Could the PAP achieve inclusiveness with the National Con-versation?

The video below is a speech by former President Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention and he raised one very important aspect of a leader that President Obama possess and that is the commitment to constructive cooperation and his ability to work with people who disagree with him.

 

“He(Obama) appointed Republican secretary of Defense, the Army and Transportation. He appointed the vice-president who ran against him in 2008. And he trusted that vice-president to oversees the successes to end the war in Iraq and the implementation of the Recovery Act… He appointed several members of his Cabinet even though they supported Hillary in the primary. Heck! He even appointed Hillary!”~Bill Clinton at 11:56 of video

 

In Singapore, we have never once heard from the PAP endorsing or even acknowledging the proposals raised by the Opposition. While some Singaporeans could write the Opposition off the book using the PAP-subscribed scare tactics about them being totally inexperience, readers must be reminded that the present PAP administration does not even acknowledge proposals from within their circle – and these people are no lightweights holding acting ministerial positions. One such heavyweight is Emeritus Professor Lim Chong Yah, who was the former National Wages Council Chairman and hence we can safely consider him a man in white as well. 6 months back, he proposed a shock wage therapy including a Minimum Wage to fix the dangerous widening income gap, the PAP were quick to fire it down dismissing his proposal as “radical”[Source], “unworkable”[Source] and “too risky”[Source]. Other former heavyweight associates of the establishment who contributed to the PAP in the past are today notably ignored like Tan Kin Lian, Tan Jee Say and Yeoh Lam Keong[Source].

 

Could the PAP government achieve inclusiveness and see beyond partisanship to work with truly qualified people who can bring Singapore forward? The National Conversation exercise is supposed to savage them some votes as a facade that the PAP has changed into a consultative government wanting inclusiveness. But we are well into our 3rd month since the national con job started, Singaporeans must ask themselves if any policies did change at all? Being really fair to the PAP, we are not expecting instantaneous results – housing price starts dropping, cost of living becoming cheaper, birth rate starts going up or etc. For discussion purpose we take the White Papers released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry:

Ministry of Trade and Industry: White Paper[Source] released
Conclusion: Singapore needs more foreign labor so wages can go up and economy can grow

But the counter-arguments have always been there and have been raised umpteen times by so many people. Here are some of the fallacies or simply excuses why the PAP doesn’t want to increase wages for you:

1) Wages don’t go up with slower growth
On the contrary despite a slower GDP growth of 4.9% in 2011 as compared to 14.8% GDP growth in 2010, the Ministry of Manpower reports a higher wages [Source]. Economy growth simply doesn’t correlate with growth in wages, because otherwise the salaries of the bottom 20% income earners would not have seen their salaries stagnated for the past decade[Source].
2) Increasing wages drives down Singapore’s competitiveness and result in slower growth
This is a rat race to the bottom, being cheapest as the winner and unless our workers can survive on $3 a day, we can never beat China. In fact, an economist from UOB bank said[Source]:
“Deviation between Unit Labour costs (ULCs) and Unit Business costs (UBCs) of manufacturing since 2009 suggests that the increase in UBCs was not due to a tighter labour market, but higher industrial property prices seen in recent years.”

 

 

We all know it is the PAP who controls the land prices and kept the cost of building a HDB divine secret(they are very tight-lipped over this because there are unrefuted calculations that the price of a 4 room BTO flat merely cost $120,602[Source]). Commercial rentals are largely controlled by land costs, so when you ask why is the cost of living so high today, ask how much rental are the new business owners paying and they will tell you to ask the PAP why the physical building costs so much in the first place.

 

The 2 above arguments about wages is just one example. There are many more on the falling birth rate, the housing prices, the inflation, the CPF, the NS, the public transport, the ERP/COE, the election procedures, the ISA, the judiciary and etc. These constructive alternatives are all widely circulated in public and for the record: they are not findings from the self-proclaimed think-tanks of the PAP machineries like the Institute of Policy Studies or the NUS/NTU/SMU research instituitions.  It is apparent having these “think-tanks” filled with academias do not complement the PAP’s strategy and helps in the overall comprehensiveness of a national policy. Have the PAP been more inclusive and accepting of people who disagree with them, they stand a very good chance to redeem a lot more lost votes than a last minute apology could have done. They could have made the right patches to outdated policies, or simply introduce sweeping changes that could bring policies more helpful and relevant to the challenges Singaporeans are facing today.

We look at the present batch of young ministers coming in, notably the trio newbies: Tan Chuan Jin, Chan Chun Sing and Lawrence Wong. They are just old wine in new bottles and even though their approach are different, their same old authoritarian elitist and the-PAP-knows-it-all style is still the same. They recognize that the delivery of the PAP policies were wrong at least, they believe Singaporeans should be involved in a 2 way communication. But they don’t believe anyone, other than the PAP themselves, have the solutions. But the question is are they better?
No of course, in fact their incompetence sticks out like a sore thumb. The new acting ministers are not abiding by the social contract Singaporeans and the PAP have in the first place. For those of you who do not know the social contract, that is creature comforts for freedom – the older generations of Singaporeans traded their freedom for progress(and we are talking about real progress in take home wages and affordability). Ignorance was bliss and the PAP government can have their ways so long the progress were inclusive, or so the older generations of Singaporeans thought. Not until today when they started seeing exclusive growth that put them out of jobs and have them working into their twilight years. The social contract has somehow expired today, but the new ministers could only understand half of this social contract – the half that the PAP makes all the rules – which they are now seen bulldozing their policies.

 

The other half of the social contract they dont understand, is that people must see real growth. Not GDP numbers, not fancy political sales talk like $1000 paycheck sufficient for HDB or the “capital gain” bullshit pricing out young couples for HDB flats. Simply: these new ministers do not have constructive concrete strategies to improve the peoples’ lives. Singaporeans need a decent house at the right price, a population at the right size, a public transport at the right efficiency, a workforce at the right proportion and most important of all an inclusive growth at the right sacrifices. Singaporeans are willing to work hard, as we have always been, but in the recent years we have seen too many people working too hard for little results. Then again, these bread-and-butter issues did not happen last year or the year before, they were recurring unsolved issues left by their predecessors for nearly a decade today. The new scholar ministers have instead worked from the other end of the problem, taking the falling birth rate and the overcrowding issue for examples:  Instead of working out the concerns of Singaporeans’ parents and improving the purchasing power of Singaporeans, they believe what we need is more Baby Bonus. Instead of reducing the number of foreigners in Singapore, they are asking people not to take public transport at the peak hours and increasing ERP and COE prices sky high to decrease the number of car ownership in Singapore.  What the PAP and Singapore need are not acting ministers who have no audacity and the flame inside to improve the peoples’ lives, we need courageous men who have a good grasp on ground sentiments and have the moral courage to deliver the right action plan even though it disagrees with the Prime Minister’s direction like Tan Kin Lian, Lim Chong Yah, Tan Jee Say and Yeoh Lam Keong did. We need people who are not yes-men, and we need a government who is able to collaborate with the right qualified person who might be seen opposing for the sake of opposing at times.

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