Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Democracy, Singapore Style

Mar 22, 2011
GE 2011

Excerpts from: Man with a long-term view

Mr Ong Ye Kung, 41-year-old assistant secretary-general of the NTUC.
Labour candidate prizes long-term gain over short-term pain
By Rachel Chang


In 2004, when he was the principal private secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he told Mr Lee he disagreed with the idea of casinos in Singapore. Later, he changed his mind when he saw the thousands of jobs they brought in.

His years as principal private secretary to Mr Lee from 2002 to 2004 shaped his driving principles. He observed 'at close range' how Mr Lee made policy decisions.

'Every single time, he makes decisions for the long-term benefit of Singapore and it is always about bringing real benefits to real people,' Mr Ong recalled.


When negotiating the US-Singapore FTA, he said, he saw the contrast between how decisively Singapore could act compared to the US side.

That is why he believes it is better for a country of Singapore's size to have 'one strong government with a strong mandate from the people'.

'Ours is urban politics. We need a strong majority so that we can move decisively in this uncertain world,' he said. 'It is the only advantage we have.'

Later, when asked by reporters whether that meant he was not in favour of further political liberalisation, he said a democracy has ultimately to pass one test: do voters have the choice of throwing out the current Government and electing a new one?

'I think Singapore voters have that choice. We meet that key criteria in our democracy,' he said.

[The decisiveness of our govt is a key strategic advantage. Check and balance is all well and good, but it is a system that distrusts itself. It is a system that continuously second-guesses, and checks and hinders and ultimately promotes works to hobble govt because of the underlying fear and distrust of govt. It is not for us.]

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