What a difference eight months makes

January 19, 2012
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

In May 2011 candidate Lee Hsien Loong stood before the crowd and apologised to Singapore for the Government’s poor performamce. He acknowledged the poor handling of the Mas Selamat escape, the floods, housing and public transport. He was contrite and pledged to do better.

What a difference eight months and one swearing-in ceremony makes.

In Parliament this week a feisty Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defended the high ministerial salaries, saying: “We need to pay whatever is necessary to assemble the best team in Singapore.” If he was genuinely repentant and wanted to do right by Singaporeans, he did a wonderful job of hiding it.

It is such pre- and post-election about-face that Singaporeans are so angry about.

Before the elections, his team was already the highest paid politicians in the world – by light-years. And yet, it produced such a bad performance that the PM had to apologise on its behalf and to promise to make amends.

These problems have continued into the present: flooding continues, the train service is just as unreliable, and housing remains just as unaffordable. Nothing has changed. And Mr Lee now tells us that we must pay whatever is necessary to assemble the best team?

The PAP is relying on the same few people, carrying out the same few policies, and paying the same enormous salaries. And he wants us to believe that a different result will emerge?

Mr Lee doesn’t tell us why this is the “best team”. It was the team that was responsible for all the problems that he had apologised for in the first place – problems, we might add, that persist till the present.

The real question is why do Singaporeans have to pay “whatever it takes” for such mediocrity? 

Instead of demonstrating true leadersship the Prime Minister doubled down and echoed the words of his father Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who said that the people in his party cannot “give up too much for the public good.”

There is a lesson to be learned in all this: Without an effective opposition in Parliament to hold the Government’s feet to the fire when it comes to keeping campaign promises, the only change that will happen is the PAP’s rhetoric.

Singaporeans must realise that the ministers are about taking care of themselves first and foremost. The well-being of the people is a secondary concern. 

If the SDP were in Parliament today, we would highlight the yawning income disparity in Singapore, demonstrate how working Singaporeans were suffering under the ill-considered foreign-workers’ policy, and show the ministers that competence does not necessarily flow from fat salaries but rather from passion and love for one’s country.

We would ask the PM Lee to reduce his salary to $56,000 a month, do away with the variable bonuses for his ministers and pay them each $42,000 a month.

Once the ideal of the spirit of public service evaporates from our nation’s leaders and when they spend their time arguing for their high salaries instead of taking care of those they profess to serve, this country is going down the tubes.

Singaporeans get to vote only once in five years. Every time we return the PAP to power with such ease is five more years that we make our lives more difficult. It is another five years during which Singapore slowly drowns.