(Or “Why LKY would not have made this speech” or “Two cheers for PM”)
It’s been five days since the speech and the air is thick with analyses and commentaries of what PM said last Sunday. Most of them are noise or smoke or hot air.
While the constructive, nation-building media gushed (like a teen-ager about her puppy love) over the PM’s speech, netizens were not too impressed. Typical reactions:
“PM Lee, to no one’s surprise, did not address the root cause of the many issues troubling Singaporeans. The lack of accountability and transparency, civic and political freedoms, freedom of the media, human rights failings, gerrymandering and discriminatory upgrading projects have their roots in repression.“
Come on netizens: Look on the bright side. He
— Pledged to ensure sufficient affordable housing for citizens, and built more nursing homes for the elderly.
— Said the government will decide on measures to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have more children after consulting the public. Areas being considered include better work- life balance, flexible work arrangements, priority housing for couples with young kids, paternity or shared maternity leave, defraying childhood medical expenses, better pre-school, childcare and infant care, and improving cash benefits for having children known as baby bonuses, he said.
— Pledged Singapore will have two more universities to increase educational opportunities and the government will invest S$60 billion over ten years on the island’s subway system. Bloomberg report.
What this means is that the government is finally going to spend our money on us. No more of his dad’s “frugality”* on spending S’poreans money on S’poreans.
He is saying, “It’s yr money, let’s spend it on making you happier”.
To reinforce the point, he implicitly promised that there would be no near time tax rises, saying (correctly) that Singapore will need to raise taxes in the next two decades (but not now) as the government boosts social spending to support an aging population.
In the past ministers like Tharman and Raymond Lim (remember him?) threatened to raise GST whenever S’poreans asked for more govt spending.
So netizens, give the PM more rope to hang himself or show us that things are a’changing. The assumptions and prejudices of the PAP remain (see here) but at least he is spending our money on things that we want or need to make life more comfortable.
For that let’s give him two cheers. Give him a third if he rethinks the aforesaid prejudices and assumptions inherited from dad.
*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.