As the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led government draws on the country’s national reserves to help cushion the country from the repercussions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have been repeatedly told by ministers that this is only possible because the government has been prudent in the past.
Second Minister for Finance, Indranee Rajah, had said on her Facebook (FB) page that the government was only able to draw on such reserves because of the “prudent management of public finances and the strength of our reserves which have been judiciously and painstakingly built up over the years for a time such as this.” In other words, she is praising her own ministry for its good management of finances.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also said that Budget 2020 was only possible because of our country”s deep reserves. He went on to say that it was only because of our healthy reserves that he and his team were able to work on stabilising and support measures for the country. In not so many words, he is saying that the reserves built up by our government was what enabled the government to stabilise the country.
Clearly, the messaging is that our PAP led government has great foresight and capability to build up such strong reserves.
However, is it really fair to expect Singaporeans to feel beholden and grateful to the government for the reserves if we don’t even know what is in there in the first place?
Isn’t that expecting blind faith?
It is probably fair to say that Singaporeans are interested to know what is in the reserves because that would provide proof in what the government is claiming. It would also go a long way to reassure Singaporeans that we are indeed in good hands. It is harder to put our belief in something said in a vacuum.
Former President Ong Teng Cheong had tried to get to the bottom of what was in our reserves at great personal cost.
Most recently, Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh had asked about our reserves in Parliament only to be rebuffed by Heng on the basis that such a question was not in the interest of Singaporeans.
Mr Singh said :”It is neither in the interest of Singapore or Singaporeans to repeatedly ask about the size of our reserves. We are in the middle of a storm, and I’m very disappointed that Mr Pritam Singh has used this occasion to raise this question again.”
However, if you are using the size of the reserves as a means to bolster your claim that you are such a great government, you would need to first tell us what is actually in the reserves.
And if you want to use the reserves as a positive example of the PAP’s leadership, then it will be very much in Singapore’s interest for Singaporeans to know what is in the reserves in order to verify the veracity of your claims.
You can’t expect praise if you don’t divulge what it is you want praise for.