By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “Singapore must get politics right for economy to do well: PM Lee” (Today, Jul 6).
“Right” politics = Good economy?
The article states that “He added that Singapore must get its politics right in order for its economy to do well.”
Economy doing well?
“In order for its economy to do well”? – Negative real wage growth in 4 out of the last 5 years, low 1.3 per cent growth last year (our Asean neighbours like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines all had over 5 % growth), negative – 0.4 per cent per annum productivity in the last 5 years, high inflation at 4.6 per cent last year and record household debt – total consumer loans of Domestic Banking Units – stood at 279 per cent of the total gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year?
Obsession with “the right” things?
We seem to have an obsessive obsession about having the “right” things. Recently, a Minister said in an international television news programme that when Singaporeans read the news online, we need to ensure that they read the “right” things. And now, we need the “right” politics!
“Nasty side of politics”?
Another article on the same day – “Govt seeks diverse talent but ‘nasty side of politics’ a challenge” – said “Ensuring a diverse mix of talent in the next generation of leaders and protecting their families from the nasty side of politics are some of the challenges in attracting people to politics.”
I was rather amused when I read the above “protecting their families from the nasty side of politics are some of the challenges in attracting people to politics”. Allow me to tell you what so many people that I have met all over the world say about Singapore’s “nasty side of politics”.
Singapore is probably the only country in the world where members of Government still sue ordinary citizens and opposition politicians for criticising the Government. If the Government behaves “nastily” by suing people, what do you expect the people to do – be ‘nice’? (Not that I agree that the internet in Singapore is ‘nastier’ than other countries).
The “right” criticism?
I think one of the reasons why some may not want to be politicians may be because its OK to be criticised but not OK to be criticised for not being able to accept criticism. How can one be a respected politician (excepted in Singapore perhaps) when you can’t even take criticism from your citizens in its stride ?
After all, politicians all over the world expect to be criticised by their citizens – like they say “the flak comes with the territory”.
It may only be in Singapore that we keep making such a big fuss like cry babies that criticism be of the “right” kind.
Grassroots if elected “doesn’t count”?
“He noted that it is harder these days to bring in someone with a grassroots background. “If (he is) successful in the rough and tumble, he will rise and soon he will be a successful person, and we will bring (him) in and (people will) say, well, he doesn’t count,” he said.”
This one I find hard to understand, but let me try.
Are we saying that because the losing candidade invariably always stays behind as the advisor to the grassroots like a pretender to serve the residents even though he is not the elected MP, such as transferring facilities to the PA after the elections like in the constituency where I live.
So, can you blame the people from thinking and saying that he “doesn’t count” even if he wins eventually?
Singapore internet “nastier” than other countries?
“The uncertainty over how things can develop may deter people from entering politics and potential candidates may be concerned about the impact on their families.
“You can be criticised personally … but what goes on on the Web, all sorts of nasty stuff … it has a real impact on families,” Mr Lee said.
To continue to attract good people, Singapore needs to have politics that are “constructive” and “clean”. “If good people don’t want to go into politics, you can put all the safeguards you want, you are not going to get the leadership you are hoping for,” he said.”
Hard to find “good” candidates?
I think one of the primary reasons why potential candidates who are successful and well off in their own right may be deterred from serving our country, is because your relatives and friends and the people at large may say that you are doing it for the money.
So, the Government may have created their own recruitment problem by overpaying with million dollar salaries.
“His advice for Singapore’s future leaders: Keep the politics “clean and straight”, bring in people who can make a difference to the country and look beyond their own tenures.”
Too embarassed to serve your country?
The “real” reason why it may be harder to get “good” candidates may be that “good” people may be embarassed (ashamed depending on how strong some may feel about it) to serve a Government that has so many issues of transparency in so many statistics, the “AIM” affair, replies in Parliament that never answer the question, the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament affair, etc.
Finally, isn’t it kind of ironic and also great timing (coincidence) to say we need the “right” politics, when the news on the same day was that the Court of Appeal had ruled that the Government does not have the “unfettered” decision on whether to call a by-election?