Not enough good people in Singapore?

The idea that S’pore only has a few hundred people capable of serving the nation is an old idea propagated by former PM Lee Kuan Yew, and is based on his now discredited eugenic views.Vincent Wijeysingha

The PAP view that politics is about getting skilled people to run an administration is based on a wrong presumption.

Politics is a perennial debate around values, about the important things in a community: whether we look after the elderly or buy guns; whether we house people or see public housing as a means to make a profit; whether we keep the cost of living manageable or award ourselves millions of dollars in bonuses.

The administration of a country is the next step in the political process: once you have determined the things of value, then you seek out the best civil servants to operationalise them.

The idea that Singapore only has a few hundred people capable of serving the nation is an old idea propagated by former PM Lee Kuan Yew, and is based on his now discredited eugenic views.

If the current PM is saying that we only have a few people able to lead this country, he is implicitly saying that our education system, which the PAP has presided over for the last fifty-two years, has failed.

The political arena is a contest in which different parties put forward alternative scenarios for society which the people then choose at a general election.

In Singapore, the PAP repeats this same argument: That we don’t have enough skilled people to go around. And yet, throughout its history, it has used the Internal Security Act and other means to silence even its own party members, let alone the skilled and intelligent people who have tried to express alternative views.

This is not a party that has managed to attract the best people to itself. It is a party that attracts like-minded people and consigns those who challenge it with new ideas to the wilderness. It is a party that has never been confident of its views, its philosophy, or its policies.

Not ‘screwed up’ yet?

The idea that the PAP has not yet, to use his unfortunate expression, ‘screwed up’ has now been shown to be false.

  • It has presided over the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars of our investment money.
  • The bilingual education policy, by its own admission, has failed.
  • The population policy has thrown up significant social problems.
  • Public housing is unaffordable.
  • The expansion of the CPF portfolio has meant that people in old age are left with no money to survive.
  • People are putting off medical treatment because healthcare is so expensive.
  • The ERP and COE systems have not managed to reduce traffic jams.
  • Twenty-seven years of measures have not yielded any discernible improvement in labour productivity.
  • The SME sector has still not gained a foothold in the economy.

In fact, the only new idea it has brought onto the economic landscape in the last several years has been the building of casinos.

International observers note our GDP growth throughout the years have been achieved through increasing inputs rather than through productivity and innovative goods and services.

PM Lee says that in the event that the government becomes wrong or incompetent, then the time has come to look at alternatives. I am sorry to say this, but that time has come.

His government is wrong because it no longer places the people of Singapore at the centre of policy-making; it places it own interests there.

And it is incompetent because in every single area of policy, it no longer has the energy, the verve and the creativity to develop policies that will carry us through the next phase of development, policies that will serve the people of Singapore.

No, this government is not doing a good job. Just ask every old person who has to work into their eighties. Ask every one of the 70,000 children who go to school without pocket money every day. Ask the clinic nurses, the secretaries, the salespeople, the technicians who have seen their wages decline. Ask the young couples who are postponing marriage because they cannot afford a flat.

And what does it do when confronted with the idea that the people of this country will one day vote them out? It threatens us with our army.

It is significant that in the pages of today’s Straits Times devoted to the activities of the PAP, alongside the article on the so-called quality of the PAP, there was the inevitable article defending its huge remuneration of the ministers.

The PM said that the US President does not receive a high salary because once out of office, he is able to continue to command a high income. This is a reprehensible argument which essentially says that politics is about making as much money as you can on the back of your political service.

No. Politics is about the service of the people, so many of whom have struggled so long under a now discredited government.