Tuesday, December 25, 2012

To The Men In White: Another Viewpoint

"To The Men in White: Another viewpoint"


Thanks for this article ‘Brilliant article from a young Singaporean girl on Facebook’ and reproduced in www.tremeritius.com.  I first received this probably a year ago, during the General Election.  Then I just read the first few paragraphs and I deleted it.  During the General Election period, I received this article several times from friends. Then it went dead.
This year, yours is the 3rd time I received.  The earlier two were also received in the month of May.  I suspect there is a renewal of interest due to the Hougang by-election.
This time, I decided to read it thoroughly.
This is a beautifully written letter by someone who has gone through some level of higher education, but probably with little exposure to a working environment where hard decisions have to be made even when not all information are available and/or the trade-offs are not that clear-cut or overwhelming in favour of one option over the other options.
The letter means well, however, it is misguided borne probably out of idealism rather than of realty. That is fine as it is part of growing up; it is said that when you are young and you are not idealistic, then you do not have a heart; when you are old and you are not realistic, then you do not have a brain.
In a few cases, her logic is flawed due to lack of in-depth awareness and/or understanding. The other weakness of this essay is that she tended to throw popular tag-lines without substantiation, and on at least one occasion, she got carried away and was rude and insulting.
My response is red in below:

Brilliant article from a young Singaporean girl on Facebook. I hope the PAP
leaders read this and take seriously what the writer has written because it
reflects the sentiments of a lot of people who are getting disenchanted with
arrogance of the PAP.

*To the Men-in-White* by Neo Yu Wei on Sunday, 24 April 2011 at 22:14

Source TRE *
You guys were once my heroes. When I was young, I was so proud that I had a
government that was indeed one of the world's best, if not, THE BEST.
Although LKY was (and still is) portrayed as a fearsome, if ruthless
leader, he was much respected. When he appeared as our PM on the world
stage, my heart never failed to swell with pride because it was obvious
that he was also someone other world leaders respected. So far so good, as the writer recognises the contributions of Lee Kuan Yew and his esteemed standing in the world. I like to take this opportunity to put some substance on this ‘esteemed standing’. LKY has used his ‘esteemed standing’ in good use for the country. He opens doors for Singapore.  Although he is not the Head of State or the Prime Minister or President (in our Singapore hierarchy, he is probably No.4, after the President, Prime Minister and Senior Minister), and yet when he travels to France or USA or Russia, the President of those countries have time for him.  And the American government makes available to him all the senior government leaders ... Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, Head of National Security etc.  Which other world leader has this kind of honour? It was reported in the press that Malaysia Prime Minister, Najib paid US$3 million to an American lobbyist to secure a meeting with President Obama.  In the case of our LKY, his salary was three Singapore million dollars a year, and besides meeting President Obama, he also sees the Secretary of State, the Defence Secretary and whoever he wishes. So, if LKY pays a visit to USA once a year, then his salary is already accounted for; all other things he does is free. 

And when he visits China, the people who see him are the present leaders (President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao) as well as the next generation of leaders.  When he visits India, the Prime Minister of India sees him, and so does Sonia Gandhi (the power behind the Government) who normally does not see any other government officials. She even sent her son to come to spend a few days with him!

But not now. The problem is, you are victims of your own success. And the
world has changed, yet you remain stuck in the 1960s. This is why your
once-fantastic branding is being eroded, why I find it hard to support you
like before. Okay, the writer has made a statement that she is no longer supporting LKY, and I am now going to find out why.

1) You were too successful

First, there was LKY and he was a great leader. He was like a god and still
being treated like one. He "miraculously" transformed a small, poor,
resource-less little island into a country that now has one of the highest
GDPs in the world, where other countries are now trying to learn from. No
one can take that achievement away from the first PAP team and indeed, I
would guess that this is also the main reason why many in the older
generation are still your loyal fans.
Good that she recognises LKY’s contributions towards nation-building.
I may not agree to all the strategies you've used then (and some were
downright questionable) but I can't deny that you had some very good reasons
to do so. But unfortunately, when you've set the standard of governance so
high, every other subsequent PAP team that comes along can only look worse
and worse. And it doesn't help that you constantly try too hard to be
perfect. The higher the bar is set, the more difficult it is for the PAP
teams that come after to match it. So, what is the issue? Is the issue that LKY had set up such high standard? If it is, what's wrong with it? The high standard that LKY and/or PAP had set up is good for all of us.  On a personal level, LKY’s uncompromising stand on the corruption was the principle that guided me to reject all such temptations, which were many, in the course of my career. Today, I stand tall and able to look at eyes of all those who dealt with me.
This high standard has a rub-off effect on the Opposition too.  Look, the Opposition candidates in the recent General Election were of much better quality than ever before: firstly, they are better educated. Secondly, these candidates were not fly-by-night people; some of them were and are involved in helping some sectors of our society.  Thirdly, people with shady background know that they will be exposed. And now, Opposition MPs also have to "meet the people", no longer doing nothing which was what Ling How Doong and Cheo Chai Chee (both SDP MPs) did and hence were one-term MPs.  If anything else, we should applaud LKY and/or PAP for setting up such high standard so that we have serious candidates in the election.

In a way, I think LKY only does his own team a great disservice by
publishing so many personal memoirs, recounting again and again how good he
was. Because the more god-like he is, the more voters like me will wonder,
how can we ever have another "god" like him to lead us? And the answers you
propose will always be a disappointment. Because, against a god, everyone will look like a mere mortal. Didn't anyone tell you that you can't replicate a god using your same old cookie-cutter?!! Great leaders are first
of all rebels, don't you know (and LKY was one too!)?  It appears that the writer is resentful that LKY has written so many books.  Why should that be the case, I do not understand. LKY writes, and people buy the books.  If it is rubbish, then people won't buy, let alone people contributing $10,000 for an autographed copy.  I found his writing useful because there were a lot of things I did not know, or understand.  At around S$30 per copy, I get an insight into one of the finest minds that is always being tapped on by other world leaders. I am glad he wrote those books otherwise most of us do not know a good part of our history, and why and how he and his team did it.  There are lessons to be learnt, and I am thankful that he had spent time to share his experience with the future generations. 

2) You were too smart for your own good.
This is the kind of smart-alec statement that I used to throw at people I do not like or agree with. However, I will never say this to someone who is much older than I (traditional respect for an elder), let alone that he is a person whom I recognise to have done so much for our country, notwithstanding that he has, like all other mortals, also made some mistakes.  This form of smart-alec attitude is downright disrespectful and worse than if I were to say that this young punk is too smart for her own good. Anyway, never mind this side distraction, let's look for issues of substantive value.

No one can or has been able to rival you in terms of your (mostly) rational
and well-thought through, sound policies. Especially in terms of our economic policies. You're so darn good with your cost-benefit analyses, your economic forecasts, your financial planning.
More important than the economic policies and/or cost/benefit analyses that the writer had written, LKY has given us a greater sense of confidence as a nation with his many far-reaching initiatives that many of us are now taking for granted. Some of these are: (1) that we will never be held hostage by our water needs, (2) that we are able to go to bed each night without the fear/worry that our country is gone the next morning, (3) that it is advantageous for Singaporean Chinese to learn Mandarin, (4) that meritocracy, multiracialism and non-corruption are the basic pillars of a fair and just society in Singapore, (5) that he knocked down a group of Chinese chauvinistic leaders who were advocating the supremacy of Chinese-ness in Singapore immediately soon after we were evicted from Malaysia, (6) that we are able to go about our work or play in any part of Singapore without fear of being mugged. And one such initiative that is clearly for us to appreciate these days is that, if not for the consistently prudent financial policies of the Government, we might not have survived the 2008/2009 financial crisis with little damage (our unemployment rate did not exceed 5% and went back to 2% - 3% within 2 years, whereas that of USA exceeded 8% and of France, greater than 10%, and both had remained there ever since, i.e. in the past 4 years; further our triple-A credit rating remained intact whereas USA’s and France’s were toppled). Today, unlike many developed countries, we are confident of managing the repercussions of possible Eurozone fallout in the coming weeks/months.  Those prudent financial policies came at a cost to the PAP whenever the Opposition called for more handouts and spending.  It is so easy to pander to the call of handouts and spending to win votes, but it takes a steel of nerve to do what is right for the nation rather than what is right to win votes. Every policy you rolled out is justified using very rational arguments that the opposition and the public find hard to counter argue. You are top-notch, because you have a very brainy team, all with impeccable qualifications from world renowned universities. Unfortunately, this made you assume that only you have the brains and everyone else is just **censored**censored**censored**censored* who needs only to listen and obey. The game of politics cannot be played by cold logic alone. And it certainly can't be won by treating your voters as morons. The writer had already said that LKY had done a lot of great things, and therefore, given his proven track record, why shouldn't we listen to him more?  And if there is a benefit of doubt, we should give in to him because he is experienced and has proven correct most, if not, all of the time. Why begrudge LKY just because he is smart and right most of the time? I do not think he has treated the voters as morons, otherwise he would not have won so many elections with good majority that political parties in other countries hope for. In Britain, no ruling party had won the General Election with more than 55% vote, and I remember Mrs. Margaret Thatcher marvelling LKY for his electoral achievements. So, obviously the people of Singapore trust the PAP as it has won every general election in the last 55 years, and in some elections, the winning majority was as high as 70%!

An example of this would be the issue of bringing in the IRs. Yes, your
cold, rational argument makes very good economic reasons for having
casinos in Singapore. No one can argue against that. But not everything can
or should be measured by dollars and cents or by the amount of GDP it will
generate for Sg. We're no longer the generation in the 1960s that
constantly had to worry about money or material matters. We've moved up the
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
. LKY was quoted to have said that he was initially against IR, but was persuaded by the young leadership to go along on its merits.  If he still lived in the 1960s, he would stop the IR. And if he still lived in the 1960s, then we won’t have F1 race in Singapore, as he is also opposed to it.

In fact, most Singaporeans work ridiculously long hours, are constantly too
stressed to even go on dates or have sex (hence the low marriage and
fertility rate) that we're all very very disillusioned with the constant
drive for wealth. Increasingly, we want to slow down, have time to smell the
flowers and be with our families.
We have this fortunate problem of having plenty of work to do; citizens of some neighbouring countries have the unfortunate problem of not having enough work to do. In any case, I can hypothesise as to why we have to work so hard.  Firstly, we have no choice!  People are our only resource, and we have to work harder than most other people to be on par or stay ahead.  By comparison, New Zealanders (New Zealand has about the same population) do not have to work as hard as they are blessed with plenty of land, good soil, and good climate to help them to have an expanse agricultural base for dairy, meat, wool, and fruit businesses.  On top of that, their surrounding sea is rich with fish stock.  And the country is naturally endowed with beautiful sceneries to be an attractive tourist destination.  So, there is no need for them to work extra hard. (The above also explains why the Saudi Citizens or Brunei Citizens do not have to work very hard.) Further, New Zealand does not have to spend as much as we do on Defence. For 2011/2012, New Zealand’s Defence budget is NZ$2.9 billion; Singapore’s Defence budget is S$12.3 billion (currently NZ$ is around at par with S$).
The second hypothesis is that the Oriental (Chinese, Korean and Japanese) are by nature, very hard-working people. The Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan work very hard too, and they have the same low fertility rate as we have.
And having casinos that will bring in more crime (organised ones too),
encourage more addictive behaviour and increase broken families will not
sit well with a population who now values quality of life rather than
personal wealth. Yet, you bull-dosed these concerns and won yet again with
your cold, rational, economic arguments because there wasn't enough
opposition in the parliament to stop you.
As I pointed earlier, LKY was reported to have said that he was initially against the IR, but was then persuaded by the new generation to go ahead.
While people may buy into the cold logic of your policies now, your lack of
empathy and human touch are slowly alienating voters. The breaking point
may not be now, but you can be sure that the disconnection is getting
wider by the day. It's a time-bomb that will go off at some point.  On the IR, opponents and proponents had argued it out very passionately in public.  Both have valid arguments. According to bits and pieces of news from Ministers, the arguments were no less passionate in the Cabinet, and this went on for at least 2 years.  At the end of the day, a decision had to be made.  It was a difficult decision because the trade-offs were not all that clear or overwhelmingly in favour of one or the other, and that was why so much time was taken to deliberate on it.  When the Cabinet voted, it was a close call. Minister Lim Boon Heng who followed his Catholic faith, voted against the IR.  I saw him spoke on this debate in Parliament.  With voice cracking, he said he opposed IR, but he could not ignore the fact that this was an opportunity that if missed would be gone forever, and that that opportunity was going to create plenty of jobs that he, again, could not ignore.

At the moment, we will not know whether the IR is the right decision.  It would be another 10 years down the road before things are clearer, but then, I do not expect a clear-cut knock-out of the other party. I believe the debate will continue as before: equally passionately with the proponents pointing out the benefits, and the opponents pointing the damages.

3) You forgot evolutionary laws, history and your own past.

While you're very brainy, you're mostly all technocrats and specialists. You've scorned the social sciences and the humanities, you think these are
only for sissy people whose A Levels don't qualify them for specialist
degrees. Yet, if you had been more well-informed in these areas, you might
have learnt some valuable lessons about power. History, for example, is
the best teacher that could have taught you that power never ever ever ever
lasts forever. Indeed, the more you try to hang on to it, the more it will
invite adversity. This is a general statement and represents a perception.  But what is the issue? In any case, LKY was and is never a technocrat or specialist.  He is, first and foremost, a lawyer (closer to social sciences and the humanities than is an engineer or scientist), then a politician, then a Government leader and finally a nation-builder. For the record, he had Wong Lin Ken, a history professor, as his Minister of Home Affairs. There was Ong Chit Chung, a historian, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs. And of course, there is the Wong Kan Seng, our former Deputy Prime Minister who has a BA, probably in social science.

History would also have taught you that every regime was once in opposition. As Marx could have told you, the history of mankind is all about class (or power) struggles. You may be in power now, but one day you'll be overthrown.
I doubt LKY will be overthrown. However, you have hope of leaving your great legacy behind if you take a leaf from the pages of human evolution, which would have taught you that it's human diversity that has helped the human race to overcome the odds, to survive this long. But instead of embracing diversity, you tried your hardest to kill off any form of alternative views, whether these come from within your party or externally. You only wanted to hear your own voice or voices that are exactly the same as yours. LKY is a very strong-willed person, and if he were not, then he would not be a strong leader.  However, he did listen to arguments against him. He wrote in one of his books that he failed to gain acceptance of some of his proposals (I will have to research this a bit more to be more specific).  From my friends in the civil service, he was challenged by Civil Servant, JYM Pillay in a public meeting of top civil servants, and yet he held no grudge against Pillay as he (Pillay) continued to serve the Government in different senior capacities. Pillay is now the Chairman of the Presidential Council of Advisors. (28 Sep 2012 Update: It was reported in The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2012, that Goh Chok Tong recalled how Pillay reversed LKY’s decision.)
I believe it is fair to say that if LKY had surrounded himself by yes-men, he and his team would not be able to accomplish the many contributions that are recognised by the writer in the first few paragraphs of her writing. Further to suggest that people like Goh Chok Tong or Tony Tan or the late Ong Teng Cheong or our top civil servants, like JYM Pillay or the late Sim Kee Boon or Ngiam Tong Dow are yes-men is a grave injustice to the contributions by these people who could have easily just walked out of LKY without any regrettable loss in their quality of life.

This inbreeding will eventually be your demise. Most of all, you forgot
your own roots, where you were once an opposition party too. You focused
so much on hanging on to your power, you forgot your original vision, you
forgot your voters and you forgot why you are governing Singapore. These are more general statements and accusations.  Where are the substantiations?  
4) Power breeds fear and paranoia

In the beginning, you used power in order to stabilise the political
situation so that you can give the masses homes, food, clean water and
their livelihoods. That seemed a justifiable use of power even though it
involved some ruthless and ugly tactics. But over the years, you started
to crave power for itself
. Please show how and where is this ‘started to crave power for itself’? Please let me know which ruling party anywhere in the world that has or had worked intentionally to lose the next election.
Again, you forgot the story of Macbeth (see, I told you the humanities are important!!) - where an originally good leader was so obsessed with his new power that he saw everything as a threat towards it. He became so paranoid that he even killed his best friend whom he thought was after his throne. He only heard what he wanted to hear from dubious soothsayers (which turned out to be half-truths). Needless to say, Macbeth eventually had a tragic end.
Is the writer talking about LKY? If it is LKY, what has he done recently to deserve this insinuation?
Like Macbeth, you've become so obsessed with winning overwhelmingly in every
GE that you use every weapon you have, every trick up your sleeves to
clobber the opposition to smithereens. Smear campaigns, legal suits,
changing electoral boundaries, raising the cost of candidature, forming
GRCs, threatening the electorate with 
upgrading.it's like watching the
Brazilian football team beat the Singapore team by 82-2, except in football the rules are fairer and the referee neutral. Why do you need to resort to such gangster-like ways? You could have won overwhelmingly anyway with all the talent you have! I'm not sure how long this bullying strategy can go on but sooner or later you'll
become the thug that the electorate can't wait to get rid of.
These are comments without any substantiation.  What gangster-like ways? Please let me know the ‘smear campaign’ and the legal suits.  As for others, let me say this: the electoral boundary changes: what is so unusual of electoral boundary change if such changes are to reflect the fast-changing population?  USA and Australia do that too.  
On raising the cost of candidature in elections, firstly, it is good to weed out non-serious candidates.  But then has the increased cost been so high that it is prohibitive?  The fact that so many stood in the recent General Election shows that the cost is not prohibitive.  My personal view is that the election cost is on the low side: candidates, who knew they had absolutely no change of winning, were contesting because they knew they were unlikely to lose the deposit.  I do not recall of anyone losing his or her deposit in the last few general elections. 
On Upgrading, this is part and parcel of electioneering to get the votes; it is a case of what you as a candidate can do for us, the voters, and there is nothing wrong with it: basically, the Government is telling the voters to vote for someone whose view/request is taken more seriously, and what is wrong with that? All political parties in power have this advantage, whether in Great Britain or Australia or USA.  It is the incumbent’s advantage.
5) Power corrupts absolutely

Power is not power without money. And in this aspect you've outdone
yourselves by pegging your salaries to the private sector. You're the
highest paid politicians in the world and your income is >40 times that of
the median income of the general population (only less than Kenya). Of
course, you justify it with yet another one of your cold, rational arguments of attracting and retaining the best talents in the government.

But seriously, how can you compare public sector salaries to the private
sector? In fact, many of your candidates have never worked in the private
sector before and one wonders if they'll survive even for a day in a
private company.
Firstly, having Minister’s salary pegged to private sector is no different from having it pegged to the public sector, because the public sector salary is already pegged to the private sector.
Are our top civil servants in the same league or better than the top in the private sector? If you were to follow the career of some of these civil servants, you will find that they performed well in the private sector, and made a lot more money than if they were to go to politics or stay in politics or the public service.  Examples are Lim Chee Onn who retired as Chairman of Keppel Corp and who had been laughing all the way to the bank with annual salary of around $8 - 10 million whereas as a Minister, he would be getting around $1 – 2 million. There is JYM Pillay who was the founding Chairman of SIA. Other examples are Liew Mun Leong of Capitaland and the late Wong Kok Siew of Sembawang Corp. And there are probably many lesser-known top civil servants who ventured into the private sector and have done well for themselves. One such person who we might never know is Tan Jee Say who stood as a candidate in the recent General Election and Presidential Election. Another former civil servant is Hsieh Tsun-Yan who left Public Works Department, and who is now Director-Emeritus of global consulting firm, McKinsey.

Further, if our top military officers are not in the same league or better than the top in the private sector, then we will be in real trouble! Yet, they are paid private sector salaries, paid not from profits but from taxpayers' money. And though I fully agree that politicians must be paid their worth, don't you think getting 40x the
median income is crossing into the lines of corruption? Ok, even if all
our Ministers and PM are worth every cent of their $4m annual salary, it
also means that they have to perform much much much better than any other
government in the world.
This Ministerial Salary came up for review after the 2011 General Election. The Recommendation was debated in Parliament.  The Workers’ Party MP’s who spoke in Parliament, had noted that the Recommendation was a close copy of their proposals.  Well and good, at least there was general consensus that the Recommendation was the way to move forward on the issue and putting this Ministerial Salary issue behind us.  (That is why this issue was not raised at the recent Hougang by-election.) However, do note that the Workers’ Party’s two MP’s in the previous Parliament (namely, Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim) did not participate in the debate.  The reason: The Recommendation that was agreed by their new colleagues in Parliament was the one they (Low and Sylvia) had opposed as elitist etc (no different from what the writer is labelling) in the previous Parliament sitting; their position had changed, and they were afraid of magnifying their inconsistent positioning.  (I suspect Chen Show Mao is responsible for this new thinking because he is the only person in that team who has international exposure at a very senior level, and he understands that talent is a scarce resource and Ministers should be adequately compensated.) In any case, The Workers’ Party missed a great opportunity to really shine: they could have suggested that the Ministerial salary be pegged at some multiples of the median salary rather than be pegged against top 1,000 or whatever wage-earners.  This was a suggestion made by a non-politician and ex-civil servant, Ngiam Tong Dow.

Again, you have set the standards and expectations so high, you only have
yourselves to blame when you cannot meet those expectations from the ground.
And the more you fail to meet their expectations, the more the electorate
will think you're not worth your astronomical salaries. It's a vicious cycle
that you've started and it's going to be very hard to stop now.

You talk about the so-called "crutch-mentality" of the poor, yet this same
mentality can be applied on yourselves
. I do not recall LKY saying of the ‘crutch-mentality’ of the poor.  Please provide evidence on this. When you've used money as the main means to attract people into your party, you've basically recruited people
who value money above serving the country in the people's interest. These
politicians who are in it for the money will not have the incentive to think
independently or to represent the people's interests because they've got
millions to lose if they don't toe party lines. Because they're paid millions, what incentives do they have to empathize with someone struggling with 2 jobs to make ends meet?
It is ludicrous to suggest that the money proposition is meant to attract because these people, especially those who later became Ministers, had taken a cut in their salary when they gave up their job/career.  Two such key persons are Ng Eng Hen, the surgeon, and, Shanmugam, the current Minister of Law.  And if Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Heng Swee Keat, both from MAS, were to follow the route taken by Koh Beng Seng (another MAS staff, but who left for the private sector), they would, like Koh Beng Seng, have financial institutions fighting to seduce them with more money and better benefits. Another such MAS staff who left and who is doing very well in the private sector is Tan Hak Leh, formerly CEO of Great Eastern Insurance and now the CEO of Singapore AIA.
The money proposition is to help to narrow the gap-loss between what they would be getting as a Minister versus what they were getting in their careered day-job, or, if they had gone into the private sector. Also, notwithstanding that the high-flyers were identified as Ministerial potential, there was no certainty that they would be made Minister.  Hence, when these high-flyers gave up their secured job to answer the call to serve, they were taking a bigger risk! Two such high-flyers who were not made Minister are Dr. Balaji and David Lim. And worse than that is that of Ong Ye Kung who left the Government Administrative Service (his last position was the Principal Private Secretary to PM Lee Hsien Loong) to contest the election, and lost!!)
And do these highly-paid Ministers (relative to other countries’ ministers) make sacrifices? Certainly they do! Let’s look at the facts: They are earning less than what they used to; they do not have a family weekend to themselves; they visit every funeral wake in their constituency (they probably spend more quality time with the dead than with their loved ones; on at least once a week, they stay right up to 1am or 2am to 'meet the people', and for what????? To hear some of the stories (my tap is leaking, the drain is smelly, I need more money because I need to continue using my smartphone; I need more money because I am unemployed and I have 5 children and one more is along the way; I can’t afford this parking ticket, can you get this cancelled?).  And if you are the Minister of Transport, if there is a stoppage at MRT, you stop whatever you are doing (including make love with your spouse) and rush to the scene.

Someone once said that Singapore Ministers are highest paid but they are also one of the poorest. A Deputy Minister in Malaysia makes about M$10,000 a month (i.e. S$4,500), and yet I was shown a Deputy Minister's home in Petaling Jaya.  There is a semi-Olympics-sized swimming pool, and along the driveway of this very big compound, were 4 branded cars: Lexus SUV, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar.  How the hell at M$10,000 a month he was able to afford such a big house and so many IMPORTED cars which are much, much more expensive than the Proton Saga?  So, his official salary is around S$50,000 a year, but then what is his unofficial salary?? Of course, our Government cannot mention this to explain their relatively high ministerial salary as this will affect government-to-government relationship, but I, as a private citizen, can say so.  However, many Singaporeans either do not know, or, decide to have selective knowledge.
On the viewpoint that because Ministers are paid millions, they are unable to empathize with someone struggling with 2 jobs to make ends meet, is like saying that Ministers should, first and foremost, come from a underprivileged background and then when they are Ministers, they are to get a peanut salary so that they are able to empathize. I believe at this stage of our nation building, such persons will be very difficult, if not impossible, to come by.
And to stretch that logic one more step, it means that a surgeon should not be a surgeon unless he/she has experienced the pain of surgery. 

Very soon, the voters will feel that you're just a bunch of corrupt
officials, no different from those in many 3rd-world countries. The way I
see it, you only have yourselves to blame for this situation you're in.
If the voters see that our Government is corrupted, then that will be a great tragedy, and we do not deserve to exist.  Then, this is clearly the case of that we are too smart for our own good. And naturally, part of the blame will have to go to people who are better educated and should know better than not to demolish the misperception, and worse still, to perpetuate it. For the record, over the years, independent international agencies have graded Singapore as one of the top 5 least-corrupted countries in the world, together with 3 Scandinavian countries and New Zealand. Very often, I appreciate my country through the eyes of foreigners. Very often we take things for granted, no different when we were young not to appreciate what our parents/grandparents had done for us.

The only way you can somehow reverse these trends is to learn from
Madonna (see, you never thought popular culture could teach you anything
right?). She keeps herself relevant not by sticking to the same old
formula again and again. That would have killed her career long ago as it
did to countless of other pop stars. Rather, she keeps re-inventing herself and
her image to keep them relevant to the current times. And she pushes the
boundaries. She's always ahead of her time and like a true leader, she
sets the trends not follow them. She's a rebel. Yet, all you have done is to
remain exactly the same as you were in 1960s.
Re-invent, stay relevant, push the boundaries, set the trend … these are great catch-words used by management consultants. But what are the issues?
Rebels! Rebels! Rebels! Rebels have to grow up to be relevant … rebels have to morph into builders.  Mao Zedong, Soekarno, Robert Mugabe and Gaddafi were rebels, but they never grew up!
The electorate is increasingly tired of your same old scare tactics using
HDB upgrading as a stick, tired of you saying that Singapore will go to
ruins if the opposition wins, tired of you always using smear campaigns against
opposition candidates, tired of your arrogance and lack of empathy, tired
of you giving out inconsequential hongbaos before elections only to
increase your own salaries by millions after.
I have dealt with these earlier, and so I shall not delve.
You keep encouraging us to think out-of-the-box, yet you're perpetually
stuck in the same adversarial mindset towards the opposition. If you can
only start to think of your relationship with the opposition as a mutual
symbiosis - you share a portion of power with them in return for your
longevity and credibility. Power is always temporary, but your legacy
needn't be. Just look at the current Conservative Party of UK which traces its roots
back to the Tory Party in 1678. Do you think they could have survived this
long without any meaningful opposition, no defeats, no radical internal reforms? Are you so politically shortsighted that you can only see your future in the next 10, 20 or 50 years? C'mon, think further!! And didn't anyone tell you that in other to be the best, you need to have competition?
Otherwise, how can the electorate be sure that you're indeed the best, if they can't compare you to any other party?
What are stated here are logical, straight from the generally accepted models developed by academicians/consultants, but these are by no means immutable laws of nature.  And must LKY/PAP act to ensure that such theories/generalisations expounded by academicians/consultants stay correct? If our Government leadership had that kind of mentality right from Day 1 and followed the script, today we will be truly a little red dot, albeit a dimmed one and we will not have this debate. Then Yasser Arafat would not say that he wanted Palestine to be the Singapore of Middle East, neither would Paul Kagame say that he wanted Rwanda to be the Singapore of Africa. We will, to use the writer’s reference mentioned earlier, be still scraping at the base of Maslow’s hierarchical needs.

I'm no military strategist, but I do think that sometimes, you need to lose
some battles first in order to win bigger battles later. It will not be a
bad thing for you to lose a few GRCs in GE. In fact, if I were you, I will
be celebrating. Because nothing gets people going like failure. Rather
lose some small battles now than to wait for the big bomb to explode later.
By then, not only will you disappear into the dust heap of history, so too will
Singapore. That will be your ultimate betrayal to this country that you so
painstakingly and successfully created out of a little red dot on the map.
It would be good for the writer to read Sun Zi’s THE ART OF WAR. I leave here with 3 quotes from the book:
 “He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.”
“Thus the highest form of leadership is to balk the opponent’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the opponent’s forces.”
“If you leave a door open, your opponent will rush in.”
POH SENG                                                                                                
30 May 2012

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