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PAP’s cock-ups since the 1980s

In Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 11/07/2018 at 9:53 am

In Is PAP in “decline and disintegration”? I wrote that PAP was in stagnation phase that began in 1990

A regular reader, a retired NUS professor lists the things the PAP got wrong since the 1984.

[S]everal major PAP blunders started in 1984 during the election campaign of that year

1. elected president: LKY had already reached 60 by that year, and this was then the public sector retirement age; so he had to face the question whether he was stepping down; the thinking at the time was to move to the presidency – under the then constitution, parliament would decide; he being who he is, the position would not be merely ceremonial, but it must be his legal background that made him uncomfortable, and a decision was made to enhance the position; the resulting controversy led to his undertaking not to be the first elected president, Goh Chok Tong’s decision to invent the post of Senior Minister to keep LKY in the cabinet, the elected president Ong Teng Chong’s conflict with cabinet, regular embarrassment about a 3-men committee rejecting candidates causing a no contest, etc

LKY could have just retired in 1990, started a newspaper column (modern idea would be blog), a charity/research foundation, a senate, and he would have remained the most influential person in the country, taking into consideration his son and his 2nd cousin were both in cabinet; it was quite unnecessary for him to feel insecure about his own place in singapore society even if he held no elected office; if he had been a blogger posting articles daily, every important person in singapore, the cabinet ministers especially, would have eagerly read them as soon as they were posted

2. HDB asset enhancement: during the campaign LKY got annoyed by opposition claiming “your HDB apartmen[t] is on 99-year lease; you dont really own it”, and announced “HDB will stop building in opposition districts”; at the time I actually did not understand why that should cause anyone to worry; but the Northeast MRT line provided part of the explanation – no population increase, no new infrastructure; the Mathias Yao–Chee Soon Juan Straits Times Forum series of letters provided some more – poor infrastructure, lower HDB value; with HDB apartments traded on the open market (previous owners are allowed to go back and buy a new apartment from HDB after 5 years).. Soon Permanent Residents, who are not entitled to buy from HDB, buying on the open market caused the HDB asset values to rise beyond affordability

3. CPF: with people living longer, the idea of delaying CPF money return was raised in 1984 and initial reaction was negative; again LKY was annoyed; soon the idea of minimum sum was adopted, later compulsory annuity, which would have been workable if most people can still get a substantial part out in cash at 55; with the weak salary increases in the past decade or so (partly because of foreign labour, e.g., IT used to have highest paid new graduates, before the industry bought in PRCs and Indians) and low interest rate, more and more people found themselves not meeting the minimum sum requirement, and every increase in minimum sum value makes more people angry

2011

[M]uch of PAP’s recent electoral adversity was self inflicted; the major examples I recall

1. James Gomez case 2006: LKY, Wong Kan Seng and George Yeo spent far too much time talking about a minor issue (LHL and GCT both kept quiet – they could afford to); the Aljunied voters punished George Yeo, and WP identified the electorate as vulnerable, put effort into the ground work and won it decisively in 2011

2. Tin Pei Lin case 2011: it was sound strategy to find some younger, especially female, faces, but the party should have made the effort to find someone with a track record as a political operator in her own right, not just a polished presenter with management consultancy experience recommended by a personal connection; I also believe if they introduced her at the end, after people have grown bored with all those familiar CVs of civil servants, generals, professionals, executives, etc, she might have enjoyed a better reception, so they botched the presentation in addition to selection

3. Joo Chiat case 2011: it was also sound strategy to replace old by young, but Charles Chong is older than Chen Soo Sen so the change could not be justified on that ground; Chen also enjoyed certain personal support which did not readily transfer via party loyalty; Workers Party ended with nearly 50%

4. Hougang case 2012: Teo Chee Hean dwelt far too long on Yaw Shin Leong’s personal and business failings, which Yaw’s former supporters preferred not to be reminded of, whereas upbeat talks about the wonderful things PAP would do for Hougang if elected, might have more fully exploited the unexpected opportunity; after the Hougang moralizing, the Palmer case was a particularly hard blow – PAP candidates are like anyone else

[W]hether the party would learn from these mistakes, and whether it would make new ones in 2016, is of course to be seen; given the resources available; it certainly has the potential of doing much better

Looking at the above, one is left wondering why the Oppo parties couldn’t and can’t (WP is expected to lose Aljunied in next GE) make a more serious dent in the PAP’s popularity with 60- 70% of the voters? Only Tan Cheng Bock (ex-PAPpy) can.

Is it repression and fear?

Or is the PAP juz lucky what with the quality of Oppo leaders: clowns like Lim Tean (Lim Tean: A disgraceful chamber of horrors), Goh Meng Seng (Silence of Goh Meng Seng) and Pritam Singh (WP distributing unsafe food (pass expiry date) and getting financial advice of cybernut resulting in having to take down misleading video after Lawrence Wong kicked Bayee’s ass)?

Email yr answers pls.

 

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  1. the leninist government model assumes a network of best talents that are attracted by a good ruling ideology and by distribution of material rewards from national resources controlled by the group – so by definition, opposition parties are left with inferior talent and lack resources to effectively compete; elections are meant to be “exams” in which citizens give the government a “mark” – a low mark leads it to improve itself through genuine effort, not intimidation, bribery, propaganda; you can contrast the situation in neighbouring countries to see that failure to observe these rules eventually leads to breakdown

    I also point out that the various past “blunders” I discussed are already baked into the system, and there is no simple way to reverse them; whoever currently running the country can only take the situation as it exists and work from there onwards

  2. […] Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: PAP’s cock-ups since the 1980s – I on Singapore: Is the US-DPRK Joint Statement becoming a mere “piece of […]

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