I was stunned when I read this report in ST on what PAP MP Seah Kian Peng.said on Monday in parliament
“The Government does not always know best, he acknowledged. “It may only know what is efficient, what is rational, what costs the most, or the least.”
Sometimes, he pointed out, it is right to do what the people want. “Not because we think it is right, but because they do.”
The Government must resist the “self-righteous, sanctimonious chant that ‘We do what is right, rather than what is popular’”, he said.”
He kicked (not juz slapped as what Low and gang would do) three Hard Truths. That:
– efficiency, rationality, cost effectiveness are what matters in policy making;
– what the people want should be ignored if it contracdicts what the PAP govt thinks is rational, efficient and cost effective.
– “We do what is right, rather than what is popular” is the way to remain in power.
Somehow I doubt he would be around in the next GE.
On the second day of the population debate, Inderjit Singh said there is a need to take a five-year breather to “solve all the problems created by the past policies of rapid economic and population growth”, said stressing the need to find a better balance between economic growth and social cohesion.
The numbers added to the Singapore population – in terms of PRs and citizenships handed out – must be more exact, and not planned on the basis of “hoping we hit some number”.
“We missed the mark the last 10 years, and are already paying a high price for that mistake,” he said. “As a government, we need to rebuild the trust and confidence among Singaporeans that our citizens matter most to us, and that we are willing to take a break from our relentless drive for growth to solve their problems. Let’s delay the plans for population growth for now, and focus on nation building.”
Hear, hear, Mr Singh.
And outside parly, Dr Tan Cheng Bock had earlier said something similar. Lest, we forget, he was a PAPpy, in the days when PAPpy MPs were respected by the public at large.
These are people that the govt should listen to, though pigs will fly first.
Here are “friends” the govt should give the finger to: despite having a reputation of being pro-business, not pro-citizens, the govt was savaged by business groups from having such a “low” cap on FTs. There was
– a letter from the Singapore Business Federation;
– another from the S’pore Int’l Chamber of Commerce; and
– an open letter from nine foreign chambers of commerce (American, Australian, British, Canadian, European, French, Japanese, New Zealand and German chambers,
voicing their concerns over the impact of manpower constraints due to the “stringent” policies controlling the inflow of foreign labour. If give them 50% cap, they will ask for 75% cap, is my view.
The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) as usual whined and bitched for more, “We, therefore, call upon the Government to provide SMEs with more incentives to develop and improve their human resource systems and processes. Due to their size and resource constraints, many SMEs face difficulties in managing human resource. To attract and keep talent, SMEs need more resources to address employees’ problems and to provide better work-life balance, for instance. Without such ability, companies will likely see high employee turnover rate, which makes them less willing to send staff for training. As a result, we see a vicious circle, where productivity improvement remains a challenge.”
ASME (what an appropriate name) also felt that the White Paper’s projection of 3% productivity growth this decade and 2% in the next was “overly optimistic”.
Noting that companies continue to grapple with shrinking margins and resources [yah and the SME bosses keep buying even bigger houses and cars}, it said that a reckless drive for higher productivity in this context may lead to higher costs and even inflation.
“If these productivity gains do not materialise, the Government must be prepared to relax its tight control over the workforce to prevent the economy from being adversely affected. A buffer in manpower supply is critical to enable both the economy and local SMEs to better respond to rapid and multifaceted changes in external and internal economic conditions.”
What this tells us and the PAP government is that the interests of businesses here (big and small, foreign and local) are not the same as that of ordinary Singaporeans. They want wages to be as low as possible to increase profits. Singaporeans will only benefit if higher economic growth (the PAP’s ultimate Hard Truth or is it a shibboleth or a sacred cow?) results in an increase in real wages.
The government should publicly repudiate that “Waz good for biz, is gd for S’pore”, a mantra of the 1990s. (I was in the central bank in the early 1980s, and I know people like Dr Goh were cautious in trusting businesses to do the right things by S’pore. The knew the importance of businesses to the economy, but that didn’t mean they trusted businessmen and executives.
The govt should listen to those who care for S’pore and who spoke out against the assumptions of the white Paper, be they be friends (like the PAP MPs and Dr Tan) or foes (WP, NSP, SDP, SPP etc: ya generous to WP, it’s CNY) or ex-govt officials like Donald Low, Lam KY). It should ignore fair-weather friends like the business associations. Remember businesses and their associations can’t vote, ordinary S’poreans can.