The Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech has been likened by some to the US President’s State of the Union address.
It has traditionally served as a summary of the trends and events of the year, and used them to project a direction for the country’s future. It serves as an indicator of:
1) How the political leadership views the challenges facing the country and itself
2) The relative priority which is placed on these challenges
3) Where the Out of Bounds (OB) markers currently lie
The Rally Speech is not usually a platform for PM to announce concrete policies or indulge in sharp-elbow politicking. The general tone is usually upbeat, optimistic, and even grimmer issues are given a healthy layer of gloss.
The Rally speech will make broad generalizations about the direction the country is expected to take, and more news about concrete policy follow-up will only start emerging in the press about a week or so after the speech.
This usually happens after a more frank analysis of the direction the country is headed in during the PM’s annual jiap gor mei (15th day) dinner at the Istana. This dinner is traditionally held 15 days after National Day, and involves grassroots leaders and members of the press. The dinner is strictly closed doors to all reporting, and the primary purpose of it is to clarify PM’s direction for the country.
For the more conspiratorial, the Rally Speech will also fuel endless speculation about who’s in or out of favor in the PAP.
As previously mentioned, the Rally speech usually stays meticulously clear of politics. However, the chattering classes are doubtless on tenterhooks about any indication at all that Foreign Minister George Yeo is quitting politics, after an unusually frank interview he gave with the Straits Times.
As PM is unlikely to allude directly to George Yeo’s Ministerial movements, TOC’s instinct is to watch PM’s speech on regional foreign policy carefully for hints of whether he thinks the Foreign Ministry has done a good job, or can afford to buck up its performance.
The following TOC guide is not meant as an almanac. We can’t tell you what the weather tomorrow’s going to be like, much less the direction the government and civil service will be taking in the next year.
While the PM’s direction is an indication of what he hopes to do in the coming year, whether or not this is actualized by a bureaucracy and political leadership that is increasingly less monolithic than that of Lee Kuan Yew’s time remains to be seen.
Also remember that if a week is a long time in politics, a year is an eternity. Singapore, ever vulnerable to external events, is a price taker in the march of history. Never underestimate the power of global events to throw a spanner in the works (think high oil prices, regional bilateral spats, SARS, bird flu, terrorism).
Thus with no oracular pretensions and sufficient caveats, TOC presents two guest contributions on the direction PM is likely to take with his speech.
1. Has new media gone off the radar by our guest writer Aaron Ng. Aaron is currently a teaching assistant and a masters student at the National University of Singapore. He is also the owner of the blog Hear Ye Hear Ye.
2. The Economic Front by Lau Kee Wee, a final year banking finance undergrad at NTU. This is his first foray into the world of online commentary.
Theonlinecitizen would like to thank Aaron and Kee Wee for taking time to share their views with us.
Choo Zheng Xi