Finance Ministry’s statement – did anyone understand it?

May 13, 2004
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

There is a saying: If you cannot convince, confuse.

The Finance Ministrys clarification that the recent amendment of the constitution will not make it any easier to draw down on past reserves because the total amount of past reserves protected by the Constitution remains unchanged is, to paraphrase the late Winston Churchill, PAP-speak wrapped in financial gobbledygook covered by legalistic mumbo-jumbo.

It gets worse.

The Constitution was amended, the government tells us, because at times the activity or function of a statutory board or government company would need to be transferred for the sake of efficiency or effectiveness. Roger.

In addition, although the receiving entity cannot consume the transferred reserves, Singaporeans are assured, the assets allow it to take up the new functions. Thanks for clearing that one up.

It is this kind of infuriating claptrap that makes people distrust the PAPs intentions even more. Why cant the Government speak in simple English to explain to the people what it intends to do with our financial reserves? If the Government can draw cartoons to explain why flushing the toilet is a good thing, why cant it speak plainly to the people on a matter as weighty as the transfer of the peoples hard-earned savings to businesses?

Singaporeans have become numb to the practice but the Constitution is not at least it should not be a plaything for the PAP to muck around with. (Apparently, there were four other amendments to the Constitution in that same Parliament sitting. Test: Does anyone know what they are?)

What about the media? If their service is to the people, then they should engage analysts to parse the Ministrys statements into digestible bits for the lay public. If the analysts themselves are scratching their heads, then more questions should be fired at the authorities until simple answers come forth. CNN, BBC and all the major newspapers have legal, political, financial, and military analysts whom they call upon to explain complex issues to their viewers and readers. Singaporeans should not expect anything less from our media.

The Government will assume that its latest statement brings closure to the matter. Singaporeans must not accept it. Are we supposed to take the Governments word that the amendment makes no difference to the way our reserves are handled? The Democrats will remind Singaporeans that this is the same Government that promised the people More Good Years, a Swiss standard of living that was supposed to have happened by 1999, and that our economy was fundamentally sound and not sitting on a bubble.

The PAP also has this silly notion that Singaporeans would be reassured if the Government mentioned the president in the same breath as it talks about needing presidential consent to draw down on the past reserves. The people of Singapore have still not forgotten nor forgiven the Government for treating former president, the late Ong Teng Cheong, so shabbily when he asked for an accounting of the reserves a duty he was specifically elected to perform.

Telling us that the presidents consent must be sought flies in the face of what Mr Lee Kuan Yew said when he chided the na?e Mr Goh Chok Tong for suggesting that the elected presidency was designed to check the Government: No, if youve to clip your wings, youre in trouble, you cannot govern…the executive powers of the Government should not be clipped.

No president, under the present system, can check anything. Only genuinely free and fair elections can.

Instead of allaying the fears of concerned Singaporeans, the obfuscation of the Finance Ministry only serves to raise more questions. Singaporeans must not let this issue die.