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Mr Heng Swee Keat’s appointment as the PAP’s 1st Assistant Secretary-General and likely choice as the next Prime Minister has not come as a surprise. He has been mentioned repeatedly as one of the candidates for the PM post.
The question that Singaporeans are concerned about is not who becomes the next PM but rather what he will do for the country.
Singapore’s future faces many unprecedented challenges that require bold and visionary leadership. Judging by what Mr Heng has said and done in the past, it seems that he is more concerned about toeing the party line rather than thinking and acting out of the box for Singapore’s sake.
For example, Mr Heng chairs the Committee on the Future Economy which came up with a plan that was widely panned by analysts for mouthing platitudes and resurrecting old ideas that have failed while not offering the country viable economic plans.
When he was Education Minister, Mr Heng, apart from making inconsequential tweaks here and there, continued with the exam-oriented system that has not taught students to think critically and creatively. Our youth are, therefore, ill-equipped to face a changed and changing global system where ideas and innovation determine a nation’s place in the world.
As Finance Minister, he went along with a slew of tax hikes and price increases that have made the most expensive city in the world an even costlier one, effectively piling on the financial stress for the average Singaporean.
Also, the idea that Mr Heng helped Singapore’s economy “come through safely” from disaster during the 2008 financial is but a fairy-tale. The GIC and Temasek Holdings were on the brink of losing hundreds of billions of dollars invested in Western banks.
If the US government had not pumped in enormous amounts of funds through its Troubled Assets Relief Program to bail out the banks, Singapore would have been in a deep crisis of our own.
Mr Heng has not articulated a plan that would take this country to a brighter future. Instead, he has been on auto-pilot mode cruising along with his fellow ministers, bankrupt of ideas but continuing to collect the astronomical salaries that they all feel entitled to.
No matter who gets chosen to be the next PM, the PAP script has been written and all the next leader will do is to follow it. Nothing has changed – and therein lies the danger for Singapore.
This is in sharp contrast to the anxiety and frustration that Singaporeans have over the present system. They want a change from the PAP’s politics of greed, exploitation and intimidation. They want a government that allows them to think and express themselves freely, one that inspires and maximises opportunity for them.