20130619 Minister Khaw using Mayors Forum in Spain to trumpet Singapore’s ‘success’

Minister Khaw using Mayors Forum in Spain to trumpet Singapore’s ‘success’

I refer to Minister Khaw’s opening address at the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum in Spain on June 13.

http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/2013/pr13-29a.html

While Minister Khaw ‘humbly trumpets’ Singapore’s success in Spain, the problems at home will likely become unmanageable soon.

Khaw’s humility in a foreign country is quite unlike PAP’s arrogance at home. Khaw says “sharing best practices can shorten the learning curve and help cut down costs from missteps and wrong turns”.

But this did not happen in Singapore as evidenced by the missteps after missteps, wrong turns instead of right ones and our learning curve appears to have been extended despite so many lessons form other cities.
An inexhaustible list, some of which Minister Khaw could share with delegates at the forum:

– citizens must be consulted on policies.
– build adequate infrastructures before planning population increase instead of an upside-down model.
– never allow foreigners to take over good jobs of locals.
– opening the floodgates to foreigners has proven to be a shortcut for GDP growth with no long term benefit to a country
– financial incentives did not result in getting the best into politics i.e. you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. paying bigger peanuts resulted in…. bigger monkeys.
– government’s ‘leadership’ of workers’ unions has resulted in the stagnation of pay for hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans.
– haphazard planning under the any guise will be revealed, its just a matter of time.
– human beings do not want others to dominate over them.
etc.

If I were Khaw, I will be more upfront and share with delegates our anticipated problems:
– government will unlikely resolve the issue of low wage workers so long as the same ‘union leaders’ insist on more of the same policies.
– our housing prices are unsustainable, no thanks to the government, and when they come crashing down, many will be in financial dire straits.
– the business of a government is to govern. Having too much interest in business blinds the government to citizens’ well being.
etc.

Khaw gave a short history lesson of how Singapore developed in the last 50 years with emphasis on our eclectic approach. What Khaw meant was Singapore’s elites were all Mensa members, who were able to select only the best from every other systems studied, resulting in our ‘rojak’ system which cannot mean anything but the best.

This ‘rojak’ system derived from our eclectic approach has produced policy failures of epic proportions. This must be viewed in the right perspective i.e. Singapore is a little red dot, possesses enormous geographical advantage over most countries, the press is more or less a mouthpiece of politicians, politicised grassroots organisations, housing is controlled by the PAP, civil service is politicised to benefit the PAP, etc.

In short, despite almost total control of the population and national resources and geographical advantage over other countries, more than 40 per cent of voters are still visibly upset with our leaders (many support PAP due to effective fear mongering), the failure is really nothing short of epic proportions.

Just like Singaporeans tourists who berate their host countries, Khaw continued playing his trumpet, oblivious and insensitive to his host country’s 26 per cent unemployment rate, where 55 per cent of youths are jobless.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21180371

PM Lee should provide a list of do’s and don’ts for ministers traveling overseas. Singaporeans tend to mimic their leaders’ behavior.

Khaw claims that unemployment is high in many parts of the world but Singapore is vastly different and actually needs to bring in foreign workers. Of course not a word was spoken on our means of achieving economic utopia i.e. opening the immigration floodgates which had fueled more demand. A large proportion of foreigners is meant to cater to this extra demand.

He continued in a more humble tone by attributing our success to “the experiences and lessons that others have taught us”. This more or less confirms the government’s hard of hearing – Singaporeans initially tried to provide feedback politely to the government, now we are shouting but still not being heard.

It is strange for a minister to travel 11396.14 km to learn from other countries when he could have just stayed put and learn more valuable lessons from fellow citizens.

Credit should be given where it is due. Minister Khaw was upfront for once in his entire speech and had admitted to making “mistakes along the way”.

“ A wise leader learns from the best and avoids making the other’s mistakes,” says Minister Khaw. But he should know that a wiser leader must listen to citizens and by doing so will avoid repeating his own mistakes.

There have been policy reversals such as the reduction of political salaries, especially the largely ceremonial President’s, which is a step forward. The government has also acknowledged its monumental failures in housing and public transportation but it is simply disingenuous to push forward with the same policies with some tweaks. Our foundation of quicksand requires a pause for rebuilding and that is what most Singaporeans are insisting, not asking.

Perhaps I have been too negative. Minister Khaw could actually draft a ‘Singapore – what not to do list’ to help shorten the learning curve of many cities. This will be our humble contribution to the world.

Phillip Ang

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