This piece is in response to PM’s cabinet changes 14 months ago and to this on reasons for moving ministers around and out, someone commented, “How about getting a more decisive PM now? A new PM will be much more receptive to new ideas and fixing failed policies.”
Who knows? Will Teo Chee Hean, Tharman or Ng Eng Hen be any better? Could be, but only one of them has held a major economic portfolio for a decent period of time, and in recent months fumbled badly. Teo is a “security” man and Ng is shaping up that way: surgeon turned security guard.
And in favour of giving our PM a bit more rope before condemning him, he has only been able to choose his own cabinet since May 2011: something Goh Chok Tong, never had, despite him being PM for over a decade. Even PM in his first term had to live with “legacy” ministers: his dad, and duds like GCT, Wong, and Mah.
Post 2011 GE, the PM has done the following to appease our righteous and reasonable anger:
– cut ministers’ salaries;
– accepted the “resignations” of underperforming ministers (Wong, Mah and Lim);
– thrown money at the public transport and public housing infrastructures; and
– taken measures to control property prices.
He and his government has “talked the talk” of limiting FTs. But while there have been measures to curb the inflow of FTs, many S’poreans (self included) think it is all “wayang”. Even a government think-tank is sceptical about how long the measures will last. As I wrote: ‘the May issue of the ISEAS Monitor, ”[it] serves as an early warning of a possible relaxation of recently tightened immigration policies.” ISEAS is the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies , a think-tank that is a statutory board that needs government financing.’
His government has failed to control inflation: ministers can only make sick jokes about S’poreans who don’t rent homes, or buy cars not being affected.
And in the 1990s, he approved the diversification of the economy into making pills, saying it would help counterbalance the effects of the volatile electronics cycle. Hasn’t worked has it? The economy is even more volatile because pill-making while independent of the electronics cycle, is even more volatile.
Despite these failures, he could still do good. ISEAS in the said issue points out that the public criticism of govt policy by professors Lim Chong Yah and Phua Kai Hong, respectively, on wages for the and the cost of medical care for the elderly could
– change the character of public debate from a pro-government versus anti govt dynamic to “a more ‘substantive national conversation”;
- indicate “the rise of a non-partisan intelligentsia” that does not agree with the premises and assumptions of the government.
But then, he could be trying to do the S’pore version of “Let a 100 flowers blossom and hundred schools of thought contend”. The council on internet literacy could be the prequel to a “Night of the long knives”.