eight expressways serving Singapore motorists, and the ninth - the Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway - would be ready in 2008.

And more expressways will be built, depending on the population growth. Mr Yeo said the Government was still assessing whether there was a need to build a North-South expressway.

This is because the project is not only expensive, but also complicated as it will cut through several nature reserves.

"The North-South Expressway - we have got no timeline for that yet. Maybe it will be built in the next 10 years, maybe not. Depends very much on the demand, and the cost of the system.

"The KPE costs us quite a few billion dollars. I think the North-South Expressway have to run through all these sensitive areas, will cost us even more."

Mr Yeo said both Singapore's road and rail network had surpassed their original targets as set out in the Land Transport Authority's World-Class Transport System White Paper.

Between 1996 and 2000, 225 kilometres of lane-miles were planned. But double that distance has been built and at a lower cost than the $1.1 billion original estimates.

Mr Yeo said: "Singapore is actually quite densely built up, in terms of road. Today the road space is 12 per cent of our total land area. Our residential usage only takes up 13 per cent. So actually road space takes up as much space as our homes. So there is a limit to how much more we can grow."

But he said in time, Singapore's public transport system would be as extensive as those in London and Paris.

The MRT Circle Line is expected to be running by 2010. Two new MRT lines would also link Marine Parade with Bukit Timah.

Mr Yeo said: "I think give us another 20 to 25 years, I think the density of train stations in the city centre would be as good as London, because by that time I would expect that we would have two additional new lines built."

And when the railway network is complete, Singaporeans will be able to take an MRT train from the City to any corner of the island. - CNA/de

Let me get straight to the point. The new ERP will NOT solve the jam at the CTE nor does it intends to. For any logical road user, would a $1.00 charge prevent the driver or alter his/her decision to use the CTE to get home? NOPE! Currently, there are only few alternative routes that the driver can use to avoid CTE, which is Lornie Road or Thomson Road. So if the new ERP do work, it will only push traffic towards those areas. What next? Putting more ERP on those areas?

LTA are not so stupid as to believe that $1.00 charge in the CTE will alter the drivers’ decision to use the CTE. Nor do I think that the charge will stop at $1.00. Judging by past LTA practices, if after a couple months, the jam doesn’t seem to ease (which will definitely not ease) they will have more excuses to increase the charge to maybe $2.00. Obvious they can’t immediately increase the charge to $2.00 or there will be a public backlash. So it will be just an incremental increase over time. But will it solve the jams? Never! LTA might as well put a $100 charge for using CTE so that only Ministers and CEOs can use the roads.

Implementing such road pricing is not going solve jams, but just gaining revenue out of jams. For every car that passes through the ERP gantries, $1.00 goes of the driver’s cash cards. Every evening, one of the 5 ERP gantries on the CTE will see around 10,000 cars through the CTE (there are 244,000 cars traffic volume using the expressways to the CBD area each day) every evening. $1.00 for every car will see their daily additional intakes of $10,000 per evening. Multiply that by a year, you get a cool additional intake of $3.6 million just “trying” to solve the jam in CTE.

Let me bring you back to 10 November 2003 in the parliamentary seating where LTA was again in the spotlight. MP Wong Kai Yuen said,

“Sir, EZ Link could do so (charging the commuters $5 for every EZ-link card purchase) because its parent, the LTA, is both the regulator and the owner of the fare collection system. This, I believe, is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong in terms of principle. It is wrong because there exists a conflict of interests between the regulator and the operator. Getting the commuter to pay for the cards is a solution to a problem that could only be arrived at by decision makers with a civil service mindset. The fact that we see such befuddled thinking from the LTA should no longer surprise us in this House. In fact, it is the same agency that causes none other than Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to publicly acknowledge its two very big mistakes. Firstly, Deputy PM Lee Hsien Loong described the scheme to charge the taxi drivers a fee in order to monitor their performance "invidious" in the House recently. So he actually changed it. On the North East Line, Minister Yeo Cheow Tong did - which he denied - a policy U-turn. And Deputy PM Lee described it in public that it was a mistake made by the Government to require more than one rail operator under the premise of increasing competition. Are these just "honest mistakes", as we have a tendency to classify such mistakes made by civil servants? Or is it symptomatic of something deeper?”

“Which brings me actually back to the fundamental question: why would LTA set up EZ Link Pte Ltd to be a 100% owned company in the first place? Having done so, why does it sign over the right to manage the float to a bank? Why did it not adopt the same model as the TransitLink company that the ez link system be replaced? The TransitLink company is a jointly owned company by the transport operators. In fact, in that system, more than 8.7 million farecards were issued, and the company did not complain that too many cards were issued. There are several reasons for that. Firstly, the cards were cheap. I believe they were 20 cents each. Secondly, TransitLink held the float. More importantly, Sir, there were sufficient savings from the other operations of the TransitLink system to subsidise the cost of the cards.”

“So, indeed, Sir, why did LTA not replicate the same model? I can only surmise the reasons by looking at the moves EZ Link has made as a company. EZ Link card is designed to be used beyond transportation to pay for retail purchases. EZ Link, as a company, has entered into an exclusive agreement with QB Pte Ltd to extend the use of ez link cards for this very purpose. To enter into the realm of multiple electronic applications, MAS stipulated that EZ Link be tied up with a bank. QB Pte Ltd is a subsidiary of Green Dot Payment Services Pte Ltd which is, in turn, owned by Green Dot Capital Pte Ltd which is, in turn, owned by Singapore Technologies. As we all know, Singapore Technologies is a Government-linked company. So the Government has its hands in all this, somehow or other.”

I think Wong Kai Yuen brought up a every vital point about the management (or mismanagement of the LTA) and the misguided principle of being a transport regulator. As a public regulator, LTA setup a company to sell cards at a premium of $5 fixed charge when they found that accounts could be in red if they do not or could get more profits out of it? There are to serve the public to their best of their abilities in terms of lowing transport cost, not profiting and setting up their own subsidiaries to gain profits. I am sure, for public commuters, you could see other transport policies such as the raise in public transport fees were also in line with their current attitudes towards “solving” problems

The new ERP charges will be effective from 1 August 2005 but guess when did LTA when to the grassroots and citizens up in the north for their opinions? They only “seek” public feedback last week and this week. But from my sources, all the grassroots gave LTA officers a horrid time when they presented their reasons for the ERP charges. In fact, many grassroots fired and roasted them for their insincerity in getting feedbacks only after they decided to implement the charges.

In short, LTA knows that this new ERP charges will not solve the problems and the reason they still implement it is for all of us to imagine. Read Minister Yeo’s comments carefully and think if he sincerely believing that this could solve the problem.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

The Grassroots Organization 101
The Invisible Pillar of Strength of the PAP Government & Electoral Ingenuity

Many people are unaware of this invisible pillar of strength for the PAP government: The Grassroots Organizations. So what are the grassroots organizations? They are actually all around you and your constituency but you may not sense it or take notice of it. Ever wondered how the Community Clubs are ran or decision process of upgrading projects, behind the doors of the Residents’ Committees and how grassroots and PAP is so intertwined by yet separated? Hopefully this article provides some form of inside of one of the main foundation of PAP strength and support.

First and foremost, the grassroots organizations are voluntary bodies comprising of residents and citizens to implement government policies, to “feel the ground”, to organize activities and to “mobilize” the residents in times of need and emergency. The most common and visible structures of grassroots are the Community Clubs and the Residents Committees. The basic structure and hierarchy of the grassroots is shown below:

At the pinnacle of the grassroots for each constituency is the Citizen’s Consultative Committee (CCC). In actual fact, CCCs was formed in 1965 to counter and establish a strong network against the Communist and, later, against the racial riots. Their mission is to explain government policies to the people, to gather feedback and voice the people’s concerns to the political leaders. Thus, for all constituencies, the Member of Parliament for that constituency will be the Adviser for the CCC and seats in the meeting each month. Regardless if they are Ministers or just MPs, they are all obligated to attend these CCC meetings, if their schedule permits, as they are valuable source of information and implementation of the policies and feelings of the residents. In short, they are the MPs’ and Minister’s ears and eyes on the ground.

In today’s context, CCCs have a variety of functions ranging from upgrading projects, building of carparks, overhead bridges, to matters relating to the area’s HDB, Town Council, Environment (NEA) and Neighbourhood Police. Thus, at every meeting, representatives from the area’s HDB, Town Council, Neighbourhood Police and NEA will update the Chairman and Adviser on the happenings within the constituency each month. All of the members seating in the CCC are volunteers who has vast experiences in grassroots matters or prolific contributors to society (usually rich businessmen). They are appointed biennially by the Chairman and subject to approval from the Adviser (MPs).

The People’s Association (PA) runs the day-to-day work at the community clubs/centres and provides administrative and secretariat support to the grassroots organizations. They are fully-paid staffs and will not participate in the decision making process of the grassroots. For each community clubs, they are headed by the Senior Constituency Managers (SCMs) who will oversea the PA staffs.

So Why Are Grassroots The Pillar of PAP?
At present, there around 1,800 grassroots organizations in Singapore’s 84 constituencies (84 CCCs + RCs, YECs, and other grassroots organizations). That works out to around 30,000 to 40,000 grassroots volunteers (or otherwise known as Grassroots Leaders) in the whole Singapore area. Membership in terms of card holding members (discount card to Community Clubs) should exceed 120,000 members. The numbers compared to Singapore’s population may not be much, but considerable number of grassroots leaders provides a solid base of support and “foot soldiers” for the government in carrying out their initiatives.

Constitutionally, the Community Clubs and Grassroots are non-partisan and non-political entities. They are not allowed to jointly organize events or activities with any political parties, even the PAP. But PAP, being as smart as they are, setup the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) in 1989 as a non-political, charitable organization associated with the Party which aims to run social, educational and welfare activities for the community (taken from context via the PCF website). So my question is how different if PCF’s functions from the Community Clubs (Grassroots) functions? None! With PCF, both grassroots and community clubs can organize events together and provide some form of community involvement and publicity for the MPs to the residents. Singapore has probably the most number of “Guest-of-Honour” events and activities for the politicians than anywhere else on this planet. Both the grassroots and PCF provides a platform to publicize and bring the MPs (from PAP) closer to the people. This is their main drive and stage to show that they are serving the people and organizing events to cater to their interest

Many of the CCC members are also involved in the constituency’s PAP branch committee as well. As for the percentage, I doubt anyone has got the number (other than PAP themselves) but I would reckon it to be quite high. Some of the more prolific grassroots leaders are Kua Hong Pak, who is the Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of ComfortDelgro, and Kwek Leng Joo, Managing Director of City Developments Limited. In particular, Kua Hong Pak has been in grassroots for many years and serves in Teck Ghee constituency (PM Lee’s ward). He received his Public Service Medal (PBM) in 1991 and Public Service Star (BBM) in 1996 by the President of the Republic of Singapore and appointed a Justice of the Peace (JP) in 2000. In addition, Mr Kua also serves on the boards of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited, Overseas Union Enterprise Limited, PSA International Pte Ltd, PSA Corporation Limited, StarHub Ltd and Ringier Print (HK) Limited. He is also an Honorary Citizen of Shenyang City, People’s Republic of China. Maybe you might see some link of him in PM Lee’s ward, but I’m not implying anything. Nonetheless, I heard he is very active in grassroots and community activities so his awards should be out of his own merits and credits. Maybe you can reach to your own conclusion.

When election comes, party members and people wearing the party insignia are not allowed into the polling stations (which are the community clubs). The Singapore Democratic Party suggested that PAP bend some election rules as mentioned in Anyway, the point which I wanted to raise is that how do you differentiate a community club grassroots leaders (which is non-political) and a party member (which is political) when they are the same person? Simple, just wear a “different hat” on different days. Take off the badge, change your white pants into black, and now you are a grassroots leader helping the election process.

The tricky part is when you have an opposition member who won the elections (Low Thia Khiang and Chiam See Tong) and shouldn’t they technically be the Adviser of the grassroots organizations in that area? But why is Eric Low (Hougang) and Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) being the Adviser for the grassroots when they lost the elections? When you are the Adviser, you hold the cards for Upgrading Projects, Covered Walkways, Lift to Every Floors and even MRT or NEL beside your block. This is too important of a position to cite to the opposition. Without the grassroots, the elected opposition effectively has less opportunity to tap on non-partisan methods of meeting and serving the residents. Thus, at many times, Low Thia Khiang and Chiam have to use their direct political parties name to organize events. Organizing any large scale events under the banner of political polities is likely to require notification and permission of the police. They will run the risk of being holding a political event or campaigning without license if they do not apply. See the beauty and importance of the grassroots now?

In general, I think many people underestimated the shrewdness and ingenuity of PAP in utilizing the grassroots. Block parties, residents’ meetings, community projects and involvements provide a good and indirect exposure for the MP to the residents. Don’t get me wrong, I also think that the grassroots have done a wonderful job in doing some good community works in their area but I also think it is a “one stone kills two bird” kind of strategy. Grassroots will remain as the pillar of strength for the PAP and with incentives of National Day Awards (eg: PBM, BBM, BBM(L)), priority for primary school registration, carparking subsidies and other perks, people will continue flock to join the grassroots. Some for the wrong reasons (for the perks) and some for the right reasons (to serve the needy and community) but the ultimate beneficiary will still be…you know the answer yourself!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 

The “Super Seven” Junior Ministers

In 2001 General Elections, then-Prime Minister introduced several new candidates to the campaign but seven of the new candidates stood out. The “Super-Seven” are Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Raymond Lim and Cedric Foo. Immediately after the elections, Khaw and Tharman were appointed Senior Minister of State* and the rest as Ministers of State.

By 2003, Dr Ng was appointed Acting Minister for Manpower, Tharman was appointed Acting Minister for Education and Khaw was appointed Acting Minister for Health. One year later, they were promoted to full Ministers and Dr Vivian and Raymond Lim was also promoted to Acting Ministers and later full Ministers in 2005. So are they that special or is this to just an emergency reaction to fill the void (David Lim resigned and several changes from the Cabinet)? This article hopes to provide some opinions based on my personal encounters, feedbacks from other people and their styles of politics.

Dr Ng Eng Hen
Dr Ng was a surgeon specializing in cancer prior to entering politics. His background prior to politics was not well publicized but he was quite active in community involvement through the Breast Cancer Foundation. When he entered politics, Straits Times ran an article on these “super-seven” and mentioned Dr Ng as an “aloof” and seemingly high-handed and authoritative figure (partly due to his physic). But I think he is very much different from his image in 2001 and what the press made of him.

I was very privileged to attend a closed door forum on employment with him as the guest speaker. Dr Ng is one of the more eloquent and quick thinkers in the Cabinet. When answering tough questions, he doesn’t evade the point like some Ministers do but tackles it by allowing the audience to see his point of view. He has an excellent grasp of history and labour models of most major countries and has a holistic view on the subject matter. He doesn’t take political or economical extremes of thought which will delight all pluralists and political scientists. His clarity of thought is undoubted but he also has this natural flair of selling his policy by asking the questioner “what ifs” and making his point clear with the examples of other countries.

That day, there were quite a few people from the audiences who asked him questions, but he remembered the names of each person, the question they asked and in which order. The way he speaks reminds me a little of a mixture of Lee Kuen Yew (in the late 1990s) and Goh Chok Tong. But yes, I do feel a sense that he can be an authoritative figure when he addressed himself “Minister” a few times.

If you do noticed or have a chance to attend the National Day Rally live, do observe which Ministers comes early, which Ministers mix with whom and which Ministers kept to himself. When Dr Ng walked into the rally, he was just slightly earlier then the Deputy PMs and walked straight to his seat. He didn’t really mix with the other MPs, Ministers or guests, unlike Ho Peng Kee, Lim Swee Say, Khaw Boon Wan and others who usually come early to chat around. Maybe is it just a one-off occasion that happened. Not conclusive to make any other judgment solely based on this incident.

Overall, Dr Ng will go far in the Cabinet. He has the aura and intellect to see the most difficult of tasks or Ministries. In terms of public speaking, you need to hear him live and understand his words to really appreciate his thoughts. This is his plus point and is also his minus point. Maybe due to his overall image, he might seem to be an unfriendly or authoritarian Minister to talk to. Unless his speaks or warms the audiences up, his “aloof” image will still remain. Thus, he is not a very grassroots Ministers but one who is willing and will make unpopular but necessary policies.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Dr Vivian was a President’s Scholar and, prior to politics, he was active in a variety of involvements ranging from debates, hosting the televised Singapore 21 series to becoming the presenter of health education programmes in the 90s. He was a vocal critic of the PAP government prior to joining politics but was actually “converted” by Minister Lim Swee Say. Thus, Vivian holds Lim Swee Say is very high esteem and respect in all matters.

Dr Vivian probably has one of the most portfolios in the history of Singapore Government. Here is a list of his present portfolios:

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports
Second Minister of Trade and Industry
Minister in-charge of Entrepreneurship
Chairman of Young PAP
Chairman of Remaking Singapore Committee
Chairman of National Youth Council
Member of Ministerial Committee for Low Wage
Member of PAP Central Executive Committee
Among other things, he deals with the whole Casino issue and the IOC Committee meeting as well.

“Sink or Swim”, seems to be the message to Dr Vivian. Apparently, he is not only swimming but seems to be on a “speedboat” for greater things. From my several encounters with him, he seems to be able to handle all his portfolios with ease and even answered my email at 2.30am when I emailed him 20 mins earlier!

His strengths are that he has this charming speaking style that would attract most youths to believe in his thoughts and probably his image (youthful image as a Minister and is the youngest in the Cabinet at 45 years old). However, when you listen to his closed-door forums, you can sense a slight streak of controlled impatienceness and authoritarianism in him. Maybe all Ministers need some of these qualities in them to succeed in politics but I think Dr Vivian’s impatienceness and authoritarianism has improved through his years in politics. In 2002, he labeled the Malaysian Media as “wild animals”, which is quite an unprecedented comment made by any Singaporean Ministers. Since then, he has tone down and is not as rash as he used to be in giving comments. One way of testing his level of patience is to ask a conceptually wrong question and see his reactions to it. You might get the sense which I got. Occasionally, he can be quite defensive or invasive in answering some questions that has some basis for arguments.

People who attend his forums will find that he can be more of an emotional thinker rather than a logical thinker on certain issues. There is no doubt that he is a very intelligent Minister but maybe he could have more control over his emotional side. I think you can see his speeches in Parliament on the casino issues that he tries to appeal to emotive aspect rather than the economics of the issue. This is quite an asset for the PAP as many Ministers have tried to use such way to appeal to masses but not much success. With Vivian, it seems that they have on speaker with such strengths and successes. This will allow them to cover a wider range of audiences and voters with different appeals (since there are more than enough Ministers who can speak with conviction on the economic and logical aspects).

One thing I am uncertain about is how ambitious is he? He mentioned on the televised Ministers dialogue (iContact on Channel i) that he has no desire or the intention of entering politics to be the Prime Minister. I’m not quite sure about that. Somehow, with my interaction with him and seeing him so often on the papers and TV, he might be slight more ambitious than what he state he is. Then again, my gut feel can be wrong.

Dr Balaji Sadasivan
Dr Balaji was the top neurosurgeon in Singapore and the only recognized neurosurgeon in the boards of America and Australia. In addition to his medical qualifications, he also has a degree in law with honours, which he took out of interest. By entering politics, he probably took a huge pay cut. Much of his background has been covered in my previous article on the HIV issue.

Anyway, he has always been labeled as one who is too soft-spoken for a politician and for a Minister. But I think he has improved tremendously in his speaking style and assertiveness. He is one of the brainiest Ministers and was behind the success in tackling the SARS outbreak couple of years ago. Unknown to many, he also made a lot of overseas trips, such as Pakistan and India, to smoothen the paths and foreign relations before the PM or other Cabinet Ministers make their trips there. He also represents Singapore in WHO conferences in Geneva quite often. Maybe it is due to his strengths in language abilities, as he speaks fluent English, Tamil, Malay and even Mandarin, that made him an asset in foreign affairs. In general, he does more “behind the scene” work then most people think of Ministers.

He is very popular in his constituency but he is one Minister that didn’t like the limelight much. But he did make the headlines with his controversial comments on the HIV and gays issues although he was misquoted by media on certain parts. When dealing with the grassroots, he has totally no airs as a Minister and joins his people and residents in kopitam talks. He is very supportive of his grassroots and the youth wings of his constituency which made his grassroots very loyal to him as well. When he has to tackle sensitive issues in his constituency such as closing down the Seletar Market, he is tactful and called for an open dialogue session with all the hawkers of the market.

His style of speaking is quite different as well. He can be quite candid at times and will usually agree with you but will modify your thoughts slightly to see the perspectives laymen wouldn’t see. Even his public speeches, it contains more substances than most Ministers’ speeches ( His strength is that he can speak fluently in Mandarin which won the Chinese residents over whenever the need calls for it. By the way, like most Indian Ministers in the Cabinet, he didn’t marry a person of the same race, he married a Chinese.

Not many people know of this fact but he was in the last elected student union in the University of Singapore. Younger readers may not find any special about this fact but actually, the last elected union was quite active in voicing their concerns to the authoritarian government (under LKY in the 70s) under they were disbanded by force. Not until recent years, all student unions were appointed rather nominated. Activist, like all of us! Since then, he has spent much time in Michigan doing his neurosurgeon training before heading back to Singapore.

He should be promoted to a full Minister after the next elections and will be interesting to see which Ministry he heads. In the short term, most probably it will be a Ministry which deals with social issues such as transport, environment, health and others. Maybe 10 years down the road, he might take over as the Foreign Minister due to his good overseas contacts.

* For those who are unfamiliar with the Cabinet Rankings and labels for Ministers, this is how the hierarchy goes:

1) Prime Minister
2) Senior Minister
3) Minister Mentor (holds significant influence but have no executive or cabinet power)
4) Deputy Prime Ministers
5) Cabinet Ministers (also known as full Ministers. Eg: Minister of Defense)
6) Acting Ministers (Temporary promotion)
7) Senior Ministers of State
8) Ministers of State
9) Mayors, Senior Parliamentary Secretaries, Parliamentary Secretaries
10) Permanent Secretaries (Highest ranking in Civil Service but does not sit in parliament)

Aside from the ranking, the Minister’s portfolios can also be ranked by importance. For example, all Prime Ministers and Deputy PMs must head a least one of the Ministry of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs or Finance. Thus the portfolio can be ranked as such:

a) Ministry of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Finance
b) Ministry of Trade & Industry, Education, National Development, Manpower
c) Ministry of Transport, Health, Lawd) Ministry of Information, Communications & Arts (MICA), Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS), Environment & Water Resources (MEWR)
e) Prime Minister’s Office – On the contrary, this is the least important as it is usually labeled (by critics) as a “dumping ground” for Ministers in their twilight years. Ministers who entered the PMO, usually retires soon. Eg: Lee Yoke Suan, Othman Bin Haron Eusofe, Matthias Yao Chih

Thursday, July 14, 2005 

Coming Soon! "Three of the Super Seven Junior Ministers"

Basically, I'll be commenting on my personal thoughts on Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth & Sports, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Manpower and Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Health, Information, Communication and the Arts, their private persona, character, political thoughts and background. If you have any other topics which you are interested in, please feel free to drop a comment or suggestion.

Thursday, July 07, 2005 

General Elections - Part II

MACPHERSON SMC (22,010 constituents)

Current MP:
Matthias Yao Chih (Stay)

Matthias was once the promising and shining star, tipped to be one of the top Minister. But now, he has faded away from the limelight and was demoted from a Senior Minister of State to a Mayor. However, he won the previous election contest with around 80% of the votes against a DPP candidate.

Unconfirmed sources said that he didn’t have a reliable and strong bunch of grassroots leaders and led to his downfall. However, this information may not be factually correct. Fading stars always lead to an exodus of grassroots leaders who only “serve” the prolific and powerful Ministers. This may be good for the residents and himself to do away with this bunch of power and limelight hungry grassroots leaders, but it does erode his support from the ground.

With his fading status, it would be interesting to see if he still continues to run for another term or retire (even though he is not that old). He will also be the only Mayor to contest in SMC rather than a GRC like the rest of the Mayors. Thus, this will raise the issue of whether PAP is really doesn’t mind him losing or risk (a probability of 10%) losing a Mayor. Of course, after winning the last election with an 80% majority, we will not expect a 40% vote swing. He will win this ward quite comfortably but all information points to the fact that he will not feature in PAP’s long term plans.

Verdict: PAP wins 65% of the votes

Current MPs:
Gan Lai Chiang (Leave)
Goh Chok Tong (Stay)
Mohamad Maidin B P M (Stay)
Othman Haron Eusofe (Retire)
R Ravindran (Stay)
Lim Hwee Hua (Posted elsewhere)

With SM Goh in this GRC, opposition must have got money to burn if they contest in this ward. SM Goh is overwhelmingly popular and even if PAP puts 5 of the most unpopular MPs into his GRC, it will still be a walkover. So this will raise one question: will Lim Hwee Hua still be in this GRC?

Currently, there are two Ministers of State in this GRC, Othman and Hwee Hua. PM Lee has already announced that Othman will be retiring as the Minister of State but retains his post as the Mayor. Lim Hwee Hua, on the other hand, is tipped to be first female to be a full Minister.

Maybe in this coming election, they might introduce a new candidate and potential Minister of State into this GRC. PAP has a good history of “mentoring” Ministers and using senior Ministers to groom and teacher the ones with potential. Who could be more qualified to take on this mentoring role besides SM Goh? (I heard distance sounds calling LKY, and I heard further sounds that humans are not immortal. Age does matter.)

Verdict: Uncontested


Current MP:
Ong Ah Heng (Stay)

Maybe younger voters may not know who Ong Ah Heng was. Ong was the PAP branch secretary when PAP infamously lost Anson constituency to J.B. Jeyaratnam in 1981. When Devan Nair was taking over as President he has to give up his seat in Anson and call for a By-Election. Nair won the GE 1980 in Anson with an 85% majority. According to “legends”, the new PAP candidate, Pang Kim Hin, brought in this own people which led to some internal conflict between Nair’s group and Pang’s group. Ong Ah Heng (part of Nair’s group) was in the middle of this storm as the branch secretary. (For younger voters, branch secretaries are just one level below the MP in terms of political party branches at constituency levels). Of course, during then, there are some unhappiness among the residents over some lost of jobs and rumoured reallocation. Anyway, history shows that PAP lost with a massive 40% vote swing. Since then, PAP has been as edgy and xenophobic over elections until now.

Ong Ah Heng is a typical grassroots MP. He might not be those high-flying MPs blazing in parliament debates but he is very close and popular with his residents. These are the MPs that wins the ward and very tough to compete on. The last elections saw him pit against Ling How Doong, chairman of SDP. Yet, Ah Heng won more than 75% of the votes. He will be contested, but results will be an overwhelming victory for Ong Ah Heng.

Verdict: PAP wins 70% of the votes


Current MP:
Ho Peng Kee (Posted Elsewhere)

Ho Peng Kee is one of the very few Ministers (Senior Minister of State) who contest in Single Member Constituencies (SMC). He is also one of the longest serving Senior Ministers of State (since 1997) and has along been in the Ministry of Law & Home Affairs. Maybe when DPM Jayakumar steps down, he will be promoted to Minister for Law. (Anyway, at aged 51 yrs old, he is still young for a Minister)

With his impending promotion, would the PAP put him into a GRC of still in a SMC? Be mindful of the fact that since the creation of GRCs, Ministers are usually in GRCs to add weight to the other unknown MPs. For this, I think he will be posted to a GRC and see a new blood in this constituency.

For the oppositions, it might be worth it to contest this seat if there is a chance he might be posted elsewhere. Who knows, a repeat of Anson 1981 might happen in this constituency. But judging how careful PAP has became, it is unlikely they would cite any advantages to the oppositions.

Verdict: PAP wins 60% of the votes


Current MPs:
Ahmad Magad (Stay)
Charles Chong (Stay)
Michael Lim (Stay)
Penny Low (Stay)
Teo Chee Hean (Stay)

Uncontested in last elections due to the popularity of Teo Chee Hean and should be uncontested in the coming GE as well. However, this constituency has got one major event since the last elections: Buangkok NEL Station. But this is unlikely to change the situation much as PAP (very smartly) has covered both spectrum of for and against the opening of the Buangkok station.

Charles Chong petitioned to the Transport Ministry for the opening of the station and rallied the residents behind him. So if the residents want to have the station opened, Charles Chong was their man. Thus, residents who vote along this issue will still choose PAP, Charles Chong, whether they are for or against (almost zero) the opening of Buangkok NEL.

With Radm at the helm, there will be no fight. Just to see how popular he is, go look at how many people and how late his Meet-the-People (MPS) sessions opens until. According to sources, his MPS session was know to stretch until 1 or 2 am every week to accommodate the number of residents meeting him.

Verdict: Uncontested


Current MP:
Chiam See Tong (SDA) (Stay)

Potong Pasir is one of the very few strongholds of the opposition parties that withstood the PAP avalanche. Chiam, a seasoned opposition, narrowly won the last GE against Sitoh Yih Pin. Prior to the last elections, Chiam had a tough time against the party he founded. After helming the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for 13 years, and leading it to success in the 1991 polls with three elected MPs, he faced the ignominy of being ousted by his own executive committee in 1993. He eventually left to form the Singapore People's Party, which he now heads. He had a bitter battle with SDP then and Dr Chee Soon Juan which he sued SDP for defamation and was awarded S$120,000. ( That leaves a lot of questions regarding Dr Chee’s character when he ousted his mentor to take over the secretary-general position. In the present website of SDP, it has no mention of its founder and Chiam’s massive contributions to the establishment of SDP.

Anyway, Chiam, the old warhorse, has his own brand and mild-mannered ways to attract votes. He is a tireless campaigner and more importantly, considered as a mild threat by the PAP. Nonetheless, kudos to Chiam for his spirited stand against the wind (in recent years, the wind has turn into typhoon). This will be another close fight but I think, PAP will still “give” this ward to Chiam. They have their ways of “not plucking nearly ripe chikus” (a political term used by Eric Low when he contested agains Low Thia Khiang in Hougang).

Verdict: SDA wins 52% of the votes


Current MPs:
Chin Tet Yung (Stay)
Hawazi B Daipi (Stay)
Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam (Stay)
Lee Wei Rhen Warren (Stay)
Mohd Maliki B Osman (Stay)
Tony Tan Keng Yam (Retire)

We all know that DPM Tan will step down by the next elections. Looking at the lineup, they will not want to risk having a By-election before the next elections. If he runs for presidency, GE should be around this December or earlier next year.

DPM Tan is also another popular figure and was uncontested in the last elections. This coming elections, there will be some reshuffling in the team. I’m quite sure one of the full Ministers will come in to take over DPM Tan’s position. Two of the most likely candidates are Lim Swee Say & Ng Eng Hen. Lim Swee Say is currently in Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC which is just below Sembawang. Moving up north seems like a logical reallocation. Ng Eng Hen, who is already promoted to full Minister and took two heavy weight portfolios (Defense & Manpower), is ready to head his own GRC and will not be under the sheltered wings of Wong Kan Seng for the next GE.

Dr Maliki is likely to be promoted to Minister of State by the next GE and will be the future Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs (presently under Yaacob Ibrahim). He is currently a Parliamentary Secretary and has been representing the Ministries for some overseas visits. Definitely, he will be promoted.

This GRC may be worth challenging depending on the new anchoring Minister coming in, but will still be won by PAP.

Verdict: PAP wins 65% of the votes

TAMPINES GRC (125,432)

Current MPs:
Mah Bow Tan (Stay)
Ng Phek Hoong Irene (Stay)
Ong Kian Min (Stay)
Sin Boon Ann (Stay)
Yatiman B Yusof (Might retire)

Many people, even the oppositions, always think that Mah Bow Tan is an unpopular Minister due to his past implementation of the COE and HDB. On the contrary, I heard he is a very popular Minister in his constituency. This is partly because that area has been seeing a lot of upgrading and infrastructure. Values of the HDB apartments of that area have also been rising. I don’t see much issue that the oppositions can make in routes into and even if they contest, I don’t see them winning more that the previous number of votes.

Verdict: PAP wins 65% of the votes


Current MPs:
Chay Wai Chuen (Stay)
Chong Weng Chiew (Stay)
Indranee Thurai Rajah (Stay)
Khaw Boon Wan (Stay)
Koo Tsai Kee (Stay)
Lee Kuan Yew (Retire)

MM LKY’s ward has been uncontested since 1988 and any opposition that contest against him has been scared of their wits. The question on everyone’s mind is whether he would retire since his son is now the PM. My thoughts are that he will step down during this coming GE. If he steps down, he will step down as a Cabinet Minister directly and will not have a partial stepping down (step down as MM but continue to contest as a MP) (you will never see him seating in the backbenchers seat debating against his son). He seems to be making all the retirement preparation with his official overseas visits to establish good ties with the counterparts for his son. As a Minister Mentor, he does not have the executive power (on paper) but welt tremendous influence on the Ministers’ decisions. Thus, this also means that he can’t get any other Ministerial positions lower than that or lower than what he will accept. This is the best time, position and status for him to step down.

Khaw Boon Wan should take over as the anchoring Minister and he has quite good relations with his grassroots and residents. Tanjong Pagar is an aging district and no matter how much the oppositions criticize MM LKY of his alleged authoritarian ways, the residents are fiercely loyal to LKY. He was the one who brought food on to their tables and shelters above their heads. Even if LKY is not contesting in this GRC, oppositions will still be too afraid and intimidated to contest in this GRC as long as he is alive. If oppositions were to contest in this ward, LKY will still stand up to give speeches for his GRC even if he is not contesting. So watch your words if you are planning to contest thinking that he might not be standing in this GE.

Verdict: Uncontested

WEST COAST GRC (110,779)

Current MPs:
Fong Jen Arthur (Stay)
Foo Chee Keng Cedric (Leave)
Ho Geok Choo Madeleine (Stay)
Lim Hng Kiang (Stay)
S Iswaran (Stay)

There was an unconfirmed rumour (not sure if it was the 2001 GE or 1997 GE), that one Minister “deliberately” didn’t fill up the nomination form properly to get himself disqualified. However, some how PAP managed to sort out with the election department and send in the full form. During then, SM Lee blew up and demanded PM Goh to remove this Minister of his post. Other rumours also suggested that this Minister is “PM Goh’s loyal man” and so PM Goh managed to convince SM not to remove him. The alleged purpose was that he was not interested in continuing as a Minister and wanted out. I’m leaving this Minister unnamed but I think it is quite obvious. Personally, I don’t quite believe or trust this rumour. I have doubts over any Ministers would take such political risk and embarrassment in doing such silly actions. So don’t read too much into this.

Cedric Foo is another Minister of State who stepped down and returned to the private sector. He was slated as one of the “super seven” during the last GE of candidates straight away entering politics as a Minister of State. During the recent round of cabinet reshuffling, he was the only “super seven” not to be promoted. The other “super seven” (S. Tharman, Khaw Boon Wan, Ng Eng Hen, Vivian Balakrishnan, Raymond Lim & Balaji Sadasivan) have already been promoted to at least a Senior Minister of State. Most notable parliamentary controversy was when he defended the NS “white-horse” issue which he might not have handled well. Although he handled heavy weight portfolios such as Defense and National Development, he did have much publicity or opportunity to demonstrate his worth. I think he will not contest in the coming GE for the same reasons as David Lim (incidentally, he also left his post of Acting Minister to join NOL).

I think this GRC is one that is worth contesting. Oppositions are unlikely to win by it will rattle the incumbents and fair better than the other GRC battles.

Verdict: PAP wins 60% of the votes

Saturday, July 02, 2005 

General Elections – Who is Going Where?
Part I

My past issues have touched briefly on the General Elections. Maybe this article can focus on my prediction on who is going where.

ANG MO KIO GRC (166,644 electorates)
Current MPs:
Balaji Sadasivan (Stay)
Inderjit Singh (Posted Elsewhere)
Lee Hsien Loong (Stay)
Seng Han Thong (Stay)
Tan Boon Wan (Stay)
Wee Siew Kim (Leave)

Traditionally, observers always say that Prime Minister’s ward will be challenged. This is to keep him busy and keep him on his toes. By challenging the PM, oppositions can effectively keep him in his ward and not travel to other GRCs to campaign. Should the PM’s GRC garner less than 65%, it is considered as a loss (and loss of face).

However, since the establishment of GRC format, oppositions are unlikely to challenge the PM due to resource constraints. Potentially, the challenger may lose their election deposit if their results are less than 20% (if memory serve me well, it should be 20%). With this factor, resource maybe better spend on GRCs with higher chance of winning.

Among these candidates, there might be some changes. Inderjit Singh, maybe transferred to other GRCs with lesser minority representation and Wee Siew Kim, may be replaced with a new candidate. Wee is the MP for Jalan Kayu and is a growing population. It is likely that the boundary for Jalan Kayu will be carved out for other GRCs. Other than that, I don’t expect much change. Dr Balaji is likely to remain as he is quite popular in Cheng San and is unlikely to be promoted before the elections (usually there won’t be two full Ministers in a GRC when contesting). Dr Tan is the second MP to Teck Ghee division (PM Lee’s ward) when PM is not around, so it is unlikely he will leave. Seng Han Thong is very popular among the Chinese speaking and is holding keep positions in Singapore Press Holdings, so he will be an asset to AMK GRC.

Verdict: Uncontested

ALJUNIED GRC (125,115)

Current MPs:
Ong Seh Hong (Stay)
Phua Cynthia (Leave)
Yeo Guat Kwang (Posted Elsewhere)
George Yong-Boon Yeo (Stay)
Zainul Abidin Rasheed (Stay)

This ward will definitely be challenged by Worker’s Party (WP). My sources said that the WP are having residents’ visits and campaigning every night. Other than George Yeo and Zainul Abidin, the rest are considerably weak. Ong Seh Hong, Cynthia Phua and Yeo Guat Kwang are neither those very “grassroots” people (unlike Ong Ah Heng or Tan Cheng Bock) nor charismatic figures. George Yeo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is constantly traveling overseas and is unable to spend too much time on grassroots functions. Hence, he might not be as close to the residents compared to Low Thia Khiang from WP.

Thus, PAP is faced with two dilemmas. One, transfer George Yeo to other GRCs and play safe, but this will invite criticism of him shying away from election battle. For a Minister tipped to be a future DPM, he has to face the battle. Two, keep George Yeo in the GRC and face election battles but transfer “grassroots MPs”, such as Ong Ah Heng or Wang Kai Yuen, to Aljunied.

There might be some boundary changes and transfer some electorates to Tampiness or Pasir Ris-Pungol GRC, where they are much stronger. I think this will be one of the focal election battle ground for this coming elections.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win 60%)


Current MP:
Tan Cheng Bock (Retire)

Tan Cheng Bock is widely regarded as Goh Chok Tong’s ears and eyes. Former classmate to SM Goh and is quite critical of PM Lee in the past. He is one of the oldest MP is the last elections and won it by the largest margin. Hugely popular figure in his constituency but for this election, he will retire and we will see a new candidate. The candidate should be an existing MP since this is a SMC and will be contested. If PAP sends a totally new candidate, it means that they might be allowing one more opposition into the parliament. What we might see is Sitoh Yi Pin (who lost to Chiam See Tong) contesting this ward.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win by 65% with new candidate)


Current MPs:
Davinder Singh (Stay)
Leong Horn Kee (Stay)
Ng Eng Hen (Posted Elsewhere)
Wong Kan Seng (Stay)
Zainudin Nordin (Stay)

We will see some movement within this GRC in terms of MPs but it will not be contested by the oppositions. There are two Ministers in the form of Ng Eng Hen and Wong Kan Seng. Wong Kan Seng, soon to be DPM, will definitely continue in his stronghold, Bishan. That leaves Ng Eng Hen. Thus, Dr Ng will be going to other GRCs that the Ministers are retiring (likely to be Sembawang and Jalan Besar). His division is just at the borders of Potong Pasir, opposition territory, and the new candidate will have a task of winning the “neighbours” over.

The rest of the candidates will stay as Nordin and Leong Horn Kee are very popular in the grassroots and Davinder, famous lawyer of PAP, is a capable speaker.

Verdict: Uncontested


Current MP:
Wang Kai Yuen (Stay)

Every SMC will be contested and Wang is likely to continue as well. He is another popular MP and very “grassroots” man. The last elections, he garnered thrice the number of votes of the total of both challengers’ vote combine. Though he is getting old, he is likely to contest in this one.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win 70%)


Current MP:
Low Seow Chay (Stay)

Low Seow Chay faced opposition Steve Chia during the last elections and won by about quite a good margin. Likely to continue in his ward but Steve Chia might move to other district to contest. Chua Chu Kang, is a division with younger electorates, Steve Chia might wish to tap on his relevance to their generation and contest. But his reputation already took a beating with his “maid photo” scandal. PAP may not mind losing this ward as he has shown in parliament to raise some good points but not threaten the PAP too much. Since Chiam See Tong is retiring soon, Chia will be a “soft” opposition to take over.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win 65%)

EAST COAST GRC (144,012)

Current MPs:
Abdullah Tarmugi (Stay)
Chew Heng Ching (Stay)
Lee Yock Suan (Retire)
Lim Siang Keat Raymond (Stay)
S Jayakumar (Stay but retire after elections)
Tan Soo Khoon (Posted Elsewhere)

This is a very strong and unique line up for PAP in the last elections. You have a DPM, a newly-promoted Minister, an ex-Minister, a Speaker of Parliament, an ex-Speaker of Parliament and a Deputy Speaker of Parliament. If any opposition had contested in this GRC during the last election, it would be pure madness and giving the election deposit to the government.

But this coming election, it will be different. Lee Yock Suan will definitely be stepping down and so will DPM Jayakumar. But DPM Jayakumar is likely to contest in this GRC as the DPM as until now, he has made no indication of stepping down. However, don’t be surprise to see him step down just before or after elections as the title “DPM” was a political gift to him as a reward for his contributions. It is always nice to retire as a DPM. Raymond Lim will be the holding Minister for this coming election and if Tarmugi doesn’t contest for Presidential Election he will remain in the same GRC. Likely, a Junior Minister (Minister of States) will be introduced to this GRC.

Opposition will not win this GRC and might even lose their deposit if they contest here. But if there is a lot of movement and changes in MPs, they might reconsider. East Coast has always been an upper-middle class area with not much problems with social issues. So there will be little grounds for opposition to fight on.

Verdict: Uncontested


Current MPs:
Gan Kim Yong (Stay)
Lim Swee Say (Posted Elsewhere)
David Lim Tik En (Leave)
Teo Ho Pin (Stay)
Vivian Balakrishnan (Stay)

Another very strong lineup of MPs and Ministers. However, since there are two Ministers in the GRC, they might channel either Lim Swee Say or Vivian to other GRCs. I think Teo Ho Pin, Mayor of North West CDC, might be promoted to Minister of State. Vivian, who is hugely popular with the younger generation, might be the anchor Minister for this GRC while Lim Swee Say move to up North to take over DPM Tan’s Sembawang. David Lim, former Acting Minister and now CEO of NOL, is likely to leave. After the 2001 elections, he quit his position as Acting Minister and joined NOL as Group CEO and President. He is not a MP that is grassroots oriented and if he is not a Minister, he is unlikely to have any interest to stay on as MP unless he is related to his job. But I think he will leave.

Opposition might not challenge this GRC. However, the land area of this GRC is too large. Thus it is likely to shrink for this GE.

Verdict: Uncontested

HONG KAH GRC (129,073)

Current MPs:
Ahmad Khalis Abdul Ghani (Stay)
Ang Mong Seng (Stay)
John Chen (Stay)
Amy Khor Lean Suan (Stay)
Yeo Cheow Tong (Stay)

Opposition will challenge this GRC as they did in the last elections. SDP sent an unknown team and garner 24,513 votes! Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister of Transport, isn’t the most popular of Ministers with his continual support for transport operators than to the commuters. Some suggest that he might be stepping down as Minister (as he is a “SM Goh’s” men & is unpopularity and inability to tackle the SIA pilot union case) but I think he will still continue on.

We might see an introduction of a Minister of State in this GRC or the promotion of Amy Khor to Minister of State. Ang Mong Seng, is a “grassroots man” and quite a popular figure. That will give them a slight edge over the opposition. This should be one of the focal election battle grounds if Yeo Cheow Tong continues. If I’m the opposition, I’ll send my strongest team less the secretary-general to contest for this ward. I think SDP will do that.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win by 55% vote and oppositions make further in roads)

HOUGANG SMC (23,320)

Current MP:
Low Thia Khiang (WP) (Stay)

PAP will let him win this one by sending Eric Low again. Low Thia Khiang is campaigning, almost every night, within Hougang and at Aljunied. He should win this one with a slim but convincing margin. According to source, WP has been quite successful in getting people to join the WP. Quite unlikely that PAP will send any strong candidates there as they still want some opposition in parliament. No opposition = no democracy.

Verdict: Contested (WP to win 54% votes)


Current MPs:
Heng Chee How (Stay)
Lee Boon Yang (Retire)
Loh Meng See (Leave)
Lily Tirtasana Neo (Stay)
Yaacob Bin Ibrahim (Stay)

Lee Boon Yang is likely to step down as Minister and MP. I’m 90% sure of his retirement, judging from his reduction in security officers around him. His MICA portfolio is well-taken over by Dr Balaji and his public appearance has also reduced.

Last elections, this GRC was contested and won around 60% of the votes. I think some of the full Ministers will be transfer here and Yaacob, also a Minister will stay, as he is a minority representation for the GRC. If no heavy weights are transferred here, this GRC will be contested. Jalan Besar is an aging population GRC and they might transfer some senior figures into this GRC.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win 60%)

JOO CHIAT SMC (21,745)

Current MP:
Chan Soo Sen (Stay)

This ward was contested by an Independent Candidate and Chan Soo Sen won it by quite a convincing margin of about 75%. Chan is one of the Minister of State that was not promoted during the last round of Cabinet Reshuffle. He is more of a grassroots MP than a Minister in the political sense. He has great appeal to the Chinese population there and will continue to contest this seat.

As I said, all SMCs will be contested but I guess hope that it will not be an independent candidate but from either WP or SDP. Independent candidates are like “paid candidates” contesting for the sake of competition and not for elections. Maybe that is why they are not too bothered when they lose their deposits. Ever wonder why? ;)

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win 70%)

JURONG GRC (115,113)

Current MPs:
Yu-Foo Yee Shoon (Stay)
Halimah Bte Yacob (Stay)
Lim Boon Heng (Stay but relinquish Ministerial Position)
Ong Chit Chung (Leave)
Shanmugaratnam Tharman (Stay)

This was the focal battle ground in the 2001 elections. And in my opinion, they won by such a large margin only because Dr Chee, SDP, shot themselves in the foot when he shouted and heckled former-PM Goh. Tharman was their “target” during then due to his “leaking” of MAS secrets. Lim Boon Heng, Minister for PMO, seems to be on his way out as a Minister. He stated that he will be standing in the coming elections but the question is that would he stand as a Minister or just a MP. Answer lays with PM not him. He is widely regarded as a “Goh Chok Tong man” and with the change of PM and his reduction in portfolios, would he be a surplus in the Cabinet? I think so, especially when Lim Swee Say is going to take over as the Secretary General of NTUC. If he relinquishes his Ministerial position, Tharman will be the anchor Minister for this GRC. I think this is one GRC that the opposition will contest in.

Both Halimah and Mdm Yu-Foo are quite grassroots-involved and has a good based of support. Thus they will continue in this GRC. Ong Chit Chung has been in this GRC for quite some time but very low profile. He might just move on and be replaced by younger candidates.

Verdict: Contested (PAP to win by 60% votes)

Next Week: General Elections Part II
With predictions for Marine Parade, Potong Pasir, Tanjong Pagar…

Friday, July 01, 2005 


Maybe this article will fuel more thoughts on DPM Tan being one of the candidates for presidency. However, this article will also suggest that since he is stepping down as a Minister, would he continue as an MP or retire as a MP. Likely, if he is not going to president, he will stay on until the next elections then retire.

If he is running for presidency, which I think he will, GE should be the next year, just before after the budget debates (February 2006). It is quite pointless or troublesome to have three elections within two years, if they decide to have by-elections instead of an earlier GE.

So, I’m placing my bets on DPM Tan and Perm Sec Lim Siong Guan to be the candidates for presidential elections.

TODAY Papers
Friday, 1 July 2005

Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan plans to step down around the end of August, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He revealed this to Singapore reporters in New Delhi during a wrap-up of his three-day state visit to India.

Dr Tan, 65, will retire after he completes his work as head of a Ministerial Committee on Research and Development (R&D), said Mr Lee. The group, formed last year, is scheduled to produce recommendations this month on how Singapore can advance its R&D efforts.

While Dr Tan's successor as DPM is clear — Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng will step in — there is still speculation on what Dr Tan will do once he retires. Will he run for President?

"You must ask him (Dr Tan)," said Mr Lee, when asked if this was a possibility. Dr Tan, meanwhile, was at a dinner at the Istana last night, where the National
University of Singapore (NUS) awarded him its inaugural Eminent Alumni Award, in a tribute to his role as "Singapore's architect of university education".

For 25 years, Dr Tan has overseen the university education sector here, first as the Vice Chancellor of NUS and later in his ministerial roles.

President S R Nathan's six-year term ends on Aug 31 and, of course, there is every chance that he could run again.

The Prime Minister also touched on whether he is concerned about the health of Singapore's economy, given the nation's economic showing in recent months: "It's a bit slower than last year but I don't believe, as of now, we have reason to be worried. The US economy (and that of China) are still growing steadily," he said.

Mr Lee added that oil prices, which remain high, are a worry, but, "What to do? We're an oil consumer and it's something that affects all countries."

Christie Loh in New Delhi

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