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The Prime Ministers National Day Rally speech is long on jingoism but way short of solutions for a troubled nation. In a country where the highest point is less than 600 feet, Mr Goh Chok Tongs evocation of hills and valleys, like his other rhetoric, is sorely out of place. It is symptomatic of how out of touch with reality the PAP is of the depressing situation in the street.
His speech is just another leaf taken from Mr Lee Kuan Yews book the tried and tested formula of frightening Singaporeans into rallying behind the PAP. He dwells at length of SARS and tells Singaporeans that the threat is still not over. He plays on the fears of terrorism and that the danger still lurking. He warns about international competition and the migration of jobs if Singaporeans dont accept wage cuts.
In reality Mr Goh Chok Tong has presided over years of economic decline, and is unable and unwilling to institute badly needed political-economic reforms that will make Singapore competitive, vibrant and free.
Cutting through all the hype, the Governments prescription is more of the same: Singapore workers need to cut wages and tighten their belts even more. With unemployment at an all-time high, retrenchment expected to continue unabated, record number of bankruptcies occurring, the ailing property sector unable to recover, divorces and mental breakdowns on the increase, and living cost jacked up by the recent spate of price hikes, it seems surreal that the prime minister is asking no, telling Singaporeans that they need to sacrifice some more. This is especially galling given that he and his ministers enjoy a more than opulent lifestyle with the kind of salaries they pay themselves.
The Government has painted Singapores economy into a corner and is now advocating that the workers CPF be cut yet again, blithely ignoring the fact that many Singaporeans depend on their CPF contributions to help pay the mortgage on their homes.
The PAP refuses to accept that continuing to cut wages of workers is a dead-end street as far as helping to revive the economy is concerned, not to mention the effect that such cuts will have on consumer spending. Without a system where the people can hold the PAP accountable for its actions and to make it find honest-to-goodness solutions, the Government will not hesitate to put wages on the chopping block each and every time the economy goes south.
The tragedy about all this is that, with the kind of political system that we have, Singaporeans are unable to genuinely express their views at elections. As long as the people are held captive to the political process, the PAP will continue to make Singaporeans pay for its ill-conceived policies.
Mr Gohs parting words, My heart is with you, smell and taste like raw fish left out in the sun. He had said, Your worries are mine too at a National Day Rally two years ago. Months later the Government increased the GST, utility rates, car park fees, bus and MRT fares. In fact, the PAP loudly promised Singaporeans More Good Years if they voted for it in the 1990s. The question is just screaming to be asked: Where are the good years?
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party