Do you realise the Prime Minister likes talking in threes? I don’t mean three languages like he did in Parliament.
- He set three groups apart for special consideration (old, young and poor),
- He set out three issues that arise from the population conundrum (baby numbers, identity building and economic consideration)
- He gave three ways to make Singaporeans feel special (they are in the majority, they are better treated than others, they will be given the chance to upgrade and get good jobs)
- He pointed out three issues for further discussion (how to get Singaporeans to marry and have babies, how to restructure the economy while keeping it vibrant, how to keep Singapore’s identity strong while keeping the country open)
Well, that looks clear enough although I wish he was reported in threes, which would have made reading the whole of words in the media more simple. So did he or did he not “cast aside’’ the 6.9m population projection as BT put it? None of the other media said it that way, except BT. Rather, they focused on the 2020 review that is to come. Well, I think it’s good to kill this divisive figure, whether it’s a target, a projection, a planning parameter or whatever. I wish the PM would be more precise about this – so that we could put the figure to rest.
Threading through the speech was an unsaid acknowledgment that the G had miscalculated – again. This time, over the way it sold the White Paper. Much ink has been spilled on the way the G looks only at numbers and hasn’t felt the pulse of the people well enough to realise that the White Paper would rouse such resentment. It is, in fact, the first time I can ever recall that the G making such a mis-step, a terrible mis-step, since it had already admitted that it did not realise how much resentment the people would feel over the recent influx of foreigners straining the infrastructure. It was then actually a mis-step on top of a mis-step.
So did the PM manage to paper over or patch up the differences over the White Paper? Did he manage to persuade the people to get over the emotional hump posed by the 6.9m figure as ST commentator Chua Mui Hoong put it? Did he manage to at least repair the bridge between the government and the governed, and make a start at restoring public confidence in the G’s ability to solve problems, as ex-ST editor Han Fook Kwang put it in The Sunday Times?
I wish I was in Parliament to listen to the proceedings as it seemed that even the PAP MPs seem to have caught on to the Us-versus-the G rhetoric so much so that MP Denise Phua has to call on all to stop the G-bashing already. I liked what she said, that the MPs will work harder but that the only promise that can’t be made was to “turn our cheek every time we are being slapped’’.
In fact, the G has been subjected to quite a bit of “slapping’’ and it has been turning the other cheek. It’s very un-PAP like. The apologies, the clarifications by ministers no less…but I don’t think they assuaged the population. In fact, it only whets the appetite for more. I feel sorry for the G and actually wonder if the PAP would be able to persuade more people to join its fold, so unpopular it has become. I have to say this: the PAP G is looking soft, and I don’t like it. And those who have always liked a tough G – and that could be a big group – might be wondering at our wavering politicians.
Or maybe I have got it all wrong. There are still plenty of people who are firmly behind the PAP. Maybe, in their heart of hearts, even those who are pro-opposition will admit that there isn’t any other group with the ability to take its place in Government. Even the Workers’ Party doesn’t think it can do the job. At least not yet.
But what’s the bet that even if the PAP delivers on its promises to strengthen and expand the infrastructure in the next few years, that the people’s anger will abate? That the trust that has been forged between the older generation and the older leaders would be replicated among the younger set?
Politics is an emotional thing and come 2016, what will happen? Will a political tsunami accompany the silver one?
I dread to think.