Top 10 Misconceptions about Singapore Politics: Part II

#5 Parliament debates policies

I don’t think our Parliament “debates” anything.

What’s a debate? It’s establishing the way forward after both sides of an argument are presented, allowing the listeners to make up their own minds after hearing both sides, and then voting to effect their choices…

What happens today in Parliament is that Ministers go thru their rehearsed speeches, while MP’s make pleas for their pet causes.

Everybody makes motherhood statements.

No Ministry gets its budget cut during the Budget “debate”.

No Bill is voted down.

Ministers “rebut” whatever MP’s (PAP or Opposition) say and it’s headline news.

No PAP Minister has ever had to back down on anything.

No PAP Minister has ever had to change his position as a result of any action by Parliament.

How can what happens in our Parliament ever pass for a debate?

#4 PAP is a “ruling” party.

Funny, we don’t hear about the “ruling” Republican party, or the “ruling” Labour party or the “ruling” Socialist Democrats, etc.

Only in this region do we hear about the “ruling” PAP, the “ruling” Umno, the “ruling” Golkar, etc.

As if it was these parties’ birthright to rule…..

Singaporeans have been so completely brainwashed by the Straits Times that they see nothing wrong with the term “the ruling PAP party”… And if you notice hard, the Straits Times also writes as if the Govt is the PAP.

Which course, the PAP is more than happy to encourage as a subliminal message.

Lets get it straight. PAP is now in power, so they are in Govt. But if you keep referring to them as the “ruling PAP party”, then you have automatically created a mental block for yourself.

Better to refer to them as the party in power rather than a ruling party. The former implies one can be out of power; the latter implies that “ruling” is an inalienable quality of the party.

No party in the world has such a birthright. At least, not in a real democracy.

#3 Everbody else is an “opposition” party

This is incorrect because technically, one can only be in Opposition if one holds seats in Parliament but does not form the Govt.

Thus today (2010), only WP and SDA can qualify as “opposition” parties– because they actually have seats in Parliament and can thus “oppose” the govt in Parliament and move a vote of no-confidence against the Govt.

Other parties can’t even correctly refer to themselves as “opposition” parties, because they’re not even in Parliament. They can really only call themselves “political parties”.

But more important than this technical distinction, non-PAP politicians who label themselves and their parties as “opposition” have, knowingly or unknowingly, accepted their lot in life as second-class parties who will never form the govt.

I wrote the following in 2009:

“Down with the media that labels X as an “Opposition” party and Y as an “Opposition” ward! 30 years of brainwashing have done their magic– many here actually think these terms are correct! Now that’s Uniquely Singapore!

“Woe to the voters who voted “Opposition”. Brave and long-suffering they may be, but in true democracies one votes for a party based on its platform and its stand on issues and not for its “Opposition” label. Naturally one hopes that one’s vote will result in desired changes, which can happen only if one’s chosen party forms the govt. Voting for X to spite Y is irrational. Again, Uniquely Singapore.

“Out with our intrepid but defeatist politicians who see themselves only as “Opposition” MP’s! When will they realise that such talk and thoughts create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? You can bet the Tories don’t regard themselves as an “Opposition” Party! Hell, even the Greens don’t!”

The PAP-controlled media of course never fails to call every other party an “opposition” party and every other politician an “opposition” politician. It’s now so ingrained in Singaporeans’ mindsets that even the parties and politicians refer to themselves as such.

In psychology, such labelling creates self-fulfilling prophecies and are subconscious blocks to achievement of a person’s true goals. In other words, if you keep calling a child “stupid”, he starts to think of himself as stupid and in the end, he doesn’t even bother to try because he thinks any success is a fluke while any failure is justified by his stupidity.

That’s why motivational speakers try to have their students break out from such mental traps.

So it is with our local politicians who see themselves as “opposition” politicians. They are doomed to stay in opposition until they can break out of the Matrix.

My message to local non-PAP politicians is simple: You are equal to the PAP in all respects before the law and under the Constitution. You have an equal right and an equal opportunity to rule Singapore.

Stop referring to yourself as “opposition” unless it’s your intention to spend the rest of your political life in the wilderness.

#2 Millionaire ministers are worth it

Does anyone seriously believe that our ministers are worth millions annually– which excludes their perks (official cars, residences, etc), bonuses and lifelong pensions that could double the total package, depending on how long the Minister serves in office and how long he lives after leaving office.

Lets try to answer this question rationally, ie from the market perspective.

From a purely market perspective, the PAP has pegged Ministers’ salaries against the top six earners in the various professions: lawyers, doctors, architects, etc. How valid is this peg?

For Ministers with professional skills, the peg seems defensible. In other words, if Dr Vivian Balakrishnan were out there in private practice, would he earn as much as a top doctor? That’s a valid comparison, and it’s easy to answer the question– just ask Dr Vivian to produce his tax returns prior to entering politics.

But the PAP has not produced any such tax returns as evidence.

For Ministers who are generalist managers, the peg is untenable. In other words, why should Mah Bow Tan’s pay be pegged to lawyers, doctors or accountants? How can we accept that he would be able to command the same kind of pay if he were to work in the private sector?

The PAP has not and cannot produce such evidence.

What is clear though is that the Civil service uses pay as a means of attracting talent, the argument being that if they don’t, only monkeys will work for the Civil Service. Hence, with perm secs making almost as much as their private sector contemporaries, it’s inconceivable and impossible for Ministers to earn less than their minions. Thus the need to peg Ministers’ salaries to the private sector as well.

However, it is also clear is that the PAP govt does not subject Ministers to the same risks or the same accountability as private sector leaders their pay are pegged to.

Companies fire their CEO’s when they don’t meet earnings expectations, or when they make losses. But as far as I know, no Minister suffered a pay cut, much less got fired, when Temasek or GIC made losses, or when Singapore went into recession.

Boards also fire CEO’s who made mistakes. But as far as I know, no Minister resigned to take accountability when Mas Selamat, the most important terrorist in custody, escaped.

If Ministers do not have any accountability for losses or mistakes, how can they justify their salaries, perks and pensions and use the private sector as a benchmark?


#1 Singapore will be ruined if someone else other than the PAP is in power.

So said our illustrious “MM”, who claimed he will even rise from the grave to prevent this– but how can anyone seriously believe this?

For the sake of rational discourse, lets examine the above assertion using logic, not emotion.

The assertion logically rests on three pillars, namely

A. That the PAP has the best and brightest people around;

B. That Singapore is very fragile and cannot withstand even one term of a less than perfect government; and

C.That if anyone else other than the PAP is in power, foreign investors will start to lose confidence in Singapore, pull out their investments and the economy will go kaput.

A. cannot logically be true. Logically speaking, there must be more smart people outside the party than inside. The problem, of course, is that smart people are smart enough to realise that opposing the PAP doesn’t pay, thus they stay away from politics.

But if we remove this, if we allow political freedom and remove the fear, there would be no reason to believe that PAP would have the best and brightest politicians.

B. may have been true 50 years ago, when Singapore was dirt-poor. But with all our foreign reserves now, and with an Elected President ensuring that no Govt can tap on reserves accumulated by a previous Govt without his consent, with all our safeguards, how can this still be true?

If there is a free press to ensure a transparency, if there is a strong Parliament that can move a vote of no confidence if it finds the govt wanting, there is no logical reason to believe a bad Govt can ruin the country.

Of course, mistakes can be made– even the PAP govt has made plenty of mistakes– but to conclude that no one else other than the PAP can govern the country successfully is not supported by logic.

C. is logically presumptuous. While foreign investors value political stability, they do not really care who is the PM or which party is in power as long as investment conditions remain favourable.

Foreign investors do not pull out the moment there’s a change of govt– if so the US, UK, Germany, Australia, etc. would all have seen foreign investor flight.

The fact is that these countries have had multiple changes of govt without losing foreign investment.

The PAP thus has no basis to assert that any other party would scare off foreign investors without first examining their platform and manifesto.

And even if a party were elected with a platform of reducing foreign investment, if people still elect them, it means that the people agree with their platform, and the PAP must respect the will of the people.

Right or wrong is for the people to decide at the ballot box, and just because it’s different from the PAP’s beliefs does not make it wrong by default. There could be many reasons why a party might want to reduce foreign investments as part of its platform. Perhaps it wants to raise Singaporean companies, for instance, ie develop indigenous entrepreneurs.

In summary, logic shows clearly that the PAP’s ludicrous assertion cannot stand. This is the greatest misconception of all in Singapore politics.


About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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One Response to Top 10 Misconceptions about Singapore Politics: Part II

  1. Pingback: The 100: Top 10 Political Writings | Political Writings

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