Make no mistake, the PAP government has marshalled all the resources (non-party ones) at its disposal or by subtle force to push their ‘newly packaged product’ onto to shelf space of Singaporeans’ minds. For marketers, a product that does not command shelf space or visibility has less chance of succeeding. All the more so when an ‘existing one’ has been repackaged as destined for a ‘bigger role in Singapore politics’ when, in fact, its 4-year existence has shown up short on tangible benefits for Singaporeans – other than the ‘kee chiu’ shorthand to signal one’s agreement to a matter.
Hence, less than 72 hours after being butted-up to succeed as the next Sec-Gen of NTUC in Oct 2015, Minister Chan’s (Bigger role) face – and thoughts – are all over the mainstream media after an appearance at the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) Singapore Perspectives conference, 26 Jan 2015.
Visually, Straits Times and Todayonline splashed his boy-SAF-general face, hands gesturing to make his point. While on page 4 (TODAY hardcopy edition) his intent face is in focus even as his senior DyPM Teo’s oblique face is faded out.
Textually, the thoughts of Chan to the 4 reported questions (out of 7) were all reported while only one of Teo’s views is worthy to see print. The 4 questions covered political diversity, providing for social needs, Pioneer Generation Package and Growth vs Productivity.
All our lives will be deeply affected if Chan should rise to be PM#4. So, what’s Minister Bigger Role thinking about issues affecting us?
Diversity is ‘a strength…(to) check our own blind spots’ but Singaporeans must be matured enough to ‘achieve consensus beyond expressing differing views’.
Interpretation: Basically, nothing more than a motherhood statement devoid of substance. Such an answer can be given anywhere, anytime by any politician – it’s safe to make. But are we any wiser in our current context?
No one can disagree with the need for consensus. But in our current context tell us please, Minister Bigger Role, how can the process to achieve consensus begin? Would it not rightly begin with the government being willing to acknowledge the ‘blind spots’ that differing views revealed? Or is Chan also convinced he should always ‘decide what is right. Never mind what Singaporeans think’ (LeeKuanYew, 20 Apr 1987)?
Providing For Social Needs
The ideal has always been ‘do the most for those with the least’, but the challenge lies in defining this group…as there will be some lamenting at being left out even though they are not the most in need.
Interpretation: Another safe motherhood statement. But what so challenging about ‘defining this group’? Why can we accept IMF’s, World Bank’s, UN’s etc definition in most socio-econ concepts and yet cannot, indeed refuse to, set a poverty line? Wouldn’t that be at least a start?
The fact is that with any ‘definition’, there will always be lamenters. So, what’s the problem here? Or it’s but a convenient excuse?
Pioneer Generation Package
Whether more to receive or be given will depend on whether a government can muster the resources and the willingness of society to honour the older generation.’
Cautioning against a situation in which elections are turned into an “auction”, where subsidies are wielded as a tool to win votes.
“It is always easy for someone to come and do a one-upmanship, and say that I will promise more. The only way to check against this is not a political system per se, but an enlightened electorate,” he said, adding it is important to pose tough questions, such as how a candidate proposes to balance the books or bring about the promised benefit.
Interpretation: Is he, a leader, trying to play one group against another with pushing responsibility to citizens with his ‘willingness of society to honour the older generation’? Whatever happened to the PAP conviction to do the right thing even if it is unpopular with ‘society’?
What about a government’s book that is always balanced but at the expense of citizens’ books that are in chronic deficit from the cradle to the LifeCorp columbarium? What about reducing spending in one to increase another – even as change in our context and circumstances is the surest constant?
Slower Foreign Worker Growth vs Increasing Productivity
Asked how to balance the two, Chan pointed out the realities of Singapore’s citizen population, which is small compared with megacities that it has to compete with, such as Beijing or Shanghai.
“In any global economy, in order to be a niche, as part of the global value-added chain, we need to be of a certain size. The question is, can we do that … I won’t dare say it’s impossible, but I know it’s very difficult.”
Interpretation: I can only say that for someone who’s only aced Cambridge (BA Econs, First Class) and Sloans Fellows (MSC, Gen Mgt) but never worked a minute in the commercial world, his thoughts are mighty rich, to say the least. Words spouted from a head soaked in theories only – with zilch practice and proven records.
If SIZE was THE factor, Singapore wouldn’t be where it is today. Nor, for that matter, before, when or after Raffles, with his East Indies clerk background, bought us over and then ‘conceived a town plan to remodel Singapore into a modern city…devised a set of policies and regulations that outlined the objectives of the…free port… instituted a local magistrate who ensured peace and order…establishing an institution for higher learning’. All in 5 years from 1819 to 1824, by the time he was 35 years old on his own steam, not via a GRC walkover. Now, THAT’s TALENT – with incomparable foresight!!!
Yes, globalization changed the global economy. And, please Mr Chan, don’t be surprised if I tell you another phenomenon will sweep over globalization. How and when we know not yet. But the unchanging bedrock principle, pre-, current- and post-globalization, for economic relevance is ‘competitive advantage’- not SIZE!
You define your challenge wrongly, you bark up the wrong tree. You think size, you (wrongly) ‘add more (maybe wrong) people to Team Singapore’. You think ‘competitive advantage’, you do not end up like a ‘one-trick pony’ but more likely to succeed.
General Chan, you should know better than to assume the map to be the territory.
Not encouraging. But let’s evaluate his performance, his further utterances and not just this first scene in Minister Bigger Role’s first act as the newly Union Chief-to-be before we decide his fate come the GE.