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How PAP has failed as Governments with Total Defence as KPI

JP Lee /

As a keen observer of the articles and arguments put forth by the incumbent, the oppositions, the supporters and the netizens this GE, I have realized that as with previous GEs, points have been fired across at a lightning pace.

To some people then, particularly first time voters or new citizens, it would seem that unhappy Singaporeans and oppositions are especially picky on certain issues and have axes to grind. The foreign talent / worker topic seems to be the issue that has divided most Singaporeans. Points have been fired across, back and forth but no one has yet to do a summary piece on the arguments. That should have been the job of any responsible local press. However, we do know we cannot expect that to come from a paper that is ranked 154 out of 195 on the World Wide Freedom Press Index. I thus would like to use this short essay, to summarize the issues that are plaguing us; native Singaporeans, born and bred on this tiny island. I shall use a model that us Singaporeans should all be familiar with; The Total Defence model.

Total Defence
“A frame work that brings together all relevant government agencies, private sector, organizations and all Singaporeans in a coordinated effort to deal effectively with threats and challenges”

What we have here is a comprehensive strategy introduced by the incumbent government with a sole aim of uniting all Singaporeans to rise up to challenges. It is perhaps idealistic but it's nonetheless the key to the stability of our country. As such, I can think of no better “Key Performance Indicator” (KPI) to measure the government against. Total Defence has 5 pillars; Military Defence, Civil Defence, Economic Defence, Social Defence and Psychological Defence. I shall exclude Military Defence and measure the government’s performance against the other four pillars these past five years.

A. Civil Defence
“Knowing what to do during civil emergencies. Alert at all times”

The government has traditionally scored strongly on this. The hard fact is that we have one of the safest, if not the safest city in the world to live in. Our intel against foreign threats has always been top notched. Singaporeans feel safe to be home and we know it. We have perhaps all grown too accustomed to this, which makes the incident of Mas Selamat’s escape in 2008 all the more astounding. Questions on this issue have been asked. The only answer we received thus far is a series of photographs step by step documenting the escape.

There has been a lapse to our security this last term. This can be taken as a serious fall in our high standards of deterrence against terrorist threats. SPP’s Mr Chiam See Tong has once again pressed for accountability this election. There has not been any. We, as Singaporeans, have a right to know what the government will do to ensure that such mistakes do not happen in future. We ask questions. Yet true to the PAP’s style, none has been answered.

B. Economic Defence
“Staying relevant and competitive through rapid change and development. Putting in place robust economic systems that can continue to function in times of crisis. Making Singapore livable for future generations.”
We have a thriving economy and GDP has grown. That cannot be denied. However, the real macro issues here go beyond GDP Growth.

1. 2008 Financial Crisis

When the financial crisis hit, citizens lost their hard earned monies on toxic investment products. Investors pointed the fingers at the banks and their sales force. Amid this controversy, there were questions directed at the MAS about its role as a financial watchdog as all products prior to being released on the retail platform had to be registered with the MAS first. However, the MAS merely took a nonchalant stand against this, directing the enquiries back to the banks.

Soon afterwards, it was noted that the government had lost billions of our tax and CPF dollars in investments as well, either via the GIC or our town councils; a point driven strongly across by opposition parties this GE.

2. Economy & The Cost Of Living.

Vast numbers of foreigners are entering our country. They find work at low wages. New jobs are created. Low wages are paid for these jobs. Wages are being depressed. Which means that for every Singaporean with a stake in this country, every true blue Singaporean who subscribes to the Singapore lifestyle of owning a property and living their lives here with their family and friends, needs a decent paying job to counter the rapidly increasing cost of living? At the rate at which wages are being depressed, this is becoming increasingly impossible. Should the trend continue, Singaporeans will soon find themselves competing for jobs against foreigners who accept half or even a third of the salary that a Singapore family man requires to live decently.

Worker’s Party’s Mr Chen Show Mow has highlighted that the income of the bottom 10 and 20 percentile of Singaporeans have gone up by a mere 10 odd dollars since 2008.

SDP’s Mr Tan Jee Say has highlighted that purchasing power per 10,000 populations is amongst the lowest in the world. He has also highlighted that the number of hospital beds per 10,000 populations has remained stagnant.

NSP’s Nicole Seah has highlighted that in the recent budget unveiled by our government, the amount allocated to education and health care has remained stagnant.

During this last five years, are the economic strategies of the ruling government still relevant and competitive to ensure that we are well guarded against crisis such as the 2008 financial tsunami? Should the existing economic policies continue, will our country continue to be livable generations? I believe the answer to all these questions to be “No”. Singapore suffered during the financial crisis. The government and the people have all lost obscene amounts of monies separately. And it is clear that the GDP and living standards are moving in the opposite direction.

C. Social Defence
“Singaporeans of all races and religions living and working together in
harmony. Looking out for one another.”

The influx of foreign workers and talents, in addition to depressing wages is also causing social problems. Public transport is being overcrowded, as is our housing. This in effect creates stress in day to day living, and consequently social problems. A recent incident involving a foreign hawker’s fight with a local couple over anchovies only exemplifies this.

Nation building and living harmoniously with one another is becoming increasingly difficult as WP’s Ms Sylvia Lim has pointed out. The ruling party has yet to address this issue this GE.

D. Psychological Defence

“Loyal & Committed to our country. Having the will and resilience to
overcome challenges.”

NSP’s Nicole Seah sums this up best when she said, “The role that young people have, they themselves do not know. Many of them are apathetic. They feel that they do not have a stake in this country. They are powerless to make any changes or to say anything.”

The policies of the government have caused this. Yet, amidst all the GE commotion, our ruling party has again said nothing to address this.

When it comes to a job appraisal, employers typically measure a person’s contribution to an organization against Key Performance Indices that are clearly spelt out. As we have no access to just what are the KPIs of ministers and the ruling government, I think it is fair to use the Total Defence model to measure this as I have done. In doing so, the incumbent has been weighed, measured and has been found wanting in 4 out of 5 KPIs. It is especially ironic then that the existing government wants top dollar wages to remunerate its cabinet or to attract top talent. If they had passed all relevant KPIs, perhaps then they may have a case.

In conclusion, I am writing this merely to summarize some of the arguments and points which the parties and candidates have put forth this GE, and I am trying to present them in a more coherent manner which all Singaporeans can reconcile with. I bear no allegiance to any political party. It is also not my intention to swing votes in any party’s favor.

I, however would like to thank the likes of Mr Low Thia Khiang, Mr Chen Show Mao,  Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Tan Jee Say, Dr Ang Yong Guan, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, and Ms Nicole Seah, for being an inspiration.

Listening to your passionate speeches has ignited a fire from within; a fire that has stemmed from suppressed frustration and continued dissatisfaction. You are all heroes in my opinion. Come 7th May 2011, it is my honest hope that I can finally see the dawn of a first world parliament.

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