4G leaders must sincerely listen to the people and make changes to avoid similar fate to BN: Ex-PAP MP

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Former PAP Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Mr Inderjit Singh, has opined that the fourth-generation leaders of the country must sincerely listen to and try to understand what Singaporeans are tired of in order to solidify the people’s trust in them.

Drawing lessons from the historic Malaysia General Election that unfolded yesterday – in which the opposition snagged a stunning majority in what became the nation’s first transition of power in the past 61 years – Mr Singh seemed to imply that the 4G leaders need to do this to avoid a fate like the one Barisan National suffered last night, where he felt people got tired of issues and “spoke at the elections through their votes.”

This is not the first time that Mr Singh has shared his opinions on hot button topics in Singapore, since he retired from politics in 2015 after serving the Kebun Baru ward within Ang Mo Kio GRC for 19 years.

Among other issues, Mr Singh lent his voice to the Oxley saga in early June last year, opining that for Singapore to move on “everyone must give up something.” He also weighed in on the reserved presidential election last year and boldly said, “A sitting MP resigning from office to contest Presidential Election may go against spirit of Office as intended by Lee Kuan Yew.”

Read his latest reflection, touching on points made in the recent President’s Address and yesterday’s general election across the Causeway:

Two key events took place this week. First, President Halimah Yacob delivered her address at the opening of the 2nd…

Posted by Inderjit Singh on Wednesday, 9 May 2018

In case you cannot read the post above:

Two key events took place this week. First, President Halimah Yacob delivered her address at the opening of the 2nd session of the 13th Singapore Parliament spelling the vision and plans for the PAPs 4G leadership. The second was the historical defeat of the ruling Barisan National government who lost power after continuously holding on to power for 61 years, since the Malaysian Independence. I am sharing what we can learn from these significant events. My article below;

Key Messages of The President’s Address to Parliament

Introduction

The President recently delivered her address at the opening of the 2nd session of the 13th Parliament of Singapore. The President’s address is effectively a message from the government on their plans for Singapore. Which is why this year, and this address, is particularly important because for the first time, the strategy for the future of Singapore has been mainly formulated by the 4G leaders who will soon take charge of the government. Next week in Parliament we will be hearing from the 4G leaders about their vision and plans and from the MPs who should debate on what the government should be doing for the good of their voters – their fellow Singaporeans. I am looking forward to hearing from the 4G leaders and hope they will be able to inspire Singaporeans to be confident about Singapore’s future. Interestingly, the President highlighted a few key points that I feel were very important messages for the 4G leadership and for all MPs to reflect upon and understand.

It is also useful for us to reflect on the Malaysia election results that came in this morning and hopefully draw lessons that our MPS and 4G leaders will address during next week’s debate on the President’s Address. Malaysians created history today- for the 1st time in history after 61 years a new government will be formed. The ruling BN not only got ousted but lost convincingly. The people exercised their right to change government as they got tired of kleptocracy and exercised their democratic rights. Well done Malaysians, very few expected the BN to lose.

Lessons Learnt from the Malaysia Elections

So, what happened in Malaysia yesterday and how is it relevant to Singapore? There are three lessons that interestingly were also signalled by President Halimah Yacob’s address to parliament.

1. The ruling elite lost touch with ground and did not listen to people.

1MDB was a serious issue but the people in power used all tools at their disposal to hide the truth instead of convincingly proving innocence. Cost of living was a serious issue but the leaders who were rich did not feel it and did not listen to the ground to understand the true situation. Malaysians were concerned about the overinvestment by foreigners in their country, as they felt that their country was being “sold” to the foreigners, but the government pressed on to allow more and more investments. Sabah is a surprise. Opposition listened and understood what Malaysians were most concerned about and promised changes.

2. Lack of Bold Changes – What worked in the past does not always work today or in the future.

The incumbent BN government that ruled Malaysia for 61 years continued to depend on old policies, old structures and old politics to run the country and in how they conducted their politics. Bold changes did not happen for a long time. The government did nothing new.

While in early years, infrastructure development was necessary, this remained the government’s main focus – an irrelevant 50-year-old strategy, again fuelled by foreign investment. This led to unnecessary projects like housing that resulted in empty buildings. BN used old tactics and continued the age-old race-based politics. Opposition created a multi-racial alliance and the man responsible for much of the old strategy (Dr Mahathir) made a bold change of joining his past foes to create that multi-racial coalition, promising a return to firm rule of law. Here, I must single out Dr. Mahathir. Many credit him for being an astute politician and rightly so. But more importantly, it is amazing that he has the vision and an open-mind to recognize that many of the old politics that he introduced in his era are irrelevant and that a new approach and new politics is needed. And implement. It is said that it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. But here, a 92-year old has learnt it, adapted and taught us all the value of being bold and innovative. Much for all of us to learn.

Moreover, BN again reverted to the old election tactic of handouts and dangling carrots like public holidays and tax exemptions. This showed that they were out of touch with the majority millennial voters who wanted accountability and transparency more than anything, as well as bringing Malaysians back to the core and fore.

3. Right to lead and form govt is not an inherited right.

UMNO took it for granted that they had the inherited right to rule and became complacent taking their voters for granted. The political elites took care of themselves and assumed they will always have the right to rule. They forgot that in a democracy people have the right to choose who leads them and the political leaders need to earn the right to lead. The 92-year-old Dr Mahatir made a stunning comeback – he had a good past track record, he saw things going wrong in his country and worked hard to win a second chance to lead the country. After 61 years, DAP leader Lim Kiat Siang finally will be part of government and not the opposition and he earned that right as did Puan Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, whose family suffered, and she fought hard to earn the right to most likely become Malaysia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister.

So, bottom line is that the BN did not change so the people changed government.

The Singapore President’s Address – The 3 key messages that stood out

President Halimah Yacob shared the government’s agenda in parliament earlier this week, spelling it out for the coming years. The 4G leaders will take the responsibility of implementing the agenda. I think the outcome of the Malaysian elections are timely and the 4G leaders should make the best out of it by learning key lessons so that they can do a good job and what is right to lead Singapore to a brighter future.

1. Key Message 1 : Listen to views of feelings of Singaporeans (to understand them better).

This I think is the most important message which the 4G leaders must internalize and sincerely practice. The Pioneer generation of leaders understood their ground very well and came out with the right policies that transformed Singapore from 3rd World to 1st World in 1 generation. Had they not understood Singaporeans, what their aspirations were and what they wanted for the future, Singapore may have gone the way of many countries that gained independence around the time Singapore did but are today worst off that before they became independent.

Interestingly, DPM Tharman SHANMUGARATNAM made a Facebook posting on the same night of the President’s Address that alluded to the importance of this message and this is what he posted;

“There were several themes in the President’s Address this evening. But this on the 4G leadership was the most important.” DPM Tharman was referring to the part of the President speech which called upon the political leaders to listen to views and feeling of Singaporeans.

He clearly pointed this out as the most important message. Why? DPM Tharman is one leader who has a very good feel of the ground and not many are like him. He has also been able to, in the past, make many bold changes in Education and in how the economy should be structured. He could do so because he listened and understood Singaporeans.

Currently, over the recent past, more and more Singaporeans are feeling uncomfortable about some issues affecting them. It is important that the government listens and understands them. Some say that policies don’t reflect reality on the ground. Some examples are;

a. The Economy – the key messages from government are that our economy is doing very well but many companies, especially SMEs don’t feel that good about it. I wrote about the Dual economy effect where the MNCs and GLCs are experiencing different growth and support compared to SMEs who are struggling.

b. The Future of jobs – are we ready for the Future Economy?

c. Income inequality – this is a global phenomenon, but some feel the government is not addressing this adequately – I am glad Minister Ong Ye Kung raised this issue recently.

d. The cost of living, the ability of our young to afford a house in the future and the quality of life in Singapore. These are serious worries Singaporean have.

2. Key Message 2 : Be Bold enough to make changes (not just tweak things)

If the CFE is a reflection of level of a bold plan for the Future Economy of Singapore, then I feel that the 4G leaders have not displayed boldness. Many of the ideas and plans were tweaks of past ideas and plans. It was difficult to spot and exciting vision for the future of Singapore and how we will get there.

A bold plan for the Future of the Economy would have been to turn things completely around and make SMEs and local companies the core contributors of our future economy. Currently I don’t see any change in the government’s thinking about how we will be driving Singapore’s economy. We are still relying on the MNC/GLC model of the past in most economic policies. A fundamental change in mindset of govt needed for this to happen. Then all policies will fall in place to make real changes happen.

Recently I attended an event where a 4G minister made a speech about the government’s plan and what the government will do to support future economy of Singapore. He shared three things the government will do;

a. The government will build the right Infrastructure quoting some of the same development plans we have been hearing for a few years now.

b. Provide Singaporeans with Education to prepare future generations to fit into the future economy.

c. Build system based on meritocracy and a corrupt free govt.

Frankly, while these three may be important, they did not really inspire. In fact, reflecting on the message, I realize we have heard the same from our founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew some 50 years ago. I would have hoped to hear something new or at least tell us how differently we will be doing things for these 3 thrusts be to inspire confidence for our future. What worked in the past may not necessarily work in future. My advice to the 4G leadership is : Be bold and make bold changes.

The Late Lee Kuan Yew in an article published on Asiaone on 21st Jan 2011, used the Japan example of how the PAP govt might get voted out one day. He was quoted to say:

“Mr Lee referred to the Liberal Party in Japan as an example. The party held power from 1955 to 2009, with an 11-month interruption from 1993 to 1994. He said that the downfall of the Japanese party was partly because it “carried on with old ideas”.

So, this is a key message that old ways may not work anymore, look for new bold ideas.

3. Key Message 3 : Trust between people and leaders cannot be Inherited by the next generation.

In the same token, the future leaders also cannot feel that have inherited the right to lead Singapore just because they have been put in place by virtue of the past government’s ability to put them in their current positions. They must inspire next generation about their future. They must show Singaporeans, especially our young that there is hope and many opportunities for them in the Future Singapore. We are going to face rapid disruption in the years ahead – many reports quote that 50% jobs as we know today will be gone by the year 2030. Can the government and our 4G leaders do the right things and implement the right and bold changes needed to keep all Singapore employed and have a good quality of life in the years to come. This is my hope for the current 4G PAP leadership and I think they can do it if they listen well and make bold changes and be willing to slaughter ‘sacred cows’.

Perhaps 4G leaders may want to create a vision equivalent to the ‘Swiss standard of living’ again where Singaporeans can aim for a vision of meaningful employment with respectable wages and where there is a balanced lifestyle where we all work hard but also have time, space and resources to enjoy Singapore. And when the 4G leaders make it happen, they would have won the trust of Singaporeans and PAP would have earned the right to lead Singapore many more years to come.

Conclusion

From what I read from reports, corruption and kleptocracy plagued Malaysia politics for some time now. People got tired of this and spoke at the elections through their votes.

We are fortunate that Singapore does not face these same issues. But this does not mean Singapore has no other problems of our own. For the PAP’s 4G leaders to continue to lead Singapore, they must identify these problems and they must understand what are Singaporeans getting tired of. Leaders can identify what these issues are only by listening sincerely. Once they understand the issues, the leaders must be bold enough to make changes even these are fundamental mindset changes never done before in Singapore. When these changes take effect and improve the lives of all Singaporean, only then can our future political leaders earn the right to lead and solidify the trust Singaporeans have in them. 

Our 4G must give birth to a new social compact among govt, the political leaders and the population where everyone can be happy while working hard to entrench a home in Singapore for future generations as we aim for SG100. We thank the Pioneer generation for making Singapore what she is today. But that what the past leaders did for Singapore. What are the future leaders now doing to earn their right to lead Singapore? I hope we will hear more if this from the 4G leaders during the debate on President’s address and hope they can paint a new vision and share their strategy that can inspire Singaporeans to be confident of our future.

143 COMMENTS

  1. Sifu teach student with past experiences which is invalid currently.
    Student will listen to Sifu but can’t adjust to current situation not bearing in mind the accumulated current.
    Cronies misinformed student and keep on yes sir yes sir but actually should be no sir no sir. Student never visit school after graduation but later found the school is about to collapse due to no contact.

    • Yes, Wilson.
      But, the politicians of democratic first world nations will NOT escape scrutiny and severe punishments if caught out for being corrupt. In SINGAPORE we have AIM, the PA lapses, extortionate amounts paid for materials and services by the government but all NOT investigated. This is UNACCEPTABLE! LHL must be made to answer for any suspicious wrongdoing. And, the useless and feeble-minded Minister Shanmugam demoted to the backbench. He is a disgrace! In fact, this mob of PAP ministers are LIABILITIES!

  2. Our problem Next increase GST is a big problem affected all family low income . Also retirement money keep delay , Malaysia people feel GST stress new government promised remove it , at lease Malaysia people have a guard to change . Ready respect them people power

  3. It’s like trying to ask a dog not to poop. IF they would listen to the ground sentiment, long ago we would have seen many changes for the better, but no, till today, everything is getting from bad to worst. Almost everybody is in a dilemma of some kind. Have they ever consider its own citizens as citizens? More likely licking the boots of fts and supporting them for their own gain. Kicking them out is the only choice the people have, nothing less.

  4. What BS is that?
    We have a fake Malay Elected President! LHL is head of CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau), Chairman of People’s Association, head of elections department and virtually control our hard earned savings, the CPF. And, there’s more!
    This is a MASSIVE CONFLICT OF INTEREST! And, don’t get me started on Ho Ching! My point: Transparency and Accountability are of utmost importance but there is NONE! The bribery scandal of Keppel Offshore Marine for which KOM was fined US$422 million is just a passing event! Chairman Lee Boon Yang should be investigated and if found guilty sacked or even charged in court. NOTHING done. Why???

  5. They listen to us? Our opinions matters or affects their decisions? Wahhh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…. Wait let me take a breath….ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… There is more hope for peace in the middle east than for that to happen. DON’T BE FOOLED! VOTE THEM OUT!

  6. Symptoms not the same but problems are the same:

    1. The politicians get fat themselves while leaving the people scaps.
    2. They care for themselves more than genuinely caring for the people.
    3. They play the politics and the people thinking the people are idiots.

  7. If Dr TCB wish to come out of retirement to lead the opposition, He will have my wholehearted support. We need a strong unifying force to Gartner our fragmented opposition parties who are just happy to win a few seats in Parliament. We need a change of government to get back to ” The Rule OF Law”. We cannot and must not allow this present government to continued to hijack our constitution to solidified their control over us. I call into question the need to pay millions to a Selected Ceremonial President with no real powers to safeguard our NR. It’s purely to rubber stamp and legitimize unlawful actions and changes to our laws and constitution. I call into question the need for transparency on how our NR are managed, how much we gain/lost over the last 10years. How much were its operating cost, management fees, Directors fees, paid to who and how much. We also need to catalogue our assets as suggested by our late President Ong. In this day and age of computerisation, i am dumbfounded by the government actions thst it would take some 53 man years to catalogue. Any idiots can show this government thst it can be done in a fraction of the absurb amount of time by proposed by million’s dollar paid Paper Generals. I am not a Scholar, neither am I stupid. And i can show you how it can be done in a fraction of the time proposed.

    So please Dr Tan, think seriously about vomingnout of retirement. I sm 68, grateful to the many good things LKY and his old team have done for Singapore. I may not always agree with all of LKY’s action but he did more good than harm. The same cannot be said about these bunch of Ungrateful Paper Generals and Scholars. They are here because of our taxpayer money sending them for scholarships and putting non fast tracks with million dollars salaries. Instead of paying back to society and Singapore, they bond themselves into ” elitist group.” Unlike LKY and old guards, they are not here to serve Singaporeans but themselves. Like LHY and LWL, try to tell us how the abuse of power to thwart a court sanction probate of LKY’s Will. I hate this government for not respecting our founding father’s last Will and Testimont. I cannot and will not buy the augument of keeping it for the benefit our next generation. Singapore is LKY’s legacy. How much more higher status can anyone get. Singapore is LKY’s achievements but i have so much fear looking at the present leaders and their capabilities or lack off and expect Singapore to be any better. Monuments can easily be built, so can they be easily torn down. Singapore is full of monuments but is lacking in soul and compassion. Ministers pad thrmselves on the back all the times instead of asking where have we gone wrong. We are intolerant of contrarians view. I am reminded of the book “Animal Farm” one of our literature book in Secondary 1. All animals were born equal, but soon after the pigs engineered a takeover of the farm with the support of all the other animals, the Pigs became the ruling class and over time subvert the farm and started to demand more benefits since they have to manage as they are more intelligent……..in the end some animals are more equal than others. Does thst sounds familiar, my fellow Singaporeans?

    Dr Tan please come back and between you and Lim Tean’s People’s voice party, i am sure many loyal Singaporeans like myself will come out of retirement to help gain back control of SINGAPORE

  8. They won’t learn because they are running Singapore like a company so every Managers ( ministers ) must earn profit as much as possible from Singaporeans so one of them will promote to General Manager if they squeeze the most out of Singaporeans. Than we will SHOUT OUT AND BURST INTO FLAME. HAVE A CHANGE.Otherwise the road is still very long for our childrens and our childrens and grand childrens and they will suffer more n more.

  9. 4G leaders are out of touch especially The Gen . They are not fit to be PM period. Only wise to get DPM Tharman to take charge till we find a credible candidates from the private sector not Gen again. Keeping doing the same and expect a different result . Sigh.

  10. When have they ever asked our opinions and heed our concerns?
    – 2 Casinos
    – 5 Airports
    – MCE
    – Ridiculous Rubbish Bin Centre
    – COE
    – CPF Retirement Witdrawl Age
    – Presidential Election has to be other race and not Chinese
    – Temasek Holdings investments and repeated losses
    – GST Hike
    – Fare Hike
    – Petrol Hike
    When? When? When have they ever asked or care about our opinions?

  11. They will nvr listen. After what happened to BN…i doubt they will ever learn anything. And just like BN…they promise everything but will do otherwise in the next few years. Im tired and worry about what my son future will hold. I want changes…..I want different colours…

  12. Our problem is having ministers introducing policies that affect the lives of our citizens and telling us to leave our own country if we do not like these policies. I am puzzled….aren’t the ministers here to serve the citizens or are they here to draw high salaries and threaten citizens that disagree with their policies? ??

  13. You just need to see how the SMRT leadership fiasco was handled and that, in a nutshell, is the default Singaporean MO of dealing with issues.
    But to be fair, they did conduct a global search for talent and luckily enough, he was another general in the SAF.

  14. Kick all this mother xxx out of the parliament and for crying out loud , stop employing them back as directors , CEO unless you wanna your company to go down . Let them start off from square one … let say 2.5k salary ?
    Make them regret everyday having to spread rubbish in the parliament . They always like to talk about being competitive about mp wages to other country’s …. for those who manage to survive …. downgrade their salary to be “competitive” on par with other country . Let’s see how many actually stay on ?

  15. Even a 61 years old Government could be replaced. I really admire the courage of the Malaysian in doing to any injustice . There is no need for GRCs and SMCs in Malaysia unlike Singapore. Nothing remain forever. We should learn to emulate them too

  16. Not likely 4G leaders will listern sincerely, they lived in their own well, from military to cushy high paying, govt jobs, and they think they know it all, they have not lived in the real world. Tan jc remark about old ppl wotking for EXECISE , exposed their ignorance, CCS says PAP willing to pay polical price, is another stupid remark. PAP will pay that^s for sure

  17. – Ministers should be full timed. He/she should resign from his/her current interests in any private companies.
    -No ministers should hold positions in private offices.
    – Ministers pay should be determined by citizens’ poll.
    – All investments from our sovereign funds must be helmed by professionals.
    – All investments should be accountable to citizens & transparent.
    – Eradicate GRCs & all must be single wards.
    – redrawing of electoral boundaries are prohibited.
    – All top posts in the gvt linked companies should be awarded by meritocracy not nepotism.

  18. PAP styled government worked well from the 60s till 90s. We were a 3rd world country then, life were simpler & happier. Now we are 1st world but are we happy???
    The government should understand that in the old days illiteracy was high but now the citizens are well educated & informed. ( internet ). There’s no way to suppress ( censorship) any news. As the saying goes “ if you can’t beat them, join them “.
    Singaporeans needs a transparent & respectable leaders. Lead by examples & not brow beating anymore.

  19. It’s always in a state of denials … or pretending the issues aren’t there … this government of many decades has lists its touch and probably believes that its citizens are out to cheat the government . Try going to any government to make an appeal …. the government officials will simply tell you …. its policy. … it’s law …

  20. Pioneer mininsters during LKW time .HDB was build for us to call our home.Now the the ruling party spell a different term 99years end ?Do we still have our home that was been created decade ago.The land belong to the country and people.What right do the ruling party to take back?