In what must be seen as another "populist move" Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that Singapore citizens will be given "absolute priority" over permanent residents (PRs) when balloting is required during the Primary 1 registration exercise. In the event that the number of applicants exceeds the number of vacancies in a specific phase of the exercise, citizens will be admitted first, regardless of how far they live from the school. This will address the tactics of some PRs who buy property from the new or resale market to be within that critical 1 km distance of a popular school.
The last time the scheme was changed in 2010, Singaporean children were given two ballot slips, compared to one for a PR registrant. That apparently had failed to placate the ire of parents anxious to have their wards placed in a "good school".
The end of this month will also see A-level graduands competing for limited places in the local universities. It remains to be seen if another vote gathering gesture will hatched to soothe the tempers of another set of doting guardians. Ideally, foreigners will be granted access only after Singaporeans have secured their admission. And reduce the number of the ungrateful free-loader type foreign scholars.
A Taiwanese agent advising an American businessman about the amount needed to grease some palms for a multi-million dollar project (American firms are strict about bribes, but "guanxi" is okay) explained the Chinese strategy that if one needs to make a killing, the knife better had better be sharp. If one uses a uses a blunt instrument, one can stab and stab, there will be lots of splattered blood, but the intended target may refuse to die i.e. be prepared to pay big. Whether the Ministry of Education is utilising the correct set of tools will remain to be seen, but we look forward to more goodies as the politicians scheme to improve their diminished mandate.