Thursday, 11 October 2012

Singapore’s Future: Status Quo, Transition or Transformation

Prof. Su Guaning provided an interesting observation when he moderated the Mandarin Symposium “China’s Future: Transition or Transformation?” on October 5. He said Singapore faced the same problem of transition or transformation like the Chinese. However, besides the two, I would like to add one more possibility: status quo – this is the PAP!

Prof. Su thought the PAP was moving towards either transition or transformation. Therefore, he suggested leaning from the Chinese Communist Party about their “Inner-party Democracy”.  However, changes within a political party are certainly different from changes outside the party and changes within a country.

If the men in white represent the status quo in future Singapore, then what colors are for transition and transformation. Blue is most likely to be the transition and red is for transformation.  And other colors like orange, pink or mixed-colors are either between white and blue or blue and red.

The white party wants to project themselves as a transition party. National Conversation is one of their strategies.  Unfortunately, this is just another “Inner-party Democracy”. They cannot go beyond specified topics or themes and most importantly, they will keep their old policies without even any adjustments, like:  ISA, immigration policy, control of mainstream media, public housing, health care and foreign reserve.

The blue party is closer to the position of transition.  “
You have to give credit where credit is due.” They acknowledge the past contribution of the white party and seek to improve, modify or even ‘out do” the white party in some ways.  Waiting for white and red to make mistakes is also their strategy.  Who dare to say doing nothing is not a strategy!

Transformation will go to the party in red. They are looking for change in many aspects: health care, education, CPF, population policy, foreign reserve, human rights etc.  They have also come out with their alternative proposals and suggestions.  No other alternative parties have produced alternative budget or other policy changes like the red party before.
Transition is the middle ground?

The white party does not like the image of status quo even though many things that they are doing are as conservative as before, for example, the PM thinks he wants to keep his job till 70, replacement PM need time to train, high economic growth, no major policy changes, etc.

But election results and ground feedback indicate people want some transitional changes or reforms. Hence, they have to ‘wayang’ a bit.  But is the ‘wayang’ like National Conversation effective enough to project a new or changed image of white party? More ‘wayangs’ are expected when 2016 comes nearer.

The true color of the white party is still status quo even the blue party wanted to give them a ‘due’ credit of transition:    

Budget 2012 reflects shift in govt's mindset: Low Thia Khiang
MP for Aljunied GRC Low Thia Khiang called this year's Budget a special one.
He put it in contrast to previous Budgets, which he said focused on the economy.
Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Low said reducing dependency on foreign workers and restructuring the economy may even slow down growth.
Mr Low said: "This is the first Budget after the 2011 election. It points to the direction of future governing and the focus of government policy from focusing on economy to social policy, from the economy's role to raising the wages of lower-income Singaporeans. This is a major shift in the government's thinking and mindset. The government is therefore making a formal statement after much reflection after the 2011 election."
Mr Low's comments prompted a rebuttal from MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Low Yen Ling.
Ms Low said: "He had described this year's Budget as a change in the government's thinking and mindset. In the past, the government prioritised the economy, now it's prioritising at the foundation of society. I think this view is little narrow. As a little red dot without natural resources, Singapore has to be concerned about the economy at all times. Having worked at EDB for 10 years, I can feel this importance. Only with an effective economic policy can a country create wealth for society and have excess to enable people to live well." 
So, it there a change of thinking and mindset for the white party? Perhaps, many PAP members (like MP Low) still prefer the old way and old thinking of public policy. But transition seems to be the middle ground and the white and blue parties are battling in this ground.

PE2011 shows that transformation may be an ideal state and intellectuals may prefer this option. But majority of the people would like to see a ‘smooth’ transition. This is either through the ‘false’ picture of National Conversation and other transitional changes from the white or the inaction of ‘silent’ transition from the blue.

Whichever way it goes, people would like to see a transition rather than status quo or transformation.  Transformation may come later when people think (and sick of) transition is no more an effective tool to solve their problems.

As far as PM wants to keep his post till age 70, the white party will remain status quo in policy, strategy and even leadership.  Some people may be misled by all the ‘wayangs” and believed they have moved from status quo to transition and give them a due credit.

As for the red party, as a strategy shift, will they soften the transformation elements and move towards transition? As for other colors, for survival, they will have to observe the movements of these three colors and find a suitable position for themselves. Failure to do so will see more disappearance of small political parties in Singapore.

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