Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?

Another one? Education minister Heng Swee Keat will lead yet another committee that “should review what needs to change and where we should act more boldly”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message.

“We will engage Singaporeans in this review, and build a broad consensus on the way forward.”

Rachel Chang of the Straits Times spoke to academics, political observers and ordinary Singaporeans, and reported in her blogpost that there were two main reactions:

First: “Another committee?”

Second: “Will they really do anything radical?”

People remember various other committees in the past that had grand-sounding names but produced forgettable reports. I have always thought that the main problem was inherent in the format, and there is nothing to indicate that the new committee will be any different. The flaws are these:

1.  It is headed by people with a stake in the existing system — people who have spent their careers within the system, rose through it and currently have their political fortunes tied to its legitimacy. There is going to be a natural resistance to any idea that is far from their comfort zone, so how radical can they get?

2. It is trying to hoover up ideas from, it hopes, all and sundry, but as more likely, there will be a skewing in the the sources of inputs. They will probably get them from individuals, including some very learned ones. But it is unlikely that they will go out of their way to invite inputs from organised groups, especially those who have criticised the government in the past. This means opposition parties and even many civil society groups, formal or informal, will tend to be excluded or only given a polite hearing. Yet precisely because these are organised groups, whether of artists or economists, means they have been thinking about issues they are familiar with for some time. They will have tossed and dissected ideas among themselves. They will have evidence at hand to support their arguments, they will have tested their ideas for internal coherence, and compatibility with other facets of public life and governance. Generally speaking, groups come up with better proposals than individuals, but because this government is allergic to dealing with groups, especially critical ones, the very nature of such a committee will skew it to inputs that are less well-formed, less tested by debate, and piecemeal.

3. It then sits behind closed doors as prosecutor, judge and jury of all the (probably conventional) ideas that it manages to get, almost surely unaware that it will be viewing and selecting them through the lens of the committee’s own orthodoxies.

Going by the reactions garnered by Rachel Chang, I suspect few Singaporeans would be surprised if it produces little more than small tweaks on the existing paradigm.

In a nutshell, the process is flawed because it is hierarchical, insider-driven, like-minded selective, with no way to create public buy-in of its findings, simply because of its closed-door process.

Democracy

The funny thing is that a proven process exists: it’s called democracy. It’s a process whereby groups of people — in political parties, think tanks and civil society organisations — would have spent years thinking about issues from their perspective and coming up with solutions, then selling those ideas doggedly to the public. Needing to be sold to the public, contestation occurs in the public arena. The ideas’ flaws are identified, argued over and modified, and what emerges then would have been tested for public acceptability.

In its narrow form, “strategic review” would actually be a national election, where different political parties present their vision of what a country should be about and strive to get their vision accepted. Of course, as anyone can plainly see, a pre-requisite must be to have political parties with the freedom and resources to brainstorm and package their proposals.

However, there are also parallel ways short of an election, in which a society can debate and arrive at a consensus about many other issues, e.g. on questions such as euthanasia, healthcare funding, single-parenthood, school reform or investments in roadbuilding. These parallel ways however, require a free media and an unshackled civil society. And a government that lets the debate play out without trying (as so often) to steer it to its preferred conclusion.

The best thing the government can do therefore is to free up the space and step back. This Heng Swee Keat committee is going to be little more than an imposter of a meaningful process.

Orthodoxy

One big danger, because it is almost invisible, lies in the unquestioned assumptions held by the committee members, which prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said would comprise younger ministers.

An example of orthodox thinking kept kept echoing back and forth at the recent scenario-brainstorming conference (yes!  yet another one) I attended recently. Participants were asked to think through the implications of a few future scenarios. But everywhere I looked,  one scenario kept popping up for discussion: that of “populist pressures” rising, government having to accede to demands for redistribution and more public services, leading to budget deficits and economic stagnation. Various shades of this scenario were continually thrown up by participants; it wasn’t a scenario mandated by the conference organisers.

I kept shaking my head. It showed how thoroughly Singaporeans have bought into this fearscape. I tried arguing against it, but soon gave up in the face of such widespread (and to me, unthinking) acceptance.

My view is that redistribution does not automatically equate with stagnating economic growth. And when we have accumulated obscene reserves, we need to get out of thinking that we must keep on running budget surpluses. I would argue that in a situation such as we are in, both in Singapore and globally, when income gaps have widened over the last few decades, it is stupid to keep thinking that rewarding the rich and hoping for trickle-down is still the best strategy.

The better-off (including better-off corporations) are now accumulating wealth at a rate far greater than they can ever consume. The rational strategy for them is to park their wealth in assets and aim to preserve or grow asset-value. This has a number of effects. Firstly, when a significant portion of economic product is sequestered in assets rather than ploughed back into consumption, there is a net diminishing of demand, which then has a decelerating effect on the economy. Secondly, as more and more wealth chase the same assets, there is asset inflation. It might not be so bad if the assets being chased are things like Impressionist paintings, black tulips or pink diamonds — though any crash will still have horrible distorting effects — the assets most likely to be chased are property and financial assets such as shares and bonds. This in turn feeds price distortion into the real economy. More and more of the price of an ordinary bloke’s meal goes as rent to the restaurant’s landlord who then sequesters the profits he has so generated into more property purchases at rising prices. Meanwhile, vast amounts of money wash in and out of a country in response to exchange and interest rate changes.

I have previously described our present world economy as one in which billions, maybe trillions, of dollars of hot money are sloshing around looking for the illusive safe assets. It is a very destabilising force.

Where we are today, I think it makes better sense to actively redistribute. A dollar in the hands of the less-well off who will spend it on consumption has a more positive effect on the economy than in the hands of a millionaire who keeps it in his safe. This is not even including the positive social effects of improving general wellbeing and social mobility across a wider span of people.

An argument can be made that levelling wealth would stimulate an economy rather than ruin it. It adds to consumption and demand, and a more democratic distribution of wealth and demand will open up more opportunities for differentiated products and services, thus encouraging innovation.

Another way to look at it is this:  If less people were financially insecure, more among us might be prepared to take risks creating new products or enterprises.

In this connection, something hopeful was said by Heng Swee Kiat, albeit in a much narrower context than what is discussed here. He said “. . . strengths, overdone, can become weaknesses.” The rewarding of the “meritocracy” may now have gone too far, stifling the economy rather than boosting it.

I may be whistling into the wind. The reality seems to be that many Singaporeans have bought into this fear that responding to demands for redistribution means the end of Singapore. What more of government ministers who created this fear?

But if one starts with closed minds, how open can a process of a consultation committee possibly be?

31 Responses to “Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?”


  1. 1 Lau Chiu 30 August 2012 at 06:41

    Our democracy is controlled and regulated and unlike the OPEN democracy of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong.

    Kuan Yew’s argument of Spore being a small vulnerable island with no hinterland as a justification for not having an open democracy is deeply embedded in the psyche of the average Sporean. We were constantly reminded by him that our system cannot withstand socio-political experiments which are part of a robust open democracy.

    It will be hard to have any kind of national conversation, unless this fundamental premise of the evils of open democracy, is done away with.

  2. 3 reddotsg 30 August 2012 at 09:20

    Another great piece

  3. 4 CY 30 August 2012 at 10:11

    Nicely said. You have actually put it in (economic) terms that these committees may actually understand. And since you are not a critical ‘organisation’, it may actually have a chance of it seeing the light of day!

    Aside from that, I do agree with your point on the inherent problem with the approach. It is a set of like-minded people who got where they are by conforming to the system, so it is unlikely that there will be sufficient impetus to change. It is so natural to seek to defend what you have.

    Personally, I believe the only people who should rule or govern are the reluctant ones. The ones who count the individual cost of each and every decision but are brave enough to shoulder the responsibility. The ones who actually want to go fishing / shopping / golfing but have the sense of duty to help people, and so put in place the infrastructure to let them get out while leaving a functioning system, instead of keeping them in power. That is why I cannot do politics – I am not good enough or strong enough to do this.

  4. 5 Kevin 30 August 2012 at 10:23

    Alex, seems like you, too, have a closed mind, with your preconceived and biased notion of what the committee would be like. You have put the cart before the horse and cast doubts on and killed the intent of this national conversation even before it got started. Is that fair? I don’t blame you because you seem to be one filled with a lot of angst and biased against the current system. But I urge you to suspend your judgement for once. You want change? Why not take this opportunity seriously and responsibly and take part? You, too, should not hide behind closed doors.

    • 6 Saycheese 30 August 2012 at 12:41

      I will like to be optimistic but there have been so many previous committees and LHL do not inspire confidence in me. He will use this committee and the National Conversation to convince us that what we want is what they have been trying to do all along.

      • 7 Kevin 30 August 2012 at 14:40

        Saycheese, pray tell what previous committees did not give you any confidence? Specific examples would be useful very instead of broad sweeping statements, which will mislead others.

        I would like to ask Alex and those who are doubtful of the committee and the process. Are you saying that because the the committee formed for this National Conversation is flawed, thus the ideas, views, feedback that other Singaporeans are going to share through the conversation are to be discounted or not accepted by you?

        If this is so, then it goes against the grain of having Singaporeans taking an active role in deciding what they want Singapore to be. And it shows that you are really the ones who are behind closed doors and with closed minds. Don’t let your baggage hinder your own minds, and more importantly, because Alex is supposedly an influential character, influenced the minds of other Singaporeans who may be excited to take part in the whole process.

        If you feel that the committee and process is pointless, than what other alternatives can you offer? The situation looks like this now: If the Government is not doing anything, you criticise it. And when the Government does something, you still criticise it. So, what is it that you want?

    • 8 Gard 31 August 2012 at 11:31

      Chalking up examples of how government did not deliver would be to cherry-pick on government’s failings. Since no government is infallible, this is not a useful exercise.

      One could try to identify the plausible causes that led to specific government failures in the past – such as MOM and the issue of foreign workers – then, it is not unreasonable to make certain inferences about whether new initiatives would or would not work.

      The basic question is, I think what Alex is pondering, does the format of a committee serve or hinder what this particular initiative aim to achieve.

      • 9 ricardo 15 September 2012 at 04:56

        Kevin, I was greatly impressed by PM Lee’s NDR speech. In particular, his call for “Singapore also has to be a home where people want to get married, have children and bring up the next generation.”

        Sadly, his instrument to achieve this, the “National Conversation”, is just the old wayang. Instead of using this as an opportunity to unite & engage all Singaporeans in a common cause, it was just another PR exercise.

        Within 48hrs, Min. of Truth apparatchiks, CNA and PM’s Office, were at work to make sure that those not giving multi-million Dignity to our Lord LKY, the HoLee Family, their Ministers & friends, were excluded.

        A conversation is a 2 way process. Have you seen any Ministers discussing the issues brought up? Have you seen the issues brought up? Where are the important issues which might actually address PM Lee’s worthy goal?

        What we see is not a Conversation but more like what happens in Church. There is a Sermon by the HoLee Family and their Ministers. The Congregation go to Confession and send Prayers to a Silent God, “Please ban foreign workers from using the MRT from 0800 – 1000″. “My son should be allowed to break school rules without getting free haircuts”.

        The priest says, “Go forth & give multi-million Dignity to our Lord LKY, the HoLee Family, their Ministers & friends and everything will be OK”.

        Later, a mandate will come from Heaven … which need not have any connection to the original Prayers … but the Min. of Truth will correct History to show at least 60% agree.

    • 10 goop 1 September 2012 at 02:28

      Haha. Alex has probably done more for Singapore in civil society than you have had grains of rice.

  5. 13 The 30 August 2012 at 11:01

    The main problem is the terms of reference of these Committees are always prescribed such that certain cows are untouchable. Already 3 are singled out – multi-racialism, meritocracy and financial prudence.

    HSK mentioned extreme meritocracy leading to all sorts of ills, yet this is out of bound. Financial prudence – yes, but to what degree. We have the highest per capita reserves in the world, yet we are so miserly with the destitute.

    So, how radical can the committee be if they are already circumscribed right from the beginning. Reminds me of the referendum taken when Singaporeans were asked about joining Malaya to form Malaysia. All 3 choices were about joining Malaya under different terms. There was no choice about NOT joining Malaya.

    As Henry Ford said, you can have any colour for your car as long as it is black.

  6. 14 Tan Tai Wei 30 August 2012 at 11:39

    Whilst calling for a “national conversation”, they haven’t changed their ground rules, eg., be “constructive”, “consensual”, GCT’s recently- added “researched”, etc.. And they have been ignoring, not only those admittedly thrash on “social media”, but also pertinent contributions there, even SDP’s serious ones on health-care, and the likes, studied by even personnel from such national establishments as NUH and our Medical Faculty of NUS. “National conversation”? Or speak only when “consensual”, for if not, then you aren’t “constructive” and you haven’t “researched”!

  7. 15 MS 30 August 2012 at 13:25

    Wonder if the tax code will also be up for “review”? I think it is ABSOLUTELY obscene that we’re trumpeting the fact that investment bankers(ptui ptui) from abroad are trying to come here because we have “low” tax rates. That’s right. Please invite more robber barons here. As if we don’t have enough of them already sucking the life-blood out of everybody else.

    I can almost see the way tax rates are going to rise as LHL says over the next 20 years. The middle class as usual is going to bear the brunt of it just like in the US. Do we have politicians courageous enough to work towards the Scandinavian model? Not among the present crop we don’t. We’ll probably have a situation where the robber barons pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

    But the capitalist system must take a share of the blame. We have a system where the people who do the least amount of work, basically sitting in an office manipulating interest rates with keystrokes, earn a million times more than the farmers of the developing world, for example, who grow the food which sustains us. How sad and warped is that?

  8. 16 george 30 August 2012 at 14:36

    Alex,

    Very to the point.

    I would describe it as allowing Singaporeans to play on the jackpot machine. It gives you the impression of participation (as you get to pull the arm) but actually the odds of you winning have already been tweaked and pre-determined by the banker.

    Also, someone says here that they would listen to bloggers like you, I doubt it. My observation of recent occurrences says that bloggers or commentators who are
    forthright and speak their minds are NOT welcome, including you, may I respectfully say.

    Govt is happiest with any groupthinker that thinks or at least publicly toe its line.

    Committees are always grand to look at, but the devil is in the details – the composition, as you have correctly mentioned. Bottomline, you have to be a groupthinker, an old boy or and acolyte to fit the bill for a committee member. Simple example – the ‘overuse’ of Gerard Ee. Govt only need a very small cohort of yesmen in its fields of interest to control things dress it up and give the public an impression of public discussion and openness.

    This practice has been around for decades.

  9. 17 Hsq 30 August 2012 at 14:42

    I hope not too much tax payers’ money is squandered this time round.

    Remember price tag for ministerial pay review was $860k while the COI for SMRT breakdown was $10 million.

    At the end of the day, not any more light did the committee shed than what we already known.

    These money could have been spent on more tangible issues such as helping the lesser mortals.

    • 18 Lye Khuen Way 30 August 2012 at 21:14

      Another boost to the economy / GDP…..and “employment ” for some.

      Am afraid I am on Alex’s side and even if I am accused of being biased, presumptive about these Committees and the Conversation, so be it.

      Seen enough and waited long enough.

      Pessimistic, is a kind way to descibe my outlook.

  10. 19 NYH 30 August 2012 at 15:52

    Dear Mr Bread

    Redistribution does lead to a boost in economic growth in the short term, but it leads to stagnating economic growth in the long-run. I would like to quote our great supreme leader Lee Kuan Yew who said ‘Teach a man to fish and he will be able to feed himself for a lifetime.’ However, do we really want to continually feed a bunch of people over time? This will definitely lead to

    When we have accumulate obscene reserves, we must ensure that we do not become complacent, the kind of thinking ‘why should we save all the money and leave it in the bank?’ is fatal for multiple reasons.

    1) The money in the reserves are being invested. For example, in 2008, it was indicated that Temasek holding lost money. However, as of now, as markets recover, I doubt they will post ’50billion lost became 100billion profit’. We all fall into the trap of judging people by how we think. In fact, people around us reflects our way of thinking. Ever had a friend who is thinks the world is lying to him? He’s probably lies alot. Sorry, but I’m digressing.

    2) The rich are rich because they add-value, creating jobs for others, providing services and products which the world needs. Most people fall into the trap of thinking ‘I work hard but I’m not rich, so the world is unfair’, this is a fundamental flawed thinking as however hard you work, you will only be paid the amount society deems competitive to pay you at the job you are currently working at. If you’re not happy, find a similar job with higher pay. Sorry, but I accidently digressed again. I would suggest you read the first sentence of everything I type.

    3) When it comes to top-down, it is politically incorrect to assume the money goes straight into the companies’ owner’s bank account. The government does contracts with many different companies, they do not give the whole contract sum to just one big company; in this sense, the money will help to keep singapore companies afloat and allow business owners to create jobs and educate their minions. But I’m digressing over here as well since you assumed corporations put their money into safe assets rather than being ploughed back into consumption. So please go straight to item 4.

    4) Companies invest the money to enable productivity, investment of money into increasing efficiency (blah blah blah, you heard it before). Further to that, increase in productivity of Alpha Pte Ltd leads to higher profits and demand for it shares, leading to higher valuation. Money flowing into the shares of Alpha may increase its value as demand> supply, but if you really think business owners will invest in Alpha Pte Ltd instead of trying to grow their darling baby (their own company), thats really funny and deserves an applause from all your readers.

    5) The poor are poor for a reason. They don’t save, they don’t invest, they dont buy low sell high (Note: Think of the hundreds of people who buy high sell low now. They are able to scrap a loan to get a shoebox unit because of their flawed thinking property prices will always rise…….and they purchase at high prices to sell it later when they cant afford the downpayment as interest rate increases after a crash in property market.

    I feel embarassed I took 1 hr of my time trying to explain this to you when you probably wont even open up your closed mind. Please empty your cup so that I may be able to pour a different perspective into your mind.

  11. 22 The 30 August 2012 at 16:18

    Other than the 3 sacred cows, can we talk about regime change?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Conversation

  12. 23 Rabbit 30 August 2012 at 21:23

    Committee reminds me of someone who talked a lot about gardening and ended up selling fake flowers. To them it is still a result because it is about flower, being real is beside the point. They are happy with the result instead of the original intent.

  13. 24 dmr 30 August 2012 at 22:40

    The worst thing is, of all people, he chose HSK the classic career government yes-man to lead this committee.

  14. 25 Alan Wong 31 August 2012 at 00:29

    If people like LTK, CSM or even CSJ have some good ideas to offer, do you think for a second that our PAP leaders would even give them the slightest opportunity to be listened to ?

    LKY already closed the door for the opposition voice to be heard when he sort of said that fat chance they will ever give the opposition a level playing field to participate, so will such “committees” be receptive to all voices in the first place including the opposition ?

    And if not, so how can such committees be expected to play a quasi-judicial role in determining what are the best policies to be adopted for national implementation ? If they can’t even manage the PA to play the independent role, what else can we expect from them ?

  15. 26 jer 31 August 2012 at 02:30

    Good to know from NYH that the “poor” can afford to own shoebox units costing at least half a million. I note his point that companies invest their money to enable productivity and efficiency. As productivity has been falling, i guess the companies here are making all the wrong decisions. Time to invest abroad.

  16. 27 TopSage Singapore 31 August 2012 at 08:23

    20 Ideas – A challenge for PAP govt to implement…

    In response to the govt call for ideas, here are 20 ideas. These are many ideas Singaporeans want to have implemented over time but the PAP due to its extreme right wing ideology has refused to implement any of them. But will the PAP be able to change? Come show us that it can overcome its own ideological barriers otherwise this whole national conversation will be just a national farce.

    1. Get rid of ISA and ISD….Malaysia already done so. Replace the broad powers with anti-gang and anti-terrorist act. No democratic developed country under various security threats has ISA because it can be abused and causes fear among the populace.

    2. Reduce defense spending to proper level. Singapore’s defense spending to too high compared with neighboring countries. Various countries spend different amounts on defense ranging from zero to 6% of GDP. Singapore’s defense is among the highest and very high relative to its neighbors. Experts estimate that the spending substantially lower is sufficient to protect Singapore. We have to make a proper trade-off between defense and the social needs of our citizens especially the elderly who have insufficient to retire and the sick who shoulder high cost of medical care.

    3, Get rid of GRCs. This system has skewed the results of elections 40% vote against the PAP but is represented by 7% in the parliament. This system is worsen the problem of FPP (first past the post) election system vs an proportional representation system. A country can be strong and cohesive under proportional representation system because everyone’s interest in properly represented such as in Israel. Skewing the representation in parliament is not inclusive.

    4. Get rid of votes for upgrading priority scheme. It is undemocratic pork barrel politics.

    5. Hard limit the number of foreigners now!!! Singaporeans already feel we have too many but businesses will always clamor for more. None of our competitors need to resort to the level of foreign influx to compete so why should we? It has gone well past the point that is good for ordinary Singaporeans.

    6. Give more in scholarships to Singaporeans than to foreigners.

    7. Implement minimum wage. Malaysia has done it so has Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s study shows that while cost has risen for some businesses, this has been beneficial for workers and as a whole Hong Kongers welcome minimum wage. The PAP cannot be so right wing that it is more capitalistic than Hong Kong that existed in modern history as a colony not a nation.

    8. Allow independent unions allow workers to form unions to protect their own rights. The main reason is with the union controlled by a PAP minister, we have undertaken a long journey of unbalanced policies than have undermined our workers especially low wage workers that need the most protection.

    9. Adhere to UN Human Rights Declaration. Why is respecting human rights so difficult in Singapore? In the recent National Day speech, our PM claimed that the ungracious anti-FT of a small number of netizens is bad for Singapore’s reputation. What about the PAP’s human rights record? At the govt level refusing to adhere to UNHCR is bad for Singapore’s reputation as the UNHCR establishes only basic protection for us as human beings – civilized developed countries go further than UNHCR.

    10. Full transparency and accountability for GIC and Temasek. This is billions of tax payers money who is it so hard to let citizens know what is going on. Large part of it is our CPF money. This is what the citizens want and why are they denied. In many developed countries, the freedom of information act (FOIA) is established to give ordinary citizens full access information so long as it does not compromise national security. Why does the PAP govt want to operate in secrecy? How can there be greater trust when the PAP govt does not want to give citizens full access to information?

    11. Implement universal healthcare scheme – preferably single payer system – so that every Singapore is well treated and no need to worry about medical financing. Every developed country now has it why not Singapore? Singaporeans shoulder the heaviest healthcare burden out of their pockets as a % of total expenditure compared with all developed countries.

    12. Stop linking HDB price to market. It creates a vicious loop especially when the PAP govt insists on importing people in such large numbers. The upward pressure on public housing is enormous and high housing cost put Singaporeans into heavy debt.

    13. Implement unemployment insurance to reduce worries of unemployment.

    14. Supplement CPF so that elderly Singaporeans who contributed so much to Singapore can retire properly. The elderly were part of a generation that build Singapore to an economic power house. Many suffer today and do menial jobs because they earned low wages in the past and were unable to save when Singapore was a developing nation to help build Singapore. Seeing so many elderly workers doing menial back breaking work tells us there is a cold-heartedness and harshness that exists in our society yet in his National Day Rally, PM Lee spoke nothing about treating the old better but instead asked us to treat foreigners graciously – his can start by treating our old graciously. His attitude shows he value foreigners more than his own people even those who are now old and have contributed so much to the success of Singapore.

    15. Reduce Income gap by reducing GST and increasing corporate and high income earners’ tax. The relative share of wages in our GDP is low vs corporate profits – this is a result of pro-business policies pursued by the PAP. It is an fallacy to thing that an easy environment for big business equates to competitiveness. It does not and has not – it has breed constant demand for cheap labor and long term declining productivity.

    16. Stop parachuting elites to state own enterprises. It is incestuous and result in conflict of interests. This is a perversion of meritocracy that has to stop. By deliberately allocating so much resources and opportunities to small group is not meritocratic but elitist in nature. It destroys the element of competition which is necessary to keep meritocracy healthy.

    17. Stop the low wage, low productivity cycle by cutting employers from source of cheap foreign labor.

    18. Revamp the transport system so that there is no compromise between quality of service and profits….get rid of Saw’s legacy once and for all.

    19. Get rid of all anti-democracy laws such as restoring our rights to protest, assemble and speak. We are now left further and further behind as more countries democratize and liberate its people.

    20. Revamp our education system to “test less learn more”. Stream less, less pressure, to create all round individuals with heart for our society. The system has it is puts to much emphasis on exams and does not cultivate a love for learning. The intense competition to get into various streams, secondary schools, results in unhealthy negative outcomes.

    • 28 Darren 31 August 2012 at 21:36

      LHL/Heng will have fainted by e end of the 2nd paragraph.. let alone implement any of the above brilliant suggestions.

  17. 29 aHuman 31 August 2012 at 15:08

    I will BELIEVE that this National Conversation is of any use ONLY IF the following is done:

    Do not ask WHO or WHERE the participant is FROM?

    This is to eliminate preconceived ideas of who or which side the participant is taking. After all, it is supposed to be a conversation by Singaporeans FOR Singapore. Why should we find out WHO is coming, from WHICH side? Why should the Organisers SCREEN the participants? The invitees can be on a first-come-first-serve basis who register who their names and IC number. No need to specify the Profession or Qualification. Every participant should be rightly treated as a Singaporean human, rather than pro- or anti-govt.

    Only then, hopefully, will there be a DEMOCRATIC Conversation going on, and only then, hopefully, will TRUE HUMANE solutions be found.

  18. 30 dolphin81 31 August 2012 at 18:33

    Actually, PAP is only worried about 2 issues. The FT policy & national reserves. It is trying to avoid any negative news on these 2 issues.

    For the rest, the PAP has been quite happy to allow various viewpoints including potential bombs such as the issue of homosexuality & church-state separation.

    The big problem is that these 2 issues have an unusually big impact on ALL other things.

  19. 31 The Pariah 5 September 2012 at 20:40

    PAP MP Dr Toh Chin Chye, 1989 interview: MPs as “dumb cows”.

    PAP Minister without Portfolio Mr Lim Swee Say, 2010 parliamentary debate: PAP Government as “deaf frogs”.

    MSM became compliant.

    New Media, now on the cusp of being stripped of anonymity, will be effectively silenced.

    Closed minds, closed doors, closed ears, closed mouths, closed hearts …. Well, that’s one open orifice left for all that constipation.


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