The five Cs of political leadership in Singapore

Leadership renewal is taking shape, with significant changes to the Central Executive Committee of the People’s Action Party. But what is most certainly not subject to renewal is the conduct and character of political leadership.

These five Cs could very well define the state of political leadership in this country.

First and foremost is cronyism.

The crony capitalism index by The Economist magazine places Singapore 4th highest in the world in crony capitalism.

How many husband-wife power teams do you see? Sibling power? Elites scratching each other’s back and opening doors for each other. Generals being parachuted to the top. Even PM Lee Hsien Loong said last week that his children are “entitled” to enter politics if they so choose.

Entitlement is a by-product of cronyism. Entitlement is also what propels Cambodia’s Hun Seng, in power for 33 years, to install his sons and son-in-law in high power. Marry entitlement with cronyism and you have Singapore-style meritocracy.

With that comes conflict of interest.

Ironically, the tables are turned on the opposition. If they do it, it is conflict of interest. But if the PAP or any of the government agencies and GLCs and PAP town councils do it, it is legitimate practice.

How many top level appointments, how many alliances, how many jobs and contracts awarded have that whiff of conflict of interest? Take the AIM company that was indirectly owned by PAP for example, did anyone in the government found it to be a conflict of interest when the town council manaaging software was sold to the $2 company?

The third C is check ownself.

ESM Goh Chok Tong said it was not necessary to vote in more opposition members into Parliament because “we (the PAP) are our own checks.”

And so ownself check ownself has become the entrenched mantra as far as the PAP is concerned.

With that, the 4th C comes naturally – camouflage. Something’s gone horribly wrong? Let’s check ownself by calling a commission of inquiry made up of selected and vetted members. Can we ever hope to get the whole truth?

Likewise, any burning issue is camouflaged. Rise in cost of living and rise in social inequality are touted as problems of success! GST hike is to help the poor!

The fifth and final C: Crazy rich.

Boasting the highest salaries in the world by a mile, politics in Singapore has become a stepping stone to riches.

Despite all the questions raised and the answers given by DPM Teo Chee Hean in Parliament, the truth of the matter is that Singaporeans still have no clue as to how much exactly ministers are taking home. So crazy rich that the various components are couched in ways that can’t be figured out? Too crazy rich to be made transparent and unambiguous?

To sum up, these are the 5Cs of political leadership in this country:

  • Cronyism
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Check Ownself
  • Camouflage
  • Crazy Rich

It is looking likely that we could end up with a 6th C when he gets the top job: Chan Chun Sing.

Will that be the final straw?

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November 2018
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