The status quo in relation to government spending appears to be this – an announcement via the media that it has made a decision to spend x millions on a project and that’s it. No Parliamentary debate, no discussion – done deal.
The latest big-ticket spending seems to be the plan to replace Singapore’s fleet of F16 jets. A modern fighter jet costs roughly about between $20-$100 million depending on the manufacturer so I can only imagine the staggering amounts that need to be spent in order to update the entire fleet. While I don’t quibble the importance of a strong defense, I query if the degree of what constitutes strong is worthy of at least a debate in Parliament.
Critics have long questioned the necessity of Singapore’s huge defense budget and in the wake of the proposal to spend such ginormous sums of money in updating a fleet, the time might be ripe for another look at this.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen seems to imply that the upgrade of our fighter jets is linked to the prevention of terrorism in Singapore. I wonder if that is misleading?
Terrorist attacks are usually perpetuated though more low level means. Apart from 9/11, they have all been attacks of either a few crazed gunmen, truck drivers run amok, lone knife wielders or suicide bombers that show up unannounced. I question how fighter jets can stop these unfortunate situations?
The threat of terrorism is perhaps best kept in check with good intelligence and tight knit communities that will notice anything untoward before it happens. Based on studies, it would also appear that would be terrorists are susceptible to radicalisation when they see no opportunities to advance themselves. It makes it therefore important to ensure that Singapore remains a society based on meritocracy where everyone has a chance to advance.
Perhaps in the fight against terrorism, the government should focus more on narrowing the gaps between the rich and poor in Singapore rather than more big budget spending on defense hardware. Further, it should also seek at every opportunity to create an inclusive society where people do not fall through the cracks.