The fear-of-failure boogeyman
In my earlier blog post, I touched on how our risk aversion will impact the growth of entrepreneurship in Singapore.
This risk aversion nature is pervasive in our society. It has been ingrained into us through our education, through the media and through the messages the government has been sending to us. I read in the 17 April 2011 edition of Sunday Times that Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said “This vote is a very important vote, this is not something to play around with, this is about our future… This is the only country we have (and there’s) no margin for error.”
Dr Yaacob and many other PAP leaders know ours is a risk-averse society and hence they play this card constantly. Yet I wonder what they have to say about their own recent failures; in letting a crippled terrorist escape, in failure to plan our infrastructure to cope with the influx of immigrants, in managing the flooding situation, in handling mix-ups during YOG, and so on.
They imply that those with alternative views to them are playing with Singapore’s future, that we have no ideas better than them, that only they have the A team to lead us into the future. They brand those in the alternative camp as irresponsible people playing with Singapore’s future.
I do not believe in being irresponsible, as I have children who will study, live and work in this country. We are here to offer views from different perspectives, and to challenge the ruling party’s ideas to see if they are well considered. Such broad and irresponsible statements by the ruling party leaders perhaps show they do not wish to be accountable for their policy implementations or to have a robust debate in parliament.
Is PAP the only solution to problems faced by Singapore?
The first generation leaders have done well. They have transformed Singapore through careful economic development. As Singapore continued to strive for more economic progress, successive leaderships have fully embraced capitalism and accepted whatever was necessary to get the GDP growing, even if it meant accepting gambling vices in the country. We may have impressive GDP numbers, but how much of that growth has really been filtered down to the masses? In this rule-of-the-capitalistic-jungle, the fittest will get the best meat while the weaker ones will suffer and perish. Have the lives of the ordinary folks become better in the last five years in terms of what you can afford with what you are earning?
All the more, if we are to fear for our future, we should not put all our eggs in one basket. We should have an insurance of getting credible alternative voices into parliament as elected Members of Parliament to provide new ideas and check and balances. We should move towards a First World Parliament. This is the best time for Singapore to do so, given a slate of good alternative candidates and relative stability in the country.
Why we need alternative views and checks and balances to prevent failures
If we look at what happened during the recent sub-prime financial crisis, there are a few key reasons how the situation deteriorated to such a state:
1. Too much power was concentrated into the hands of a few banking elites who controlled the situation;
2. There was insufficient transparency in the decision making proceesses;
3. Personal greed by players in the finance community led to decisions to maximise short term gains at the expense of other stakeholders;
4. Lack of checks and balances in the system..
If we allow the current situation of having only one hugely dominant party to control everything, the same problems that caused the sub-prime crisis can happen to the way we govern too. The pegging of ministers’ salaries to economic growth and salaries of the top earners may encourage decisions to boost GDP without proper considerations of the benefits to ordinary people and without due considerations to the long term impact of policies.
Our world-class stock exchange SGX, requires public listed companies to have independent directors to provide checks and balances. Getting a larger number of opposition MPs is like putting more independent members on the board of directors. Besides ensuring the management team work in the interests of shareholders and not themselves, independent directors also offer diverse views and new perspectives. It can only be good for the small investors who are like the citizens of Singapore if there are more independent directors.
So when you next see the PAP leaders play this “Fear-of-failure” card, ask them about their own shortcomings and tell them you wish to vote in stronger alternative voices to ensure a first world parliament with proper checks and balances.