Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mah Bow Tan: Blindsided Minister retires

I think quite a few are happy to see him go, but really him stepping down as minister is good enough. Quite a few have profited handsomely from his housing policies but you know, this is not the time to offer the man public praise. It is just politically incorrect. What about me? I feel sad for him. He had a tragic career in politics. Future ministers should have a chat with him to better understand how it feels to put in your best only to be severely criticized and publicly blamed. No ounce of appreciation except those who had a personal touch from him.

How many people can you personally touch, make a difference in their lives compared to policies which touch everyone including those yet to be born?

As the way to hell is paved with good intentions that is the tragedy of Mah Bow Tan as a minister. I never believed he took decisions to make us worse off but worse off we had under him. He was a blindsided minister or what in the SAF might say, on the ball but the wrong ball.

There are dark corners in every mind. That is why faiths like Buddhism spoke of the luminous ones. Mah had crafted policies that needed darkened corners in his mind to have been illuminated to avoid his mistakes. This has nothing to do with intellectual ability or wisdom. It had to do with empathy and the heart. Among ministers he wasn't the only afflicted but he had the misfortune of helming MND.

The man in the street see such darkened minds superficially as elites out of touch with their lives. They can't tell if you as minister were working for them or pleasing someone else, e.g., the property developers and wealthy. Just as there were actually good and evil Communists too, but that was a morally bankrupt ideology which rendered it impossible to tell good from evil. Who can see in the dark?

Therefore if the PAP wants you as a minister but you have no idea what the common folk worries, fears and aspirations are, be kind to yourself and us and say No.

I like to finish by recording my grateful thanks to Mah Bow Tan for imagining and championing Gardens by the Bay. I could also feel the PM's pain when he spoke about your role in making GBB happen. In this tiny Red Dot nobody should be in politics if he cared too much what others think. Do what is good for our country regardless of what the people think. If that his how he thinks, he will retire happy. I believed he tried his best.


  1. Why the need to record thanks and gratitude to MBT ?

    Its not just housing prices per se that he screwed up. He was previously Transport Minister too. He baked the cake that we Singaporeans are still eating (while he and his family members have the luxury of never needing to take public transport) and Lui Tuck Yew is struggling to cope with today.

    And remember : he is paid handsomely. Millions? And because he got in early, he's still today entitled to the lucrative pension scheme. Something like 2/3rds of last drawn monthly pay for life? Tens of thousands every month for life?

    To me, the nail in the coffin was during the Population White Paper discussion. Since stepping down as minister, MBT had barely spoken a word in Parliament. Except during the PWP debate. And his contribution -- urging the Govt to "go for the maximum".

    This guy is utterly unrepentant. He totally sees no wrong nor harm in what he has done. "Trying his best" is not good enough in the private sector. Carly Fiorina "tried her best". Steve Ballmer "tried his best". Every senior public servant including today's SMRT CEO will tell you he "tried his best".

    You can't have it both ways. On the one hand, you want to be rewarded with private sector level salaries. In this particular case, inclusive of the pensions, it can be argued that MBT is compensated more than what someone of his calibre would have fetched in the private sector. On the other hand, you want to feel the love from having given "public service". Even SR Nathan wants to feel the love -- thats why he wrote the books after leaving the Presidency. Everyone wants to feel the love.

    I'll reserve that for the founding fathers who truly served out of their hearts and at a time when the risk was enormously high and they've no personal gains.

    And oh, I'll also reserve that to opposition members and volunteers who put their head, family, career and financial fortune (at risk of being sued until bankruptcy). They have absolutely nothing to gain and in fact, everything to lose. And most are arguably, in terms of intellect or ability, far from MBT's calibre. You'll never find them in the Istana enjoying tea with the PM or President. You'll never find them on National Day awards. All they have is a heart to serve and a firm believe that it is the right thing to do.

  2. If my memories serves me correct, MBT wanted to delay the opening of Potong Pasir MRT stn for obvious reasons and also wanted higher fares for the NEL. Should the train line be built first or the estates along the rail line? As one who had experience in both ministries, MBT failed very badly. High COEs, transport fares and HDB prices are his "legacy". Is it not difficult to implement those policies in those days of easy GE walkovers? He is a textbook example of those LKY wannabes and a bad example for new civil servants. Never in S'pore's history has one person screwed up the mortgage liability of an entire generation of Singaporeans.

  3. This is the A-studded PAP candidate who was defeated by the credits-only Chiam See Tong in the 1984 GE. The GRC system was invented specifically as a result of this failure (the other was Ng Pock Too) - why seemingly impeccable PAP candidates lose to uninspiring opposition candidates. The real intent of GRC is to smuggle such failed candidates on the coat-tail of "heavy-weight" ministers so that they can have a chance of entering Parliament.