The future of Singapore will be quite different from the past. It is a question of sustainability and crisis management. In Chinese, we say creation is easy but sustainability is difficult. (创业容易守业难). If SG50 is a creation then the future is an sustainability.
Why is sustainability difficult? It involves more uncertainties, more crisis management without successful past references and models, and for Singapore case, without checks and balances, transparency and openness.
Chinese dynasties in the past proved that sustainability was a difficult question than creation. All dynasties failed because of lack of checks and balances. In between, some dynasties had short periods of re-born, re-creation or resurgence (中兴）where there were economic growth and propsperity. However, resurgence could only prolong the life of dynasties. Is the new “The Future Economy” panel a resurgence?
Is the recent 70% mandate a sign of PAP resurgence? If yes, it may last a short period as shown in Chinese history. The new cabinet does not have the spirit of checks and balances. It only wants to check itself.
The first job of “The Future Economy” committee, headed by Heng Swee Keat, the new Finance Minister, is the end of year exhibition, "The Future of Us". Its themes will include the future of lifelong learning, a greener city, volunteerism and how technology can transform the way people live and work. #1 PM Lee Hsien Loong even openly urged for a government-people partnership to write the new future of Singapore. He said, “We will do that online and offline, in civil society and in Parliament. That's normal, and healthy.”
What is the difference between “the future economy”/new Singapore chapter and the old SG50? Just like PM Lee’s calling, it is normal and healthy as defined by the People’s Action Party government. It is a continuation of the old practice, old tradition.
Just look at the haze crisis. It is an age-old problem and we are unable to solve it for many years because the source problem is not in Singapore. During the Suharto era, it seemed to have few problems or problems could be solved between past Indonesian and Singaporean governments.
In the article, “Suharto’s fires”, Inside Indonesia explained:
[Its political strength relies on two factors. Firstly, it is still controlled by relatives and business associates of the former Indonesian president, Suharto, who still enjoy tacit support in the top echelons of the Indonesian political and economic system. Secondly, the influence of the Suharto oligarchy extends way beyond the boundaries of Indonesia into the two neighbouring countries, Singapore and Malaysia, which have been the most affected by the haze caused by the forest fires.]#2
We are in the post-Suharto, post-LKY or even post-Mahathir eras, can Singapore continue to use the same old practice and tradition to deal with regional problems? We seem at lost in dealing with the haze crisis and our (immediate past) foreign minister dared only made comments in his Facebook.
This example shows we are good at dealing with certain type of foreign politicians but when the situations change, especially, demand for transparency and checks and balances in foreign countries, we do not know how to handle the situations.
Minister Heng’s future economy and PM Lee’s new Singapore chapter will have problems finding a suitable path if they only think of a control situation. 70% domestic support does not mean 70% support outside Singapore. The assumption of same support level will lead to a downfall of PAP dynasty.
Heng and Lee are trying to find a quick solution as they have pressure under a strong mandate. It is just a resurgence for the PAP. But any future directions and proposals without checks and balances, even with SG conversation, will not bring long-term sustainability to Singapore.