Singapore — Parliamentary debates have seen many heated exchanges this week, and the Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Jamus Lim debate on wages and policymaking was no different.
In his maiden speech on Thursday (Sept 3), Associate Professor Lim called for greater compassion and thoughtfulness in policymaking. The Workers’ Party MP for Sengkang GRC said that Singapore should “no longer privilege efficiency at the sheer expense of equity”.
He added that “because we are no longer a Third World nation, we cannot continue to operate as if we are blind to the consequences that tough-nosed policies carry for our people”.
A/Prof Lim continued: “I humbly suggest that the root of these challenges is insufficient compassion in our policymaking process.”
Senior Minister Tharman responded pointedly: “I would like to suggest that none of us have a monopoly over compassion, and I say this not to discredit anyone, and, in particular, I really respect where member Jamus Lim is coming from, intellectually, emotionally and so on, but … no one should assume that you have a monopoly over compassion.”
He also told A/Prof Lim to avoid “strawman arguments” like saying the Government is only interested in efficiency, not equity.
“That’s frankly laughable,” said Mr Tharman.
A/Prof Lim clarified his stance, explaining that he was not setting out a strawman argument in talking about the trade-offs between equity and efficiency.
“I’m not suggesting that every policy that is currently in place is only geared towards efficiency. And likewise, I’m not suggesting that every policy that I have laid out in my speech and elsewhere is only geared to equity,” he said, adding that his argument was that Singapore can move more in the direction of favouring equity over efficiency. /TISG