Singapore celebrates its 57 years of independence on Tuesday Aug 9. PM Lee Hsien Loong will probably spell out some of the challenges confronting us in a world grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, US-China tensions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Singapore has an additional problem. It is undergoing a leadership transition.
Did the first-generation leaders have any idea in 1965 what Singapore was going to be like in 2022? I think they did, maybe not in exact detail but they had a vision which they pushed hard to realise. Much of what Singapore has is the result of decisions made from 1965 to the 1980s. These include the army, the port, airport, housing, SIA, MAS, EDB and the reserves.
Lawrence Wong and his team and subsequent governments will see Singaporeans through the next 57 years. No one can predict what will happen. Any prediction can at best be a combination of analysis of what took place in the past, common sense guesswork, trend observation and planning.
These are some of my Singapore Sling-inspired or induced predictions for the next 57 years:
- First non-Chinese Prime Minister
This must be a no-brainer. Never mind what the so-called majority Chinese heartlanders may prefer. Times have changed. Every other barrier has already been breached. Tharman Shanmugaratnam would have made a good PM. There is Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh. Both sides of the political have enough talents, whatever the race.
- First woman PM
We already have a women President. Ho Ching has been PM for quite a while now (in jest). Frankly look at Taiwan and a host of other countries, from Britain, Germany to South Korea and New Zealand. Matter of time.
- PAP loses 2/3 majority
The ruling party has misjudged the mood of the electorate on a number of occasions in recent times. First in GE2011. Unbelievably, it thought it could bamboozle its way and ram things down the throats of voters. A messy MRT, opening the floodgates to foreign workers and doing little about the healthcare system. It got a shock when Aljunied went to the Workers’ Party. In GE2015, it came back and pushed the Opposition to the corner. In 2020, it wanted to wipe out the Opposition. Instead, it got a blackeye when the WP captured a second GRC. Lesson: 2015 was the voters repaying their debt to Lee Kuan Yew, that was all. The yearning for stronger checks in Parliament would not be denied. It remains.
- 1) Li Shengwu becomes PM
2) One of the daughters or sons of Pritam Singh or Jamus Lim also becomes PM in the more distant future
No need any explanation.
- No more CMIO in the identity card
Only one word: Singaporean
- GRCs are scrapped. Every ward will be a single ward. No more NCMPs or NMPs
This is principally because, with better education and more interaction, Singaporeans have become race colour-blind. A new statutory board has been created to take care of all the municipal and maintenance duties previously carried out by town councils across all constituencies. Political appointees will oversee and make political decisions affecting residents.
- SMT (SPH Media Trust) will have a new board of directors whose main duty is to ensure impartial news coverage, among other things
- Changi Airport is relocated to Pulau Ubin
A tunnel will be built linking it to the mainland. The land where the airport currently sits will be released for premium development projects including an underwater city at the edge of the beach.
- Istana moves out from Orchard Road
Either to the former Bukit Timah Race Course site or Command House in Kheam Hock Road.
The Istana building will be retained. But all the land within its compound will redeveloped.
- $500,000 trust fund for every newborn citizen
He or she can use it only from age 16 onwards for any purpose – subject to a maximum amount of $25,000 per year.
Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.