20141127 Risk-averse PAP should not lecture Singaporeans to quickly learn from failure

I refer to “Equip students with skills to create future tech: PM”.

PM Lee thinks Singapore can be transformed into a technology-enhanced “smart nation” with his pearls of wisdom ie having the ‘right’ education and a “can-do spirit of experimenting and risk-taking”.

It appears PM Lee is expecting our book-smart-take-no-risk civil servants to help achieve this transformation. He also exhorts citizens to have a “fail fast, learn quickly” mindset but at the same time, civil servants and PAP politicians have not been allowed to fail, so none has managed to learn any lesson quickly from their mistakes.

A risk-averse PAP lecturing Singaporeans on risk taking is akin to a non swimmer coaching our national swimmers. PAP is merely talking the talk without even attempting to create a conducive environment for failure to be accepted. It looks like PAP may be planning for more ministers/MPs to carpet-bomb PM’s message soon.

Just how risk-averse is the PAP? PAP actually takes very little/no risk.

When it comes to business, PAP is only interested in those which are ‘pow chiak’. Such businesses are held by Temasek Holdings, which include a 50% stake in SGX, 54% in SMRT, 52% in Singtel, 43% in SATS Ltd, etc. These businesses are profitable (almost) EVERY year.

Other ‘pow chiak’ businesses are in education eg pre school education run by PCF, transportation (Comfort and CityCab taxis), supermarkets (NTUC Fairprice), insurance (NTUC Income), etc. If PAP can fail in such businesses, then Singaporeans really don’t know what to say.

(PAP is so blinded by $$$ that NTUC Fairprice had even set up a mini-mart to compete with HDB convenience stores and neighbourhood shops in 2009.)

Nevertheless it is a caring and responsible government by taking care of us with reasonably priced funeral services by NTUC when we are dead.

PAP politicians and supporters are all risk-averse. Every potential MP joins the PAP because our GRC system allows them to ride on the coattails of ministers into parliament. Is anyone expected to believe Tin Pei Lin, Ang Wei Neng, Zagy, etc would be elected if they had contested in a SMC? In fact, most PAP MPs would not have thought of ‘serving’ if not for the GRC system.

High-ranking military personnel like Chan Chun Sing, Tan Chuan Jin, etc are willing to take the ‘risk’ of serving citizens only under the protection of PAP’s GRC system. Being elected was a certainty (not sure about next election) to becoming a minister and of course the huge salary increase for their ‘sacrifice’.

CPF members’ money contributed to the success of government-linked companies such as Singtel, POSB, DBS, etc. After they became profitable, the PAP took control of them through Temasek Holdings, a SWF with the highest TSR (17% since inception) in the universe.

All the profitable GLCs rightly belong to CPF members but are kept by PAP to generate revenue to supplement our budget. There are negligible risks in GLCs because of PAP’s vested interest in them. Again, PAP takes insignificant risks with GLCs while forcing CPF members to accept high risks/low returns with GIC investing our money in foreign assets.

During the 1970s and 1980s when the PAP built HDB flats as if there was no tomorrow, it borrowed cheaply from CPF members at perpetually low interest rates. It also allowed HDB flat buyers to borrow from other CPF members at, again, a low rate determined by its illogical formula. The PAP takes no risk but takes credit for building the most expensive public housing in the world.

Since the PAP has never taken any risk, PM Lee obviously knows nothing about risk taking. Bear in mind PM Lee’s career has been smooth sailing since his first taste of working life. Why is PM Lee lecturing citizens on risk taking and failure when he has experienced neither?

PM Lee should instead instill in his party members a “can-do spirit” by not sheltering them when failure is evident in order to learn from their colossal mistakes. Once our leaders start walking the talk, we will be convinced to follow the government’s advice.

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