All proposals have their pros and cons and are subject to debates and improvements.
If our unemployment and underemployment levels remain low, as in the past, majority of Singaporeans may have no concern of this proposed redundancy insurance (RI) scheme. However, if the employment situation worsens, like in 1985, more may show their concerns. And hopefully, the PAP government can do another magic to reform the economy accordingly.
What if the PAP government can’t do the magic? Then, who knows what the outcome will be….
Even with more people showing concerns for short-term financial assistance proposed by WP, it does not mean voters will favour the oppositions.
[The Issue of Marginal Increase]
Redundancy benefit, other short-term financial support or similar assistant scheme can be easily implemented during economic crisis. If there is a large scale unemployment, the PAP government can even draw on the reserve. At the end, voters still thank the PAP for their wonderful recovery job.
As for normal case, as indicated in the proposal, a range of 6,000 to 15,000 workers as indicated in the proposal will be affected. Majority of the workforce will not be affected. So, we are talking about the ‘marginal increase’.
This marginal increased redundancy workers will be benefited from the scheme. Will they make a big impact during elections?
Singapore GINI coefficient index is always above 0.40. In 2015, it was 0.41. Will the RI scheme help to lower the inequality GINI index to below 0.40? Perhaps, there is no effect at all or a very small drop but still above 0.40.
So, who really cares about the RI scheme? A small group of people benefit from the insurance scheme but majority will not show any concern.
The irony in Singapore is schemes like RI scheme, disadvantaged benefit (e.g. the Paralympic), only affect small group of people. But the oppositions and social activists are campaigning very hard for social justice and equal society and they would like to see more schemes and better treatments extend to this marginal group.
However, their efforts can only result to a very small marginal improvements, just like the case of GINI index.
In the PAP’s cost-benefit calculation, it is not a win-win situation. The important thing is to create jobs and not giving protection to redundant workers.
Our Kiasu and kiasi mentality, through long-term PAP education, has developed into ‘Self-serving Bias’ and ‘Just World hypothesis’. Most likely, this mentality will make Singaporeans show no concern of WP proposal.
The PAP says there is no free lunch. For self-serving bias, it is a tendency to attribute our positive outcomes to internal causes and our negative outcomes to external causes . It seems so simple - if you do good, you say it was all you. If something bad happens, you find something external to wag your finger towards.
A self-serving bias is any cognitive or perceptual process that is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. It is the belief that individuals tend to ascribe success to their own abilities and efforts, but ascribe failure to external factors. When individuals reject the validity of negative feedback, focus on their strengths and achievements but overlook their faults and failures, or take more responsibility for their group's work than they give to other members, they are protecting the ego from threat and injury. These cognitive and perceptual tendencies perpetuate illusions and error, but they also serve the self's need for esteem
We believe if we work hard we will be rewarded. Our success is through our working hard or smart minds. We think of individual effort rather than group effort or environment support . However, when redundancy knocks at you, you blame the external factors. If you look at the MRT breakdowns, the detention of SAF vehicles in Hong Kong, all these are the results of external factors. We serve ourselves internally but when crisis or short-term financial difficulty arises, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to serve our ‘esteem’ need.
‘Just World Hypothesis’
Another reason for no concern of WP proposal could be the ‘Just World Hypothesis’. We have a fair and equal employment system here, something must be wrong with you if you are made redundant - either you are not internally working hard, not upgrading skills, or have poor attitude.
According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve. Such a belief plays an important function in our lives since in order to plan our lives or achieve our goals we need to assume that our actions will have predictable consequences. Moreover, when we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply lazy, the fallen star must be an adulterer. These attitudes are continually reinforced in the ubiquitous fairy tales, fables, comic books, cop shows and other morality tales of our culture, in which good is always rewarded and evil punished.
The PAP has created an ‘orderly, predictable and just place’. There is nothing to worry if one is made redundant. The government has replacement plan, re-training and re-skilling policy, and even financial assistance. Through controlled media, this is the projected image for a ready government.
Last night, a NTU staff spoke at 95.8 radio about a self-help story of a disadvantaged student. The staff emphasized so much of internal factors -self-serving bias. The student, despite of physical disadvantages, has to overcome many physical obstacles, environmental inconveniences etc, even his father has to resigned to help him to complete his study. The story wants to stress the ‘internal factors of a hard working student’. The story can be made perfect with first an apology from NTU by saying sorry for providing such an inconvenience study environment for disadvantaged students. The story emphasizes too much of ‘self-serving’ and internal factors.
Singaporeans are in a state of ‘Self-serving Bias’ and ‘Just World hypothesis’. We believe in internal factors for success and strongly trust that the PAP has created a ‘Just World’.
[The issue of Donald Trump and Brexit]
The PAP blame populist politics for the success of Donald Trump and Brexit. By saying that, it serves them well. In a ‘Just World’, the PAP, with a full control of internal factors, can generate success systematically. The PAP, therefore, suggests populist politics destroys ‘Self-serving bias’ and ‘Just World Hypothesis’ - the foundation of PAP implanted kiasu and kiasi mentality.
Populist politics can be left, right, center or either:
Historically, academic definitions of populism vary, and people have often used the term in loose and inconsistent ways to reference appeals to "the people," demagogy, and "catch-all" politics. The term has also been used as a label for new parties whose classifications are unclear. A factor traditionally held to diminish the value of "populism" as a category has been that, as Margaret Canovan notes in her 1981 study Populism, populists rarely call themselves "populists" and usually reject the term when it is applied to them, differing in that regard from those identified as conservatives or socialists.
In the United States, populism has generally been associated with the left, whereas in European countries, populism is more associated with the right. In both, the central tenet of populism—that democracy should reflect the pure and undiluted will of the people—means it can sit easily with ideologies of both right and left. However, while leaders of populist movements in recent decades have claimed to be on either the left or the right of the political spectrum, there are also many populists who reject such classifications and claim not to be "left wing," "centrist" or "right wing."
Trump and Sanders - who is populist?
Isaac Chotiner: Do you see Trump as a populist?
Michael Kazin: Trump expresses one aspect of populism, which is anger at the establishment and various elites. He believes Americans have been betrayed by those elites. But the other side of populism is a sense of a moral people, people who’ve been betrayed for some reason and have a distinct identity, whether they are workers, farmers, or taxpayers. Whereas with Trump, I don’t really get much of a sense of who the people are. Of course journalists say he’s talking mostly to white working-class people, but he doesn’t say that. And that’s, in some ways, what’s missing in Bernie Sanders’ populism, too. He took up calls about the 99 percent and so forth, but you expect a socialist to talk about working people, and he doesn’t do that very much. That’s a very interesting absence from both left and right populism today.
It is just a general statement. The PAP likes to use generalised statements to confuse Singaporeans the meaning of ‘Populist Politics’.
Whether Donald Trump or Brexit, before voting, there were already substantial support for them - more than 40 or 45% national support.
If they can gain additional 5-10% support through ‘marginal increase’ - conservative, traditional, anti-foreigners, anti-immigration, anti-establishment, …. They have a good chance to achieve their success.
We look at the marginal increase or decrease in the UK and US votings.
- Obamacare: fail to generate marginal increase for the Democratic.
- Benefit of EU: fail to generate marginal increase for Cameron.
- Jobs: succeed to generate marginal increase for Trump and Leave Camp.
- Sovereign states: succeed to generate marginal increase for Trump and Leave Camp.
HOWEVER, the case in Singapore is so much different. There is a lack of substantial support for the oppositions - below 40%. It diminishes the potential gain from marginal increase. For example, another 5-10% swing, even with the wrongly named PAP ‘populist politics’, the oppositions in Singapore may gain nothing. The case of Trump and Brexit is a different issue.
[A beautiful proposal but not enough]
Hence, the WP RI scheme is a beautiful proposal. It generates marginal increase of interest for social justice, fair and equal society. It provides a short-term financial assistance to needy workers and their families. Technically, it is subject to improvements as experts are needed to add more inputs.
However, few Singaporeans will show concerns for such a scheme.
In the past 50 years, Singaporeans who voice out for social justice, democracy, individual rights, freedom of speech, are subject to all kinds of ‘populist’ or ‘anti-populist’ politics treatments - ISA, defamation, now even extend to social media.
The WP proposal is just another moderate way of such expression.
If it gains popularity, the PAP can then bad name it as ‘populist politics’. The PAP can also absorb it into their programs as another fulfillment of the ‘populist politics’ demand.
However, with ‘self-serving bias’ and ‘just world hypothesis’ mentality, Singaporeans will still prefer the PAP type of ‘populist politics’. The PAP can be a party of left, right, and center and implements policies according to ‘populist politics’ demand. In Chinese, we call it ‘eat all’ party (大小通吃）.
In such a ‘eat all populist politics’ situation, should the oppositions come with alternative proposals?
There will be a time the marginal increase becomes absolute increase. The ‘eat all’ situation will change to a fair competition. And the PAP can no longer manipulate and have monopoly control of the ‘populist politics’.
It is a matter of time but with a question mark of when. But the oppositions must keep on trying and coming with new alternative proposals. Perhaps, there is one that can generate a populism.