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Source: Today Online.

Why hold discussions with Singaporeans only after budget announced? Should we consider it as a discussion or propaganda exercise?

Current Finance Minister and alleged future Prime Minister-to-be, Heng Swee Keat (Heng) has indicated that the Fourth Generation (4G) ministers will launch their planned series of discussions with Singaporeans after next year's Budget. The Budget is something that will have far reaching effects on the lives of all Singaporeans.

With that in mind, why not consult Singaporeans now? Why wait till after the Budget is issued? After all, if Singaporeans have issues that the Budget could potentially address, what is the point of only asking them after the Budget is already set in stone? Would a dialogue that only takes place after plans in the form of the Budget are already set really help?

Secondly, how will the discussions with Singaporeans be held? Clearly, the 4G ministers will not be able to speak to every single Singaporean. However, will all Singaporeans who want to speak to the ministers be given a fair opportunity to do so? How will citizens who want to take part in the discussions put themselves forward? What is the selection process and criteria?

For the discussions to be a meaningful and accurate reflection of the concerns of Singaporeans, a broad spectrum of participants from all sectors of society would have to be represented. They would have to include among them, opposition politicians and others who may not necessarily support the Peoples' Action Party (PAP). Otherwise, the PAP would only be preaching to the converted which would defeat the purpose of even having a discussion in the first place. And at the same time, get an endorsement from the "public discussions" which would justify the planned budget even though they might not be supported by the population at large.

The selection of Heng himself has already been shrouded in mystery with only tidbits of information being released to the public. From the list of potential successors to what the criteria was, these details have remained opaque and arbitrary (at least to the masses). Is Heng really the peoples' choice? Is he even the choice of the PAP party? Or is he simply the choice of the few elites within the government itself.

I mean no disrespect to Heng's credentials. All I am saying is that for the top job of the land to gain even more legitimacy, the process should perhaps be more streamlined and objective. Now that Heng has already been selected, this is a moot point (for now anyway). However, this then makes the consultations with Singaporeans all the more important. With that in mind, I hope that the citizenry will be consulted in a way that is seen to be inclusive, fair and open.