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Facing Uncertainties…Not Afraid To Be Insecure

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Sedated and on mechanical ventilation, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s condition reportedly ‘improves slightly’. His son PM Lee Hsien Loong is recovering from his prostate surgery. The once self-pronounced seat-warmer PM#2, Mr Goh Chok Tong, appears to want his seat back, discussing succession.

But while trying to sound stateman-like, he appears to undermine his successor.

PM will be alright. But his prostate cancer, and mine too, show life’s unpredictability. Hence, all the more reasons to plan for uncertainty. I hope competent men and women of integrity will step forward to carry Singapore into the future. — gct”

2 observations from Goh’s posting.

First, on uncertainty, he invariably opens up a can of worms for PM#3. By putting ‘plan’ (or planning) alongside ‘uncertainty’ in the current, restive political climate, citizens would naturally ask how PM Lee’s planning record looks like.

Singaporeans are rather reasonable people. We understand that no one can be in full control of events. But we are less forgiving where some future scenarios of reasonable certainty are concerned.         Hence, before discussing ‘uncertainty’, we want to first measure PM Lee against the handful of ‘certainties’ he has dealt with both as Dy PM and PM. We find 3 issues of critical concern for an aging populace.

Retirement Adequacy: What’s relatively certain back in Nov 1990 when he made Dy PM is the number of 65 year-old there would be 2015. It was not a matter of uncertain guesswork but near statistical certainty when economically unproductive, our seniors need adequate retirement funding. Besides, he and the PAP cabinets he led over that period were in full control of the Parliament. What’s more, his own team and even his wife were all helming MAS, GIC & Temasek Holdings. They were able to pass laws and make executive decisions on the CPF returns such that CPF’s mission (annual report 2002), ‘to enable Singaporeans to save for a secure retirement’ is achieved.

In other words, Singaporeans entrusted them with every possible resource to carry out the responsibility of ensuring our Retirement Adequacy.

Regrettably, PAP leaders have not applied the same clarity of purpose to adequately grow our retirement dollars as they did when initiating and passing the bill to increase our Minimum Sums or to unilaterally rescind on the contract to allow for withdrawal at 55. Instead, they give us a derisory 2.5% since 2004 while our less talented, much lower-paid neighbour’s EPF managers paid rates almost consistently double to their members. One can only guess, sadly, that the $mil-salaried ministers and civil servants were merely pussying about with digits – the citizens – not just the dollar figures in CPF accounts, knowing full well that it wouldn’t matter to themselves and their own either way.

Housing: Why is it nigh impossible to achieve an affordability ratio of max 3X annual income when the government owns 76.2% (as at 1965) of the total land area? Is it because of their devious mental block that selling land for affordable HDB citizens amounts to ‘raiding our reserves’? What are the reserves for if not to benefit citizens, current and future, the ultimate land owners, through judicious management instead of greed?

Healthcare: Whilst it isn’t easy to grasp how new medicine and technology can affect healthcare costs, it is inconceivable that on the matters of physical healthcare amenities, we can end up with one-year dental appointments, exceptionally long waiting times and – horrors – either no hospital beds or settle for beds along corridors or in makeshift tentages. After such failures, it’s incredible that PAP remains so cocksure of their competence and has now legislated that with retirement inadequacy staring us down, everyone alive into our unemployed70’s, 80’s, 90’s will still have to pay insurance premiums.

Second observation; ‘competent men and women of integrity’. With the GE looming, Goh’s call for this category of citizens to ‘step forward to carry Singapore into the future’ can only suggest one, and only one, thing. PAP hasn’t got enough candidates and/or those they now have recruited are deemed to be less than competent and/or somewhat wanting in integrity…to meet the uncertainties ahead.

As if he didn’t quite get the point across about the dearth of candidates to form the next team, a fortnight later, 1 Mar, Goh indirectly criticised PM#3 for failing in succession planning. How else is one to interpret the trumpeting of his own succession planning right after ascending the PM throne while helpfully pointing out that ‘the present team still needs a few more people to be completed. I know he’s looking for more people outside, and by the next election and maybe a few years after that, we can see the entire team more or less shaping up.”

Eh, ‘maybe…more or less shaping up’ – after 10 years and now pushing 65 and cancer-stricken? ‘Whisky Tango Hotel!’ (i.e. ‘what the heck!’…apologies, but Whisky Tango Foxtrot is alien to my speech). Can you imagine your ex-CEO making such a statement if you are CEO, recovering from major surgery?

To all you PAP zealots and FMMs (fence-sitters, marginal supporters and mal/mis-informed voters) out there, the message is not as cryptic as faux-statesmanlike Goh would like to think he is putting across so as not to hurt poor little Loong’s feelings. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see and udnerstand that the Lee Hsien Loong Team

a) Has failed miserably in not even managing issues that are certain and foreseeable (just 3 e.g. Retirement Adequacy, Housing and Healthcare Affordability).

b) Has either been incompetent (did not bother to find successors and/or the S$mil salaries and S$8/- bypass medical cost for themselves and family members are too good to pass) or conducted themselves in such a way that competent and honest people find them a stench to identify themselves with.

Please be not tricked by Goh’s subtle implication to vote in ‘a few more people’ the next GE in order to form the full team. THINK! If the leaders you have entrusted your retirement funds, the roof over your head and your medical needs – not to mention the ominous, continued loss of PMET jobs to more and more foreigners – have failed with such critical basic certainties in our lives after more than a decade and despite the impressive GDP figures, can you afford to trust them another 5 years?

Or is it time to start putting in place an alternative team to learn the ropes?

Which is riskier, those who have actually failed to deliver but continue to be in denial or those yet untried but stepping forward at great personal costs?

What is your answer to your children’s question circa 2025, ‘How did you vote to bring about where I am now?’

“When an old culture is dying, the new culture is born by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” Rudolf Badro,

Reimagine a new Singapore circa 2025 – and beyond – that is born, not by a few, but 65% voters who are not afraid to be insecure…



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