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The Peter Principle & PAP60 Leaders

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“In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence.” Dr Laurence Peter

Dr Peter, a noted Canadian psychologist with a great sense of humour, co-authored with Raymond Hull, creative playwright, ‘The Peter Principle’ in 1969.

The Peter Principle is a basic law in organizational behaviour or management. Most people find it valid where they work. Does Peter Principle still apply 50 years after it was first discussed and 13000 km whence it orginated – in a cadre-based political hierachy wielding uninterrupted power for 50 years?

Evidence From PAP Leaders’ Actions & Activities
PAP (and supporters) would like to think that the increased complaints about their incompetence arise mostly from the availability of social media and a rising vocal electorate than the truth of their observations. Empirical evidence and the sheer number of complaints compared to PAP’s earlier reign, say pre-1990’s, would show that their instances and gravity suggest a serious competency deficit, the complexities of life today notwithstanding. Maybe they can’t handle 2,000,000 foreigners?

Everyone knows the complaints. But a brief note on some cover-up techniques favoured by those who’s reached their level of incompetence to appear “busy” working is entertaining. For e.g.;

  • Perpetual Preparation
    …such as initiating ‘National Conversation’, Skillsfuture Council etc – and touting ‘visions’ time and again.
  • Side Issue Specialization
    …the MSO (Municipal Services Office) fits this…amazing, a municipal office housed under the world’s highest-paid PM auspicious office.
  • Image Replaces Performance
    …after 30 years in office, PM Lee finally demonstrated that he knows how to queue for his chicken; many of his minion ministers & MPs pick up the hint (washing cars etc). But some MPs prefer bringing their gang on study vacation to Taiwan. What happened to “gotong royong’, which actually meant something to citizens and MPs had to roll up their sleeves?

Indications From Words
A 60th Anniversary is no mean thing. It transits from ‘Gold’ to a ‘Diamond’ celebration. It is all the more hugely pregnant given Singapore’s 50th National Day and an inpending GE.

PAP Sec-Gen may only have this last chance to rally his troops. So, “Did this ex-SAF general do an effective job?”

We analyze the highlights of his full speech as reported in the press; specifically, the 2 major soundbites.

  1. PAP’s Vision For Singapore
  • We will build a Nation of Opportunity
  • We will uphold a Fair and Just Society
  • We will nurture a Democracy of Deeds

From a communication principle perspective and in the context of the current skeptical and increased hostile state of the national audience, unless you are lecturing a philosophy class, you don’t want to be raising more questions than giving answers when speaking of their future. More so, if you have been the one governing – unfettered, not 5, 15 but 50 years.

Simply put, any thinking citizen other than PAP’s own sycophants, will be asking questions in response to such a ‘vision’;

  • ‘You mean to say, after 50 years of uniterrupted PAP dominant reign, you have not a Nation of Opportunity to show for? Or we did, but then lost it?
  • ‘Does that mean PAP has not upheld or succeeded in shaping a Fair and Just Society after half-a-century of controlling the national narrative?’ Or you did, but then lost it?
  • ‘Oh, for 50 years, the PAP has not nurtured an active citizenry except those active in PAP-sanctioned organizations/activities with their own agendas/interests and, now, you want us to participate? So that, maybe, we can share in the blame for failures going forward?’ Or are you now trying to undo your ‘Democracy of Misdeeds’?

The crux in the current failing situation for PAP lies in what PAP has done wrongly, or right but not quite enough to serve new realities. You don’t need a vision thing to impress us, or bluff yourself and yours. The simple workplan message instead of a fuzzy vision is: stop the wrong and do more of the right-but-not-far-enough.

  1. First World Government

“It will be about whether we continue to have a First World Government, not about a so-called
First World Parliament.”

We could hear party members’ loud applause. Quite a feat, the headline-grabbing, one-liner to counter WP’s 2011 GE tantalizing tagline. Imagine a snug feeling coming over the Sec-Gen when he first formed the words…complete with the warm snuggle from behind his chair by his Significant Other in their bedroom when he went, ‘Eureka! Now, I sock it to those son-of-a-gun!’

So, what’s not right about the ‘First World Parliament’ rejoinder? Two reasons.

One, ours is a parliamentary system. The government or cabinet is drawn from elected MPs, not directly by voters. If the MPs on either side of the aisle are not First World quality, how can the government be? Proof? Look no further at their performance since, 1990, 2000.

Two, to understand more, we must look to what First World Governments look like in reality.

Starting with Switzerland since PAP claim we are already there. (“We sought a standard of living equal to that of the Swiss in 1984, by 1999. Our achievements surpassed our expectations. In fact, by 1994, , our GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms had already exceeded that of the Swiss in 1984.” Goh Chok Tong <http://www.news.gov.sg/public/sgpc/en/media_releases/agencies/micacsd/speech/S-20091105-1>)
The Swiss Executive Branch is the Federal Council with 7 members and “the four strongest parties are represented in the council…Federal Councillors are much more accessible than their equivalents in most countries. The Swiss are used to seeing them travelling around by tram or in the train just like anyone else – much to the amazement of many foreign security officials accompanying leaders on state visits. People can talk to them without being hustled away by security guards.”

The British Govt.
It’s well-known that the Conservatives are in power with its coalition Liberal Democrats.

And the Germans?
Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and centre-left Social Democrats make up the current government. In fact, Angela (or almost all post-war Chancellors) would never have made it without coalition partners. If Germany could outperform others economically even when all around them were actual war enemies twice over, how can SG be worst off in SE East where neighbours have never gone to war – and we have a $trillion reserves?

Japan has had coalition instead of just LDP governments since 1994. Note: The LDP takes credit for making ‘Japan as #1’ as much as building up the ‘bubble economy’ that burst the Nikkei Index in 1990 sending Japan into the deflationary spirals it has not recovered from the last 24 years. Does LDP’s governance protend PAP’s own demise?

Almost all First World countries are governed by coalition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_government). USA with a non-parliamentary system, has a Republican-controlled House and Senate but a Democrat Obama as President. Rarely, and usually only briefly, was it when all branches of govt were controlled by either Republicans or Democrats. (None is claiming that coalition government is perfect, just the norm.)
So, why would the Sec-Gen deliberately stir up a hornet’s nest, bragging First World Government when that raises questions and comparisons that you want to avoid? And he does that at his Party’s auspicious 60 th anniversary?
PM Lee did a good job or Peter Principle re-validated?

(Will his Significant Other now kick his crotch since we uncover a view different from what both of them anticipated. Regardless, I think Sec-Gen Lee has improved on the quality of his jokes – making himself the fool instead of at the expense of Shanghaineses and Beijingers).


One thought on “The Peter Principle & PAP60 Leaders

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 22 Dec 2014 | The Singapore Daily

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