Secretary-General of People’s Action Party (PAP), Mr Lee Hsien Loong in his speech during the 34th party conference held at Singapore Expo on Sunday (4 December), said that PAP members must be close to all segments of society and reminds them to serve the people because as it is their duty.
Mr Lee who is also the Prime Minister of Singapore stressed three main points to his party during the speech; the worrying global trend of nationalism, the need to improve Singaporean lives despite challenges faced and that the party members have to be reminded of their duty to the public.
The global trend to adopt nationalistic policies
“In many developed countries like America and Europe, people are feeling a profound discontent or angst,” he said.
He said that for more than half a century, at least since the 1960s, all the developed countries shared the same broad objective of prosperity and a shared perspective on international cooperation.
Even though there was the Cold War and there were tensions and conflicts between different countries in different parts of the world, the overall the prevailing ethos and the spirit of the times, was to open up, cooperate, trade and prosper together.
He said that currently, the developed countries are turning inwards, adopting a more protectionist, a more nativist approach, which means that nationalism has turned on its head.
“Instead of being open, and self-confident, proud of their own countries, seeking win-win opportunities with other countries, voters have become insecure, inward-looking and anxious about their future. When others succeed, they do not see win-win opportunities, they think of it as a win-lose outcome,” he said.
He then added, ” They do not want others to win; they want to win and so, they try to shut themselves from the rest of the world. It looks like the trend now. I do not know how far it will go, but I do not like the direction the trend is going. Because if more countries turn this way, the world will change, and it is going to change for the worse. The impact will not only be on economics and trade, but also the security, stability, peace and international order.”
And he said that this will have major consequences, especially for small and open countries like Singapore, which have always depended on open trade, making friends around the world, looking for opportunities to cooperate with others.
He said that the country has relied on a peaceful and secure Asia, an international order, where countries big and small cooperate and compete according to rules, which are fair to all, where small countries have a right to a place in the sun. And that is how we have prospered these last 50 years.
Improving the lives of Singaporeans despite uncertain environment
“If you compare Singapore to other developed countries, we have been fortunate,” he stated.
Then, he added, “We face some of the same challenges. Our growth has slowed, our outlook is uncertain, restructuring and people are worried about jobs. We too are anxious about the future but overall, we are much better off than the others.”
He also noted that the unemployment rate in the country is low, 3 percent for Singaporeans.
PM Lee also said that the country is creating more jobs than there are Singaporeans to fill them and we are creating better jobs for the future.
He said that the Government is working to prepare Singaporeans to face the challenge by improving the education system and strengthening social safety nets.
Urging PAP members to unite
The PM said, “If our society is united, it is easier for the PAP to represent a broad mass of Singaporeans, and look after the interests of the broad mass of Singaporeans and not just segments of Singaporeans.”
“Conversely, if the PAP government pursues policies that benefit many Singaporeans across the board and bring Singaporeans closer together, then our society can remain united,” he added.
However, he noted that it is not going to be easy as the trend is in the opposite direction.
“Societies are fragmenting; people are splitting up into narrow groups. Whether it is on immigration, religion, left wing versus right wing issues, gender issues or conservative versus liberal values, each one is a divide,” PM Lee said.
Then, he added, “They split up, and are unable to find common ground with one other. So the result is the broad mainstream parties, traditional political parties.”
He gave an example that mainstream political parties in other countries such as the Labour Party in Britain or the Democrat Party in the US, are weakening while extreme groups are strengthening, and pressure groups are growing. It is a vicious cycle leaving societies divided – us versus them.
He noted that politics becomes dysfunctional. Legislatures gridlocked, and they cannot make decisions and governments become paralysed. Americans more than once had to shut down the government. The US government cannot pay salaries, because Congress withholds the money.
Therefore, he encourages that the PAP must be close to all segments of society, he said, “the PAP must be close to all segments of society. Men and women of different races and religions. Our brothers and sisters in the labour movement. The older PMETs and the Millennial generation of workers. The elderly and the young. The disadvantaged and vulnerable, as well as the successful and ambitious.”
PM Lee also reminds them to serve the people because as it is their duty, saying, “The PAP cannot be like political parties in some other countries. Where people join a party for the spoils because when you enter politics, you get pay-offs, you get contracts, you get deals, you are on the inside track, you get personal benefits sometimes huge ones.
“Here, if you join the PAP, you expect hard work and tough speeches. But we must never slacken, we cannot afford to take the voters for granted,” he said.
He also asked the party to provide strong leadership for Singapore. “We must not only have a capable PAP team for today, but a deep bench, as we build a team for tomorrow,” he said.
Then he closed his speech by saying, “We are here today because Singaporeans have given us their trust. Never take that trust for granted. Never be complacent or arrogant. Never forget your duty or your ideals. Stand together shoulder to shoulder. ”