Monday, December 17, 2007

Take risk to remove climate of fear, PAP

Catherine Lim brought out a good point in the Reuters’ interview “Climate of Fear hurts Singapore”:

"They seem to have drawn a line when it comes to opening up politically, and that to me is dangerous,"

She had pleaded for a “political opening up” in a recent letter which was rejected by the press. I think PAP do need to understand that the art of taking risk is not only an integral part of economic success, it is also part and parcel of social progress.

Yes, our economy seems to be in good hands. Economic growth seems healthy with GDP constantly at 6% and above annually. Although we may have not fared well in our Shin Corp and Barclay investments, we still have a massive amount of reserves. Our investment arms Temasek Holdings and GIC are continuously expanding into regional and international markets and have reportedly obtained healthy returns of 18% and 8.2% respectively. We have showed to the world and convinced them Singapore’s economic prowess is something which cannot be underestimated. All these can only be achieved through a prudent system of risk management.

But why can’t the PAP allow more risk in its management of people? I understand all ruling parties in the world want to control its people and remain in power forever but PAP’s use of a subtle form of fear tactics to control is irking me and many other Singaporeans: no PAP votes means no HDB upgrading; no good and well-paid government, your mothers and daughters will become maids in other countries etc.

We are often so afraid of incurring the government’s wrath that we have this fixed mentality that going against the government is deadly wrong and toeing the line is a sure way of survival. Of course, it’s nothing compared with what rogue regimes have done: massacres and killings to silence critics.

However, can this continue to work in the future? I doubt so. As what Catherine Lim has said, it stifles creativity with all the invisible “Out-of-bounds markers” and we are losing many talents who seek better lives in freer societies. The government is losing millions of taxpayers’ money over the years nurturing talents who decide to call it a day because they dislike living under this constant climate of fear. I think more people are expected to do so when our society becomes more affluent. So if the PAP government really wants to retain talents, not just in civil service but also in Singapore as a whole, it has to first show to its people that it indeed is a good government and not a “control freak”.

We must agree that PAP is an efficient government. But it needs “upgrading” to learn to drop the use of fear tactics to rule. When that day comes, I will draw a big fat cross neatly on my voting paper beside the lightning logo with pride.

5 comments:

Alan Wong said...

I fully agree with Catherine's as well as your sentiments.

Before that day comes, my big fat cross will be marked beside any opposition logo that comes along, no matter how mediocre the opposition party may be perceived to be.

Anonymous said...

No FEAR, No HERE.

Anonymous said...

There is a degree of illogicality in your blogs.

First, you acknowledge that the PAP brought economic success. As far as the PAP is concerned, the success is because of it's policy of "climate of fear". The fact that you are acknowledging the success brought by PAP would indirectly agree with its policy. So why should the PAP change a "wining" formula.

Secondly, PAP is a political party and a governing one. Like all political parties, they want to win, by fair or foul means. Why should the PAP take risks, when you and many Singaporean clearly believe in it's wining formula, and loose it all? It's like asking Turkey to vote for Christmas. People need to get real on this point.

It is not the job of the PAP to change policy if they so desire, it is the electorate or the citizen of the country to force change, if so desired. PAP does not own the country whereby the citizens have to beg it for change, unless of course people prefer to be slaves.

James Chia said...

Thank you for all the comments.

Yes. I agree economic success in Singapore is largely due to the efficient management by the PAP government(we should not forget the effort put in by the civil servants) and I believe many Singaporeans are giving them due credits for it. But I don't think I mention economic success is due to the "climate of fear". I don't think many Singaporeans are happy with the climate of fear that is evident in our society.

Do you agree that many people don't dare to vote against PAP because they are fearful of the party?

Anonymous said...

James, you wrote:

Yes. I agree economic success in Singapore is largely due to the efficient management by the PAP government(we should not forget the effort put in by the civil servants) and I believe many Singaporeans are giving them due credits for it. But I don't think I mention economic success is due to the "climate of fear". I don't think many Singaporeans are happy with the climate of fear that is evident in our society.

I think you have misread what anonymous (December 17, 2007 7:16PM) have said.

What he is saying is that as far as PAP -- the party said, NOT you said -- is concerned, the fact that Singapore is or perceived to be a "success" is due to the so called "climate of fear". I repeat again, this is likely to be what the PAP think, even if you do not think so.

The evidence to suggest that the PAP would be incline to the "climate of fear" theory, is clearly by the fact that people such as you, many Singaporeans and even some foreign commentators are prepared to so praise them accordingly. Since few are prepared to question whether the "success" of Singapore is really sustainable "success" or "flash-in-the-pan success", it would only encourage the PAP's believe that their policy of "climate of fear" is a wining formula. In which case, why should a political party, which PAP is one, want to risk loosing by changing formula?

On the point about "efficient" management, which you and many other commentators often raise, I wonder if there is a understanding of what is meant by the term "efficient"?

By most definitions that I understand, efficient means how much cost one is prepared to pay in order to gain something. Question: what is your definition of efficient?

The trick is defining cost. As far as the PAP is concern, things like "lack of freedom of speech", "compliant citizen", "low paid workers", "liberal immigration", "dependency on MNCs for growth", "over accumulation of reserved", etc are not cost. So if these are factored out of the equation then one could argue that we have an efficient economy?

I am sure many Singaporean would agree with the PAP about the things I have listed as not considered to be cost and readily swallow the notion of an "efficient" economy. In fact the PAP readily package these items as "competitiveness" rather than cost. Again I am sure many commentators will take that point.

In order for the PAP to maintain these "competitiveness", it needs to establish a climate of fear -- i.e. "making people fearful that MNCs will leave", "freedom of speech == chaos", etc. So if this is the anchor of the PAP policy do you honestly expect them to give it up? Also if people are so ready to buy that logic -- even in the name of so-call giving "due credit" -- why should PAP think otherwise?

As for effort put in my civil servants, the question for you is how does civil servants contribute to the economy? You need to be clear on this respects not all civil servants are really useful for the economy, no matter how expeditiously they are at processing permits. Remember permits don't add value to the economy. The prime function of permits are to add friction to wheel of economy, some maybe for good reason others simply to imped entrepreneurship.

For example, is having a MDA that spend time censoring movies really helpful for the economy? Isn't it impeding the growth of a movie making industry?

Or how about a less controversial point, URA spending all the effort to frustrate the meals on wheel hard-working entrepreneur. I am sure the URA people must be working very hard by ultimately have they done "good" for the economy? you go figure?

On your point:

Do you agree that many people don't dare to vote against PAP because they are fearful of the party?

The answer to this can be clearly seen by the facts on the ground, so to speak. Just look at elections after elections, despite the fact that the PAP have already won the majority of the vote and able to form the government, people still unwilling to vote the oppositions. Oh then I heard again the excuse, oh the opposition is "not credible". If the voters are so concern about wanting to send a message, not bring down the PAP, it could have done so by votes. Or why is it so call credible people don't join the opposition to check the government or even if in PAP make strong objection when needed. Did it happen, no. Could it be that these people works for the government and fear for loosing their jobs? Climate of fear perhaps?

I rest my case.