What has been touted as a bountiful budget is, strictly speaking, actually an election budget. Barring anything unforseen, this year will be an election year. What has prevented the PM from naming a date so far, according to observers, is the uncertainty of the ground situation where there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among a considerable section of the underclass. The election budget is therefore very timely as an attempt to assuage the unfavourable situation and to win over this disgruntled class. What one sees on TV are only the apparently happy faces of the population specially focussed by TV personnel for the benefit of the gullible audience. Can one imagine the counter effect any showing of unhappy faces on TV can have on the populace?
As the name implies, the election budget is aimed at vote-procuring (I would not use the obnoxious word vote-buying) in the general election by using the people's money. This gives the PAP wallahs a distinct advantage over the opposition in the general election because the opposition can never, in terms of financial resources, match the PAP in procuring votes in this manner. Besides the election budget, the PAP has introduced or will introduce other measures like HDB Estate upgrading and gerrymandering to ensure a clean sweep of the poll.
In view of such a great electoral disadvantage, can the opposition surmount such an obstacle in competing in the coming general election.? In spite of the PAP's apparent impregnable position vis-a-vis the general election, there is, however, considerable electoral support for the opposition partly as a result of their frequent walkabouts in the constituencies meeting the people and partly because of the animosity of some of the people towards the PAP. Therefore all is not lost provided there is unity among the opposition parties. Although the PAP seems to be a colossal force, with ingenuity a united opposition will be able to find a chink in its armour and capitalise on it.
It is not a given that the whole electorate has been bought over by the PAP's election budget. As has been said there is considerable sympathy among the electorate for the opposition and it can appeal to their good sense and fair play for their votes in the coming general election. With unity there is no reason why a united opposition will not be able to capture one or two GRCs which will really be splendid in bringing down the arrogance of the PAP leaders, especially that of the hubristic MM Lee Kuan Yew. After the recent booboo of MM Lee in disparaging the Malay/Muslim community, the opposition can perhaps count on considerable support from the Malay voters, despite the luke-warm effort of PM Lee Hsien Loong to resolve the Malay anger. As long as MM Lee does not show any humility in apologising for his aspersion, the Malays are not known to have short memories. Many of the public have predicted that the percentage of votes that the PAP will get in the coming general election will be reduced.
Finally, the Finance Minister can congratulate himself for a vote-winning election budget.