More tots on the National Conversation

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 07/09/2012 at 5:09 am

Shumething I came across on Facebook: To be frank, I think the default is now, “Why should we listen to the government?” and we should all realise that they’re listening more and we’re listening less. Old knee-jerk political reflexes are not useful anymore. We need to be clear-minded and work on both qualitative and quantitative data and input, not just the same old stories on all sides.

He is spot-on.

Then this: “S’poreans [are] urged to share and listen with open minds and  hearts” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat who “is heartened by the many conversations that are going on about the national conversation and follows them with great interest.” Mr Heng had been tasked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to lead a team of younger ministers to engage Singaporeans in a national conversation about the country’s future direction.

So how come

— a “CNA producer rescinds invite to bloggers to a forum with Prime Minister because her ‘bosses bosses have decided not to have bloggers on the forum because apparently bloggers have already had a private session with the Prime Minister already”

–” TOC was uninvited to the Singapore National Games”

Now to a suggestion of a topic.

The conversation, to be meaningful, must include the issue of public access to govt data bases. This explains why it should give access: In knowledge discovery in datasets, the major barrier to entry is access to the data. When corporations, governments or other private firms jealously guard their proprietary data, the number of people playing with the data and trying to discover valuable things, or putting that data to good use, will remain small. When data is made public, anyone can put that data to work. In recent years governments have begun making large troves of their data publically accessible. The U.S. government’s open-data project,, for example, has begotten over 200 citizen-developed apps. Similarly, the city of Vancouver, an early mover in the municipal open-data space, opened up their data in 2009, spawning valuable mashups of transit data, the water grid, and common spaces.

It’s gd for a knowledge-based economy.

Netizens who want to take part should take time to read this Written by some of the best economists in S’pore (Jedi Knights all: wonder who is their Yoda? Tommy Koh?), it gives plenty of information to counter the governing PAP’s Hard Truths.

Finally, the calls by some netizens for a debate rather than conversation are misguided. Debates are by their nature rigid. The emphasis is on point scoring. This format suits the government. So better to keep it at the conversational level.

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  2. Change occurs at a precipice. The ruling party does not see itself at a precipice, nor does it see itself as contributory to the current state of affairs (e.g. skyrocketing costs of living). It sees these things as an issue with perception (e.g. rumor has it that houses are affordable even to those who earn $1000 per month). The “pat yourself in the back” self-congratulatory syndrome is still well and alive, and has cauterized the brain to the reality that the masses face (the brain can’t feel the legs). It takes wisdom and foresight to preempt future problems, which no amount of looking to the past can do.

    It is heartening to see PM Lee taking the reins and taking a serious look at the present and charting the path to the future. It is by no means an easy process as the halls of government are filled with like-minded people (who tend to live on past glories) and have elevated those who think alike. It is a refreshing change but Singaporeans by large are jaded by the past decade of talk and will tend to believe what they see rather than what they read in the main stream media, which has by and large lost a fair bit of credibility as far as objectivity is concerned.

    Singaporeans are generally aware of the constraints that living in this tiny island presents, along with it the need for an infusion of foreign labour, capital and innovation. It is the extent and degree that is being objected to, and perhaps this is finally being recognized and addressed.

    Time will tell….

  3. It is interesting to note from the comparison of well -being and per capita GDP,that USA seems to be an ideal model where well-being is identical to per-capita GDP,Singapore and China are two among the worst countries where well-being is only half of per-capita GDP,little wonder CCP & PAP admire each other that much.

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