“We succeeded more than we expected,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a group of newspaper editors at the Istana on Tuesday.
Mr Lee was asked if Singapore’s performance, under his leadership, had exceeded his expectations the last 10 years. Mr Lee took office as prime minister in September 2004.
“[In] terms of the infrastructure, we were not able to catch up – our public transport, building houses,” he said. “And we did pay a price.”
Mr Lee did not elaborate who he was referring to specifically.
“I wish we had been able to foresee this outcome,” he added, “and then we would have acted sooner. But that’s 20-20 hindsight.”
Mr Lee’s remarks echo those he said during and after the general elections in 2011, where he also apologised for this government’s shortcomings.
Singaporeans have been experiencing and complaining about a whole slew of failings by the government in recent years. These include the strain on public infrastructure such as the public transport system which has not only been more crowded but also has seen regular breakdowns in service; short fall in hospital beds so severe that corridors had to be used to house patients and tents set up in hospital premises; prices of housing escalating to unreachable levels for many until recently; a growing income gap; the costs of living threatening to make life even more of a struggle for the average person; jobs being taken away by foreigners.
Singapore had also seen massive floodings when it rained, coupled with its first strike and first riot in decades in the last two years. It has also been consistently ranked as one of the most unhappy societies in the world as well.
Given all of the above (and more) it is thus no surprise that many disagree with PM Lee’s claims – that the problems are because of Singapore’s “success” – and have criticised him for his remarks, especially online.
On the Channel NewsAsia Facebook page, opinions were firmly negative.
Most of the comments highlight the government’s lack of vision or foresight in anticipating problems.
Jack Davit Pyre, for example, said, “If you are unable to upgrade infrastructure and build enough flats to meet demands then you may not have succeeded as much as you think. Unless you count overcrowding as success.”
“The truth is,” posted Thong Yok Ngiam, “they didn’t know what were going on and refused to listen. They are trying to rationalize their incompetence.”
Roy CJ Gwee said,
“It is informative to note that that the then Transport and Housing ministers were not in tune with daily practice and plight of the citizens. It took an election and new ministers to realise this and then correct the mistakes of the previous transport and national development ministers.”
Ong Liang Wei fingered “the loose immigrant policy” as the “root cause” of the problems Singapore is facing.
“If u didn’t start the mass import of foreigners,” Mr Ong said, “would there be overloading for demands for housing and infrastructure? A bike COE cost 4.5k.”
It is a view shared by Yusairi Sabari over at The Online Citizen’s Facebook page.
“Bullshit all the way,” Mr Sabarii said. “What 20-20 hindsight? They are the ones with the plan for 6.9 million. They are the ones who approved it. It’s not as if they are not the ones who created the problem… Failure to plan is planning to fail.”
Tan Seng Chong decried the government “ruining everything here” and asked, “How can you keep bringing in foreigners when our infrastructure is not even prepared?”
The lack of planning is slammed by Danny Lim too.
“[It] is not that you are unable to catch up with infrastructure, housing, transport,” he said. “The problem is that you guys can’t be bother cos these doesn’t affect you at all.” [Sic]
Soong Lin Hao was just as unforgiving.
“He made it sound like he has done an awesome job except for minor glitches like housing, public transport, childcare etc etc. The problem is these are not minor glitches. All the so called minor glitches have major impacts on the current and future well beings of Singaporeans. Not everyone has the abilities to expand revenue exponentially to combat a linear growth in cost. He can’t assume that these are small glitches because people can catch up by getting better jobs with better incomes. As somebody said, the old guards planned infrastructures well in advance for the future and planning infrastructures is not rocket science but a simple material balance.” [Sic]
Francis Ong was scathing:
“As a PM, his main deliverable to the country & peoples are to make sure that the country is developed into a livable place for the people. Instead, he made this country into extremely expensive, extremely clamp with foreigners, failing public housing, failing public transport. failure security (riot, failure in border security etc), citizen running out of jobs and many more other failure. I don’t really understand what he meant by “we succeeded more than we expected”???? What type of expectation he setup for himself and his team??”
PM Lee also said, referring to the inadequate infrastructure,
“We have spent the last three, four years working hard to try and come up back to speed. I wish we had been able to foresee this outcome, and then we would have acted sooner.”
But Mr Colin Lincoln is having none of that.
“Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the Old Guard team were in Government they planned ahead about 20 years. Planning for the first MRT was on the cards from the 70s. Our airport. Hospitals. Housing. All planned with a vision for the future. Not a knee jerk reaction as to what’s happening these days.”
Read the comments here on TOC Facebook page: “We succeeded more than we expected”.