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Ho Kwon Ping says that PAP will not suffer same fate as UMNO, but academics think otherwise

Speaking at an OCBC Forum entitled Singapore Politics and Business in an Age of Disruption (12 Jul), Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Ho Kwon Ping said that the Singapore government is aware of the "jibes made against us and our political system" by the Malaysians. However, this "may not be applicable in totality".

He was a referring to an earlier comment made by Malaysian PM Mahathir bin Mohamad in May to the financial times that Singaporeans – like their Northern neighbours - "must be tired of their government".

"[We are] drawing the wrong lessons if we look at Malaysia and think that the fall of the PAP is imminent for whatever reasons that are happening across the Causeway." Ho said

He added that there is "a high degree of tolerance within Asian countries for even incompetence. But there is very little intolerance for totally selfish regimes which only perpetuate their own well-being."

This marks a huge and critical difference" between both countries and Singapore did not follow the "egregiously blatant" corruption ways of the Najib administration.

Additionally, Singapore is still helmed largely by its second generation of leaders who "clearly remember and largely perpetuate” the principles of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The PAP could possibly lose power over the next 20 years if it cannot rejuvenate

Nonetheless, Mr. Ho also acknowledged the possibility that the PAP might lose power in the next 20 to 30 years.

He noted that political parties historically maintain their passion and integrity of their founders for about 3 generations before "hubris sets in and the rot begins". There “must be an inflow of totally fresh new blood into the political system if we are to avoid" a fall of the PAP.

While Ho believes that the PAP does not tolerate corruption, this could change if they allow nepotism and cronyism to set in. The PAP also must be careful not to create "quasi cronyism amongst cliques of elites" as it draws people from immediate circles of friends, the military or administrative service.

Other factors include complacency, applying the "same old formulas" to solve future problems, and the lack of internal competition within the party could also be detrimental to the PAP.

Academics: PAP’s leaders are elitist and are completely out of touch with the ground

If Ho’s analysis is to be believed, then the picture painted by several academics may hint at PAP’s fall.

In an article for Asia Nikkei earlier this week (10 Jul), former Political Science Professor Bridget Welsh at the Singapore Management University said that the problem with 4G leaders is that they are “a highly elitist party, largely unable to relate to ordinary Singaporeans”.

This is because the “intertwining of the PAP and the bureaucratic state has created singular agendas and resulted in a distancing from the electorate and its needs”. Many of these 4G leaders “emerge from within the party, government, [and] the military” and “they are seen to be for the system”.

This was concurred by Professor James Chin from the University of Tasmania. In an article in May for the highly respected Australian Financial Review, he said the PAP elite “graduate from the best-known universities [and] hold the most prestigious scholarships. They are totally removed from the hard lives of ordinary Singaporeans".

If one were to look at some of the policies given by the current PAP leadership, then the picture does not look pretty:

  • Cabinet Ministers have urged Singaporeans not to get a degree merely for the sake of one, while the PAP lavishes somewhere to the tune of $400 million on scholarships to foreign students.
  • Our CPF system pays an interest rate which is one of the lowest in the world amongst all pension funds of 4.2% on average, which is barely enough to fight the long-term trend for inflation (2%)
  • The HDB flats which we spend 30 years of our lives paying for will have its value drop to zero at the end of its lease while the value will plunge sharply after 40 years thus deviating from the promise of asset enhancement by the political leaders.
  • Singapore has become the most expensive city in the World while a minimum wage has not been defined. BBC estimates that 400,000 Singaporeans have less than $5 a day after spending on their necessities
  • GST, conservancy fees, electricity tariffs, and water charges have all increased while their parent organisations have already made substantial profits
  • With weak labour laws and an ineffective fair consideration framework, Job security and Costs of Living are now the top concerns of average everyday workers.
  • Elderly workers have to resort to picking cardboard and cleaning hawker centres in their retirement age. In 2016, the Chinese media reported that an 80-year-old cleaner died in the toilet while taking a break:

What do you think?