Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologising to the country during the PAP rally on 3 May 2015

No tragedy, crisis or ministerial boo-boo can be a wake-up call to the government – only one thing can!

After the death of actor Aloysius Pang, training tempo was lowered and a committee of inquiry formed. Subsequently, it was announced that an Inspector-General’s Office would be set up to oversee safety practices.

We know the script by now. With every tragedy and every lapse, with every case of mishandling and mismanagement, new committees of inquiry are formed and new measures introduced.

There have been far too many committees formed over the years, too many stop-gap measures introduced. To what effect? To satisfy the public that reaction and response is swift? To demonstrate that something has been done to address a lapse or a crisis?

For any significant reaction and response from the government,  we have to go back to 2011, immediately after the general elections. The People’s Action Party lost six seats, its worst performance since independence. George Yeo (loser in Aljuined GRC) concluded that the People’s Action Party needed to treat its citizens as “human beings.”

And so the PAP swiftly “retired” from the cabinet Mah Bow Tan (National Development), Raymond Lim (Transport) and Wong Kan Seng (Home Affairs), along with Lee Kuan Yew (Minister Mentor).

Ministerial salaries were cut, immigration tightened, construction of HDB flats ramped up, more buses added, and the Pioneer Generation Package introduced.

Such changes can only take place when losses are suffered at the polls.

The PAP will not hear the cries of the people about CPF, HDB, Medishield Life, non-performing ministers, non-performing ministries, training deaths, plight of the poor, rising cost of living, lack of accountability . . . UNLESS and UNTIL electoral losses are suffered.

So the key lesson learnt must be that any tragedy, crisis or ministerial boo-boo – no matter how serious – will not provide a wake-up call to the government.

It is only when losses are suffered at the elections that they start to listen and take action.

Will Singaporeans also wake up to this reality?