Government apologises?

15 March 2005

With the recent shameful mistakes by MOE and many others in the past notwithstanding, I am sure citizens will be more convinced with the government IF the media has reported in this manner:

(Below is a fictitious ST article to illustrate how the PAP should have responded to blatant mistakes made by the government.

ST headlines, 7 March 2005: Tharman accepts responsibility for blatant mistake from MOE.

As part of the Real Remaking of Singapore (RRS), MOE was fined $10 million yesterday for causing untold hardship, inconveniences and emotional stress to many parents. He chides and chastens internal policy makers for not being able to ‘Listen to citizen’s voice’. Under RRS, all ministries and statutory boards are liable for fines for wrong, poor or unproductive policies made.

The money will be used to compensate the families involved who have suffered during the incident which includes giving bursaries and grants, cash incentives among many others, as a form of apology. Poorer families with students who have good results will have the highest priority.

Drawing his vast experience from his economics background and previous job as head of MAS, he also stresses the fact that implementing wrong policies that make live difficult for Singaporeans has a drastic effect that can wreck havoc in the country’s economy.

Education is the key to Singapore’s future which is heavily dependent on human resources to remain competitive in the region in this knowledge economy. Hence this fine is just a small amount compared to grave consequences that can affect the country in the long term.

It’s a wake up call for every statutory board to remain really sincere and not just making policies on the fly just to create action and meet deadlines.

Agreeing with Tharman’s statements in yesterday’s key speech in parliament, PM Lee wants to convince fellow Singaporeans that the government cares for their hardships and will try all means possible to remake Singapore for a brighter future.

He chastens MOE that now its the time to Walk the Talk. Stringent policies such as fines and restrictions that were imposed on ordinary citizens must be applied to the government as well.

Its the citizens who elected us, he says, not the other way round and warns them to stay nimble and not to repeat the same mistake again or else heads will roll.

We have a lot to learn from PM Abdullah who mentions recently that government leaders must take citizen’s curse at the government as a form of blessing. Without criticisms, we will never grow and we are also partly responsible for the majority Singaporeans who tends to whine and complain about the government.

He adds: Most S’poreans are generally unwary and non-participative in politics, As such, many vote for us blindly and entrusted us with a grave responsibility to ensure better lives for all. This must be the mindset for all ministries from now onwards that we simply cannot afford to provide a blind eye to citizen’s problems.

The old perfectionist’s mindset of trying all means possible to explain our mistakes is over. The onus now will be to admit more mistakes we have made, with more apologies, even from the past, in order to ensure a forthright and responsible government. This is the only way forward to prevent blatant mistakes from becoming unrecoverable in the future. From the communications point of view, with the citizens who have signed a social pact with us, the government has been taking the stand of the defense attorney who always wins the court case. Winning the argument against citizens of lesser knowledge must be thrown out of the door from now onwards.

The reasoning is simple, PM Lee says, Winning through scholarly explanations does not mean that the conclusion is a practical and credible one and of course we will always win (to the audience’s laughter). And we must not be like the thief who stuffs his ears while robbing the temple’s bell, thinking that people will not hear him, since he cannot hear it himself.

What’s wrong with admitting mistakes? PM Lee reiterates. My apologies to my fellow ministers if you have received unnecessary stress from the past. Imagine, If we are in a situation whereby ministers have the idea that they are not allowed to mistakes, then any mistakes made will be quickly covered up thought slippery lies and explanations. If this is the case, Minister’s win, but the poor citizens lose and suffer in the long run. I do not wish this nightmarish scenario to happen from now onwards.

“If we adopt the mindset of being Kiasu, Kiasi and selfish in all our policies and legislations, citizens will subconsciously follow. No wonder such are the end results what kind of citizens we have today. And I have to admit that the government is mainly responsible for it.

“Some time ago, I watched the CNA news telling Singaporeans to do good deeds and be nice to one another so that others will follow, this is what we call ‘Paying it Forward’. And frankly speaking, I watch it with a deep remorse and embarrassment. If we are really sincere, we should start from the top that is, all Ministers must set good examples for the citizens to follow because it’s a known fact that policies will always trickle down the hierarchy to affect ordinary citizen’s lives. If we really want to Remake Singapore, this is one wise method to begin with.

He also cites a recent mistake made in his speech to the media that the cost of living has not increased drastically as compared to the salaries of workers and that prices has remain stable overall. Admitting that the mistake was because he relied mainly on the consumer price index, which is not an accurate statistic to gauge the true nature of the cost of living here.

He mentions that he understands now the main culprits are transport costs, housing, COEs, car costs, and fines (to the audience’s laughter) that have increased from at least three to eight times more than citizen’s salaries for the past 15 years, a terrible tragedy which is mainly responsible for Singaporeans late marriage and low birth rates.

He promises to make good such mistakes and that the government is studying all means possible to solve this major problem.

Finally, PM Lee mentions that most parents have to juggle and balance their fragile jobs in a highly stressful society to provide for the families. ‘Yes, we are calling the shots, he says, but thats the whole problem when we cannot walk the ground to understand citizens hardship.


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