Singapore Too Small To Have A Two-Party Systems?

This is an often use excuses by the ruling party in arguing that Singapore is too small for a two-party system. How then do you explain why we have so many Ministers (Seven in total) in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)? See an informal survey done by Mr. Tan Kin Lian and his informal survey on this issue. The ministers do not come cheap, according to Wikipedia as of January 2009, the Prime Minister’s annual salary was S$3.04 million, while the pay of ministerial-grade officers was $1.57 million. The seven ministers are:

Ministers in PM Office

  • Lee Hsien Loong
  • Goh Chok Tong
  • Lee Kuan Yew
  • S Jayakumar
  • Lim Boon Heng
  • Lim Swee Say
  • Lim Hwee Hua

SM Goh has also commented recently that the ruling party has been unsuccessful this time was in getting experienced people from the private sector, despite trying its best. So the truth is there is no shortage of “talents”, it is just not easy to attract them especially those from the private sectors. Reasons ranges from positives such as ruling party is still competent and the pay is good in private sectors to negative factors such as disagreement with some of PAP’s policies, unkind attitude (defamation suits, name calling) of PAP towards opposition parties which deters many would-be good candidates from joining the oppositions. E.g. NSP candidate Raymond Lim related that his parents were strongly opposed to him standing as an candidate for election as they feared he would land in trouble as other opposition politicains had in the past (The Sunday Times, 17Apr2011). So the problem is not size of the population nor the lack of talents. Admit it, politics is not rocket science, there is no need to get the smartest person but rather people with a heart to serve with common sense and integrity.

I also have a strong suspicion that we have way too many civil servants in the public service. In the past when the public service pays were much lower than the private sectors, redundancies were necessary. The trend has reversed and it is now more desirable to work in public service with a higher pay cheque, prestige and job security, are we feeding too many public servants who in turns have to think of all kinds of policies and initiatives to justify their fat pay cheques and never ending quest for fast promotion. Want example? How then can we produce more than 50 generals in the last 20 years, all before age 45 in a small country like Singapore with a population of less than 4 million if you discount the non-citizens. I am still gathering more evidence. If you have some clues, email me.

PM Lee: Two-party system ‘unworkable’ in Singapore

Source:  April 6th, 2011

In a desperate attempt to deflate rising public expectations for a stronger opposition in parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated again that a two-party system is ‘unworkable’ in Singapore due to the ’shortage of talents’ in the country.

Speaking to NUS students at a ministerial forum yesterday Mr Lee said a two-party system is not workable in Singapore because there is simply not enough talent to form two “A teams”.

He also resorted to the usual PAP fear-mongering tactics by warning Singaporeans that Singapore will ‘fail’ if it has a mediocre government.

The PAP regime’s performance has been most dismal so far with Singaporeans facing massive problems caused by their ill-thought policies such as sky-rocketing HDB flat prices, over-crowding and an increasing foreign place swarmed by the relentless influx of foreigners due to the PAP’s ultra-liberal immigration policies.

It is strange that Singapore, with one of the most educated populace in the world, will encounter problems finding capable people to run for government while other countries with populations smaller than Singapore’s such as Finland, Luxembourg and Iceland are vibrant, functioning democracies.

In the article in The Straits Times titled “Few corporate high fliers willing to enter politics” (Apr 16,2011), it was reported that only 3 out of 45 polled will say yes if PAP asks them to join politics.

and here are some reasons why PAP may not be able to attract the talents it wants:

Extracted from Todayonline Apr 06, 2011
The search by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) for new blood in its traditional hunting ground has not yielded the desired results. Despite more than 200 tea sessions held since the last General Election in 2006, its efforts to recruit private sector candidates have not been that successful, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Sunday.While the paucity of private sector candidates are in part due to the lack of privacy and freedom – reasons often cited by potential candidates – other reasons also include the overall political climate and the effect of social media on the political landscape, political observer Derek da Cunha noted……(PAP Member of Parliament) Inderjit Singh pointed out that a lack of diversity – especially in the Cabinet – could have an impact on policy-making. “Civil servants don’t fully understand what’s happening in the private sector and vice versa,” he said….

political risk consultant Azhar Ghani said: “Policy decisions are not made based on a formula where different weightages are given to different components … it still comes down to the policy-maker’s judgement, and the lack of public or private sector background diversity could be a problem.”

‘High-flyers shy away when the money is good’


Source: The Star Online

The ruling PAP’s extensive efforts to recruit election candidates from the private sector, which included 200 ‘tea sessions,’ have not been that successful this time round.IN a departure from recent history, the powerful People’s Action Party (PAP) has found it hard to recruit talent from the private sector to stand as its election candidates.It contrasts with the past when it enjoyed widespread popularity with little problem in persuading high achievers from private and public organisations to rally to its banner.

The relative failure comes at a time when opposition parties have made significant gains in attracting quality candidates.

It is posing a setback – at least temporarily – to the PAP’s plan to use the election which is expected next month, to produce the next Prime Minister and Cabinet leaders.

Of the 18 newly recruited PAP candidates announced, only five hailed from the private sector – an assistant professor, two lawyers and two bankers, one of whom is an executive in the government-controlled DBS Bank.

The remaining 13 – or 72% – were top people who had served and resigned from public office to contest under the PAP banner.

They were from the civil service, the army, the statutory boards or PAP-controlled unions. The PAP-controlled National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) contributed five.

Two army generals gave up their stars to take up politics and are tipped to be core members of the fourth generation Cabinet.

The political leaders have described it as a good, diversed team but it is obvious that the inability to attract private talent weigh heavily on official minds.

The paucity was confirmed by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong who admitted that the PAP had difficulty attracting private-sector high flyers to join efforts to form the PAP leadership team.

Extensive efforts, which included 200 “tea sessions” (interviews) to recruit election candidates from the private sector “have not been that successful,” he admitted.

For the PAP, which has not lost a single election in the last 50 years, it is a dismal show especially in the face of a resurging opposition which seems to have less difficulty in this area.

Few analysts are predicting this will be a permanent PAP dilemma or that it will cause the PAP to lose the election but it may have adverse consequences for the party in future.

The party wanting to bring together a diverse team comprising of the best candidates is fast becoming an impossible task.

The trouble is that some of the targeted high flyers either do not support the PAP’s current strategy for Singapore or some of its political, economic and social policies.

The potential slate would include successful managers, businessmen, academicians and professionals, people that recruiters have paid special interest to.

How will it affect the future? Firstly, it could erode some of the PAP’s support among voters which is already in decline over the mass intake of foreigners.

And, secondly, the reduced number of MPs from the private sector could lower the PAP’s performance in Parliament.

“To have too many people with civil service or army background may not be a good idea. Parliament may lose touch with the people,” one surfer said.

“What about diversity? Where are the professional social workers, the musicians and poets?” she asked.

The issue, which has become a hot topic, has prompted a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergrad to raise it with PM Lee Hsien Loong during a campus dialogue last week.

How is it, he wanted to know, that despite the high salaries, the PAP had not attracted private talents – but the opposition had.

Lee replied: “I’m not sure whether we’re looking for exactly the same people.

“We’re looking for a certain type of person … (one with) commitment, integrity and purpose.”

The preferred people, he added, were already set in their careers and not keen to change tracks or face the high risk of a political life.

Not everyone agrees with his explanation. One commentator said: “The real reason is that many of them refused to join because they disagreed with PAP policies.

“They don’t want to degrade themselves by having to toe the party line.”

The fast expanding social media which alternates between being informative to punishing people it doesn’t like, also adds to the reluctance of people to seek election for public office.

Many successful people are not prepared to have their private lives or their family members be subjected to critical scrutiny or even insults.

What is putting paid to this is the opposition’s apparent success in attracting quality candidates to contest, despite all the arguments about privacy and risks.

By entering politics, an opposition candidate is generally seen as facing a higher risk of defeat or failure and financial losses than the one who stands for the PAP, with its superior resources.

“Yet they are pushing ahead with their principles, unfazed,” said an admiring female undergrad – a little too innocently to describe the tough world of politics.

Not every politician who fights for the weaker team – or who joins the winning one – does so for a selfless cause.

The reward in Singapore that comes with political success can be very large – for all aspirants.

The high Cabinet salaries, which exceed those of even the richest nations in the world, have helped to attract top talent to help build Singapore’s collective wealth.

But as the public backlash rises, it may be contributing to dissuading successful high flyers from joining the government for fear of becoming a target of criticism and even insults.

In other words, this high pay system may even deter a few potential leaders from joining the political arena.

How PAP picks candidates?

[Editor’s Notes: with such stringent selection criteria, it is questionable how some candidates such as Tin Pei Ling can get through the system and emerge a winner. Was it the case that the other 150+ “talents” go there out of curiosity but never have the intention to join PAP at all? If many doctors, lawyers, unionists, Director/VP of a private firm qre potential candidates, it is really amazing that Singapore only have 200+ at any onetime available for PAP to select despite the super attractive S$15000 per month working part time and bright future ahead of them to sit in various listed companies as board of directors during and after they retire from their MPships and collect lucrative payout.]
HOW is a PAP candidate selected?

Dr Ng Eng Hen said the party searched all sectors of society for potential candidates, from branch activists, professionals and academics.

1) About 200 tea sessions were held here and overseas over four years.

2) From tea with over 260 individuals, the list was cut to just over half. The remaining lot attended two or more sessions, where probing questions were asked.

3) Potentials then went through intense eight-hour psychological profiling. The party also double-checked with reports from referees.

4) The candidates were assessed over a period of time, sometimes for years.

5) They were also put on the ground. MPs and activists provided feedback about them.

6) At the end, the party “carefully selected” over 20 candidates.

Dr Ng quipped that for every cup of tea candidates drank, the team that selected the candidates drank 10 more to find the best brew.

Source: Is this what Singapore politics is like?