Vivian Balakrishnan: FAILED as a minister

Written by Ng E-Jay
25 April 2011

This is the first of a two-part series on Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. This series will contend that Dr Balakrishnan has failed as a minister and as a politician, and as such, is not deserving of political office.

The mission statement of MCYS as stated on their website is to “build a cohesive and resilient nation that can overcome challenges together“.

Dr Balakrishnan has failed to uphold the mission of MCYS since he was appointed Minister in April 2005. His failure to care for the poor and underprivileged, and his inept administration of the Youth Olympic Games, are but two very glaring examples

In August 2008, Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, spoke up vociferously for the poor in Parliament.

She asked Dr Vivian Balakrishnan whether his ministry is monitoring how lower-income households are affected by inflation and stagnant wages, whether the available assistance is lessening their difficulties, and whether there will be other measures to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

Dr Balakrishnan did not even care to respond to her, relegating the task instead to Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Mrs Yu-Foo did a poor job, merely listing the different assistance schemes available. This was hardly sufficient for Dr Lily Neo, who stopped the Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi from proceeding to the next question by waving her papers frantically. (A full report of the event can be found here.)

Before that episode, Dr Balakrishnan had famously remarked (in 2007), “How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?“, in response to Dr Lily Neo’s persist calls for the government to increase public assistance handouts given the rising cost of living.

Again, just this year, Dr Lily Neo urged Dr Balakrishnan in Parliament to provide a permanent and constructive safety net so as to improve the plight of the children from the lowest income families.

Yet in his reply, Dr Balakrishnan only chose to highlight the various existing schemes that are already in place which Dr Lily Neo rightly pointed out had not worked.

Dr Balakrishnan also affirmed that there is no need for any kind of permanent, unconditional social safety net for the needy. (See Dr Wong Wee Nam’s article on this.)

In April 2010, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan criticized alternative media channels (such as TOC) for selective reporting of the plight of the homeless in Singapore, when in reality it is actually the government that has taken a reactive approach to dealing with the homeless situation, as opposed to a proactive approach. (Click here for a full article on the sophistry and intellectual dishonesty on the part of the PAP government concerning the homeless in Singapore.)

The epic failure of the Youth Olympic Games in 2010 to unite Singaporeans in a bond of camaraderie can be traced to its inept administration under Dr Balakrishnan. (A full report on why there was such great apathy towards the YOG can be found here.)

Under Dr Balakrishnan, the original budget for the YOG tripled to over $400 million. The PAP, which has accused the opposition of trying to raid the reserves, conveniently ignores this blatant raid on its own budget.

In addition, Dr Balakrishnan failed to give full accountability for the food poisoning incident which affected YOG volunteers, and it is not known whether any of them were adequately compensated for this gross negligence. (Click here for more details on YOG fiascoes and failures.)

Dr Balakrishnan’s performance as a Minister since he took office 6 years ago has been mediocre, lackluster, and incompetent. He should be voted out of office as he has failed.

  1. It is quite painful to watch him.

    This man seems to be adept at creating series of mismanagements, maladministration etc. This man,to me is a legend, a legend of incompetency. If he is still to persist, he will continue to be a blunder waiting to happen. For the sake of his own mental health, it is time to go quietly now.

  2. It is obvious that pap members chose incarceration of their conscience in preference of selfish (not selfless, self-sacrificial spirit for s’pore and its people) temporal material gains. Being shameless helps to block off their inners ears and heart to needs and cries of others that they have sworn to serve.

    Even if pap lackeys like vivian balaksrishan don’t get re-elected again in 2011, the 6 years of obscene money (not to mention other ridiculous benefits) that they are paying themselves during their office terms are enough to let them retire reasonably in s’pore (No, some would hide in other countries when they lose power).

  3. Is it true that Tin Pei Ling was on the management committee of YOG? If so, shes one of the ones responsible for racking up the YOG bill as well.

  4. Moreover, they are entitled to pension when they retire.

    We should really abolish the pension scheme for Ministers. These are the real drainers on our reserves.

  5. We must not forget that when he joined politics in 2001, he was YPAP chief. At that time he talked about how to reach out to the young.

    After 10 years, the young have never felt so disenfrancishised and marginalized. The only fortunate thing is that a lot of youngstaers are still apathetic.

    As MCYS minister, he also failed to handle the massive immigration properly. Instead he wasted $10 million to try to “integrate” foreigners.

    Did he ever find out what both foreigners and locals are thinking before embarking on this plan?

  6. i beg to differ on the YOG’s not uniting sporeans. it did,
    tho not in the way it was supposed to. instead, it got most
    pple pretty pissed off. we were very united on tt score.

  7. Perhaps he does realise his imcompetency will bring him down this GE that he has come up to spread homophobia against his political opponents
    If i had a choice between a compassionate gay or a turncoat to be my MP, i
    take the former anytime

  8. Epic Fail

    In addition, I am in the opinion that since he is the Minister for Community Youth Sport, shouldn’t he be responsible for the nation’s success in the sporting arena?

    The S-League is in disarray after 15 years, we have not qualified famously for GOAL 2010! What are the sports programs that have been created to cater for the youth who wants to embark on a sporting career. Where is the leadership?

    Simply offering second class FTs Singapore citizenship instead of focusing and cultivating our own is yet another re-hashing of similar strategy of the ruling party.

    If any CEO were to under-estimate budgets by a whooping $300 million, he will be SACKED! And yet Balakrishnan is still hanging around? Puzzling.

    Singaporeans reading this please, please take note of the ineptitude of the ruling elite.

    It makes me o so furious! It’s our hard-earned taxpayer’s money, money we can give to the poor!


  9. FAIL? More like this article FAILED in providing a proper debate of good and bad things done over this Minister’s term. Why the one-sided childish rants on ONLY his failings? How about what good he has done? Expose BOTH sides of the debate, and let the reader citizens decide if he FAILED or not.

    I’m no PAP-supporter, mind you. What I do support is reasoned and mature debate amongst us masses, so that we can all know better at the end on who we should vote for (whether opposition or non0opposition). This sort of biased journalism stinks, and makes us vote on poor grounds. You’re no different from the Party you oppose through the use the same crap rhetorical methods.

  10. Judging from the “gay video” episode, he FAIL as a human being as well. He is a total slimeball who would stop at nothing to tear down anyone who threatens his clutch on power.

  11. During the 2006 election period, it was in the paper that a new overhead bridge
    will be build across the E>C>P from marine parade side to the Eact Coast Parkway.

    after the election and till now there is no such Beautiful bridge build .

    It make me wonder is this a broken promise?

    Was the goal post being shifted to the Sand casino across the ECP to the new Garden to be build??

    disappointed .

  12. watcher,
    Can you blame if people can’t help but to only highlight the bad points?
    Good, we have all raised those points.
    If you want a proper debate, you can give us the all the good he has done
    The ball’s in your court
    Give you one to start with – the raiding of the homeless campers to make our
    beaches clean and pristine when Al Jazeera was going down to film them.

  13. I am a Singaporean and I can’t believe how narrow-minded the Singapore Govt is!! I am talking about the YOG. Dr.Viven claims the citizens are such but I beg to differ. It is the government that is OBSESSED about winning and making the surface of Singapore look all nice and shiny when the truth is…the winning Singapore atlethe is infact NOT a Singaporean born or let alone Singaporean groomed!! And everything beneath this shiny modern surface is a population of severely stressed out citizens, slogging day and night to have a regular life and pay their debts on time!! And what is atrocious is that the Singapore Govt is carelessly planning such YOG games with the citizens money..the taxpayers money!! I can certainly think of better ways the money can be put to use…
    (1) Lowering the transport fee
    (2) Reducing the number of ERP
    (3) Reducing HDB prices
    (4) Giving Senior Citizens, a stipend to be able to survive
    (5) Lowering the cost of rental shop units
    etc etc…


    Average person’s life in Singapore is such that they work hard all their life to only own a HDB at the end of it. Every Singaporean is in debt for their housing. Only the well to do can say that they dun need to pay any more mortgages to their house. So many retirees and senior citizen are in a dilemma because even at their end of their lives, they haven’t been able to pay up for HDB!! If such a life is to continue, i don’t see how many Singaporeans will want to live in Singapore anymore. Its such a superficial, fake country that just wants to boast that we have the best of this and that and that…but really, ARE THE PEOPLE HAPPY!? How many people on the streets can say they are happy to live in Singapore in the current conditions?

    And PAP shld seriously stop saying “Look at other countries…we are better than them”…Well you know what, we should stop comparing and look at ourselves and see if the majority of people are happy? They are most def NOT!!

  14. Its under Dr Vivian that MCYS has found a lotmore weight.
    They have come up with so many new programmes all the way from Cradle to Grave

  15. It is not right to say that taking care of the poor is solely under MCYS. Anyone who understand how the government works and how Singapore operates will know that helping the needy and low income is a multi-agency effort not just MCYS. Hence to fault Dr Vivian, you are faulting the entire government – saying that it has not helped at all. This I believe is not right. I firmly believe that this government has clearly demonstrated that it genuinely takes care of the low income folks

  16. The YOG 2010 was a great success, no doubt about it and NOBODY can take that away from us. The inaugural Youth Olympic means that it will be remembered as the beginning in Spore. In one GREAT event, it has managed to unite Sporeans from all walks of life as well as the international volunteers as well. I had the opportunity to be a volunteer through out the event being an assistant to the Chef-de-mission from Europe. I view it first hand, how great Sporeans are and am proud of you guys. I don’t quite understand why is your article is so critical to Dr Vivian.

  17. After taking the helm at MCYS, Minister Vivian has overseen birth of some many programmes
    Highlights are:
    Workfare Income Suplement
    Rehabilitation of Homeless
    Strengthening of Family Service Centres
    Enhancing the Capabilities of VWOs
    VWO Capability Fund
    Enhancing the Early Intervention Programmes etc etc

    Lost count now…so many
    Wonderful job VIV!

  18. Forgot to add:
    Review and Enhance the Career for Professionsla in Social Service Sector
    Re-engineering of Services
    Saw the birth of Social Service Training Institute
    Coming out with range of innovative Services etc etc

  19. Hey I was a volunteer with YOG! I think Singaporeans fail to realise the magnitude of such an event. We should be all proud that the 1st YOG , equivalent to the first Olympic games in Athens, is happening here. Singapore is now part of that history.

    Being the 1st country to do this, there is no reference point on how much budget should be allocated to this. Its a question of whether should we be prudent on our expenditure and produce a mediocre event or should be put as much resources as possible and make this a success. I think the latter holds more pragmatism and truth!

    As a Singaporean, I think there is much to rejoice about as far as YOG is concerned. Its truly a defining moment that a country as small as us can make a huge impact and make history.

  20. I was a NOC Assistant for YOG 2010. The Chef De Mission of the NOC that I served ever mentioned that $400 million was a sensible budget to hold an Olympic event. However, he remarked that your country is famous overnight as 1 billion people witnessed a remarkably event of the century. Yours Respectfullly.

  21. Ooops Inter Racial and Religious Harmony and Gambling Addiction Counselling etc etc to add few more

  22. And the achievements in the SPORTS arena is unmatched. We wo so many medals in International Sports.
    Truly amazing

  23. You, Singaporeans are blessed with caring goverment who cares for all walks of life from the poors to the billionaires,including oppo. and pro.ruling party activists I am confident that soon all of you at least will get some monies that going to be credited in your POSB account soon from growth fare benefits. It would be nice If I were a Singaporean.

  24. I find it very difficult to understand why must the government creata a permamnent and unconditional safety net. Its really an idealist view and is absolutely not practical at all. The only safety net for any class of people is really education.

    Being in Singapore, we should all be thankful that we have one of the best education systems in the world and not to mention, the quality of our school leavers are of good quality. Just look at our ITEs. There really isnt an institution like the ITE anywhere in the world.

    As a taxpayer, I would rather have my tax dollars be used in programme to educate and empower the lower income rather than to disburse funds to help them financially only. This is only a short term solution for a generational issue.

  25. I don’t know how can one make a judgement that Dr. Vivian had failed as a minister without data and solely on perception? YOG was a success, Workfare Income Supplement was put in place when economy was down….wheres the failure?
    It is always easy to sit on the fence and make a judgement…especially negative ones.

  26. I really like to see Ng E-Jay credentials before weighing on this comments. Its easy to complain…proof what you done Ng E-Jay.

  27. @ Phoenix, Whats wrong if the athlete is not born in Singapore. It does not make him a non Singaporean. I think we should get behind these athletes who are trying to make a name for themselves in a new country, in a new land. Lets not forget that the French World Cup winning squad was not all native French. That does not mean they are any less french?

    The problem with some of the comments put here and even the article is that we tend to quickly criticise at first instance and do not take the time to rationally look at what has been done and make a weighted judgement on this. As long as there are poeple like this and writers like this, there can never be an objective analysis of what the government as done.

  28. Hi E-Jay, Based on your measurement of performances of ministers, whether they have failed or not, could you device Performance Indicators, one key and several main indicators of all our ministers. National Development for example:

    Key Indicator: Multiples in excess of say 80 times our gross salary to pay for a HDB Flat would be considered a failure.

    30 years ago, it could cost 60 times our monthly salary to buy a HDB flat of any size or a private apartment for a family of 4 persons, now it cost more than 90 times. This shows Singaporeans are enslaved into meeting loan repayments and has little else left. (Note: using % of salary is not accurate as increasing the loan period from 20 years in the past to 30 years will confuse this indicator).

    Main Indicators: Number of HDB Flat owners defaulting on loans. Increases will show that the HDB building program has failed in meeting the needs of the people.

  29. This election does looks hot with lots of debate. Some attacked the government viciously. Why? Have they forget all the good things being done by the PAP government. It must be other unhappy issues that have led this such reactions from so many people. The PAP gvernment must learn from this election. Some key issues are due to often arrogance of the ministers in their response to ideas and suggestions from the people. They need to be more gracious in the replies. Over staying ministers due to the high pay are another reasons. People perceive they are taking away tax payers money legally.

    Issues like treating opposition MP with no due respect also raised the people against the government. Mp Chiam and Low should be threated fairly. Why their constituencies not given upgrading money. Are the people there not paying taxes?

    I am also not for the opposition when I see so many parties. It only means that if any of them are in power, they are no better than the PAP. They will take care of themselves and will forget the promises that they make. This is the behaviour of the people in politics. You see all the politicians globally, they all take care of themselves. So , if the people think that voting for the opposition will bring change, forget it. Looks at Potong Pasir. Mr Chiam hand over the constituency to his wife and not his assistant for many years. Why so many parties? It shows that all those leaders are for themselves. They cannot work with others. If we want a first class parliament, we should only have one opposition party bringing onboard good people and not spread all to 5 or more parties. Too many leaders, all for themselves.

  30. This thick skin mama will not resign. Hopefully during nx GE2016. Our voters can do something for him. Good luck to u mama.