Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Missing at National Day Rally: Providing for Parents?

According to the ST and MYP the PM did a glowing job, perhaps even his best ever rally speech. But as I listened to FM 93.8 yesterday discussing the NDR, not a single caller had anything good to say. Who is more accurate?

Link to Yahoo article: Providing for Parents in Singapore: Can We Give Enough?

If you have many children and if each is able to give a little you will have enough. Yes, in the remotest way the PM did address this issue - the baby bust problem.

His speech can be viewed as brilliant provided you also do not consider what he had decided not to address. It was departure from the technocratic past. It was a response to many of us complaining that our politicians are too technocratic and lacking the human touch. I hope our leaders read between the lines and understand that learning to be politically savvy isn't the end point. Truly what we want is courageous political leadership with empathy. Saying you understand and burying your ostrich head in the sand isn't it.

The number one issue for most people today is the cost of living. It is a challenge most of us struggle to overcome and I am afraid a growing number are despairing. It takes the issue of ageing to surface what day to day we prefer to not to see or we will just be moody all the time. It is the utmost issue that had appeared so unimportant that it failed to make it to the PM's most important annual address to the nation. But it is a problem that would not go away.

They are gradually learning from the West how to kick the can down the street. Since we are still at the half full, half empty glass point, people are uncertain and divided where we actually are. The PM warning about increasing taxes sometime during the next twenty years to listeners is as good as never. Twenty years is eternity in the political calendar. It just made him look responsible and does not cost him votes. He never imagined how he could run his government differently from anywhere else in the world and make it better. I am waiting to see if he can deliver a whole of government approach consistently. At least some non-economic, budget constrained ministries are already intellectually persuaded on this course. This would be truly special and our resources will be deployed so intelligently we could do so much with so little instead of raising taxes. However there is a darker and probably more realistic read behind whole of government. It could be an inter-ministries strategy of getting another ministry to pay the bill for your programs because you have no budget. You know how among ministries civil service leaders fight for credit and jostle for positions. That's why it is not easy to achieve whole of government approach consistently. That's why the PM was for a while doubling up as Finance Minister. I wonder if that is the reason why PMO is so big and has so many ministers without portfolio?

I am glad Singaporeans are to outsiders so unreasonably demanding of our government. It is our survival instinct. It is our collective memory of how we got here. If we cannot bring the cost of living down, we will not have babies, which is just the slowest and least awful way of a society committing suicide. We must get rid of this death wish which we pretend not to see inside us.

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