The question that Singaporeans must ask is not who is appointed to which ministry but rather what policies will emanate from these new ministers.
If there is a lesson in this elections for the PAP it is that the people are fed-up with its policies on the cost of living, foreign workers, housing, transportation, education, etc. Shifting portfolios among ministers without addressing these policies signals that the Government is interested only in cosmetic changes.
For example, if Mr Khaw Boon Wan who replaces Mr Mah Bow Tan continues with the Ministry of National Development’s policy of not revealing the real costs of constructing HDB flats, Singaporeans will still be in the dark as to how much their flats really cost and how much profit the Government is making from HDB sales.
Without this transparency, we cannot make sound policies that guide the pricing of HDB flats. If this is the case, whether it is Minister Khaw or Minister Mah is of no benefit to Singaporeans.
We look forward to each minister coming out over the next days and weeks to clearly articulate the new policies and policy initiatives which we expect to be significantly different from their predecessors’. Otherwise, it is a clear message that it is politics-as-usual from this Government.
Also, it is noted that ministers who have performed poorly in the previous Government have been retained and given another ministry. For example, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan who managed the Youth Olympic Games badly and was heavily criticised for his insensitive remarks about the poor, is now given the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources.
And former Environment Minister Mr Yaacob Ibrahim who could not get a grip of the seriousness of the floods that caused so much damage to Singapore now assumes the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts without conclusively dealing with the flood problem.
How will the performance and effectiveness of the Government be raised with such lateral movement?
In addition, we still have Ministers who have been assigned to the Prime Minister’s Office without a portfolio (Mr Lim Swee Say and Mr S Iswaran). Exactly what do these ministers do?
Another unexplained set of appointments are the second ministers. What exactly are their roles? How do they assist the ministers? How are their jobs different from the ministers of state?
PM Lee Hsien Loong must explain to the people why he has made these appointments and how these posts help in the more effective governing of Singapore.
Finally, if PM Lee is genuinely contrite and is determined to lead a government that listens to the people, then he will announce an across-the-board reduction in the Ministers’ salaries. The astronomical wages that the Ministers draw, despite the poor performance of the last government, have caused much anger among Singaporeans.
The SDP has recommended that the PM’s salary be reduced to $60,000 a month and the ministers’ wages follow accordingly.