An evaluation of PAP’s mid-term performance: The quality of political leaders (Part 2)

by Kwok Fangjie

Last week, I had argued that we were already mid-way into the current Parliamentary term and the People’s Action Party (PAP) did not do well in terms of bread and butter issues. This week, I will look at things from a different angle – the quality of today’s political leaders.

As Dr. Gillian Koh from the Institute of Policy Studies noted, the younger generation of political leaders will need to navigate the country in a more complex global landscape. Given so, would the younger Cabinet members be ready to take on such a challenge in steering Singapore to greater heights?

How effective has Singapore become under our highly paid 4G leaders?

The lack of planning by the government cannot be more aptly seen in the hospital bed shortage. While the number of hospital beds grew by 2500 from 1980 to 2014, the population grew by more than 3 million in the same period. The quality of healthcare has similarly declined, with 22 patients infected from a hepatitis C outbreak at Singapore General Hospital in 2015.

Although this problem has been partially alleviated with the upcoming Sengkang General Hospital, this predicament simply cannot be imagined during the era of the 1G PAP leaders? A similar situation was present in the supply of HDB flats although I will not go further into that topic.

In July 2017, transport minister Khaw Boon Wan claimed in a forum that train reliability has improved three times since he took over from Minister Lui Tuck Yew. Less than 4 months later, the worst breakdown happened due to flooding as a result of falsified maintenance.

While he chided the CEO in his ministerial speech, there was no further action taken against top management despite calls for the CEO to resign. This is again in contrast to Lee Kuan Yew’s stance that “Everything.. just has to work. If it doesn’t work, I want to know why, and if I am not satisfied, and I was often not, the chief goes and I have to find another chief. Firing the chief is very simple”

Despite their seeming inability to deliver, ministers have been more than happy to open their mouths on insensitive comments. At a post-budget forum in 2015, Minister Josephine Teo made a comment that service to the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents. This caused an outcry when the public contrasted such a remark to the principle that Ministers have to be paid competitively to attract political talent.

Philip Yeo: Ministers today function differently from those in his era

Philip Yeo, curent Chairman of SPRING Singapore and former head of various agencies in civil service, recalls in an interview with Peak Magazine a short private meeting he had with then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who wanted to develop Woodlands. Yeo simply asked that an MRT station be built there and got his wish. He later got top Multi-National Companies (MNCs) like Texas Instruments, Canon and Hewlett-Packard to set up shop.

In the same interview, he mentioned that the political leaders of today are distinctly different and he is “concerned about Singapore’s economy” as there is no suitable engine of growth. Worse, he “[hasn’t] seen anything new that can create good and sustainable jobs”.

Lee Kuan Yew: PAP will lose power one day

Part of the social contract between first generation of PAP leaders and the Singaporean electorate was that the latter would forsake their civil liberties to some extent in exchange for strong economic growth. The picture today remains different with both a restriction of freedom and economic uncertainty.

The late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew said in his autobiography: “There will come a time when eventually the public will say, look, let’s try the other side, either because the PAP has declined in quality or the opposition has put up a team which is equal to the PAP and they say, let’s try the other side,”

What do you think?