Economic and social rights in the new constitution: A terrible idea

7 Oct 2016

Prominent individuals and NGOs now clamour for economic and social rights in the new constitution. They want them incorporated as “fundamental rights” in a new Bill of Rights.

To quote a recent Daily FT column, such rights would cover “education, food, water, adequate housing, social security, a living wage, decent and safe work, freedom from forced evictions, and a safe, clean and healthy environment.” Alongside basic civic and political freedoms, these would be the State’s “hard” obligations, not just “soft” or aspirational goals. In other words, these rights would be justiciable, subject to judicial review and enforceable in the courts.

This is a terrible idea. It is guaranteed to defeat these advocates’ aims. But first consider constitutional precedents here and abroad.

Razeen Sally Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. This article was first published on Daily FT on 4th October 2016.

Razeen Sally

Associate Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy