PM Lee: Complete loss of perspective at Singapore Perspectives Forum
Written by Ng E-Jay
26 January 2010
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke at length at the Singapore Perspectives Forum on Monday from issues ranging from the elections to immigration, but if media reports are anything to go by, he and the PAP have completely lost their perspective on national issues.
Referring to recent mainstream media reports on ex-government scholars joining opposition parties, Mr Lee said that election candidates should not be judged by their academic abilities but by what they can do for Singapore. (CNA, “Candidates should be judged on what they can do for S’pore: PM Lee“, 25 Jan 2010.)
In Mr Lee’s own words as quoted by CNA: “I can tell you, we interview many scholars and each time we field a few of them. And we interview other people too and we often field people who are not scholars. It is good to see it in perspective.”
Reading between the lines, is PM Lee implying that scholars who join opposition parties are PAP-rejects?
First and foremost, academically well-qualified people including scholarship recipients joining the ranks of the opposition is nothing new, particularly in recent years. It is only due to the fact that the mainstream media has consistently blacked out news of academically qualified Singaporeans joining opposition parties that the public has come away with the impression that this is a brand new phenomenon.
Ex-scholars Tony Tan and his wife Hazel Poa joined the Worker’s Party several months ago but recently hopped over to the Reform Party. When alternative media like The Online Citizen highlighted this, the mainstream media had no choice but to play catch up.
Secondly, if we are to judge candidates by what they can do for Singapore, then certainly more opposition candidates should be voted in regardless of their academic credentials.
Without political plurality and adequate representation of true dissenting voices in Parliament, the PAP will always monopolize political discourse in Singapore and have the ability to bulldoze their policies through regardless of whether they are truly beneficial for Singaporeans. Opposition candidates are sorely needed in Parliament to balance Singaporeans’ interests against the self-interest of the ruling clique.
In his speech, Mr Lee suggested that academic qualifications are by no means a decisive indicator of whether a given candidate will be a good one.
While hardly anyone would disagree with this, Mr Lee’s statement is also highly ironic, because in the past, the PAP has always highlighted the paper qualifications of its candidates and used that to downplay opposition candidates whom they deride as uneducated individuals.
In fact, even though the current batch of PAP MPs are well qualified academically, many of them are nothing but yes men and women who do not truly serve the interests of Singaporeans but who serve merely to legitimize the executive decisions of the PAP cabinet.
I would go so far as to add that academic credentials are almost completely irrelevant to being a good politician as we have repeatedly seen individuals seemingly armed to the teeth with paper qualifications and scholarships turn out to be duds with poor character and a wrong value system.
Hence, just as we should not get excited over the complete non-event of a couple of ex-scholars joining opposition parties, we should also not be deceived by the facade of false intellectual superiority continually dished out by the PAP in its attempt at brainwashing the masses that it is the only game in town.
Productivity and “Growth at all Costs”
Amazingly, when Mr Lee spoke about economic issues, he said that Singapore will henceforth adopt a new economic growth strategy focused more on improving productivity rather than pursuing growth at all costs. (ST, “Grow productivity, not just GDP: PM“, 26 Jan 2010.)
He said: “Our own population is growing slowly, and we cannot indefinitely expand our workforce by importing more and more workers from abroad.” He also said that Singapore has to shift to growing qualitatively not just by expansion, but by upgrading.
It is precisely the PAP’s “growth at all cost” model of economic management that has led Singapore down the path it is today, as I’ve repeatedly highlighted on this blog.
And it is precisely the PAP’s overly liberal foreign manpower policy and the utterly indiscriminate import of foreign workers with no special talents that have not only caused considerable hardship to lower income Singaporeans, but have also led to declining productivity over the past decade.
The PAP in recent years has shored up GDP and population growth simply by rapidly expanding the ranks of foreigners, with very little attention paid to whether they really bring in skills sets that Singaporeans lack, and with scant regard for the fact that this model of population and economic management is unsustainable, and if left unchecked, will result in a colossal bust somewhere down the road.
It remains to be seen whether PM Lee will walk the talk and do away with our growth at all cost strategy that benefits the wealthy and the elite but leaves heartlanders and working class citizens out of the economic equation.
After all, so many of our GLCs depend on the ability to exploit cheap labour, both local and foreign, to maintain their bottom lines.
The complete lack of accountability of the Government to the economic well-being of Singapore citizens is truly sobering.
And that brings us back full circle to why we need political plurality and why there is an urgent need to hasten the democratization of Singapore, led not by people armed just with glossy pieces of paper credentials, but by people with the right values and mindsets, who are willing to uphold the tenets of democracy at all times.