Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Pork barrel politics hint at early polls in Singapore

Expansionary spending plan includes billions of dollars worth of voter-friendly hand-outs and subsidies, including special earmarks for the elderly

Singaporean Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered a closely watched budget statement earlier this week, unveiling an expansionary spending plan for 2019. Widely viewed as one of the key events of the city-state’s political calendar, the latest budget points towards the probability of a snap election later this year.

Speculation has been rife since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hinted last year that early elections could be called in 2019, more than a year before his government’s mandate ends. As external uncertainties weigh against the island nation's trade-reliant growth, some analysts see early polls as a hedge against a dimmer, less-predictable economic forecast.

Data released ahead of the latest budget proposal showed that Singapore’s economy grew at its slowest pace in more than two years in the fourth quarter of 2018. As such, all eyes were on Heng for signals on how the long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) plans to stave off economic headwinds in the financial year ahead.

The budget statement was the first major policy speech given by Heng since he was designated to succeed Lee as Singapore’s next prime minister, following a protracted selection process that saw the city-state abuzz with political guesswork. Some wondered whether the finance minister might now showcase a more campaign-oriented persona.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at