Stop playing the “Fear-of-failure” card


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.

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10 comments on “Stop playing the “Fear-of-failure” card

  1. The ruling party has always used the meritrocacy card which has resulted in many falling behind.was quite taken aback to read from todayST that out of abt 5 million only half are singaporean.time to ask the government did we killed our own people as a result of their meritocratic policy?

  2. Kiasi-ism is our cultural identity 🙂

    The current political situation remains me of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The pigs have just given themselves a big raise and there is nothing you horses and cows dare do about it!

  3. Hi, good post 🙂 However, there are some questions I hope you can address 🙂
    For a start, I’m neither a PAP nor Opposition guy.
    I’m a neutral and hope to see the best guy represent the people 🙂

    You mentioned this: We should have an insurance of getting credible alternative voices into parliament as elected Member of Parliament to provide new ideas and check and balances.

    My comments: The key thing here is CREDIBLE and CAPABLE people that can serve and represent Singaporeans offering alternate views and SOLUTIONS in Parliament. Views are not enough, what solutions can they bring to the table? Anyone can offer views, but only a handful of capable people is able to offer sound solutions to solve the challenges we face. Let’s see what the Opposition Parties can offer since PAP have already introduced their candidates for scrutiny. My personal opinion is that WP could have introduced their candidates earlier for Singaporeans to know them more 🙂 Probably its an election strategy, still would have liked to know them earlier 🙂

    You mentioned this: This is the best time for Singapore to do so, given a slate of good alternative candidates and relative stability in the country.

    My comments: I think let’s not jump the gun too early. A slate of good alternative candidates? Are you sure? Or are you blowing your own trumpet. Through the CNA forum between PAP and Opposition Parties. I guess, you have seen the caliber of some of the Opposition candidates. It got me thinking, do I really want to get them into Parliament? Coffee Shop Talkers without providing good alternative solutions to the current problems we have. Nevertheless, would like to commend that WP did relatively well in the Forum and keep up the good work 🙂

    You mentioned : Getting a larger number of opposition MPs is like putting more independent members on the board of directors.

    My comments: Once again, getting a large number of opposition MPs does not equate to solving the problems. As I mentioned previously, the candidates MUST BE CREDIBLE and CAPABLE. If they are not, they would not be offering constructive feedback or comments to address the challenges we are facing.

    In essence, PAP have a proven track record, I’m sure nobody would deny this.
    So the million dollar question is, can the opposition candidates be as good as the PAP candidates if not better. If so, are they able to represent the people in the Parliament? Only time will tell……. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments, Neutral Guy.

      You are right that with views, one must also have solutions. The WP has launched a very comprehensive manifesto with over 200 points covering all aspects of running the country. This is made available for voters to download and consider ahead of the ruling party. While we may not have formally introduced our candidates until today, we have all worked the ground talking to residents for some time already. Some candidates have actually been interviewed earlier as well by the press.

      Glad you have found Gerald Giam of WP speaking credibly in CNA forum. We will let voters decide. From what I see of my fellow candidates, I am confident they are passionate and capable. And I hope if you are voting in my eventual constituency, you will take time to examine my credentials and track record to determine if I should be your MP.

  4. Dear Neutral Guy,

    To your comment on WP introducing their candidates earlier, I think it would be ideal to do so. But strategically and history has proven that it is unwise for the other parties (I think calling them the Opposition is pretty unfair) to do so. It would be prudent for WP, or any party other than the PAP to take each step carefully from now until the day of election.

    Second, the question of “what solutions can they bring to the table” should not only be posted to candidates of another party, it should be posted to ALL candidates who wish to contest in the coming GE. Given the uncertainty in the coming years (as stated in PAP’s manifesto), all parties should put forth in more concrete manner what is it they plan to do for the country (instead of motherhood statements).

    On your comment on the candidates field by other parties based on their performance at the CNA – I agree that some of the candidates’ performance could have been better. On that note, we should not lump ALL the candidates from the parties other than the PAP into a group (call the “Opposition”) and write them off in one swoop. I believe what Yee Jenn Jong meant by this is the best time is that there are substantially more credible candidates outside of PAP than in the past coming into the scene.

    As for the definition of “credible”, some people compare the potential candidates with those from PAP, some people look at the potential candidate’s background (education, work), persuasivness of the candidate in the media, or all of the above. So there really isn’t an objective definition of “credible” for all voters. From other articles in this blog and personal experience, there are many people out there who compare the potential candidates with PAP’s candidates as benchmark, which is rather strange because it presumes that PAP’s candidates are “credible” to begin with, but on what basis?

    On your comment about large numbers of opposition MPs – I concur, more doesnt mean better but do remember, the Westminister system is such that if you want to be heard, you have to have the numbers in the Parliament. Therefore, there is a need for more “credible and capable” people to join the politics in the other camp. In order to have that, the citizens need to express their faith in the democratic system, that they believe in checks and balances before any more “credible and capable” are willing to take the plunge. And how best to express this faith other than through their votes this time round? Of course, the first hurdle is still “credible and capable” then the numbers will follow.

    • Dear Seiya

      Thank you for your comments. In this post, I will continue to call the PAP the ruling party and the rest the opposition party/parties for convenience sake. Unfair? It’s subjective. I will not dwell into this 🙂

      You mentioned : (1) this is the best time is that there are substantially more credible candidates outside of PAP than in the past coming into the scene. (2) “what solutions can they bring to the table” should not only be posted to candidates of another party, it should be posted to ALL candidates who wish to contest in the coming GE.

      My comments: Whether it is substantial, I feel this is subjective. Jenn Jong believes that his comrades is passionate and credible as he has worked with them but not all Singaporeans may feel the same ya? Let’s see what the opposition candidates can bring to the table during their rally with their respective manifestos. The challenge that the opposition candidates had to deal with is not only what they can offer to Singaporeans in the future but also how they can convince them that they are better than the PAP. This is not an easy task. As I mentioned in my previous post, PAP do have a proven track record. What they can bring to the table is stability and growth. They have done it for decades and probably can do so in the next 10 years. Let’s give them credit where credit is due. So the question is, can we trust the opposition party? Are they credible and capable? If so, can they govern the country as well as PAP if not better? I certainly hope they could at least challenge their ideas and policies with good debates in the Parliament if the credible and capable ones are voted in 🙂

      You mentioned : From other articles in this blog and personal experience, there are many people out there who compare the potential candidates with PAP’s candidates as benchmark, which is rather strange because it presumes that PAP’s candidates are “credible” to begin with, but on what basis?

      My Comments : This is a classic case as I mentioned above. They have a proven track record. This is not something that can be erased overnight. Majority of the candidates whom they have brought in and holding appointments have done generally well over the years. Can we deny that? I don’t think so. Moreover, going into election, all the opposition candidates are going to compete with the ruling party guys. So, if you were the men in the street, who would you compare with? This is a logical answer to a very simple question 🙂

  5. First generation leaders were indeed true entrepreneurs. They fight for everything, they create from nothing.

    But for later generations, it is quite different. They themselves have the ‘fear of failure’ – they have to follow the pattern, the model created and proven successful by their predecessors, unwilling to think out of the box.

    One example was that model of depending on foreign investments. When someone said we must nurture our own technology entrepreneurs in Singapore – they dragged their feet. To this day, we have not seen a next Creative Technology and the word “technopreneur” (a Singaporean coined word) seems to have disappeared totally.

  6. Dear Neutral Guy,
    Regret to say your power of critical analysis is very limited despite the parameters being clearly defined by an earlier writer. Nobody is denying that the PAP has not done their part in nation building. Do we want to do better. The answer is obviously yes. Competition bring out the best. At present we just do not have that competition in parliament. We must get the most dedicated people to work for our country, be it from PAP or the opposition parties. If everyone thinks like you, then we will have no risk but then again we will not have rewards either.

    • Dear WWK,

      Appreciate your comments 🙂

      You mentioned: Do we want to do better. The answer is obviously yes. Competition bring out the best. At present we just do not have that competition in parliament. We must get the most dedicated people to work for our country, be it from PAP or the opposition parties.

      My Comments: In my first post, if you have read it, I have clearly stated my stand: For a start, I’m neither a PAP nor Opposition guy. I’m a neutral and hope to see the best guy represent the people. Therefore, I’m all for competition 🙂 However, the best guy must have credibility and capability (which I have stressed several times) in addition to dedication to stand up for the people who votes them in. Dedication alone is not sufficient in todays’ world.

      Why? In parliament, if you had followed the debates closely for the last 10 years, you need to have substance before you can get the ruling party to even hear you out. If we vote any Tom, Dick or Harry into the parliament, do you think it would make any difference?

      Imagine this scenario, you have your “voted MP” trying to bring an issue up in the Parliament, however if he/she is challenged by the PM, SMs and MM, can the voted MP take the heat and maintain his/her stand? How many of them can do it? If I can quote an example, Dr Lily Neo has demonstrated it and I wonder how many of them is like her. Although she is from PAP, she challenged vigorously to fight for those who are affected by the MCYS policies. In my view, these are the kind of MPs that would propagate the voices on the ground in the Parliament. And I certainly look forward to seeing more MPs like her to be voted into the Parliament independent of their parties (if we are lucky 🙂 )

      You mentioned : If everyone thinks like you, then we will have no risk but then again we will not have rewards either.

      My Comments: If you have read my views and interpreted it correctly, I’m all for risks, but calculated ones. In the formation years of Singapore, we can afford to take risks as we have nothing to lose. We go all out to get what we hope to achieve. In this world today, where Singapore has already developed into “an almost first world country”, we have everything to loose. The government have millions of Singaporeans to answer to. We need to provide food and shelter for them. Any risks that we take MUST be a calculated one. A mis-calculated risk could potentially jeopardise the livelihoods of all Singaporeans. What we are discussing here is running a country, not a MNC. MNC shutdown due to risk taking, the workers can try to find another MNC to work. The directors and CEOs would be sacked and etc….If Singapore shutdown, what will happen to Singaporeans? What we have accumulated over the years is a miracle. We have no natural resources like the big countries. But yet, we have a strong standing globally. So let’s not take this for granted and use this word “risk” easily.

      In essence, the point that I’m driving across is, we must have dedicate, credible and capable people in the parliament, independent of their parties, to drive Singapore forward in the future. Cos we depend on them to make the big decisions and make calculated risks for Singapore. Only with capable guys, we can survive the odds.

      To Jenn Jong : I guess I have written more than what I have initially wanted 🙂 Nevertheless, I would like to sum up what are the hurdles the opposition parties are facing and hope the good ones would be able to cross it and help make Singapore into a better place to live in 🙂

      1. As mentioned in one of your article, “The challenges of convincing electorates’ minds”. I guess you have really feel it on the ground 🙂 All parties that would want to progress and break into the Parliament have to convince the “Man on the Street” that you are better than the PAPs. This is one painful pill that one have to swallow if they want to enter politics in Singapore.

      2. If you are capable, sincere, credible and care for the people, you will emerge eventually. So keep persevering if your beliefs 🙂

      3. Last but not least, if you ever get voted into the Parliament, I will be viewing and analyzing your maiden speech 🙂

      Cheers!
      Neutral Guy

      • Dear Neutral Guy

        Appreciate your posts and views. I am into politics because I believe in alternative voice and I will learn to respect people who do not agree with me. Even if it’s posted in my blog questioning my views, I will publish it. You are what we term as swing voter, willing to support a candidate you find credible and not just party line. That’s good.

        I hope other readers will give Neutral Guy a break as well 🙂 I am sure he will make an informed decision who he will vote for in whichever constituency he is in. I do have friends who are PAP members and grassroot leaders and they said they cannot vote me, I am still their friend. We should not go crazy over politics just because we are in different camps.

        cheers

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