Can Tharman’s Social Budget Save the PAP?

All things after 2011 that the PAP is engaging is for the next General Election, whether it is a social policy or budget. The PAP aims to maintain a 60% target share of votes in the next general election. To the PAP, a 60% share of votes is as comfortable as 75% or even 80% share of votes of the past.  They continue their no transparency no open disclosures of reserve, the CPF. They can also continue to ‘fix’ their political opponents as they wish like the past.  

This is why they believe in big coefficient in obtaining votes. Will it work?  For this, we may have to know the debate between big coefficient and the new reality (see below video).

Big coefficient means the PAP believes there is a strong (or big) causal relationship in obtaining or maintaining votes when they introduce policies benefitting some groups of voters, their votes can be increased or retained if voters are happy with these policies.  

It is also an evidence-based decision making process.  The PAP has all the data in their hand and they are good at mathematics. The PM wants to see the results and so the different ministries can easily give the projections of the votes retained or increased.

In a simple linear equation, the Big Coefficient by Citizens for the PAP looks like the followings:

Big coefficient of the PAP

Vote PAP =
Basic votes +

a%(senior citizens) +

b%(new citizens) +

c%(middle age citizens) +

d%(young voters) +

errors correction

The PAP has its support point. It can range from 35% to 45%, depending on the opponents.  However, it needs 50.1% to win but aiming a win/loss target of 50% is too dangerous and risky. Freak election can happen.  So, a safe margin is 60%.  Anything lower than 60% means there is no safety margin and will lead to a tipping effect: a big drop in votes as in the case of Punggol East by-election.

The 2014 social budget has been described as generous, social investment and its theme is “Opportunities for the Future, Assurance for Our Seniors”.  The first item in the big coefficient is senior citizens or pioneer generations.  By taking care of senior citizens, the PAP hopes to retain or even increase the votes in this group of voters. The big coefficient in new citizens is understandable.  These 2 groups add together may have 1 million voters, so if you consider total voters of 2.3 million, it is more than 40% of the total.

The budget also introduces affordable healthcare and promote social mobility through more education opportunities and assistances.  Middle age citizens with children or parents will be benefitted, especially those in the lower and middle income group.   The PAP wants to maintain the votes in this group and does not want it to drop further. This too is a big coefficient variable. They also have the most number of voters (considering the age group from 35 to 55).  

The only non-big coefficient item is young citizens.  If a young voter is a drinker plus smoker, he will be very unhappy with the budget. So do lower income smokers and drinkers. This is also the social media group. Hence, it may even be a negative coefficient.

The linear equation can also be income base.  It can be divided into very low, low, middle and high income groups. The budget is focusing on senior citizens, health care and education. It will benefit the very low, low and middle income citizens – the big coefficient in the eyes of the PAP.    

Big coefficient is always the mind of the PAP. Some big coefficient equations work very well in the past but are now not effective anymore.  For example, the GRC system, the fear of losing one or two ministers has helped to retain the votes for the PAP. The town management and the rubbish collection have also frightened many voters. Another one can be the bad mouth tactics and the control of mainstream media.  All these past big coefficients worked very well in the past but face diminishing return or not helpful anymore.   

The principle of the PAP is based on “no free lunch”. They are now moving to the left and claim to be socialists. Why are they doing this? Their model thinking tells them a social budget will lead to big coefficient effect and so they can maintain the voting share at 60%.

But is this a new reality? Is “Achieving quality growth and an inclusive society go hand in hand” as claimed in the budget a new reality?

New reality

It may not be fair to say that the PAP fails to recognise the new reality.  They have introduced SG Conversation. They even try to engage in social media. They try to build more HDB flats and cool down the property market. It looks like they can’t find the big coefficient in the Conversation and in the Internet. Hence, they have to go back to the tradition way – media control, social mobility and basic healthcare, education, targeted wages, and caring the olds.

So what really is the new reality? Some may not even emerge.  Social media can be one.  The population issue, the employment issue, the HDB issue even the frequent breakdown of MRT can also be a new reality. The strike, the riot and the FT (foreign talents) issue are also possible new realities.

People’s expectation is changing and external environment can also contribute to the new reality.  Thailand, Ukraine, Malaysia and many other events outside Singapore are giving confusing realities.  But if a conflict can be solved by voting in a peaceful way, why don’t Singaporeans give it a try?  These external realities may help or hurt the PAP.  The recent PAP’s strong reaction on the naming of Indonesia navy ship shows they also want to try the new reality.  The new low ranking of press freedom in Singapore is another proven reality of media control here.

Some new realities may even come from the social budget.  For example the health care for pioneer generations, it looks like they will pay nothing. However, MediSheild is a co-finance insurance scheme.  We need to know more details and how it works.  Perhaps, all the realities of the social budget in 2014 and 2015 will only be revealed after the next General Election.

Technical or behavior  

Big coefficient vs. new reality can also be seen as technical analysis vs. behavior-led outcome. In economics or finance, there is now more awareness of the role of behavior (e.g. psychology) in predicting economic performance or stock market movements.

A change or sudden change of behavior is just like the new reality. We are not able to predict and forecast the new reality or behavior accurately in advance.  For the PAP, the best hope is still big coefficient and technical analysis. This model has past evidence to support and can be calculated within the box.

For the oppositions, it is new reality and behavior that will give them a breakthrough.  The lower the basic supporting interception, the more new realities and behavior changes are needed.

So, what do you think? Can the election budget save the PAP? Is 60% still a reality? If not, what will be the new reality?  


  1. Dear Blogger of Piji Tailai,

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    While much has been discussed about English blogs, very little attention has been given to non-English blogs. As part of our study, we are conducting a survey to find out more about Chinese bloggers’ blogging practices, topics of interest and motivations for blogging.

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    Research Fellow
    Institute of Policy Studies
    National University of Singapore

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