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‘Tharman is playing in the Premier League while Chan is still in the second division’

By: Gerard Ong

Derek da Cunha was absolutely right when he penned on his Facebook:

“Whoever the person might be from within the 4G team, ideally, he has to get more exposure – domestically and internationally – and more experience in terms of Cabinet portfolios.

This is because the PAP has established standards whereby a person for high political office has to be very knowledgeable – widely read, charismatic, have presence, be a polished speaker, be quick-thinking, and where ordinary folk are able to relate to him or her.”

What we really need is a leader that all of Singapore will support and rally around. Someone who is intelligent, sincere, honest that we can trust and a Prime Minister who will do us proud on the international stage. In my opinion, Tharman Shanmugaratnam is playing in the Premier League and Chan Chun Sing is still in the second division.

In fact, Chan who is touted as the most likely candidate for the next PM, has been given the thumbs down by many with some even proclaiming that Singapore will go down the drain should he ever take the top seat. Sometimes I wonder is it necessary to come out with terms like 4G leaders.

On 24 Jan this year, at the session on One Belt, One Road Initiative in Davos, Chan spoke about how Singapore can facilitate in “software transfer” in China’s BRI initiative. This has been talked about and beaten to death by our leaders in the past, with China taking no real notice. Later he talked about the success of the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) project, jointly developed by China and Singapore in the 1990s.

He added that the transfer of software ensured the success of the project. But we all know that only when Singapore reduced its majority stake from 65% to 35% in 2000 because of the “double-dealing” tactics of the local Chinese officials only then did the SIP make its first profit of $3.8 million in 2001.

Compare Chan’s pitch with that of Tharman’s delivery at Davos the next day where he spoke of Innovation will be the heart of ASEAN’s next phase of development. He outlined several areas of priority, including fintech and e-commerce. He added that despite challenges such as a shifting geostrategic balance, uncertainties over trade and globalisation, cyber security and terrorism, there are huge opportunities for ASEAN and elaborated on such issues, how will they take effect and the follow-through.

Chan brought nothing new to the table. It was not strategic nor blue-sky.

In fact, one could easily punch holes in his presentation. Perhaps the session on the One Belt, One Road Initiative was rather limiting but then again what he spoke about was a let-down. By contrast, Tharman spoke as a visionary with a deep sense of optimism for ASEAN and what strategies will work and how to go about achieving them.

If Chan is to be deemed PM material, we all expect something more and original from a future PM.