Friday, February 1, 2013

What to do about the Pop. White Paper

I almost wanted to leave an abbreviated form of what I am going to write here at the PM's facebook page but changed my mind after a bit of research.

I think the smart thing to do is for the PM to withdraw the White Paper for the purpose of reworking it in view of citizens' worry and fear. Completely legitimate.

There is no point trying to claim that 6.9 million is the worst case scenario. Most people wouldn't believe him or KBW. Now the PM and his ministers, how they have carried this issue appear like that just joined politics yesterday! Looks pretty bad.

There is a useful example they can learn from Margaret Thatcher fiasco with the poll tax.

Don't cross the Rubicon. Withdraw it before the window to do so closes. Don't even let it get debated in parliament. It would be humiliating. I fear at this rate his Cabinet may not even need to be tested in 2016 over this. Down the road his MPs might revolt. Then what? What is the point of a plan if you cannot be around to implement it? Even if the PAP could be returned to power then, the PM would only be having his job because he promised to abandon it.

George Yeo recommended that the government should rebuild trust with the people first. I think he is right on this score. It is very hard work but guess who tore it down first?

Update: Feb 4, 10am

I only learned over the weekend that parliament sits today. Too late. Anyway this was my version of hope for the best but prepare for the worst. This rule should be used sparingly and best illustrated by my own family's example. We knew our mom have scant chance of beating her Glioblastoma, so we prepared for the worst with an attitude that we would be happy to waste all the money and effort. Similarly I took the same attitude with how this White Paper would hopefully be rejected. On the other hand KBW suggestion that the White Paper is the government best effort to hope for the best but prepare for the worst shows a lack of effort and sincerity because there are so many alternatives.

Those who live by this dictum do not mind being dealt with the worst they have prepared for, which is exactly what we do not want. Eve in nature, our body naturally reject transplanted organs and this government is mad enough to suggest that half of our organs would be transplanted ones when effectively more than half the residents here could be foreign in time to come. No nation can survive this. Might as well quit investing in the SAF now and throw the money to have more kids....

Yes the common sense rule of hoping for the best, getting ready for the worst are for situations where you have no resources, time and choice. Most of our Type 1 smart people are not so stupid to not understand this.


  1. Unfortunately, I don't think he will withdraw.

    There's a bit of human nature at play here. The hallmark of a "tough" PAP Minister is his ability to make "tough" long-term decision, even at the expense of short term political capital. Backing out now makes him look weak. He knows it. He cannot afford to look weak. He's just been .. err .. slapped?? .. by the Punggol BE. He knows the investment & biz community are watching - so are you going to now be a populist, or remain the same "tough" PAP minister. His inner circles are all the "tough" boys - NEH, TCH. In addition to the public clamor on-line, there's going to be a rally at Speakers Corner this weekend too. All the more, he cannot be seen to be publicly giving in to pressure groups. In other words, becos of the confluence of circumstances, PM has too much at stake now to publicly back-out.

    Secondly, he REALLY REALLY believes that this is for the good of Sgp. At his core, he's a mathematician. 1+1=2, as clear as black and white. The population is aging (minus), so you need to add immigrants (plus). In his heart, he's convinced there's no other alternative to the White Paper. All his career he's only known to equate GDP growth to labor.Similarly, his inner circle ministers too. He's already said in the IPS forum - "so we ended up paying a political price" from the last blunder.

    Thirdly, of course, they are monitoring the reaction and they know people are repulsed. But if you analyse these reactions, to him, all the objections are emotional in nature. Horror stories of over-crowded Sgp, people scared that they'll lose their jobs .. to him, its emotional over-reaction. To him, not grounded in reality (as in, verifiable with facts and figures). He's a logic driven person. He sees that the logic behind what the White Paper remains unchallenged. Overcrowding? Not as bad as HK (according to TCH). High property price? BTO kept unchanged, people's expectations too high. Lose jobs? Just a matter of re-training & productivity improvement. And he's counting on the fact that emotions do cool and logic do prevail. As long as he's convinced of the logic, he's convinced he'll be proven right in the end.

    At the end of the day, I think he's a good technocrat - and the White Paper addresses the problem solely as a technocratic problem. Someone politically smarter would not have admitted to having screwed up big time in the last immigration drive and blaming it on "unforeseeable" factors. And then, within the very next day, put up a White Paper announcing you'll do another +1m population bet in the next decade and this time, it will be all right. To me, you either continue denying having screwed up and announce the White Paper, or you admit screwing up and hold off the White Paper for a while until the dust settles. To do both shows poor political judgement.

    I mean, this is a plan for the next 17 years. Why is there a hurry to announce today, give MPs exactly 1 week to digest the info and vote on it in Parliament. It gives the impression that you think this is poison and you want the shotgun marriage to take place ASAP.

  2. The problem with Khaw's wedding parable is the admission that

    1) MND/MOM has no clue how many invitation they send out to these foreign guests/strangers to this island. If they were all work permits with very clear and defined expiry dates, and if they don't RSVP, you must take it that they don't come, isn't it?! Unless they are not properly monitored ie. they have lost control of who comes/go? And what does that tell you about our immigration laws?

    2) Becoming a SC is not a trivial matter. Unlike wedding banquet, people come knowing it is for 4 hours of dinner & dance merriment, and after that they fed themselves well, they leave! Unless the dinner guest decides to stay on and be a free-loading guests perpetually? Is this what happens in reality where they keep extending their stay but never ever commit to the duties of citizenship? Plenty of cases I've seen for sure!!

  3. One thing that can save PM Lee & his ministers is to have a national referendum,then he can say,OK,we listen to our people,the plan has changed.Do it,PM Lee,we are not stupid people.