GCT’s speech avoids mentioning obstacles towards inclusive leadership and equitable society

by Chris Kuan

“We must guard against social inequity as a new fault line in our society,” said Emeritus Senior Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong at a National Day Dinner for his Marine Parade GRC on Saturday.

But the point is; isn’t the macroeconomic policies of the government of which he was once Prime Minister responsible for those social inequity in the first place and the refusal of the government to do more through its tax and spend policies and the immense build up of the reserves help the poor and the lower income.

More to the point, can you really guard against social inequity in a meaningful way when your own policies contributed to it? And what so inclusive about this government, when ministers can condescend to assume that old folks are collecting cardboards for exercise as an example?

Mr Goh further said that meritocracy protects the country against “the greater dangers of nepotism and cronyism”.

But Singapore already has high levels of cronyism according to the Economist, the result of large swath of the Singapore economy captured by state owned companies or require intervention from the government.

2016 Economist’s crony index

But good that he argues for an avoidance of group think but given meritocracy seems to be based on measurables such as exam results and connections with the establishment or acceptance of existing governing narratives, how is that really going to avoid group think when these are ingredients for cognitive bias.

More to the point – can anyone of real merit and competence stepped up to serve the nation as Mr Goh urged if that person disagrees with the People’s Action Party (PAP)?

How is such a person able to step up against such odds. Or is Mr Goh only referring to competent people who agree with the PAP and so restrict the person within the same group of Singapore Armed Forces and civil service people. If so, how is that to avoid group think or cognitive bias that he urged?

Mr Goh credited the country’s stability to Singaporeans having successively elected a strong government. “This enables the government to plan for the long term and prepare for contingencies … a strength which most other elected governments lack,” he said.

There is no guarantee that any plan will work or are not errors. The government can boast of planning for the long term, but if so, errors committed can also cause long term damage. Look at the Foreign Talent policy or real estate prices and there have been past policy failures. Being able to plan long term is not a unique strength. Many countries with better standard of living, more inclusive societies and more innovative and productive economies do very well with periodic change in government and with strong opposition. We do not need navel gazing.

Mr Goh also said, “The Elected Presidency is likewise “a check against a populist and profligate government”

So presumably a government other than the PAP is a danger because they can be populist and Mr Goh’s speech avoids mentioning obstacles towards inclusive leadership and equitable society of ligate. But wasn’t Tharman’s famous “cabinet discussion is leaning towards the left” a sign that the PAP is also populist. What is so bad about populism if it is responsible populism, like helping the poor and lower income? As for profligate government, one supposed that a government other than the PAP may “raid” the reserves like according to a past minister by reducing prices of HDB flat?

So if Workers’ Party’s suggestion of reducing HDB prices was raiding the reserves and was therefore profligate, then how come the increased grants provided by HDB to first time flat buyers not raiding the reserves by the same reasoning and therefore not profligate? Look, you won’t find me arguing against greater use of the reserves or reducing the pace of reserves accumulation so that we have more social spending and lower HDB prices but let’s stop all these double talk.

You know why it is that I keep saying about political language right?