Why moving ministers around or out is gd for everyone cont’d

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Uncategorized on 24/11/2011 at 6:02 pm

(This piece is a continuation of Let me be clear: My analysis of the u/m minister’s performance is based on publicly available data. I am drawing reasonable inferences by connecting the dots. Nothing personal against the minister. In fact, the minister is a better example than Tan Jee Say, of a poor boy made gd under the system in place in the 70s and 80s. BTW, he and TJS were both born in 1954 and were in RI. )

There is still one cabinet minister who underperformed twice, possibly thrice and who is still in the cabinet. 

Lim Hng Kiang was HDB minister from 1994 to 1999, and has to take part of the blame that there was oversupply in the early noughties, something that Mah is blamed for. Mah took the lesson to heart and proceeded to build too few flats resulting in a world first: public housing prices rising in a recession.

He then became Health minister and told us complacently that we had to accept that people had to die in the SARS epidemic. Rumour is that one LKY did not buy into this when his wife fell ill and it was feared she might have contracted SARS. In August 2003 (after the worst of the epidemic had passed), Khaw became health minister and started reforming the public health system.

Lim Hng Kiang has been the Trade & Industry minister since 2004. S’pore is once again facing an economic slowdown , the second in three years because two of our main drivers of growth are not diversified. The exports of pills and electronics tend to move in the same direction.

Is the failure to develop new and diversified drivers of growth partly his fault? We had a recession in 2008- 2009 and a looming slowdown today because the main drivers were correlated. Whatever happened to the plans articulated by then DPM Lee Hsien Loong in the early noughties to have less correlated drivers of growth?

As he has been in the ministry for about seven years, how come we are seeing no changes in the drivers of growth?

And remember the wikileak cable from the US embassy here,  “The MPs, who were all members of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), indicated that Island could not rely on MTI (and EMA) to stand up to Temasek because MTI Minister LIM Hng Kiang is “weak” and not part of the PAP “inner circle,” Reading claimed.”

So why is he still in the cabinet? PM should follow his dad’s policy of ruthless execution of underperformers, not his successor’s and his (pre May 2011) tolerance of underperformers.  His dad must be aware of what  Bertolt Brecht, the famous Marxist and German playwright, meant when he wrote, “The finest plans have always been spoiled by the littleness of them that should carry them out. Even emperors can’t do it all by themselves.”

If you are reading this M John, please realise that the best RI boys are not necessarily those with high academic credentials like yrself, Goh Chok Tong, Hng Kiang, Raymond Lim or Tan Jee Say, who then become highly paid ministers like Goh and the Lims. Think rather of self-made billionaires like Peter Lim and A Hussain. One juz has an ordinary degree and the other never went to university. They are the people who do RI proud, not the scholars turned civil servants/ soldiers turned ministers who one can reasonably (but nastily) argue are effectively on state welfare from age 18 until they die.

It is sad that according to a junior minister 60% of the poor who need help don’t want welfare. Yet there are underperforming millionaires, living off the state.

  1. I don’t think it is possible to change the attitudes of both the public and the students about RI. For RI, perhaps the one thing the management can do is to hang more photos other than the public servants and ministers out side LT1. RI is, and will always be, the embodiment of the current era of Singapore where elites are being promoted at all costs.

    Knowing that “Ah Beng”, Tan Chuan Jun, and Heng Kiat Swee all came from RI, it makes one ponder if RI has improved nowadays under the first ever female principal? Or has it become worse in this respect? Hahaha.

  2. Looking at their backgrounds, its understandable why PM Lee is reluctant to put them out to pasture. They are, after all, cut from the same cloth – a bit of trivia himself, Lim Hng Kiang, George Yeo, Teo Chee Hean, Lim Swee Say were the first SAF Scholars. I leave it to the curious reader to piece together the order.

    Mah was a Colombo Plan scholar, well… almost all of them were sent overseas to “acquire paper” from prestigious universities abroad.

    If the curious reader is thinking what I think he/she is thinking, yes, it appears to be a stunning indictment of a certain elder statesman’s “meritocracy”. One shouldn’t be too surprised since said Old Man has sympathies which lie towards eugenics – who do you think came up with the hare-brained graduate mother’s scheme? Also, ponder why our incentives for Singaporean to have children are largely in the form of tax breaks – i.e. targeted towards the well-off?

    We should have expended more resources at lifting more people to greater heights – instead we threw more money at a select few so that they soar into space in the misguided hope that they will drag all of us along with them.

  3. Should have a purge of cabinet and parliament, like what Stalin did. Save money on lifetime pension, bodyguards, and free lifetime A-class medical.

    Anyway no worries, still got >60% daftees will give their votes to the MIW in 2016. More good years to come.

  4. Opine well analysed observation and commentary

  5. I agree with a purge … clean out the nasties and replace with new ideas.

  6. Interesting post.RI still commends respect .Its not easy to get into Sec 1 ..only the smartest PSLE kids can make it .

    The issue however is , like you correctly pointed out – that SMART does not equate SUCCESS in the real world .However, its becoming increasing more difficult to succeed in a world where technology is becoming prevalent …being smart is just the minimum requisite .You now need to be like a monster with many heads ie good IQ,EQ, tech smart etc etc

    Wonder how the new breed of RI guys fare these days ? The Hng Kiang, Jee Say days are long gone .Very few will remember RI as it was then

    • In my time, middle middle class boy like me the exception. Mostly lower middle class with some working class, (bit more than kids like me). Rich kids and middle, middle class kids went to ACS, SJI or even St Pats (yak!). My mum was annoyed that my dad put me in govt pri school!

      Nowadays it seems that RI and RJC are the places smart upper middle class kids aspire to and get in because of additional help via tuition.

      Big difference.

  7. […] Vote for Change – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Why moving ministers around or out is gd for everyone cont’d – Chen Jiaxi Bernard 陈家喜’s FB Note: Missing the Point – That 10-years series […]

  8. Are RI boys truly smart and intelligent ?Maybe 30% of every year at most lah

    Peter Lim was a salesman selling shares and who is this guy called A Hussain ? Sadam Husain’s son ? I have heard of a RI boy who sings at nightclubs and is insurance salesman by that name .

    Btw, St Patrick’s also have top boys who are President Scholars 🙂

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