In the February 27 budget debate, Nominated Member of Parliament Associate Professor Walter Theseira stressed the need for a nucleus within government made up of robust Singaporean academics to keep the country on a righteous and suitable course.
According to Prof. Theseira in order to attain this, it is imperative that the government is straightforward on sharing official data and be more receptive and compliant of research findings that contravene official viewpoints and policies.
“Singaporeans must be in charge of asking the critical questions about who we are, what the problems in society are, and how to solve them.
“We have always said that no one owes us a living. But no one owes us an answer either, about the key questions of our society and economy.
“We are frankly too small for experts from elsewhere to want to study us thoroughly. And in any case, we should never depend on them,” the professor said.
Prof. Theseira underscored that while Singapore nationals compose virtually half of the academic circle in the country, many of them are members of the teaching staff instead of faculty members.
He also emphasized the weak representation of Singaporeans among younger faculty members, as there is greater reliance on foreigners evaluating the country’s leadership and development.
He likewise noted that Singaporean academics are still confronted with different barriers when they study issues that affect the country.
Access to data – Singaporeans lacked access to data from the government which impedes their aptitude to boost their academic reliability and standing.
“Academic credibility depends on being able to publish independent research findings based on high quality data or observations. Much of this data is held by Government. Hence, research and publication often depends on Government agreement” Theseira said.
The professor then urged the government to be more accepting of research results that may be inconsistent with official narratives or policies, he added that the Government should “make room for disagreeable academics” to present their views on policies.
While the professor admitted that he is venturing “dangerously close into political territory,” Prof. Theseira reminded the House that the country’s leadership is not always dependent on the ruling People’s Action Party.
“Our former prime ministers have stated that there is no guarantee your party will be in power forever. Your party may well be in power, but it may be a different party with less integrity and ability than today. Or it may not be in power at all.
“If and when that happens, to set and keep Singapore on the right path, let us invest today to have institutions in place that allow Singaporeans to speak from a position of strength on the issues of the day and challenge any future government that they feel is not acting in the best interests of Singaporeans” Theseira stressed.
If and when this core group will really be created and established and become the “guardians” that they have been envisioned for, will they really just be objective stewards of the economy or they will also act as ravenous watchdogs all too ready to pounce on anyone who will go astray?
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