As regular readers will know, I’m quite happy with PM’s performance so far.
But on his call for a national conversation, I have no intention of wasting my time joining in, even though as I’ve said, I have plenty of time.
Why? For a start I’ll be in my 70s then.
Seriously, the reason is that I don’t believe despite the latest attempt to kill sacred cows (great take here from a Ravi*), the basic tenets of the PAP have changed. Based on the comments of PM and his ministers,I don’t see any change in the following articles of faith, not even the slightest evidence of a willingness to rethink any of them:
— FTs are needed.
— S’poreans must breed.
— Free** markets are the best way of allocating of resources.
— GRCs are a must.
— PA, although funded by the tax payer, must remain part of the PAP machinery.
— Newspapers need a yearly licence.
— SPH and MediaCorp publications and channels must be constructive and nation-building.
— Racial quotas are a must in HDB estates.
— Ex senior servants and SAF officers make good ministers and business leaders. Funny thing is that our best performing TLCs (SIA and Keppel) are not headed by these people.
— Details of our reserves must remain secret.
— Not a cent less than 25% of the annual budget must be spent on MINDEF.
— ISD is needed.
— Malay Muslims must be watched, and treated with kid gloves and the iron fist.
— PAP is never wrong.
— PAP is misunderstood.
These have been the articles of faith of one LKY (Hard Truths he calls them). The only thing that has changed since his retirement is that the government doesn’t feel the emotional pain*** of spending more of what is our own money on making life more comfortable for S’poreans. Witness the money being spent on public transport, public housing and healthcare, and welfare (albeitly wrongly by refusing to give the needy cash now).
No, what will happen is that it will be a dialogue of the deaf. The government will hector and lecture S’poreans while closing their eyes and ears to S’poreans. S’poreans, in turn, will ignore the noise from the governing PAP. The only way to get the PM’s and ministers’ attention is by holding the PAP to account at the next GE. Would the PM have apologised if there was no need to shore up the vote? I doubt it?
*As Ravi (the do-gooder, not Ravi the lawyer, performance artist and disturber of the peace at temples and a mosque) wrote on his Facebook wall: One year after the 1984 General Election, where the PAP lost two single member constituencies, then-Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew pressed the ‘panic button’ and promised that no sacred cows will be left untouched in the search for a solution…(linK: http://sg.sg/MKsf2A)
One year after the 2001 General Election, Singapore’s second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong formed a high-level committee to ‘remake’ Singapore, which was headed by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. Dr Balakrishnan promised then that this committee will review all policies and would not spare any sacred cows. (link: http://sg.sg/NphizL)
One year after the 2011 General Election, where the PAP lost a GRC, and came close to losing a few others, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced the formation of a new committee, headed by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. This Committee too will probably not spare any sacred cows. (link: http://bit.ly/MLPXp4)
Although the exercise to slaughter sacred cows have been ongoing at least since 1985, we don’t have proper public accounting as to how many of these cows have been slaughtered to date.
Perhaps, the sacrificial lambs have been mistaken for sacred cows.
**Problem is that “free” isn’t “free” given that in practically ever sphere here (from property to transport to employment), the government is a major player, directly or via GLC or TLCs, its actions impacting the “free” market. Under the government’s Alice-in-Wonderland definition, the “private” sector includes Temasek and its TLCs because Temasek is a “private limited company”. Likewise Ascendas and its subsidaries. Funny this as the state is the shareholder of Temasek and Ascendas.
***An economist lecturing at SMU once commented (when LKY was MM and in rude health) that LKY would die if the government spent a cent more than absolutely necessary on making life more comfortable for S’poreans. Having read his daughter’s comments on his wanting Mrs Lee to change the elastic band on his underwear when she was recovering from her stroke, I think the economist had a valid point, and wasn’t joking.