Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Singaporean first DPM should do

[Note: This is a third party perspective of a grassroots leader.]

During a dialogue themed Singaporeans in Conversation, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean spoke to about 250 students. When asked about the PAP losing power some day, he replied affirmatively. He added, "But do I see a smooth transition to a system that's more glorious? The answer is no. I think it will be a very difficult transition. And I'm not sure what the outcome will be and I'm not convinced the outcome will be a better one."

I was uncomfortable with his comments and concerned that our DPM took such a position. What troubles me is not that one day the PAP may lose power, but that the transition would not be smooth, as he articulated.

Many thoughts go through my mind when I reflect on the term “transition”. Does transition mean that the hand-over from one government to another would be road blocked with administrative hurdles? Does transition mean that PAP supporters will go onto the streets to protest (and worse still riot)? Or is he taking a view of transition to mean that a new government would take many years before they reach a point of maturity to govern effectively? I can only speculate.

Personally, I cannot agree with the DPM for the following reasons:

1. We have a highly educated, efficient and effective civil service. We are praised far and wide for being a “government that works”. Credit goes to the years of evolving our civil service into a pragmatic, efficient and somewhat unemotional entity that “follows protocols”. I would rule out the civil service as a cause of any major transition road block.

2. Will a change of government lead to turmoil and unrest? Again I doubt so. If this were to happen, it would suggest that our police officers are ineffective and unable to provide law and order. I have faith in our fellow brothers and sisters in the police to ensure that any turmoil or unrest would be quelled before it escalates to what we see in London in recent days.

3. How effective will a new government be? Can they be as good as the PAP? Or better? On this point, the answer really depends. From my observation, it is evidently clear that the opposition is getting better. Credible, intelligent and highly capable individuals are starting to step forward to serve. Should they one day come to power, they will not be alone in governing the country. They will be backed up by an army of scholars in the civil service to provide insights, research, and advise.

Many professionals are likely to also come forward to serve. Senior business executives would be quick to switch allegiance to the new government (business people are pragmatic). While I expect some hiccups, I wouldn’t go so far as to speculate that the transition wouldn’t be smooth and paint a doomsday impression.

To help allay my concerns, and for the sake of our nation’s future, I wish to offer my humble advise to DPM Teo look into the creation of a “Transition Framework” that will ensure a smooth transition from one government to the next, if the PAP one day loses power. This framework should be made public.

As our DPM, it is not only his duty to ensure that such a framework for transition exists, but it is also his moral duty as a Singaporean to do so. The DPM should stop politicking and start acting as a Singaporean first. The general election is over.

Great Expectations

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?
Feel free to react below or leave a comment.


Cynical Investor said...


I think you should ensure some QC on the "guest" pieces that appear on yr blog. The Tony Tan and DPM pieces belong to TRE.

And make it easier for us readers (and TKL's aggregator) to differentiate between you and guest contributors.

Maverick said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

DPM Teo's comments only goes to confirm how the PAP sees the civil service as its, and only its vehicle to get things done, i.e. perform the day-to-day governance of Singapore.

In suggesting that the transition will not be smooth, he is in essence saying that should the PAP be voted out, the civil service will simple 'close shop'. This kind of thinking is wrong, and as you have rightly pointed out, the civil service should continue to function regardless of who forms the government.

And you are also absolutely right about people, especially the business community, being pragmatic instead of holding fast to former allegiances.

So, like you, I too take issue with DPM Teo's suggestion that there will be a difficult transition should PAP find itself ousted from power.

Ajohor said...

From the other side of the fence, as you just stated in your article on NTUC income, there are entreched interests in all large organisations.

Do you expect execution perfection in transition, his comment to me just reflected organisational realities eg just across the border, in Asean itself and also even in Taiwan/Japan/Korea or any other countries with longstanding political powers.

He has just stated reality which unfortunately will jar from time to time with the prefered ideal.

Anonymous said...

To me, he's not talking about the routine transition per se ie the mechanics of handover.

He's talking about the succeeding climate of a change in the political landscape. If a two party or even multi-party system evolves in Singapore, will Singapore survive the daily political jostlings and stalemates in parliament?

US just had its credit rating lowered. Japan is facing another change in premiers. UK is galvanising another round of finger pointing. The politicians are posturing for all the wrong reasons instead of for the welfare of their country.

If Singapore is to have a change of government, I hope it can be a near-100% complete change with a strong mandate to another wise but resolute government focused on the economy.

Singapore has no choice. The economy is the underpinning of Singapore's relevance and survival as a country the way it is now. The other alternative is a backwater has-been.

That's the big picture. By comparison, the handing over of data, offices and computer systems are small petty matters.