Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said at the opening of the Singapore Summit that a small state like Singapore has to take the long-term view when it comes to crafting its policies, in order to survive. He went on to say that this is despite a worldwide trend of politics and governance becoming more short-term and populist.
In short, he is saying that the Singapore government led by the People's Action Party (PAP) provides policies that may be unpopular because it is taking a long term view for the good of Singapore. Is this a way to justify unpopular policies such as GST hikes, water and electricity price increments and sky high ministerial salaries? Head scratch anyone?
When talking of taking a long term view, does the minister mean the long term view of Singapore as a country or the long term view of the PAP? The two sets of interests are mutually exclusive.
The word "populist" has taken on a very negative connotation. It is taken to describe policies that may not be for the greater good of the country but are only implemented to please voters. I would agree that overly populist policies are not the way forward but some semblance of public opinion has to be taken into account to. You cannot just ride rough shod over the will of the people under the guise of being against populism. Has the PAP government got this balance right? Or is Ong hiding behind the guise of populist aversion to whitewash unpopular policies?
Looking at some of the policies that the PAP government have introduced before elections, one could argue that they are populist too? Let's take a look at the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) announced by the government recently. Proponents of this scheme say that this is a sign of the government's long term planning. However, given that none of the details have been set in stone, it is arguable that Vers is a short term effort to yield short term results under the guise of long term planning. Is it not populist to rush out something to placate housing woes that have arisen without the details that will ensure its success hammered out?
By drawing a comparison between Singapore and the unnamed countries that have alleged populist and short term governance, Mr Ong is trotting out the weaponry of fear. In Singapore we must maintain status quo or end up like these unnamed other countries. Could it be that this is a tactic to propagate fears of instability?
I actually have nothing against the PAP if they make certain changes within the party instead of singing from the same song sheet again and again. As the saying goes - no one is irreplaceable. That includes the PAP no matter how they spin it.