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Your Next Clever PAP MP

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“Half the leadership team has already emerged. In the last general election, we brought in many new people, including a few ministers,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said. “In the next election, we hope to bring in another batch of new people, including candidates who can be office-holders.”

The writer does not know much who or what has “emerged” given the underwhelming work from the team. No doubt those new candidates who can be office holders will again be the bestest and cleverest specimens right out of meritocracy. Just like the new batch in 2011. Definitely more brain power for more analysis, more debates, more discussions resulting in crafting of ever more intelligent, far-sighted, meritocratic, progressive, prudent, sustainable, self-reliant, socially inclusive (multiple choice, all may be right or wrong) initiatives, strategies and policies. So much at the service of ungrateful citizens.

In the world of politics, clever people are a dime a dozen; the PAP lot are hardly any different from their counterparts in the liberal democracies in the brain department. But the trouble is; politics and in particular political leadership is rarely about intellect or even hard work (Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan would famously fail on both counts). It is all about political judgement and political acumen, qualities which are unquantifiable in empirical terms, cannot be taught and needs to be developed from a sense of the ground and a feel of the wind by being tested in the political gladiatorial arena.

As usual those new candidates-office holders will expect a comfortable ride on the coattails of a heavily tilted election system. Citizens will get more of those like the incumbents who think it politically sensible to boast of an $8 heart bypass, to moan over a cut in their absurdly fabulous remuneration or to try to (dis-)connect with the masses over a $10 XO sauce char kway teow. Or who thinks he or she is a member of the natural aristocracy in this day and age.

The newbies will have to prove themselves to colleagues which, this being Singapore is not the same as proving themselves to the citizens. There will be debates, analysis and decisions over such things as “key performance indicators” or “optimal feasibility” the stuff of business schools, corporate boardrooms and post graduate public policy courses, with nary a regard that whatever is optimal to the government, in context of PAP ideology is the same as optimal to citizens. How else, did Singapore achieved long term fiscal sustainability at such a terrible cost in social inequality and in retirement and healthcare inadequacy? How about the Population White Paper? Wealth and international accolades to the government, all the while MBAs are driving taxis and over 25% of households are socially excluded by relative poverty.

A cabinet of clever people without a good sense of political judgement and a good feel for the lives of ordinary citizens will excuse any misjudgement or misconception of policy outcomes, any short or long term consequences of policy choices, no matter how irreversible, catastrophic or plain political idiocy so long as they satisfy themselves their decisions are backed by clever, in-depth, intelligent, scholarly, exhaustive (again multiple choice all may be right or wrong) analysis derived from the PAP’s peculiar “Hard Truths”.

So when your PAP MP-candidate comes around to meet you, do know that you may be voting an undoubtedly clever person, a fount of wisdom and great ideas who becomes a nodding donkey in Parliament. In politics where human emotions reign, social conundrums do not fall neatly as one wishes and political delusions just around the corner that is no better than voting an alternative candidate or a sensible next door neighbor with their hearts in the right place.

Chris Kuan


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