Why I am glad to predict the Punggol East by-election wrongly

To start, I predicted the result of the Punggol East by-election wrongly as my guess is 51% for the ruling party and 48% for Workers Party with the 1% split for the minnows. Of course, with no polling data available, the way I came to the prediction was to look at the historical datapoints we have in the past. Most of the people including myself (and I am no pundit but a private citizen) would have made the following assumptions and come to the prediction that the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP) is the likely winner to the by-election. Continue reading Why I am glad to predict the Punggol East by-election wrongly

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson

Written by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, the central theme of the book “Why Nations Fail” is to explain the huge differences in incomes and standards of living that split the rich countries of the world from the poor, and put forward a perspective based on how institutions created from politics can evolve the way towards progress or fail depending on their nature of being inclusive and extractive. The book also sought to debunk known theories such as the geography hypothesis advocated by the ecologist and evolutionary biologist, Jared Diamond, the culture hypothesis and finally the ignorance hypothesis proposed by the economists. There are interesting insights extracted from this book that any interested reader of politics and economics will enjoy and how they can be applied in context on Singapore in the present day. Continue reading Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson

Where & Why did Social Media succeed & fail in GE 2011?

After the past 10 days of intensive campaigning, cooling off and subsequently polling day for the Singapore General Elections 2011 (GE 2011), an interesting question comes to mind, “Why has social media worked for the opposition parties and failed badly for the ruling party particularly the case of George Yeo?” I examine certain aspects of the campaign in an attempt to answer this question and point out the lessons learnt from this election and how the learning points can be move forward to the next. Continue reading Where & Why did Social Media succeed & fail in GE 2011?

Are Property Prices affected by who you vote for?

Recently, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that the property prices of Aljunied GRC will go down if the voters of that constituency vote for the opposition. In his words, “If you have the wrong government, your property prices go right down. Ask why in Hougang the property is not as high as their neighbours.” Given the residents of Hougang SMC has been voting for Mr Low Thia Khiang for the past 20 years and assuming Mr Lee’s comments to be true, the direct inference is that the value of the HDB flats for the Hougang SMC should now be far lower than similar flats in the same neighborhood placed under Aljunied GRC. Continue reading Are Property Prices affected by who you vote for?

The Problem of Relative Choice for Singaporean Voters

Some time back, the Prime Minister of Singapore announced a few sweeping changes to the election system to encourage more dissenting voices within the Parliament in Singapore. He proposed the following changes namely:

(1) Permanency and Number of Nominated Members of Parliament in the Singapore Political System: Nominated Members of Parliament will feature as a permanent fixture in the parliament. The number of NMPs are fixed at 9. In addition, the Constitution and the Elections Act will be changed to allow a maximum of 9 Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs). The number of NCMPs in each parliament is equal to the difference between nine and the number of opposition MPs elected. One important thing to note is that no more than two NCMPs may come from the same GRC ward.

(2) 12 single member constituencies (SMCs) and lesser six-member GRCs: We will have 12 SMCs and we are not sure how these new ones are going to be formed. It is likely that 3 new SMCs will be carved out of the present electoral boundaries. The other change is that there will be fewer six-member GRCs.

It is not in the interest of this article to offer an opinion on the policy whether cynical or positive, but instead, it may be interesting to apply some behavioral economic reasoning involved in how the establishment is applying the problem of relative choice for the Singaporean voters. Based on David Ariely’s model about relative choice in his book, “Predictably Irrational”, here is a situation which one can relate to. Suppose if I have two choices (A) and (B) where it is difficult to compare given different attributes, the introduction of a decoy choice (-A) will provide an individual with a choice that is comparably be better than (B) and tips the individual towards (A).

We will aggregate these new changes in the Elections Act and Constitution and call it choice (A), which is the outcome that the establishment is willing to compromise, i.e. if all the conditions apply, the new Parliament after the next election will have a maximum of 20% representation from the opposition. Given all the recent debacles made by the Singapore government, for e.g., the escape of Mas Selamat and the loss of investments from Temasek, it is difficult for the establishment to determine the anger that is brewing within the voters in the electorate. So, one possible outcome is a freak election where the voters will end up bringing the opposition to power or the loss of many PAP MPs leading to a possible 70% PAP – 30% opposition scenario. Let me call that option (-A). Of course, it looks increasingly difficult to maintain the option that they will stay in power with a 82 PAP to 2 Opposition scenario. So, we call that option (B) which is likely to be ditched by the voters given increasing unhappiness with the government’s policies. To ensure no freak election, the best way is to offer choice (-A) and (B) such that the most optimal choice is (A). Basically, the 20% representation is an option which the PAP has worked out to be a viable option to tempt the voters in making the choice (A).

[1] Dan Ariely, “Predictably Irrational”