Veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon has reiterated an earlier statement he made, calling on the fourth-generation (4G) ruling party leaders to initiate a pay cut in an effort to restore their moral authority.
Mr Tay, the architect behind iconic structures in Singapore like KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Golden Mile Complex and the People’s Park Complex, made this remark as he commented on Indranee Rajah’s speech earlier this week on the 4G team’s vision on how to take Singapore forward.
Ms Rajah, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, asserted that the 4G leadership is committed to tackling inequality and improving social mobility for all Singaporeans. Extolling the value of meritocracy, Ms Rajah said that Singapore has made great strides in its quest for a more just and equal society.
She said: “This transformation can be attributed to our adherence to meritocracy, our heavy investments in education and our people, and our policies aimed at economic development, job creation, income growth, affordable quality healthcare for all, our public housing programme and generous subsidies to promote home ownership.
“The cumulative effect of these policies was to generate a rising tide that lifted all boats.”
Asserting that meritocracy is not to blame for the inequality and social mobility issues Singaporeans face today, Ms Rajah said that the 4G leadership will strengthen support to uplift the bottom of society.
She added that the 4G leaders aim “to improve access to these opportunities among the less advantaged and make the most of the opportunities on offer, to bridge the shortfalls and narrow the gaps so that all can rise together – an enabling meritocracy if you will.”
Citing Government schemes in housing, education, health and employment, Ms Rajah assured that the 4G leadership “will make sure that all are enabled to take advantage of the opportunities we provide,” and that no one will be denied opportunities to improve their lives.
Asserting that the Government ministries are working together to help meet the needs of lower-income and disadvantaged families, Ms Rajah stressed that tackling inequality “is not just the task of government. It is the task of everyone because it affects all of us.”
In a Facebook post published this week, Mr Tay said that he read Ms Rajah’s speech and was struck by the “incremental nature” of the 4G leadership’s ideas. He sharply pointed out: “There is no fundamental review or rethink on the basis of long standing policies on housing, education, inequality etc.
“The “society of opportunity” sounds good but there is no reflection on the bureaucratic binds that inhibit the exercise of opportunities.”
Noting that the “tangle of rules and regulations” make innovation “almost impossible,” Mr Tay added that he was struck by the fact that Ms Rajah made no mention of rising rent costs and poor financial support.
While Mr Tay recognised the value of meritocracy, he asserted that “the measurement of merit has to move beyond academic merit,” and that the leaders must allow citizens to level up by offering multiple pathways and remove the “invisible glass ceilings” that stunt social mobility.
Mr Tay said: “To do so requires deep review only possible through honest ground-based feedback. This needs an open media culture of investigative journalism. All in all, Indranee’s speech is well intended and heartfelt but not incisive.”
Mr Tay, who presently serves as Adjunct Professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Architecture, added that he believes the “4G is aware that the ground is sour.”
Noting that Singapore will face global headwinds as it moves forward, Mr Tay asserted that the “4G needs to come clean on the internal clogging of the arteries of government.” He said that the 4G needs to reform the civil service and deal with “the loss of trust derived from declining moral authority due to grossly inflated remuneration at the top and grossly depressed remuneration at the bottom.”
Calling on the 4G leaders to cut salaries in the public sector commensurate to any drop in the GDP, Mr Tay said: “As a guide, if GDP drops by say 40% all salaries in the public sector should reflect this too. Such a radical move will restore moral authority that signals commitment and dedication.”
Mr Tay has been critical of the Government in the past and has asserted earlier that the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government should take a “drastic self initiated pay cut” in order to regain the moral authority he feels they have lost.
Earlier, he also shared a letter founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew wrote to him in 1969, in which Lee wrote that “The answer against a bad (sic) elected government is to vote it out of office.”
Mr Tay has also publicly expressed appreciation for Mr Lee Hsien Yang – the youngest son of Mr Lee Kuan Yew – who is embroiled in a bitter feud with his elder brother, current PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang has publicly supported opposition politicians and activists in the past, leading many to speculate that he might join the opposition and contest the next General Election against his brother’s party: