Curing the patient with engineers

Between the pre-election cabinet and the one just announced on 18 May 2011, nine ministers disappeared: Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong, S Jayakumar, Lim Boon Heng, George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hua, Raymond Lim, Mah Bow Tan and Wong Kan Seng.

This demonstrates Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s commitment to reform, some might be quick to say. I reserve judgement.

First of all, how many did he sack? For the record, none. Two were voted out by the residents of Aljunied. The rest retired or resigned. In other words, the departures were not exactly selected by Lee. If they were not selected by him, then how does one conclude that it demonstrates a commitment to reform on his part?

Unless, of course, the statement he made yesterday that Mah, Wong and Raymond Lim had expressed a desire to resign prior to the elections was false, and that in truth they had not wanted to go but was asked to by Lee post-Polling Day. I am aware that there is such speculation going around, but unless Lee says otherwise, the thing to do is to take him at his word, that (a) he did not ask them to go and (b) he therefore cannot claim credit for their going.

People quit for all sorts of reasons. One possibility might be that some of them were truly sick of political infighting within the People’s Action Party (PAP). Another might be that they felt so humiliated by the vote swing against them, they didn’t think they should stay. A third could be that Lee has started thinking about cutting ministerial salaries (Yes, I continue to hope) and they don’t want to be seen leaving after salaries have been cut — they would look so mercenary — they feel it better to leave now. And the fourth? Maybe they got slapped.

The one move Lee can definitely take credit for is the sort-of demotion of Vivian Balakrishnan. Moving him to the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) from his Olympian perch at the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports is — forgive the repetitive use of the word — a slap in the face. MEWR is generally regarded as the least prestigious ministry; it is certainly no heavyweight ministry like Finance, Defence or Education. Frankly, I would have liked Balakrishnan to be out of the cabinet altogether and given a learning opportunity as the government’s Outreach Ambassador for Making Amends to the Gay Community — now, that would really demonstrate reforming intent — but a sort-of demotion is a consolation of a kind. The guy who engaged in homophobic slime-ball gutter politics now is in charge of cleaning out slime from gutters, drains and sewers.

Yet, in the end, that’s just my point. Even Balakrishnan was not chucked out. Lee has not chucked out anyone. What he instead did was to rubber-stamp a mass exodus.

Second, even if Lee was liberal with the truth and did push Wong, Mah and Raymond Lim out, letting a few heads roll is not reform. Quite often in politics, it is used as a substitute for true reform. Such sacrifices satisfy the public baying for blood, but once that baying is appeased, governments often hope to be able to get back to politics-as-usual.

Is this the case here? I don’t know. As I said, let’s reserve judgement.

* * * * *

As I argued recently, true demonstration of reforming intent should take the form of announcing new Key Performance Indicators (KPI). One of the two root causes of the present malaise in the social compact between the government and the people is the extremely narrow focus on overall economic growth. We worship the god of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), together with two demigods: trickle-down economics and the politics of crisis.

The demigods ensured that even when we saw the adverse consequences of over-fixation with GDP growth, the government excused itself from taking sufficient corrective action. The demigod of trickle-down economics gave them unerring faith that whatever problems arose, they were self-correcting. Perhaps the occasional band-aid might be necessary to salve the loudest cries for help, but no systemic change was necessary. . .  because the good life would eventually trickle down. The demigod of the politics of crisis gave justification to the view that Singapore and Singaporeans ought to stoically bear the pain in the name of survival. Anyone who cried out for help was an undeserving wimp.

The other root cause was the PAP’s belief that they were the anointed priesthood who mediated between the masses and the god of GDP. This belief in their priestly status then moulded their behaviour towards the masses, creating for example the mindset that accountability is for them to define and regulate, not for the lower orders to demand. I don’t need to elaborate, I’m sure.

From these core beliefs flowed, quite rationally, a whole set of policies with respect to seeking foreign investment, talent, price signals, labour as a factor of production, the marshalling of private savings for public goods (better yet, the sequestering of private savings into locked state reserves), and not least, the suspension of human rights and civil liberties. The collateral damage inflicted on individuals and the social and physical environment were there for all to see, but so long as the belief in the god of GDP held, seeing did not impel action.

This is not to say that GDP growth is not important. It is an enabler of many things, but we must remember that it is not a provider of everything.

So what would “reform” mean? It must necessarily mean the renunciation of this set of beliefs, and the adoption of a whole new model for what Singapore is about. It should begin thus: We are a society. We are not an economic machine. Reform must include a drawing up a whole new set of KPIs, among which, as I have mentioned before, should be a Gini Coefficient of Household Income that is under 40, in line with Western European countries. We should also have other measures pertaining to health, family life, human rights, artistic creativity (one of the best indicators of cultural vibrancy), etc.

And so, I wait for Lee to convince me by announcing new KPIs for his administration.

* * * * *

Success at reform always depends on getting the right people to carry it out. Right now, there is some hopefulness because Tharman Shanmugaratnam, considered one of the most liberal ministers, at least on social issues, has been promoted to Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for coordinating inter-ministerial economic and social policies. But one man cannot carry the day, especially when among the remaining ministers several may still be hardliners.

There are also some ministers whose competence has been widely questioned. Vivian Balakrishnan has been mentioned, but let’s not forget Lui Tuck Yew (formerly Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, now Minister for Transport) and Gan Kim Yong (formerly Minister for Manpower, now Minister for Health).

Of the new inductees, the most prominent one is the Prince of Lanfang, Chan Chun Sing (right), so called because in his first election speech, he made a thoroughly quixotic reference to an obscure Hakka Chinese community in Kalimantan, in order to make a (laughably bad, overstretched) point about the need for prioritising Defence. If his Emotional Quotient and people skills are anything like that choice of election speech topic , then I have no reason to feel confident. I’d have given him better marks if he had spoken about UFOs; at least it would have entertained the audience more.

The problem for the PAP is that in the run-up to the election, they were focussed on renewal. As Terence Chong said in a note he placed on his Facebook profile, Renewal and Reform, there is a risk that “PM Lee may conflate renewal with reform”.

When they were deciding on their new candidates, the party was looking for renewal, not reform. That suggests that they were looking for young blood that would be more or less made of the same stuff that the older ministers and members of parliament were made of. To replace them.

Now, they discover that the catchword is reform. But they had not really been looking for reformists. It’s as if they had spent all their time recruiting engineers only to find that they now need doctors. For the next five years.

To say that I reserve judgement is being very kind. It may well be more optimistic than I ought to be.

106 Responses to “Curing the patient with engineers”


  1. 1 patrick 20 May 2011 at 01:42

    I should draw everyone’s attention to how you selectively refuse to read between the lines as and when it suits your little agenda. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise and were forced out, yet you refuse to give LHL credit where it is due. Instead you fashion yourself as a guardian of intellectual honesty. I contend that if you had always taken everything at its face value without reading your own interpretations in the subtext, half of the articles in YB’s history (indeed, half of this article) could not have been written. You may be able to fool others with your admittedly impressive rhetoric, but not me.

    Also – nice wordplay there with “Western European” countries. Why not singularly Western? Because America has a Gini of 45. It is absurdly easy to pick a statistic or two out of thin air and say we should emulate this or achieve that – it’s quite another to understand the complexities of policymaking and to actually make the sausage.

    • 2 patrick 20 May 2011 at 01:45

      And allow me to list off some other countries with Gini’s of lower than 40:

      Guinea
      Laos
      East Timor
      Cuba
      Afghanistan
      Half of Africa

      • 3 yawningbread 20 May 2011 at 10:10

        And the point is? Perhaps you’re saying that greater inequality is a (desirable) measure of economic development?

        But that’s not the only way to interpret your examples. Instead, one could easily say that Gini’s lower than 40 is the comfort zone that most countries are in whether on average they are rich or poor. But why are we comparing Singapore to Laos and East Timor? If Singapore is to be compared to anywhere, surely we should be benchmarking ourselves to other countries with a similar level of economic development, which is why I brought up Western Europe.

      • 4 patrick 20 May 2011 at 10:30

        I am saying that just as you rightly criticize the GDP-is-everything mindset of the PAP, you raise the point about Gini coefficients to the exclusion of everything else. how could one even compare Singapore with Western European countries? our economies are different, our strengths and weaknesses are different, our concerns are different, and we’re not even in the same continent. how then, could we possibly say it is reasonable for Singapore to have the same Gini coefficient, just by pointing out that we have similar levels of development and snapping your fingers saying hey, there’s no reason why we can’t do this?

        ironically you seem to be using GDP per capita as the sole justification for the comparability of Western European countries with Singapore. GDP is not everything.

      • 5 J 20 May 2011 at 12:21

        “ironically you seem to be using GDP per capita as the sole justification for the comparability of Western European countries with Singapore. GDP is not everything.”

        Actually, if you actually read the article accurately, you would realize the only time “Western European” is mentioned is regarding the Gini, not the GDP. I’m serious, do a Control-F.

      • 6 patrick 20 May 2011 at 13:07

        @J: I’m referring to the basis on which Alex chose Western European countries as points of comparison for Singapore. How did he come to that basis? Was it solely because their GDP per cap were similar to Singapore’s? If so, does that not contradict his earlier mantra that GDP isn’t everything? My point is that if you want to choose countries to use as benchmarks for Singapore, you clearly can’t choose on GDP alone. Western European countries are so different from Singapore in almost every other respect.

      • 7 Poker Player 20 May 2011 at 13:38

        Ahem…

        “you raise the point about Gini coefficients to the exclusion of everything else.”

        Start with actual lines first before going between them. Refer to the article:

        “Reform must include a drawing up a whole new set of KPIs, among which, as I have mentioned before, should be a Gini Coefficient of Household ”

        Within each line, make sure you read individual word like for example “among which”. I am not sure you want to start a lecture about reading *between* the words, but reading the words in a line is good practice.

      • 8 J 20 May 2011 at 14:34

        Oh, my bad. Didn’t notice Alex’s reply.

        Anyway, ‘economic development’ does not only constitute GDP per capita. As you yourself said, GDP is not everything.

    • 9 Poker Player 20 May 2011 at 10:23

      Which part of

      “Second, even if Lee was liberal with the truth and did push Wong, Mah and Raymond Lim out, letting a few heads roll is not reform.”

      didn’t you understand?

      How about learning how to read lines yourself first before lecturing to others about in between them?

      • 10 patrick 20 May 2011 at 13:08

        This does not change the fact that Alex is still selectively refusing to give LHL where credit is due.

      • 11 Poker Player 21 May 2011 at 12:55

        I see…

        “This does not change the fact that Alex is still selectively refusing to give LHL where credit is due.”

        What is this then:

        “The one move Lee can definitely take credit for is the sort-of demotion of Vivian Balakrishnan.”

        Or it must not only be credit, but must meet you approval.

        Do you actually read before you conclude anything?

    • 12 yawningbread 20 May 2011 at 10:48

      You wrote:
      “It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise”

      No, it is not obvious. How is it obvious that LHL lied, as you are suggesting? Why is there any compelling reason to read between the lines here? If you think the election vote-share determined who stayed and who went, then why is Ng Eng Hen still int he cabinet and given the heavyweight portfolio of Defence too? Ng was also standing in Bishan-Toa-Payoh like Wong Kan Seng. Why is Lim Swee Say in the cabinet? He was in East Coast alongside Raymond Lim. One can easily say that Lim Swee Say as head of NTUC failed miserably to prevent the widening of the income gap and the emerging structural unemployment of (most Malay) youths and lots of PMETs in their forties. The election is a possible reason why Wong Mah and Raymond Lim went, as I mentioned, but it is not the only and obvious reason. That’s why I say reserve judgement.

      Exactly, because America is not an example to follow, with its dysfunctional healthcare system, its permanent (and biggish) underclass, possibly the highest incarceration rate among developed countries. This table, showing Gini Coefficients of Family Income (equivalent to Household income) speaks for itself. Source.

      And when you say: “it’s quite another to understand the complexities of policymaking and to actually make the sausage” you are reinforcing the very mindset that I wrote about as misdirected — the idea that there are mysteries within the priesthood that the great unwashed masses will never be able to understand, so people should just shut up and leave governing to the priests as they see fit. In any case, if you haven’t yet noticed, I wasn’t talking about policies, I was talking about KPIs. The priesthood can have a choice of instruments to arrive at the target KPI, but surely agreeing on targets is something that must be integral to any social compact between government and people.

      • 13 Reader 20 May 2011 at 11:55

        This objective reader says PM is giving them face but he hasn’t addressed a lot of doubts in people’s minds. He can do so much better in articulating his decisions. He’s a 3 mill orator after all. As for policy complexities, S’poreans know that policy-making is complex lah but that doesn’t mean, as Alex put it, that we shouldn’t question the decisions. They just have to do a better job in explaining the complexities.

      • 14 patrick 20 May 2011 at 12:54

        This is a ridiculously poor attempt at obfuscation. I will break it down point by point

        1) How about believing the more straightforward explanation? LHL’s explanation is as convoluted and unbelieveable as it gets. First the trio, who by some miraculous coincidence, happen to be the ones whose ministries are under fire, also happen to decide to retire. Including Raymond Lim who’s spent barely 5 years in the Cabinet and doesn’t even qualify for pension yet. Then LHL says “no, I want you to fight the election” when these three are obvious political liabilities who would drag vote shares down. Anyone with half a brain can sense the story is fishy. Of course you are again selectively choosing to take LHL at his word in order to discredit him.

        Also do not put words in my mouth. Did I ever say the ministers’ vote shares would decide who gets sacked? Firstly, vote shares are at best approximate indicators of the individual ministers. Quality of opposition candidates varied widely among constituencies and quality of PAP candidates varied widely within GRC teams too. If you refuse to acknowledge that LSS may have been dragged down by Raymond Lim and a strong WP brand, that NEH was dragged down by WKS and the CST effect, and GCT was dragged down by TPL and Nicole effect, then I have nothing to say except that you’re being blatantly dishonest.

        Lastly: LSS is not kicked out because he has the support of the labour movement and is the de facto leader of the Chinese faction. NEH has performed extremely well and is a rising star. Those are undisputed facts. The PM did not make decisions on vote share alone.

      • 15 patrick 20 May 2011 at 12:59

        2) “Exactly, because America is not an example to follow, with its dysfunctional healthcare system, its permanent (and biggish) underclass, possibly the highest incarceration rate among developed countries. This table, showing Gini Coefficients of Family Income (equivalent to Household income) speaks for itself”

        And Singapore, a city state with a population of 5 million is comparable with Western European countries because..?

        3) “And when you say: “it’s quite another to understand the complexities of policymaking and to actually make the sausage” you are reinforcing the very mindset that I wrote about as misdirected — the idea that there are mysteries within the priesthood that the great unwashed masses will never be able to understand, so people should just shut up and leave governing to the priests as they see fit.”

        No. Don’t accuse me of condescension towards the masses. I was talking about you. Some people do understand the complexities of policy – you clearly didn’t,

      • 16 chimichonga 20 May 2011 at 16:34

        For an article so full of judgement, it’s quite interesting that your bottom line is that you reserve judgement.

        “And so, I wait for Lee to convince me by announcing new KPIs for his administration.”

        If I understand this right, what you are saying is: no new KPIs = not reform. I don’t even detect that you might be able to accept anything else as reform.

        Judgment issued already, now just a matter of whether government conforms to your definition of reform or not.

        “If you think the election vote-share determined who stayed and who went…”

        I don’t see where Patrick said anything like that and I am unsure you managed to read that between his lines.

        The way I read between the lines is this. PM apologised on four issues: MSK, transport, housing and floods. three of those ministers are now gone. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it’s not so far fetched so as to be impossible. And it’s not even that unjustified a conclusion to draw.

        As patrick mentioned, you have been comfortable reading way deeper between the lines than this before. Somehow now, when it suits your agenda not to, you don’t.

      • 17 chimichonga 20 May 2011 at 17:38

        my apologies, I see now where the vote share stuff comes from

      • 18 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 10:00

        I don’t know about obfuscation, but this is downright dishonest:

        “Also do not put words in my mouth. Did I ever say the ministers’ vote shares would decide who gets sacked?”

        It is clear that YB was making that claim and no one with basic familiarity with the English language will say he is attributing it to you.

        I see a pattern here. You don’t attack YB’s claims. You invent imaginary ones attack those.

      • 19 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 10:03

        “And Singapore, a city state with a population of 5 million is comparable with Western European countries because..?”

        Denmark, Finland, Norway.

        You really need to read more – and I mean plain lines and not just between them.

      • 20 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 10:08

        “Some people do understand the complexities of policy – you clearly didn’t”

        To be able to accuse someone that he doesn’t understand the complexities of policy, you first have to understand it yourself. How can someone who doesn’t know that there are Western European countries with population sizes close to that of Singapore claim to have any expertise in policy?

    • 21 ST 20 May 2011 at 11:01

      ” It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise and were forced out, yet you refuse to give LHL credit where it is due.”

      Are you kidding me by saying that credit is due to LHL when it’s the people of Aljunied who made their choice?

      Don’t miss out the actual lines when trying to read between them.

      • 22 AuChen ToShan 20 May 2011 at 18:20

        ”Of course you are again selectively choosing to take LHL at his word in order to discredit him.”

        Patrick, not sure you understood how Pythonesque this reply was. Most entertaining reply in this entire thread.

        And as for your claims to Singapore style exceptionalism…that raises a red flag imo. Whether it is Japanese property pimps explaining why Japan’s house prices will never go down, or Manifest Destiny’ers explaining why the sun will never set on the American empire….trumpeters of exceptionalism often turn out to be nothing more than charlatans (at best) or mindless cheerleaders (at worst)

      • 23 Dan 21 May 2011 at 11:26

        I agree with you, ST. I would add that it is not only the people of Aljunied, but all the voters who voted for the opposition. In that context it is not easy to give LHL credit, or as much credit as he would otherwise deserve.

    • 24 Henry 20 May 2011 at 11:30

      @Patrick : “It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise and were forced out, yet you refuse to give LHL credit where it is due.”

      I disagree with your statement Patrick, and I object to your demeaning phrase “anyone with half a brian”.

      Remember GCT’s statement during election about George – something about what has he done to deserve this, and going on to say that at least George is not like the other three including WKS, MBT. From that statement, one may guess that they were already prepared to have them exit.

      You are entitled to your opinion, and obviously YB is entitled to his. No need to demean anyone here.

      • 25 patrick 20 May 2011 at 13:04

        Question: Did GCT and LKY sound like they were about to retire? How many times did other ministers have to distance themselves from GCT? Everyone knows GCT is gaffe-prone and GY is GCT’s ally. You may read what you want but this is clearly not a hint of their prepared exit.

    • 26 And progress for our nation 20 May 2011 at 16:11

      I think this is a supremely well-written article and would guess that it accurately articulates the sentiment of at least 40% of the GE 2011 electorate, including those of us with half a brain.

      If, as you clearly state, they were forced out by LHL, then I say bravo, he truly is committed to doing something about his people’s unhappiness with some of the ministers.

      In that case, are you also saying that he lied to ALL his citizens? I mean, sorry, but as someone with half a brain, even I can figure out that they either resigned or they were fired. If they expressed a desire to resign but were convinced to stay to bring the party to victory, then I can understand the reason for waiting untuil after the GE.

      I think the article is very objective and allows us to form our own opinions.

      So what exactly are you saying, Patrick?

    • 27 Felix 20 May 2011 at 16:24

      “It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise and were forced out…”

      Huh? It wasn’t obvious to me and I took PM Lee’s word for it.

      How does one decide when to read between the lines what PM Lee says and when to treat it as the whole truth? How do I know for certainty that I didn’t misunderstand him?

      Take PM Lee’s recent apology for example. Should I read between the lines to search for any hidden or unexpressed message? Or should I just accept the apology at face value?

      He mentioned Mas Salamat’s escape and Orchard Road floods as mistakes in his apology but not the 33% rise in ministers’ salaries in 2007. Was it intentional or unintentional? Oh, come on, it hurts my brain to have to read between the lines!

  2. 28 Robox 20 May 2011 at 02:13

    I am willing to embarass myself royally with this confession. I actually clicked on the toilet lever hoping that it was alink to an animation of Vivian getting flushed down the toilet; I was hoping to get immense satisfaction out of it.

    Damn!

  3. 30 jan 20 May 2011 at 03:26

    terence chong’s piece cannot be accessed.

  4. 32 Robox 20 May 2011 at 05:34

    If this are Lee Hsien Loong’s first steps to reform, I’m afraid that it has already gotten off to a bad start.

    First, on the point that is most talked about: Voters in the GRCs, along with other Singaporeans, that Goh Chok Tong, Raymond Lim, Wong Kan Seng and Mah Bow Tan contested in feeling cheated because they were led to believe that Singapore would lose the at-least-one minister in their GRC should they vote for the opposition party in that ward. I know for a fact that voters are in fact swayed to vote for the PAP in GRCs BECAUSE of this fear. Or why would the PAP strategize to field at least one minister in each GRC?

    Then, there is Goh Chok Tong’s resignation from the cabinet which should strip him of the title of “minister” – along with whatever is appended to that title – and later re-appointment as Emeritus Senior “Minister”; yet he remains out of cabinet, if this can be taken as the official word on the matter.

    http://www.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/pdf/20110518/Annex%20B%20-%20Cabinet%20and%20Other%20Office%20Holders.pdf

    I do have to wonder about the legal implications of any use of “minister” to describe someone who is a backbencher. (The suspicious side of me wonders if this move could have anything to do with the police report lodged against Tin Pei Ling, either her or her whole GRC team’s disqualification, and subsequent by-election in Marine Parade; backbencher Goh Chok Tong’s “minister” title could then come in useful in garnering votes.)

    Finally, with the turfing of an unprecendeted number of ministers, I wonder why the most obvious sacking has not taken place, that of Lee hsien Loong himself. After all, it was under his watch that the ruling party messed up big.

    Or is Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister as preordained as an heir apparent’s ascension to the throne is?

  5. 33 yuenchungkwong 20 May 2011 at 07:32

    again I believe you misjudge the situation; if LHL is capable of demoting Balakrishnan, he is also capable of telling the others to go, but he saves their face by saying they resigned; again, I believe if their resignations were announced before the election, PAP would have got 10% more without trouble – look at the increase LHL got in AMK for just a few humble words of apology – since there was no such announcement, I assume they all were hoping to hang on, but the election result made this impossible

    it is normal for cabinet ministers to “offer to resign” at certain critical moments, including dissolution of parliament, so that the leader has a free hand in revamping his/her team; the relevant issue is not whether they “offer” to quit, but whether they “want” to quit, or has enough clout to hang on; it is clear after the election those guys have lost their clout

    after 7 years in office, LHL is at last able to exercise his own leadership, in fact he ought to thank those two young women Tin Pei Ling and Nicole Seah for creating the condition for this; without them, PAP might have got a few % more and want to carry on like before

    • 34 Roy 20 May 2011 at 10:06

      I think you missed Alex’s point. He did not say the PM was incapable of getting rid of these people. The problem is th PM communicated to the public that the unpopular ministers resigned. Thus, for outsiders, we really are unable to conclude anything but what was communicated.

      If the Ministers were sacked and PM was trying to make their exit pleasant to these, he knew he would compromised on the intensity of the message of change he communicated and did so despite that knowledge. So if he did exercise his strength and sacked them, had to choose between communicating a strong message or being nice and he choose to be nice.

    • 36 AuChen ToShan 20 May 2011 at 18:23

      good observations

  6. 37 C- 20 May 2011 at 09:05

    Chan Chun Sing in MICA??? This guy who blocked a videographer from filming and interviewing pretend PAP supporters at a PAP rally? Sim Ann who is a greenie and catapulted to the top??? PM Lee plays favourites and that’s why he can’t let go of Vivian. What is the difference between a minister and minister of state? Tharman seems to be shouldering a lot. Agree with Kenneth Jeyaaratnam, PM’s cabinet shows a dearth of talent. And what’s the Emeritus bullshit? Goh should just leave and quietly. Shanmugam sounds like a poor choice for MFA. Didn’t he give a flop media speech in New York? We can say PM’s serious about change when we see salaries go down; a review of FT policy. We should have a Minister of Government Transparency & Accountability. PM Lee is merely playing musical chairs masak masak. PM Lee gets a C-.

  7. 39 wavier 20 May 2011 at 09:30

    Hi Alex, thanks for the post.
    I for one share the same reservations, I guess the cabinet changes has got a number of people all talking that change has come.
    We won’t know for sure until some time down the road.
    A demotion for Vivian and not out of cabinet is pretty interesting, does it translate that PM has nobody else up his sleeves to pull out to be minister?
    Vivian was a shinny star once trumpeted to fly to the moon, but his track record has shown otherwise… he should be out.

  8. 40 Gazebo 20 May 2011 at 09:42

    i thought it is pretty hilarious that they rather saddle tharman with a TRIPLE stacked portfolio of duties, and not let Lim Swee Say head a ministry. lol. i would have thought Lim Swee Say’s erm extensive experience working with the workers of Singapore would have made him a natural fit with the ministry? lol.

    • 41 yawningbread 20 May 2011 at 09:48

      Lim Swee Say’s job is to run NTUC. That’s as hefty a job as running a ministry.

    • 42 patrick 20 May 2011 at 10:31

      sometimes I truly wonder if Singaporeans know anything about the stuff they’re ranting about.

      • 43 Sgporean 20 May 2011 at 13:29

        patrick

        Tell PAP to listen carefully and sincerely with humanity and great empathy to what the deep dissents are about. Read between the lines like you did for LHL and don’t treat them as rantings.

        Come down from your high horse.

        Tell LHL that he as a PM is responsible for the divides and dissents in Singapore. Be a leader for all Singaporean and not just PAP supporters.

      • 44 AuChen ToShan 20 May 2011 at 18:25

        Judging by your comments, probably not.

        Are you disagreeing with the premise that the NTUC is regarded as a ministerial-worthy portfolio within PAP circles?

      • 45 Cerulean 21 May 2011 at 19:12

        Dear Patrick, that is a very rude and condescending statement. But of course, believing that Singaporeans are ignorant and merely “ranting” for the sake of it is your prerogative. Still, please try to refrain from making such disrespectful comments. Thank you.

  9. 46 Alter-ego 20 May 2011 at 09:51

    Sim Ann is a classic case of how the Lees view success: Ivy League, married with children at an early age (like LKY), pretentious English accent, bilingual and married to “successful” doctor. Inbreeding is at work here. In her, the Lees see a glowing image of themselves. Those hardworking civil servants who gave their all to country must be pissed off by this girl’s fat promotion. LHL belittles the efforts of all the good and deserving people who worked the system and were passed over.

    • 47 patrick 20 May 2011 at 10:23

      so what would be your definition of success? someone who failed O levels, was mediocre at work, and can’t speak either English or Chinese properly to save their lives? what is your problem with getting accomplished people to lead our country? you would rather choose the second-best on purpose? that makes absolutely no sense.

      • 48 Alter-ego 20 May 2011 at 11:26

        Not all accomplished people can lead. Her rallies left much to be desired. Her views of governance aren’t necessarily democratic as she spouted the convenient argument that democracies lead to gridlock. Puzzling for one so young and with such a first-rate education abroad. Not one is begrudging her accomplishments but LHL is sending a bad signal that one can have short cuts to high office without the experience, a track record in serving the people – an induction process that others are subjected to. Might as well make Tin Peh Ling Minister too. These are the cookie-cutter types that formulate disastrous policies like population and FT by analyzing cold data without sufficient interactions with people from all backgrounds.

        My definition of success: not Sim Ann but Amy Khor who’s tried, tested, fought her own battles not in a GRC but SMC, is empathetic and certainly miles ahead in being more well rounded than this girl. Or Halimah Yaacob deserving of her promotion.

  10. 49 Chow 20 May 2011 at 10:17

    I agree with the fact that the other camp has been weakened to the extent of allowing LHL a much freer hand in shuffling and forcing people out. Of course those with clout may still wrangle their old position or at least a place in the Cabinet. Still, I would wait and see before I pass a conclusion that they have reformed. It’s going to take more than that. Remember that it is nit just the Ministers but the Perm Secs and other top Civil Servants who may have been appointed previously because of their ideology.

  11. 50 Tanky 20 May 2011 at 10:23

    I only have a quarter of a brain.
    As I see it, ex-MM is the one calling the shots. He saw the election results and realized that his son will not last 5 years if he did not do something soon. He resigned and pulled ex-SM along so as to clear away a potential obstacle for him. PM might or might not have asked the trio to go but the retiring of the trio was made possible only because of ex-MM’s resignation. So, technically PM did nothing that is remotely close to transform (less so reform). Think of it like this, ex-MM pushes the WC lever (resignation) and the water (PM) pushes the shit (…) down the toilet.
    I told my friends to not listen to what was said but to watch what has been done. To me, GINI is a ratio to show rich-poor gap. What is real is how our lower 20% live, both in absolute terms and relative to others in Singapore.

  12. 51 art of the possible 20 May 2011 at 10:38

    You seem to champion the view that if LHL had it, he should have simply wielded the axe and been seen to. I disagree. It’s an oversimplistic caricature. Life – politics in particular – does not conform to such straightjacketing. Western ideals of the political process are just that – ideals. Even the West does not practise it except to preach and foist on to the unconverted elsewhere.

    As for KPIs, less of that slippery slope please. We’re already soon to hear every minister offer his newgfangled 5-year strategic plan knowing full well mid-term portfolio swapping will void any accountability. 14 new visions. Pity the recipients and guinea pigs of such wisdom.

    • 52 Gard 20 May 2011 at 17:18

      ‘Curing the patient with engineers’ is an apt title. The metaphor illustrates the manifold ideas that generate discourse.

      Who is the patient here?
      – the leadership?
      – the party itself?
      – the government (as separate from party)? type of government?
      – the people? certain group of people?
      – public perception?
      – Stanley McChrystal?

  13. 53 WeiHan 20 May 2011 at 10:40

    Like what I have already said and still want to say, what can you expect from a sissy? His father, the Father of Singapore, gave him a great opportunity, gave a go in repealing 377a, he just squandered it and said he needs 20-30 years to consider…..

    No wonder..he attracts sissies like VB.

  14. 56 Civil Servnt 20 May 2011 at 11:00

    Agree with Alter-Ego.
    Many civil servants are unhappy about Sim Ann’s entry into politics. She’s a well-known boot-licker.
    But then, what can we do?

  15. 58 anon 20 May 2011 at 11:06

    Alex,

    I think it’s a mixed bag.
    Lim Boon Keng, Khoo Sai Kee and a few others the earliest to leave – they didn’t even smell polling day.

    As a result of the polls – George and Lim HH got to go.

    Almost immediately after Polling day -it was LKY and GCT’s turn.

    After the two seniors had made their own fate known, we get the mass exodus of MBT, WKS and RL and the remaining ‘old’ cabinet shifted around all over except perhaps for LSS and Hairdo LHK.

    The first group headed by Lim BH were political feather weight, esp Lim the ‘do nothing’ minister.No impact if they live or die -so to speak.

    LKy and GCT if they had wanted would not be allowed to leave before the polls for the simple reason that it would probably sink the PAP GE ship before it had even left the harbour.
    By the way, the Marine Parade GRC results is telling. Without GCT, the opposition lead by one young and charismatic Nicole Seah – whose disarming sincerity and passionate appeal on a very basic and simple platform for the down and out ‘charmed’ everybody’s imagination from the word go, from her first video interview by the MSM- would have beaten the PAP at the polls if the GRC was lead by a ‘lesser’ mortal.

    I suspect the MBT, WKS, RL trio was a case of 50/50 going into the polls and 100/0 post-polls given the drubbling and the albatross that continue to be-devil them. Their ejection is part own doing and part for the sake of the party. Their departure, at such an early juncture is probably question of management decision – do it now and start with a ‘clean’ slate. But an odd result – that of MBT being replaced by KBW and Gan KY now the MOH minister. If MBT’s claim is to be believed – that he wanted out 2 years ago, surely his successor should not be one KBW, who just had a triple by-pass. Grace Fu was rumoured to take over from Mah. but ostensibly not so or not yet, probably because of the anticipated huge challenge of re-setting the pricing of HDB.

    That’s my rough take at this point.

  16. 59 anon 20 May 2011 at 11:14

    Also note, to date Wong KS has yet to come out with is bit of why he is leaving. But I suspect he was sacked by Loong (and for very good reasons). His silence to day, suggests that he is not happy about it for the obvious reason of pride and loss of face. I still recall he saying on TV that he had apologized publicly for MS escape during the husting period. But not many would agree that what he tendered was in any way a contrition.

  17. 60 T 20 May 2011 at 11:37

    /// yuenchungkwong 20 May 2011 at 07:32

    again I believe you misjudge the situation; if LHL is capable of demoting Balakrishnan, he is also capable of telling the others to go, but he saves their face by saying they resigned; again, I believe if their resignations were announced before the election, PAP would have got 10% more without trouble – look at the increase LHL got in AMK for just a few humble words of apology. ///

    Again, I believe you misjudge the situation. Ang Mo Kio showed a few percentage points increase. Was that a result of the apology? Maybe. But given the massive gerrymandering involved, would it be more attributable to the carving out of unfriendly precincts and inclusion of friendly precincts to preserve the mothership?.

    • 61 J 20 May 2011 at 12:11

      The group contesting AMK GRC this time was RP, not WP, so it’s not really simple to directly compare the results. I wasn’t paying attention to the WP team in 2006, but I did catch Zi Rui’s speech online this time, and it was really bad, so that might have helped LHL too.

      • 62 T 20 May 2011 at 14:09

        Yes. But the WP team in 2006 was also a new team. So, both times, the AMK opposition teams are relatively unknown.

        If you look at the electoral map, you will notice that Hougang is adjacent to AMK. My suspicion for the improved performance in AMK in 2011 is also supported by the fact that Hougang was won by WP with a higher margin. This goes against the grain. Yaw Shin Leong, a relatively newcomer, got an even higher percentage than the Icon of Opposition – Low Thia Khiang. This would suggest that the PAP must have given up hope of ever regaining Hougang – so, the logical move is to move those anti-PAP voters/precincts from AMK into Hougang, and ove those pro-PAP voters/precincts in Hougang to AMK.

        QED

  18. 63 T 20 May 2011 at 11:46

    Personally, I am also reserving judgment as to whether there will be true reform. I would be convinced if PM starts to change the way Ministers are paid.

    My suggestion. As a base, take the average of the pay of the head of government of the 20 founding members of OECD countries (not the expanded 34 members which include Estonia and Czech republic). Say, it works out to be S$600,000 a year. Most of these are First World countries and whose economies are much bigger than Singapore.

    Next, using $600,000 as a guide, then peg it to the bottom quartile (or bottom tenth percentile, or the median) of the household income. Assuming the bottom quartile is household income is S$2,500 per month, the PM’s pay of S$50,000 a month will be 20x.

    So, going forward, the PM’s salary will be pegged at 20x the bottom quartile of household income. There will then be motivation for the ministers to make sure that the poor are leveled up. This will immediately improve the Gini coefficient.

  19. 64 JJ 20 May 2011 at 11:50

    For ppl with such high status, when you step down, it is as good as ‘SACKED’. This is what happened to my CEO. He claimed that he resigned. But we all know that he is sacked. Only way to kn that he volunteeringly step down is when ppl like MBT tell u where they are going. So far, no such news. Of cse, they will be incorporated into some govt organisation no doubt. But why the silent?

    • 65 patrick 20 May 2011 at 13:13

      Exactly. The suddeness and the abruptness of the announcement are not characteristic of PAP at all. It’s obvious to all that this is a sacking.

  20. 66 drmchsr0 20 May 2011 at 13:02

    A Cabinet reshuffle isn’t impressing me all that much.

    The real test of the PAP’s desire for reform would be to start looking at the policies that engineered the current situation.

    A good start would a long, hard look at policies regarding incomes. Many people would love to mention the issue of housing, but what good is lowering housing prices (which will eventually go up in any case, since we only have so much space) if you can’t even pay the reduced price? I’d rather see a dramatic increase in incomes rather than fixing the price of HDB flats.

  21. 67 market2garden 20 May 2011 at 13:46

    PM Lee had done his best job (Cabinet Reshuffle)
    unless we expect each minister to handle 2 ministries.
    Still
    There are too many ministries.
    and far too many ministers (incl Second Ministers).
    SG a city-state does not need too many political office holders.
    BEW,
    Is Second Minister a full minister?

  22. 68 LG LIM 20 May 2011 at 14:12

    Someone mentioned this: “Or Halimah Yaacob deserving of her promotion”

    From my personal experience, I do not think she’s really that
    good.

    I was working in a statutory board many years ago. I was formerly an union member. I was faced with some health problems which was due to health-hazard job, thus affecting my relationship with my not understanding superior. So, I was referred to email Halimah for help as she is the NTUC “chief” for work-related problems. She returned an emailed reply to me saying she would revert to me as soon as possible. But she never at all despite my follow-ups with her.

    I then wonder is she afraid to handle the issue that relates to govt official??

    As far as I know, NTUC is to more to serve the govt.

  23. 69 LG LIM 20 May 2011 at 14:23

    Someone also mentioned LHL shows favouritism. I would think so.

    As we could it, WKS’s case. LSL could speak well and sided WKS after the Salamat’s escape.

    I also witnessed that he promoted many Ministers whenever he
    received unfavourable remarks about these Ministers. From these, one could tell that LSL does not based on principles
    but rather based on his favouritism to garner his supporting
    cronies.

    In all developed countries, even including the developing and less-developing countries, which country has the same parliament structure like S’pore where a PM is assisted by
    so many hands – MM, SM and 2 DPMs. So what, both MM and SM announced their retirement from politics but both are still working in the party.

    WKS was his DPM and despite his retirement, LSL has filled his DPM position to Tharman. LSL is still assisted by 2 DPMs, which other country only has 1 DPM.

    Moreover, LSL also said he still wants to tap George Yeo in whatever way he can.

    So, what is all these reform???? A big ? mark to me.

  24. 70 Vapex88 20 May 2011 at 14:23

    @Patrick
    ” how could one even compare Singapore with Western European countries? our economies are different, our strengths and weaknesses are different, our concerns are different, and we’re not even in the same continent…… ”
    You forgot Goh CT wanted Singapore to reach the Swiss standard of living. So by your reasoning then he should not be comparing us to the Swiss.

    @Alex
    Remember when GCT took over from LKY and when LHL took over from GCT, they said the policy will not change. The style of government can change. So I do not expect any reform just renewal of ministers.

    Strange that no mention about the high salary paid to the ministers – in our national media (print or TV) although it is one of the hot issues during the GE like high HDB prices, high cost of living etc. Will PM Lee look into this as well? In my opinion I doubt. If the ministers’ salary is reduced then many of them will go back to their private practice. If PM Lee is true to his words on reform he should review the ministers as well as his salary.

  25. 71 zyquck@gmail.com 20 May 2011 at 16:22

    Just wanna disagree that VB has been “demoted”. MEWR is definitely more important than MCYS, considering how important water is as a resource to us. With climate change being an important issue now, MEWR is getting increasingly important now, including having to deal with rising sea level.

  26. 72 market2garden 20 May 2011 at 16:33

    For such radical change to shake-up the cabinet, the interim review (1 and half to 2-year from now) should also incl 360 degree performance appraisal, i.e. PM himsself whether his leadership is good enough to lead the party in GE 2014/15/16.

  27. 73 Pikachu 20 May 2011 at 16:50

    You guys are totally missing the point, that being, LHL appointed MG Kee Chiu, Prince of Lanfang, for comic relief in the parliament.

    But separately, why does the armed forces keep producing such uninspiring leaders (e.g. Adm Lui with his mushroom)? Paper generals so to say?

    Comparing with special forces commander who killed Osama, he has a journalism degree!

  28. 74 yawningbread 20 May 2011 at 17:05

    Patrick – you seem to be one of those who is now flooding the comments list with a reply to each and every comment. Some of your comments are rude. I don’t care if you are rude to me, but any comment that is rude to another comment-maker I am not going to allow.

    Rather than nitpick with you on every detail, sit back and look at what you’re doing – which is something others will also have noticed. You seem extremely agitated that Lee Hsien Loong is being critcised. You seem to want, very very badly, the world to believe that LHL did sack Wong Kan Seng et al.

    One cannot help but wonder – why are you so invested in this theory that you seem unable to tolerate the notion that others are reserving judgement? What exactly is your relationship with LHL?

    • 75 WeiHan 20 May 2011 at 20:15

      I have a theory for this…..

      Sometimes, sissy just sympathises another sissy when he is brutally attacked.

    • 76 Anonymous 20 May 2011 at 20:39

      Reading between Patrick’s lines, I suspect he/she is from PAP infiltrating such forums with their own agenda. Look at what he said earlier: “sometimes I truly wonder if Singaporeans know anything about the stuff they’re ranting about.” Doesn’t that sound like a PAP priest talking down at us minions?

      • 77 JH 21 May 2011 at 03:01

        @Alex: I find it a cop-out whenever someone defends their stance by casting aspersions on the integrity of the other person. Critique Patrick’s arguments if you want. His points will stand or fall according to their merits (or lack thereof). Alternatively, since this is your blog, just ignore them if you like. Nobody will question you if you choose to ignore him.

        But to ask if there’s any relationship between him and LHL is pointless. If he has, will he say yes? If he says no, will you believe him? Pointless and distracting.

        As a (related) sidetrack, the 2011 GE was credited with making Singaporeans more ‘political-aware’, but I wonder if the definition of ‘political-awareness’ is simply being anti-PAP. If political awakening is really taking place, then we should expect all sorts of opinions from pro-PAP to anti-PAP. So why is it then any people who speak up in defence of PAP are very frequently labelled as ‘pro-PAP’ and questioned if they have any relationship to PAP/LHL/TPL/whatever? It seems that online forums are merely attracting people who share the same opinions and driving away those of an alternative bent.

        So, please, either engage dissenters or ignore them, but don’t ask pointless questions about their origin. You can ignore me too.

        Cheers,

        @Anonymous: Oh, the irony of it all!

      • 78 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 10:15

        @JH
        “I find it a cop-out whenever someone defends their stance by casting aspersions on the integrity of the other person. Critique Patrick’s arguments if you want. His points will stand or fall according to their merits (or lack thereof). Alternatively, since this is your blog, just ignore them if you like. Nobody will question you if you choose to ignore him.”

        JH, I agree with you

        @Yawningbread
        About the rudeness, I think you should be flexible about it. For example if Patrick uses a certain tone in his comments, we can assume he doesn’t think it rude. Replies to his comments using the same tone should be allowed.

      • 79 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 10:29

        “If political awakening is really taking place, then we should expect all sorts of opinions from pro-PAP to anti-PAP. So why is it then any people who speak up in defence of PAP are very frequently labelled as ‘pro-PAP’ and questioned if they have any relationship to PAP/LHL/TPL/whatever? ”

        You are exaggerating. A person who defends the PAP without a congratulatory tone is not vilified. Choosing the PAP is a deal with the devil – you get something (a lot actually) out of it, but it’s not something you should be proud of.

    • 80 Fullofnonsence 21 May 2011 at 01:42

      Or somebody’s son who ratted out his superior officer which made headlines couple years ago.

    • 81 yuenchungkwong 21 May 2011 at 05:32

      instead of dwelling on one blog visitor like patrick, I feel it is more useful to ask Yawningbread himself: why are you so anxious to put LHL down as a weak leader? you prefer to “take at face value” his “considering” whether to accept LKY and GCT’s offer to leave, “WKS, MBT, Raymond Lim quit, were not pushed out”, rather than adopt what appears to be the consensus of the commentators here, that he was just putting on a show, or at least, you prefer to take his putting on a show as sign of weakness, instead of mere standard political practice

      (I hope no one label me as a PAP follower or suspect me to be someone’s grandson)

      • 82 Poker Player 23 May 2011 at 12:25

        In a private conversation at the office water cooler, who is the “funny” guy? The one who citicises LHL or the one who defends him?

  29. 83 timebomber 20 May 2011 at 17:31

    It could be possible the 3 ministers in question offered to resign before the elections. But LHL, not reading the ground correctly, asked them to stay. When the results came out, LHL had a change of mind and decided that they should go.

    Or it could also be only MBT offered to resign. The other 2 had no intention of quitting.

    Or it could be 2 of the 3 offered to resign.

    The thing is, we will probably never know the truth. Reading between the lines is a tricky business. So I think it’s fair that Alex Au took what LHL said at face value, that all 3 had offered to resign before the elections.

  30. 84 anon 20 May 2011 at 22:58

    GCT (then 63 years old) passed the baton to LHL in 2004 after serving from 1991 to 2001 as PM.

    The PAP under Goh garnered a convincing 75.3% of the votes in the 2001 GE – a whooping gain of more 14.5% from the 61% in the 1991 GE.

    In contrast, the PAP under LHL saw its percentage share of votes plummet from 75.3% in 2001 GE to 60.1% in the 2011 GE.

    Why is LHL (now 59 years old) allowing himself to stay on as PM? Shouldn’t he lead by example and be the first to go?

    • 85 Anonymous 21 May 2011 at 16:04

      And surely you would know that the 2001 elections was held soon after the 911 attacks, which contributed to the high vote share of the PAP?

  31. 86 bluexspore 20 May 2011 at 23:04

    Dear all

    I would like to remind everyone to be courteous and respectful when posting comments. We may not agree with each other but there’s no need to start insulting or labelling people and use emotive language. Stick to addressing the issues and refrain from attacking the person. Always explain and substantiate statements based on logic. This will help contribute to a meaningful discussion of the topic.

    To illustrate, here’s just a couple of examples of behaviour that is rude and/or unhelpful to a discussion:

    patrick 20 May 2011 at 01:42 “It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the three ministers were caught by surprise and were forced out…”
    This comment implies that someone who sees things different from the commenter has less than half a brain and is uncalled for if we are aiming for a civil discussion.

    patrick 20 May 2011 at 12:54 “If you refuse to acknowledge that LSS may have been dragged down by Raymond Lim and a strong WP brand, that NEH was dragged down by WKS and the CST effect, and GCT was dragged down by TPL and Nicole effect, then I have nothing to say except that you’re being blatantly dishonest.
    Lastly: LSS is not kicked out because he has the support of the labour movement and is the de facto leader of the Chinese faction. NEH has performed extremely well and is a rising star. Those are undisputed facts. The PM did not make decisions on vote share alone.”
    This comment has 2 issues. First, instead of addressing the issue, it makes a speculative attack on the character of the other person. It makes the assumption that as long as the other person does not agree, that other person is being dishonest. Logically this is a fallacy as there could be other reasons that the other person disagrees. This statement is a false accusation and makes the rest of the comment difficult to be taken seriously. Second, this comment makes a few statements and self-validates them by claiming “Those are undisputed facts.” but without giving any basis. To make sound arguments and allow readers to understand why we are making certain claims, we should provide explanation and substantiation, which was absent in this comment.

  32. 87 twasher 21 May 2011 at 00:54

    Wong Kan Seng’s press statement supports the interpretation that he had not already decided to retire before the elections:

    “For some time now, I have informed Prime Minister Lee and Senior Minister Goh (Chok Tong) when he was prime minister that I could leave the Cabinet anytime when they wish to renew the team.”

    This strikes me as phrased so as to convey the following messages:
    1) he had always been willing to leave if he was asked to;
    2) this has been the case even when Goh was PM, indicating that he did not have any more of a wish to leave now than he had then.

    I find it very unlikely that he would have issued such a statement if he indeed had already intended to resign before the elections. In the statement, he seems to go out of his way to indicate that he is leaving because of external wishes. Why would he do that if what LHL claims is true? If indeed he had already decided to resign long before, isn’t it to his advantage to acknowledge that and paint himself as having decided to voluntarily take one for the team?

  33. 89 Anonymous 21 May 2011 at 01:04

    I disagree with your point that you’re taking LHL’s words at face value, though. In a society that is mainly high context, it would look good on the ruling party on the whole to save face (and I believe that in Asian politics it actually works) rather than announcing that they are being sacked (for whatever reason).

    I highly doubt LHL would change his KPIs though.

  34. 90 What reform? 21 May 2011 at 01:11

    Whatever the real motivations behind the departure of MM, SM, and the other 3 Ministers, I do not see any true reform. It is at best playing to the gallery and a drastic attempt at damage control. The core credo of the PAP still remains – only they have the best men and women for the job and the best way of picking them. Yes they made some mistakes, and they have heard the people, so they are making some changes.

    But what is driving these “responses”? It really is all about keeping the PAP in power, rather than reforming Singapore. In the PAP’s eyes, Singapore is doing fine. Its the voters that are riled up so we need to do something to cool them down, lest we have LTK calling the shots in 2016.

    Is there any admission of wrongdoing around the ridiculous salaries for ministers? Is there any commitment to re-look at the undemocratic practices of GRCs, linking votes to upgrading and the constant redrawing of electoral boundaries? Is there any commitment to re-look at immigration policy STAT? Is there any promise to be more transparent with regard to national finances? Even in admitting wrongdoing, the PAP continues to cherry pick the topics it is willing to put on the table.

    True reform for Singaporeans will only come when the PAP is denied a 2/3 parliamentary majority, and policies like rewarding the cabinet with copious bonuses while the poor struggle, plonking 2 big Casinos on this little island and opening the floodgates to hordes of foreign workers can be effectively stopped and challenged before they are implemented.

  35. 91 TCChua 21 May 2011 at 02:23

    I follow the blog but seldom post, you can call me a part of the “silent majority”. I noticed that strong pro-pap comments (like patrick’s) are more commonly seen nowadays, not just this one. Most of them are condescending in their tone.
    I’m not sure if this is the ruling party way of increasing their online presence, an “Anti-Insurgent Squad” to battle their negative image perharps? That is fine, but I would suggest that a change of tone will go a long way.

    • 92 sieteocho 21 May 2011 at 09:46

      I think it’s just that there are a lot of pro-PAP people out there (after all they make up 60% of Singapore) who are realising that keeping their mouths shut on the internet for the last 5 years was a spectacularly stupid mistake.

    • 93 WeiHan 21 May 2011 at 11:49

      How can you expect sissies to change the tone they talk?

  36. 94 Eugene 21 May 2011 at 10:45

    I recall reading an ST story after the election results in which a political analyst pointed out that while there were prominent bloggers blogging in favour of the opposition during the rally period and even before it, there was none of the same calibre blogging for the PAP.

    So people like patrick, if they are really good, should start their own blogs and write whatever they like about their beloved PAP.

    Actually, I’m reminded of xiaxue while reading patrick’s replies. She (xiaxue) wrote a couple of articles during the rally period praising the PAP (or its ministers) to the sky and slamming the opposition. She came across as some fanatical PAP supporter. I won’t be surprised if patrick and the like are xiaxue (or her transfixed followers) using different nicks.

    • 95 JH 21 May 2011 at 16:12

      Right, another comment questioning the origin of the posters? Does it really matter? We are not discussing the *popularity* of anyone or any viewpoint but the *substance* of the points raised.

  37. 96 THE MIGHTY PEN 21 May 2011 at 18:42

    MOM and MOH must immediately get to work and reduce the annual increment to CPF Medisave Contribution Ceiling to its original amount S$1000.00. The former health minister took advantage of this, to liberalize the Medisave usage as he pleased. The Medisave Contribution Ceiling was increased by S$2500.00 annually to the disliking of many old folks aged 55 and above, as they are not able to withdraw the excess from their Medisave Account annually after 55 years old, despite continuing to work at old age. The problem is further compounded if their housing loan is not fully paid by the time they reach 55. Many old folks across the island are affected by this rule and voted against the PAP. The wealth sharing package which takes into account the annual value of homes has also incurred the wrath of old folks. The next GE will be a watershed one, as not only the younger generation but the older generation too will vote against the PAP in increasing numbers, as more old folks will be affected by this exorbitant annual increase to the Medisave Contribution Ceiling. Existing workable policies must not be tempered and tinkered constantly so as to satisfy the whims and fancies of ministers, whose key performance indicators are increasingly believed to be gauged upon their abilities to generate more revenue for their relevant ministries. To use and increase Medisave Contribution Ceiling to justify the minister’s efficiency in addressing liberalization issues should be deplored at all cost.

    Let us be reminded that the current state of the PAP is beyond repair! The PAP must at least try to overhaul these machineries to working order with one final chance accorded to them by the people of Singapore, whom they are supposed to represent to the best of their abilities.

    The PAP must not constantly temper with the sentiments of the people by abusing their intellectual focus in enhancing their own personal standing within the parameters of power. They are after all the servants of the people, not by metaphorical pronouncement but by compassion and conviction to serve!

  38. 97 Ben 21 May 2011 at 20:58

    Quote:

    Over the Vesak Day holidays, an intriguing picture of MG Ki Chew has emerged (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/849/unledaic.png ). At the recent funeral of Mrs Lee, he was seen standing at a place normally reserved for close family members (cousins, uncles, nephews etc).

    So who exactly is MG Ki Chew? Could he be the next Prime Minister of Singapore?

    Source:

    http://singstatistician.blogspot.com/2011/05/is-major-general-ki-chew-chan-chun-sing.html

  39. 98 % 21 May 2011 at 22:05

    Although I’d sort of like to see the PAP continue screwing up over the next five years, so public discontent will swell sufficiently to remove them from power, my sense is that the PAP has a genuine and vested interest in some degree of reform, if only to perpetuate its position of power. I personally do not believe that the change in cabinet line-up and the setting up of a committee to review ministerial salaries are merely cosmetic or simply to appease the public — the effect would be too temporal, and I think the PAP knows that too. They would certainly need to alter some of their policies if they are to retain a majority vote share at GE2016. Their shortfall, I think, is that they’re not exactly sure how or what to go about reforming — as you pointed out, reform was not what they had planned for before the GE. You’ve also noted the root problems of the PAP’s governance and policies — which I suspect they are not cognizant of, which will impede or prevent effective reform.

  40. 99 john 22 May 2011 at 01:01

    With all this talk on reform… one cannot help but feel like this might all very well turn out to be a ghost of history (circa 1991) creeping upon Singapore’s “liberalizing” landscape. But, alas before I allow skepticism to exorcise any sense of optimism and collective hope from all of us, let us realistically consider why this time must and will be different from the previous time when glasnost seems to be a nearing attainment for Singapore.

    1) The explosion of social and alternative media (including this very space from which we are – indulge me – vigorously debating) means that any policy lapses or renegade promises will be picked up in a big way. The ability to influence mainstream society through mainstream media is, for the first time, seriously challenged and chipped away.

    2) Political consciousness is deeper and broader than ever before. This is inadvertently linked to the previous point about the modes of communications. However, let us not forget that political consciousness has always been high for those who are genuinely interested in it – anti-estab dissent has existed for as long as time immemorial (Teo Soh Lung, Francis Seow anyone?) but what is special this time round is not just the depth (or height) of political consciousness, but rather, the impressive and unprecedented breadth of it – more people are more interested in more political issues than ever before. such a societal trend might weaken as the events and emotions of campaign rallies fade off, but again, the permanence and ease of online communications hereon means that interest can be piqued from ground zero rather quickly.

    3) Lowest vote share. The “priesthood” at the PAP is, above all, practical fellows. Even their alleged elitism has to make way for the supremo of pragmatism – a recognition that popularity is shifting and without real change, as opposed to cosmetic doodling which we’ve been much used to and disappointed with, 2016 shall be the real watershed. i do not think the pap does not recognize this. the democratic instinct, when stoked, can remove the entire pap, or any ruling party, from power entirely. no point clinging onto elitism is they do not have the platform (popular votes, parliamentary seats) to exercise such elitism.

    4) An ever expanding educated younger generation who will become eligible voters. the pap has got the education system largely right, in view of the resources and overriding economic imperatives of each era. this has resulted in the change in demography that is bound to have an impact on the politics of the country. young people all over the world is a catalyst for change; they discard the status quo without as much as battling an eyelid. of course, this does not mean we should not hope for a younger generation which is not adversarial and oppositional just for the sake of it for tt has not value to our lives and maturing as a society.

    5) global economic outlook remains grim and the concomitant is economic pressures cannot be completely buffered against. singaporeans will continue to feel the pinch in their pockets to the extent that there are real areas where the government cannot influence without risking going populist and by implication, irresponsible. if singaporeans cannot have a realistic expectation of how their material wellbeing and wealth cannot drastically on all fronts because there are limits to what a government of a small, open economy can do, the groundswell of dissent might very well flow through till 2016.

  41. 100 anon 22 May 2011 at 10:59

    The fact remains that Goh was not unpopular at that time, because if he were, it would have been revealed in the 2001 GE results, even taking into account the 911 attacks.

    Yet, Goh had to give way to LHL. We were all led to believe that LHL was the most qualified person for the job.

    But is he? The unhappiness on the ground has swelled to a level not seen before due to the several unpopular policies and measures introduced and implemented in the last ten years under his leadership – policies that made the PAP stronger and richer and the people weaker and poorer.

    Going by the GE results of 2006 (66.6%) and 2011 (60.1%), it’s pretty obvious he had failed badly in his job. Were he a school principal, he would have been given the sack for not delivering good academic results.

  42. 101 Rabbit 22 May 2011 at 13:40

    The bulk of problems stemmed from influx of foreigners. The farmer can promise to yield more crops by investing in high-tech machines, plant more seeds and put in more fertilizers so that people can have more to share. However, if PAP continue to swarm Singapore with millions of hungry “locust” that feed on our crops, our anger will not go away so easily.

    Though moving foward PAP promised to make changes but at the same time they must not forget to heal those who have already suffered from their previous flawed policies. The wounds are still deep and high prices have been paid. I would say, compensate and reform.

    • 102 yawningbread 22 May 2011 at 14:01

      I do not wish to encourage comments that take such a demeaning view of foreigners, e.g. using the word “locust” above. I am posting this merely to show what in future I will not allow. I intend to apply the standard “non-discrimination” measures: no hateful, demeaning language against other peoples, regardless of race, language, religion, sex, gender, age, physical appearance or disability, sexual orientation and national origin.

  43. 103 Rabbit 22 May 2011 at 14:04

    I can’t help bringing up Silvia Lim previous parliamentary speech here. The ministers would have rebutted her if not for this watershed election. She also mentioned that in 2006 she foreseen many problems will surface if PAP proceed to grow at all cost..

    It is time to recall her video here and than compare what have happened 5 years later when she first started as NCMP.

    • 104 Guest 24 May 2011 at 06:47

      Somehow I feel that Sylvia Lim will make a good PM for Singaporeans compared to any of those in the current government.

  44. 105 Joy 22 May 2011 at 23:13

    Patrick is a troll, disguised in proper English. He simply enjoys taking the mickey out of people by convoluted insults, and isn’t going to listen to or acknowledge reason.

    Don’t even know their true political allegiances, they just wanna play off the heated political atmosphere, get a reaction out of people… Careful of these types.🙂

  45. 106 dolphin81@yahoo.com 23 May 2011 at 13:33

    It is very hard for LHL to make big changes especially when it comes to people.

    Since GE1997 with the mega 5/6 member GRC, PAP dominance became very dependent on the heavyweights.

    PAP knew people voted PAP largely becos of the heavyweights. Every GRC is more or less a 1-man GRC.

    Therefore, LKY & GCT could stay on for so long.

    LHL had to start changing becos the heavyweight brand was gone this time.

    MP GRC result was almost certainly a protest vote against GCT who openly loved FTs more than Sinkies.

    NS & TPL were just entertaining sideshows.

    In order for GCT to go, LKY had to go. GCT was fired by his ex-boss.

    Actually pro-FT MOM Minister GKY (CCK GRC) could be kicked out as well. However the West side voters were more forgiving than the East side voters.


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