If words matter, why do they commit blatant flips flops and U-turns?

If words matter, why do they commit blatant flips flops and U-turns?

by Augustine Low

In an apparent U-turn, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad will look to negotiate the deferment of the high-speed rail project with Singapore, instead of calling it off altogether.

This is not his first U-turn and it won’t be his last.

The U-turn or flip flop is also something which Singaporeans are accustomed to seeing from our own politicians.

Let’s pick out a few which stick out like a sore thumb.

The U-turn on GST has got to be a classic.

PM Lee Hsien Loong said: “What will make you need to raise GST? Profligate spending and irresponsible, unsustainable plans. That is what will hurt and require you to raise taxes and GST.”

Now, we are told that it is indeed the responsibility of the government to raise GST.

In the words of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, the GST has to be raised because “it is the most appropriate option” and the government has “to find new sources of revenue.”

For another unmistakable flip flop, let’s turn to PM Lee again who said in Parliament regarding the Oxley Road saga: “If MPs believe that something is wrong, it’s (an) MP’s job to pursue the facts, and make these allegations in their own name, decide whether something seems to be wrong . . . then come to this House, confront the government, ask for explanations and answers.”

But when Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim brought up the issue of the government floating “test balloons” on the GST hike, there was a sudden about-turn and she was hammered left, right, centre, accused of being dishonest and asked to apologise to the House.

As it turned out, the NTUC did conduct a poll with members to get feedback on the proposed GST hike. To many, that definitely qualified as the floating of “test balloons” after all.

If there is a prize for the best U-turn, Minister Chan Chun Sing is one prime candidate for it (yes, it’s him again).

He had asserted that the Singapore system is structured such that “no one will be behind.”

Sounds reassuring enough.

Except that he turns around next time and cautions that in the face of a bleak economic outlook, “no one owes you a living.”

The one hundred and eighty degree U-turn sent an unnerving message – quite the opposite of reassuring.

Perhaps we should learn to take what they say with a pinch of salt because we never know when the U-turn or flip-flop is coming.

Words can mean one thing today, and be rehashed to mean another thing tomorrow.

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