“Full-time” MPs are better than “part-time” MPs? Really meh?

TL;DR – Superheroes also not full-time mah.

Now that we are done with nomination, the battle for the hearts and minds of the Bukit Batok voters is certainly heating up. It seems that both sides are trying their best to convince Bukit Batok residents that they would be better able to take care of their municipal needs. Both sides have announced what they would do for Bukit Batok if elected.

SDP has announced four social programmes. PAP has announced that it will implement a job placement programme and set up a healthcare cooperative. As we have written earlier, we think that it will come down to whether Bukit Batok residents are convinced that PAP will be better able to successfully execute social programmes than SDP, or vice versa.

In this respect, SDP’s Dr Chee is trying to get an edge over PAP’s Murali by claiming that he will be a “full-time” MP, if he is elected. He said:

“The clear difference here is that every morning when Mr Murali wakes up, his first destination will be his office. When I wake up every morning, my first destination is Bukit Batok. That’s the difference.”

Dr Chee hopes that this will convince Bukit Batok residents that a “full-time” MP is better able to take care of their needs than someone who has another job.

It definitely sounds like a sexy claim. Who wouldn’t want another person to be dedicated to helping you solve all your problems? But is there any evidence that “full-time” MPs perform better than “part-time” MPs? Let’s look at the “full-time” MPs that we have.

Immediately after being elected in 2011, PAP’s Tin Pei Ling quit her job to be a “full-time” MP. Does being a full-time MP make her a better MP than the other PAP MPs who aren’t “full-time”? Let’s we use the performance at elections as a proxy measure of how well the MP has taken care of their residents.

Ms Tin Pei Ling has been a "full-time" MP since she got elected in GE2011. Photo from ST

Ms Tin Pei Ling has been a “full-time” MP since she got elected in GE2011. Via Straits Times

In GE2016, Tin Pei Ling won 65.6% of the votes in Macpherson SMC. Other PAP candidates who stood in SMCs and weren’t full-time MPs won between about 62% (Lam Pin Min in Seng Kang) to about 77% (Sam Tan in Radin Mas). The evidence would suggest that there’s actually no evidence to show that Tin Pei Ling, a “full-time” MP did any better than other PAP MPs who aren’t “full-time” MPs. 

Ok. Maybe different areas have different needs, have different demographics, or whatever reasons. So maybe not fair to compare across constituencies. Let’s look at Potong Pasir. Mr Chiam See Tong was first elected as MP of Potong Pasir in 1984. He won 60.3% of the votes then. He held the seat until 2011. Was Mr Chiam a full-time MP? Only after 2002. Between 1984 to 2002, Mr Chiam was a practising lawyer.

Supporters congratulating Mr Chiam See Tong after winning the seat of Potong Pasir for the sixth time at the GE2006. TODAY FILE PHOTO

Supporters congratulating Mr Chiam See Tong after winning the seat of Potong Pasir for the sixth time at the GE2006. Via TODAYonline

Again, let’s use performance at elections as a proxy measure of how well the MP has taken care of their residents. In the elections before 2002, Mr Chiam won between about 52% and about 70% of the votes. In GE2006, after Mr Chiam became a full-time MP, he won about 56% of the votes. This shows that there isn’t any clear evidence that a “full-time” MP is any better at taking care of his residents than a “part-time” MP.

Perhaps there are things that the numbers alone don’t tell us. Perhaps we need to look at some qualitative factors. Those would be subjective. But they may still be useful for us to get a sense if a “full-time” MP is better than a “part-time” MP. Let’s look at Ayer Rajah then.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, MP for Ayer Rajah SMC for close to three decades. Photo from TNP

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, MP for Ayer Rajah SMC for close to three decades. Via TNP

Ayer Rajah was a SMC until 2006. It was then absorbed into the West-Coast GRC. I have lived in the Ayer Rajah area for 30 years. For most of that time, the MP for the area is Dr Tan Cheng Bock. Throughout his entire political career, Dr Tan continued to practise medicine.

In GE2011, Ms Foo Mee Har was elected as MP for Ayer Rajah. She was part of PAP’s West Coast GRC team. If you were to ask people who have lived in Ayer Rajah since the days that Dr Tan was the MP, you will invariably get the sense that Dr Tan was a far better MP than Ms Foo. Even though Ms Foo was a full-time MP from 2011 to 2015.

Ms Foo Mee Har, MP for Ayer Rajah. Full-time MP between 2011 and 2015. Photo from CNA

Ms Foo Mee Har, MP for Ayer Rajah. Full-time MP between 2011 and 2015. Via CNA

What all these case studies suggest is that there is no clear evidence that a “full-time” MP is better than a “part-time” MP. On the other hand, there isn’t a single shred of evidence that appear to support Dr Chee’s assertion that a “full-time” MP is better than an MP who holds another job concurrently.

[alert color=”green” icon=”fa-bookmark”]The success of an MP, it would seem, depends on a whole lot more factors than just the amount of time he spends in his constituency. An MP’s ability to raise funds and mobilise a vast network of active volunteers is just as important, if not more so, than the amount of time he spends in his constituency. This is because the government can’t fund all the local projects and MPs have to use their business contacts to raise funds for local projects.[/alert]

For example, government gives  Edusave and Bursary awards to a small group of students. Volunteers then raise money to give to more students. And both candidates would need to raise funds and mobilise volunteers to execute the projects that they have proposed. They would therefore need to tap on their corporate contacts. Murali, for instance, would have to leverage on his work contacts to implement the health cooperative to provide healthcare consumables such as adult diapers, milk, insulin needles, etc.

So. It doesn’t mean “full-time” MP means a better MP.

(Cover image via TOC)



Author: CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.


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