This is a transcript of the part of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s speech at a lunchtime rally on Tuesday where he apologized for government lapses, and where he said he is doing things differently from MM Lee. I have transcribed enough of his speech to give you the context in which he apologized. Commentary on his apology will be out later today.
Five years ago, the opportunities to have IRs in Singapore came up. We seized it, we started going, and got them going before the financial crisis. If we hadn’t done that, and missed the chance, missed the boat, you won’t have Marina Bay like this today.
Last year, we got another gust of wind. Growth was strong, markets were good, we were ready. We went for it, we got fourteen and a half percent growth. Had we not done that and taken in a few more foreign workers and accepted the crowding in the trains and in the public places, you would not have had the budget surpluses, we would not have had the Grow And Share Package this year.
So we can’t go exactly on a straight line from point A to point B and have everything just perfect every spot. There will be detours, sidetracks, side effects, from our decisions. So, IRs are good, but because of the IR, more Singaporeans are at risk of problem gambling, more families are at risk. High growth is good, but because of growth, we have to take in somewhat more foreign workers, we have to be prepared to accept a little bit more congestion for the time being.
These are real problems – we will tackle them, but I hope you will understand that when these problems vex you or disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us, we are trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry, but we will try and do better the next time.
But good as we are, we and the PAP in particular must never become self-satisfied. The PAP – you may wear white, but that does not give you an automatic right to become the government. You put on the whites — but win the respect of voters – every time, every election. And never forget that we are here to serve the voters, to serve Singaporeans, and not to lord it over people.
No government is perfect. We can have our best intentions, make our best efforts, but from time to time, mistakes will happen. We will make mistakes. We made a mistake when we let Mas Selamat run away. We made a mistake when Orchard Road got flooded. And there are other mistakes which we have made from time to time, and I’m sure occasionally will happen again – I hope not too often. But when it happens, then we should acknowledge it, we should apologize, take responsibility, put things right, if we have to discipline somebody we will do that, and we must learn from the lessons, and never make the same mistake again.
So we didn’t get it perfect, and I appreciate and I sympathize with Singaporeans when they tell me and they tell the government repeatedly that this is impacting us, affecting us – do something about it. Well, we’re sorry we didn’t get it exactly right, but I hope you’ll understand and bear with us, because we’re trying our best to fix the problems – building twenty-two thousand flats this year, opening one new MRT line or extension line every year for the next seven years, investing in our people, in our future, coming back on course, continuing to make progress.
We’ve had a PAP government in Singapore now for more than fifty years, since 1959. Our ideals, our passion hasn’t changed. But our policies have been updated, our approach has shifted, our style has changed. You know MM’s style. He tells it like it is. When he tells you something, you know exactly what he is thinking and what he is talking about – straight from the shoulder — no ifs, no buts, solid hard talk.
You know – I think you have gotten used to our style. We understand the hard truths, we understand what we need to do, but we cannot do it and we don’t try to do it MM’s style. We do it our way; we spend some time to talk, to explain, to persuade, to understand the difficulties and the hesitations, to overcome some of these working problems, so that we can go in the right strategic direction.
And it’s a difference in generations – generations between MM’s team and my team, generations between your parents and you. And we discuss this often in cabinet, and MM says why don’t you do things in a certain way. Proceed, its important, critical for Singapore. And we say, yes we understand, but please let us do it our way, because we are different from you, and I think Singaporeans – it’s a different generation from the Singaporeans who worked with you and built this Singapore in the 1950s, in the 1960s and ‘70s. So give us time, I think we know what we are doing, we will work with Singaporeans in our own way to deliver results.
So MM understands that. But MM is MM, and whether it is ordinary times, whether it’s election time, you can be sure it’s still the same MM. But this is the PAP government – me, my team, and we are taking it forward – same strategic direction, but doing it our way. So I hope voters will understand and will support what we are doing.