31 May 2011

Singapore Should Never Have a Nuclear Power Plant - Part II

Shortly after the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, I wrote that Singapore should never have a nuclear power plant [link].

The main reason is that Singapore is too small.  In the event of a nuclear accident, there is nowhere in Singapore that is far away enough from the nuclear plant for us to be safe from radioactive fallout.

The mainstream media carried assurances from "experts" that nuclear power was safe and Fukushima Daiichi was an exception.  As one apologist argued: if an ageing nuclear plant, incompetently managed and with obsolete safeguards, is hit by one of the worst earthquakes in recent history followed by a terrible tsunami, yet hardly anybody is killed, then we must conclude that nuclear power has a lot to be said for it.

In early April, the Singapore Government announced that it would proceed with its pre-feasibility study on nuclear energy.  Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran assured Parliament that Singapore would still be a long way from making any decisions on nuclear energy even after the study was completed.

On 25 May, the Swiss government recommended to its parliament that the country's five nuclear power plants should not be replaced as they age, leaving them to be phased out by 2034.

On 30 May, Germany's coalition government agreed to shut down all of the country's nuclear power plants by 2022.  Germany will be the first major industrialised nation in the last quarter century to announce plans to go nuclear-free.

Germany currently obtains 23 per cent of its energy from nuclear power.  It will have to invest at least €150 billion in developing alternative energy sources.  It may depend more on fossil fuels, which are more expensive and more polluting.  Either way, electricity prices may rise.

Unlike Fukushima, Germany does not suffer from earthquakes nor tsunamis.

Not unexpectedly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision has been quickly branded as a cynical exercise in realpolitik, a capitulation to irrationalism, and one that lacks scientific and economic sense.

It is a courageous decision to do what is good for the country and the people.  Cheaper and more reliable electricity is not everything.

No community can afford a nuclear accident.  Especially a country as physically small as Singapore.

25 May 2011

Reviewing Ministerial Remuneration

On 21 May 2011, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the setting up of a committee to review the salaries of cabinet ministers, other political appointment holders and members of parliament.

He said that while the country would always need committed and capable ministers, politics was not a job or a career promotion.  It was a calling to serve the larger good of Singapore.  As such, their salaries must reflect the values and ethos of public service.

Only earlier this month just days before General Election 2011, then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said that the majority of the population were not concerned about the high ministerial salaries; by and large, the people understood.  Prime Minister Lee said that they were necessary for an honest and sound system which would enable Singapore to have the best team in the public sector.  It had delivered a Government which had served Singapore competently and well.

On 7 May 2011, the ruling People's Action Party secured the lowest share of the valid vote in a general election since Singapore's independence.

History of ministerial remuneration
In October 1994, a White Paper on Competitive Salaries for Competent and Honest Government was endorsed by Parliament.

The salary of an entry level cabinet minister, or Staff Grade 1 (MR4), was benchmarked at two-thirds the average principal income of the top four earners in six professions: banking, accountancy, engineering, law, managing local manufacturing companies and managing multinational corporations.  The one-third discount was meant to be a "visible demonstration of the sacrifice" entailed in becoming a cabinet minister.

The salary of a cabinet minister holding a higher appointment was set by using a predetermined ratio to the MR4 benchmark.

In 2000, the MR4 benchmark was changed to two-thirds of the median income of the top eight earners in six professions, from two-thirds of the average income of the top four earners previously.  Also, only 50 per cent of the stock options awarded would be taken into account in calculating the benchmark.

When Parliament debated the matter of ministerial remuneration at some length in April 2007, the ruling People's Action Party's members of parliament robustly defended the MR4 benchmark.  It may be instructive to revisit the debate [9 April], [10 April] and [11 April].

Why is there a need now to review how much cabinet ministers should be paid?

The results
The formula produced at least two anomalous results.

Firstly, Singapore's cabinet ministers, even entry-level ministers, earn several times as much as any of the heads of government of any of the OECD countries.

Secondly, Singapore's cabinet ministers, even entry-level ministers, earn $2 million to $3 million or more a year.  The median income of residents from full-time employment in June 2010 was $2,710 per month.

Such remuneration was paid from public funds, and determined by the cabinet ministers themselves.

Benchmarking against the best
The MR4 benchmark uses the median income of the top eight earners in six professions every year.  It is unlikely that any individual will consistently rank among the top eight earners in his profession every year.  The company that any specific individual works in may underperform in any one year, or the individual himself may underperform.  Yet the MR4 benchmark assumes that the cabinet ministers will always rank among the highest earners year after year.

Economy
A fifth of the cabinet ministers’ annual salaries depend on a GDP bonus of between zero months, if the economy grows by 2 per cent or less, and eight months, if it expands by 10 per cent or more.  (This statement by Minister in charge of the Civil Service Teo Chee Hean in 2007 is not clear.  Since the GDP bonus is variable, will the GDP bonus account for one-fifth of the ministers' salaries when the GDP bonus is zero or eight months?)

The performance of the Singapore economy is the result of many factors and the contributions of many people, not just the contributions of the cabinet ministers and other political appointment holders.

Survival of the organisation
An incumbent cabinet minister loses his job if he underperforms, he loses his parliamary seat or his party loses a general election or a vote of no confidence in parliament.  A person in the private sector loses his job if he underperforms or his organisation does not survive.

Pension
The concept of pension hardly exists in the private sector.

A cabinet minister or other political appointment holder is entitled to receive his pension upon reaching the age of 55 years.  Moreover, he is entitled to receive his pension in addition to his regular remuneration if he is still holding the political appointment.  Finally, he may exercise his option to receive a commuted pension gratuity instead of his pension.

The MR4 benchmark does not take into account the entitlement of a cabinet minister or other political appointment holder to receive his pension.

Member of parliament allowance
It seems that a cabinet minister or other political appointment holder also receives the member of parliament allowance.

The party whip, leader of the house and deputy leader of the house enjoy allowances for the additional duties they undertake in addition to being members of parliament.

Other allowance
It is not clear what other allowance, if any, a cabinet minster or other political appointment holder receives.

Cabinet ministers, other political appointment holders and other members of parliament in some countries are entitled to receive certain allowances and/or subsidies such as in relation to maintaining a second home.  However, their situation is different inasmuch as the constituencies which they represent may be located far away from the capital city where the parliament is located.

Civil service
The parliamentary debates in 2007 and 2011 on ministerial salary revisions started with, and was focused on justifying, the revisions of civil servants' salaries.

There is no reason for ministerial salaries to be linked to the salaries of senior civil servants, or vice versa.

Review
The review of the remuneration of cabinet ministers and other political appointment holders appears to serve little or no purpose.

The question facing Prime Minister Lee is a political one.  What remuneration is acceptable to the public?  What remuneration is not too great a sacrifice for public office, now and in the future?

Despite what the prime ministers, other holders of political appointments and other People's Action Party members of parliament have said in support of ministerial salaries since 1994, it is difficult to justify ministerial salaries that are several multiples of the salaries of heads of government elsewhere, and they probably know that.

The use of any other criteria or benchmark is so subjective as to make it politically charged and almost indefensible.

One possible outcome of the review is that the committee will recommend a level of ministerial remuneration that is lower than current levels but higher than what other heads of government receive and higher than what is politically acceptable, but Prime Minister Lee will end up sensibly choosing a level that is politically acceptable.

13 May 2011

Reflections on General Election 2011

Sentiment
The current generation is footloose, trying its luck, looking for fun and games, according to the ruling People's Action Party ("PAP").

A more realistic assessment of the sentiment on the ground was given by the PAP candidates who contested in Aljunied group representation constituency ("GRC"), when reflecting on their loss: there was deep resentment, unhappiness, anger, and pent-up frustrations against the PAP government, and a growing cry from the heart.

Accountability
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew warned the electorate of Aljunied GRC that if they voted in The Workers' Party, they would have five years to live and repent.

In contrast, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded PAP candidates that they were servants of the people, not their masters.

A candidate, together with his party, who is elected to parliament is accountable to the electorate; the electorate is never accountable to the candidate or his party.

Track record
For the purpose of a general election, the relevant track record of any party is its track record since the most recent general election.  For the purpose of the 2011 general election, PAP's track record is not that belonging to the era that brought the country from third world conditions to first world.  It does not mean that Singaporeans do not value the accomplishments of the first generation of political leaders; instead, this general election is not about those accomplishments.

Senior Minister (immediate past Prime Minister) Goh Chok Tong said that PAP's improved share of the vote in the general election 1997 and 2001 ― the party secured 61.0 per cent of the valid vote in 1991, 65.0 per cent in 1997 and 75.3 per cent in 2001 ― vindicated his policies, many of which are still in effect today.  The results of general election 2001 held in November, when the tragedy of 9/11 World Trade Center was still fresh in the minds of the electorate, should be disregarded as being anomalous.  Otherwise, PAP's smaller 66.6 per cent share of the valid vote in general election 2006 would have to be interpreted as a rejection of its policies.  But whose policies, inasmuch as Mr Lee Hsien Loong took over as prime minister in August 2004?

Group representation constituencies
The politics of GRCs were dealt with in previous posts [link] and [link].

Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo, who was contesting in Aljunied GRC, may have been a victim of the GRC system that was created by PAP.

Distinction between government and party
A reader wrote to The Straits Times noting that some individuals were given senior positions in National Trades Union Congress ("NTUC") after they resigned from the civil service prior to contesting as PAP candidates in the general election.  According to NTUC president John de Payva and NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say (who is concurrently a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office), NTUC's shared efforts with PAP had enabled the PAP government to grow the economy and strengthen the society.  Was NTUC working with PAP or the government?

As in past general elections, the electorate was told that it must expect PAP to look after PAP constituencies.  It is unclear what a PAP constituency is because PAP has never got, and will not get, 100 per cent of the votes in any constituency.  If PAP (the party) wishes to look after constituencies where the majority of the voters voted for PAP, that is its prerogative.  It is, however, wrong for the PAP government to look after such constituencies ahead of the constituencies on the basis of which party the majority of its people voted for.  An elected government has a moral obligation to look after every citizen and every constituency in the country regardless whether the citizen or the constituency voted for or against the ruling party and regardless whether the citizen resides in a constituency where a majority voted for or against the ruling party.

Upgrading or public refurbishment programmes
Apart from the government's moral obligation to look after every citizen and every constituency in the country, many or most of the upgrading or public refurbishment programmes are funded by public funds, not funds raised from within the respective constituencies.

Many of the programmes serve broader needs of the people and the country, and are not specific to the respective constituencies.  For example, the planning of the mass rapid transit system takes into account population distribution and concentration, not whether or not the majority of citizens in the relevant constituencies voted for or against the ruling party.  The creation of the newest river in Singapore, running along Bishan Park, presumably has something to do with the country's water catchment programme; if it is purely for aesthetics or enjoyment, it is an extravagant expenditure.

Many of the programmes are developed by government agencies such as Urban and Redevelopment Authority, Housing and Development Board, National Environment Agency and Land Transport Authority.

Gamble
Some people described Mr Low Thia Khiang's and Mr Chiam See Tong's move to GRCs away from the single member constituencies ("SMCs") which each of them had held for more than two decades as a gamble.  Both moves were courageous, but neither was a gamble.  They had to do what they did because they believed that it was necessary for their parties to step beyond SMCs to GRCs in order to contribute more to the country.  For a more detailed discussion, see [link].  The Workers' Party retained the SMC previously held by Mr Low and won a GRC.  Singapore People's Party narrowly lost the SMC previously held by Mr Chiam and he lost in the GRC his team contested in.

First world parliament
PAP candidates spent much time and energy debating with The Workers' Party about the latter's vision of a first world parliament and whether Singapore would be better off with one dominant party (i.e., PAP) in parliament rather than a two- or a multi-party system [link].  It was a pointless debate during which many inappropriate examples of malfunctioning two- or multi-party legislatures were cited.  Without a two- or multi-party legislature, PAP itself might not have come to power.

Manufacturing
In his economic manifesto entitled "Creating Jobs and Enterprise in a New Singapore Economy — Ideas for Change" (15 February 2011), Singapore Democratic Party's Tan Jee Say proposed de-emphasising manufacturing and focusing on selected services.  His proposal was questioned by several PAP candidates.  He was even said to be not qualified to put forward the proposal.  Although Mr Tan's arguments are persuasive from a macroeconomic perspective, the difficulty in implementing it is that not everyone can survive in a service oriented economy.  The heated atmosphere of the general election was probably not the right time to introduce a subject which had profound implications for half a million individuals whose livelihoods depend on manufacturing.

Foreign students in Singapore
Surprisingly, this emotive subject was mostly neglected by the opposition parties.

Municipal matters
A general election is not about municipal matters such as parking, street lighting, public bus services etc.  Neither is it about improving the physical infrastructure because some level of improvements to the physical infrastructure are expected; it serves little purpose to grow the sinking fund in a constituency if not to improve the physical infrastructure.

Candidates
Despite the swing in sentiment against the PAP, some opposition parties failed to realise or to acknowledge that some people just would not vote for opposition candidates if they were seen to be not credible, or not sufficiently credible to represent them in parliament.  It might have been better to field fewer but credible candidates.  Faces from the past should not have been fielded, especially if they had failed in the past and had done little for the people in a constituency in the past five years.

The outcome might have been different had the more promising and/or more outstanding candidates in the opposition parties been fielded in the SMCs.  Quality counts, as does emotional connection.

Singapore Democratic Party's Vincent Wijeysingha's participation in a forum on gay issues in the past was brought to the attention of the public by PAP's Vivian Balakrishnan.  A candidate's sexual orientation is irrelevant, but not his agenda.  Nevertheless, it was a sensitive issue.

Candidates should polish up their public image and public speaking skills.  The televised forum on 2 April 2011 is instructive.  Candidates should learn from Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam — he sat upright (not leaning on the armrest nor leaning forward), looked straight into the camera (only occasionally at the moderator or the opposition party representatives) and spoke clearly and confidently.  Some of the other participants should have rehearsed their opening and closing comments until their delivery was natural and flawless; there was no excuse for stumbling over their own prepared comments.  Participants also knew in advance not only the points they planned to raise, but also Mr Shanmugaratnam's probable reply and their own response.  Given the significance of the political forum, they should have rehearsed over and over, preferably with role play.  Finally, there was no room for humility nor lack of confidence; if they did not or did not seem to believe what they themselves were saying, they did not deserve to be believed by their audience.

Speakers at rallies should limit their speeches to three or four main points, even though they might have a dozen or two dozen things that they considered important to communicate to their audience.  Attention span is limited.  Introductions and conclusions are essential to reinforce their points.

Opposition parties and their candidates should keep their focus on the key issues, and not allow themselves to be distracted.  What matters in politics is exploiting the other party's weaknesses.

Media
Some people said that the mainstream media (television and newspapers) were more balanced than in previous general elections in their treatment of the opposition parties.  Others (possibly many) perceived the mainstream media to be still less than balanced in their coverage, presentation, reporting, commentary and editorial, and turned to alternative social media, where cynical and vitriolic comments generally critical of the ruling PAP abounded.  The country in general and PAP in particular would have been better served had the mainstream media been balanced and objective.

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This post, originally published on 12 May 2011, was subsequently updated.

05 May 2011

Reflections on Change

Arnold Bennett.  Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.

Everett Dirksen.  Life is not a static thing.  The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums who can’t and those in cemeteries.

John Kenneth Galbraith.  Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

Mahatma Gandhi.  You must be the change you want to see.

John Porter.  People underestimate their capacity for change.

Virgil.  They can because they think they can.

Andy Warhol. They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

King Whitney Jr.  Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind.  To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse.  To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better.  To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

[Unknown].  One definition of insanity is believing that you can keep on doing what you have been doing and get different results.

04 May 2011

General Election — Arguments & Counter-Arguments

The general election is about Singapore's future.

This statement is self-evident.  Every general election is about Singapore's future.  Why does anyone think it is necessary to elucidate this point?


If the ruling People's Action Party ("PAP") loses one or more group representation constituencies ("GRCs"), the country will lose one or more cabinet ministers together with other incumbent and potential members of parliament.

In the outgoing government, there were 21 cabinet ministers for 16 ministries.  The prime minister's office itself had nine ministers.

Any party that seeks to form the government following a general election, whether in Singapore or elsewhere, must be prepared to do so with its candidates winning just over half the number of seats in the new parliament, and to form the new cabinet from among these winning candidates.  If it wins significantly more than half the number of seats, it is a bonus, but one that it cannot count on.

If any cabinet minister loses the contest in his GRC, it is not the end of the world for the country nor the government.  Sooner or later, every cabinet minister has to vacate his position, whether voluntarily (retirement) or involuntarily (death or defeat in an election).  A replacement may not be as effective initially as the incumbent, but he may eventually become as effective as, or more effective than, the replaced minister.  Moreover, every ministry is run by a group of senior and experienced civil servants, many of whom probably have been working in the ministry for a number of years.

The stated purpose of a GRC is to ensure the representation in Parliament of members from the Malay, Indian and other minority communities.  Each GRC will have at least one candidate belonging to a designated minority community.

Parliament should do away with GRCs.  There is no evidence that Singaporeans vote along racial or religious lines.

If the size of each GRC is reduced to a maximum of three candidates, the win or loss of any GRC will affect at most one cabinet minister.

A party's executive committee decides where its candidates will contest the general election.  If any cabinet minister's seat is vulnerable for any reason whatsoever, the party can move him to another constituency.

A cabinet minister who loses the GRC he/she is contesting in may not be doing a good enough job, at least as far as the electorate is concerned.


If the ruling People's Action Party loses more than a handful of the constituencies in which it is contesting the general election, it may affect its self-renewal and the grooming of individuals to serve as cabinet ministers in the future.

Renewal of every political party is important, but is its own responsibility primarily.  Should the electorate be asked to consider renewal of key personnel of opposition parties?

Renewal is a continuous process which takes place at every general election, not just this general election.


There are dark clouds on the horizon — the political upheavals in the Middle East, the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, serious debt problems in Europe, a crisis in government finances in the US, security challenges from extremists and terrorists in neighbouring countries, etc. — which can impact Singapore's growth, stability and security.  Therefore, Singapore needs a tried and tested team to lead it through uncertain times.

It is naive to believe that the world will be free from uncertainty.

There is not much that Singapore can do about some of these dark clouds.  That said, our sovereign wealth funds, Temasek and GIC, should be more circumspect about investing in these countries.

Challenges are better dealt with employing a diversity of views, instead of group-think.


Opposition parties are seen in the constituencies only around election time.

Some people say that they seldom see their PAP members of parliament, other than during the run-up to the general election or when they need assistance.

I don't know who my member of parliament is, if not for the billboards which appear once a year when my member of parliament conveys his National Day wishes to us.  Could the money have been better spent?

Members of parliament are paid a not insignificant monthly allowance of $16,000.  Members of opposition parties who are not members of parliament do not receive any allowance.

PAP or opposition members of parliament are expected to serve their constituents.  Non-elected personnel have no such obligation.

There is no certainty about the boundaries of constituencies, which may sometimes be changed radically.


Singaporeans should be afraid of a freak election result.

The result of the general election is a result of the collective choice of the electorate.  Any result that disappoints any political party is a disappointment to that party, its supporters and the people who voted for it, but it not a freak result for the country.  A freak result is one in which the choice of the majority of Singaporeans is thwarted.

It is unlikely that PAP will lose the general election.

If PAP loses, the non-PAP parties will have to form a government.  It will not be easy nor straightforward because in the past more than two decades, there have been only two elected non-PAP members.  The parties do not have enough incumbent members of parliament with the experience.  But they will learn.  As mentioned above, they will have the civil service to help them.  Nevertheless, this is why it is very important that the opposition parties get a number of people elected into parliament.

Of greater concern is that no opposition party is contesting the general election in sufficient constituencies to allow it to form the government on its own, or even in partnership with one other party.  The opposition is fragmented and it is difficult to see how they can even come together to form an enduring government.  This may change if one or two opposition parties establish themselves in the coming general election and build on that.

Some people consider a freak election result as one in which no opposition party is elected into parliament (excluding non-constituency members of parliament who have limited voting rights).


If an opposition party wins the election in a GRC, the voters there may suffer lower property prices, lower priority for upgrading projects, less attention to upkeep of the GRC etc.

This subject has been discussed at length by others.  Municipal funds should be used for the good of the residents in a municipality.  State funds should be used for the good of all citizens in the country.

A GRC consists of at four to six areas each of which is big enough to form a single member constituency.  It is unthinkable for the PAP government, or any government for that matter, to discriminate against the people in a GRC simply because a majority voted against it.


There is no assurance that any opposition party is able to run a GRC town council.

No People's Action Party GRC team had any experience running a GRC or any town council when the concept of town councils was introduced.

The town councils are run by professionals, rather than members of the political parties.


If the opposition parties win more constituencies, foreign companies may be frightened away from investing in Singapore.

Elections are part of the democratic process in a country and citizens elect individuals and political parties to represent and serve them in parliament.  Ensuring that foreign investors, important they may be, is not, and should not be, the primary objective.

A country where the government is elected in free and fair elections and where there are effective checks and balances in parliament and government policies are rigorously challenged may be, or may produce, a more conducive investment environment.  Free and fair elections allow change to take place in a democratic manner, even if it may be somewhat messy sometimes.  Investors are averse to situations in which large sections of society are simmering with growing disillusionment with government policies and with growing frustration of their inability to do anything about it.  When policy makers try to suppress political or economic volatility, they only increase the risk of blowups.


The opposition parties want to form the government.

It will be surprising if any opposition party wants to be elected to be the opposition in parliament forever.  However, few parties want to form the government unless they are ready.  And, they are not likely to be ready unless they have enough individuals who have parliamentary experience (there were only two opposition members in the most recent parliament).  It will take time, but that is why a start is necessary.


What are the opposition parties' plans for improving or upgrading the constituencies?

A general election is not a municipal election.  Members of parliament should focus primarily on national issues.  It is also pointless to talk about upgrading plans if they do not get the necessary funds from the government.

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This post was first published on 29 April 2011.  The updates are temporarily shown in red.

02 May 2011

Foreign Workers and Reasonable Economic Growth

Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Khiang reportedly said on 1 May 2011 that the Government would keep foreign workers to one-third of the workforce, even though it was a very severe limitation to the country.

As a result, the Government had to be very selective and take in investments that didn't bust that constraint.

When Singapore took in a "bumper crop" of investments in 2006 and 2007 from multinationals such as energy giants Shell and Exxon-Mobil, which required more foreign workers, the economy expanded by about 7 per cent.

But with the current limit on foreign worker numbers, Singapore would have to aim for lower growth of 3 to 5 per cent.

What is wrong with 3 to 5 per cent growth?

According to the Report of the Economic Strategies Committee, which was accepted by the Government:

"GDP growth at 3 to 5 percent per year will be healthy for an economy at our stage of development — it exceeds that of most advanced countries, which typically grow by 2 to 3 percent.  Growth in some years will be higher, reflecting the global economic cycle.  Realistically, however, on average and taken over the ups and downs over the next decade, GDP growth is not likely to match the 5 percent achieved over the last decade.  But it will generate the resources needed for social investments in health, education and schemes to help lower income citizens move up, and to safeguard our security."

Let's not be greedy.  3 to 5 per cent growth is healthy.  Fast growth is unhealthy, unless it is productivity driven or the unemployment rate is high.

In any case, Mr Lim told Parliament on 11 April 2011 that economic growth this year was expected to be in the range of 4.0 to 6.0 per cent, unchanged from the forecast announced in February 2011.  Has he forgotten, or has the prognosis deteriorated in the past three weeks?

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Notes

1. Limits on Foreign Workers will Crimp Growth The Straits Times Breaking News (2 May 2011).

2. The Report of the Economic Strategies Committee (Feb 2010).

3. Singapore Parliament Report (11 Apr 2011).


This is an update of an earlier version of this posting published on the same date

Archbishop's Thoughts on General Election

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore shared with Roman Catholics his thoughts on the relationship between Church and State and highlighted the importance of taking an active role in the political process.

Church and State have distinctive roles, but they share one mutual goal — the pursuit of the common good of society.

Values promoted by the Church such as honesty, integrity, love and respect for the human person, represent the founding principles of good citizenship in a democratic society.  By remaining true to his/her faith, the Christian citizen acts responsibly in the social community.

When considering the issues and the candidates that will represent the people in the election, Roman Catholics must reflect on their duty to use their free vote to further the common good while remaining true to the Christian values that Jesus had taught them.  Human rights and the dignity of the human person must be respected.

Roman Catholics must also ensure that the poor, the elderly and the marginalised in society are cared for.  Finally, they must protect the beautiful world that God has given us by addressing the impact that their actions have on the environment.

The right to vote is one of the founding principles of a democracy.  Everyone has a voice and can make a difference in the world in which he lives through his choice in the election process.  Each vote is significant.

Roman Catholics are encouraged to exercise their vote carefully and thoughtfully, in respect of the compatibility between their Roman Catholic values and the common good of Singapore.

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Notes

1. Archbishop Chia's Pastoral Letter for 2011 General Election The Catholic News Vol 61, No 9 (8 May 2011).