PAP rule has taken us where none of our neighbouring countries have ventured. And I’m grateful.
By Ng Zhong Ming
Majulah PAP! Majulah Singapura! Photo: TERENCE LEE
PRAISING the PAP seems unfashionable these days, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Look at how far a small island nation with no resources has come. And not just survived, but done terribly well economically.
Go ahead, scan today’s newpapers and headlines. Politicians talk about realism and pragmatism, their speeches peppered with practicality and gritty competitiveness.
This is because the global economy is in uncharted waters. Even European nations, with their generous welfare systems and enforced immigration policies, are in trouble.
Soul-searching is not reserved only for the PAP: The purported forefathers of democracy are struggling and have a lot to think about.
America is facing up with a resurgent China – a complacent giant that has awoken from its long slumber and realised that the ascendency of the West and Western ideas has been but a blip in the world’s long history.
Even India – the world’s largest democracy, is lagging further and further behind.
Because ideals, yes, even those that developed democracies depend on, ultimately don’t feed people. Doing what is necessary, to ensure survivability, doing what puts food on the table – feeds people.
Put it this way: In Singapore, ideals are for restless youths who will move into nice, air conditioned offices soon enough after getting a decent education. Beggars living day by day just don’t give a damn.
But idealism can only be sustained if and only if there are other people out there doing the grunt work of being industrious and holding the economic front.
And don’t forget, a decent education to begin with, is the result of the foundation laid for by the PAP, through more than 50 years of proven track record.
Yes, the PAP is not perfect. It even acknowledges that.
However, which government doesn’t make mistakes? And which other government in the world can make a small island state, expelled from a federation, punch way above its weight in regional and international affairs? And this is no hypothetical question.
Should we be voting for the opposition, for so-called democracy and for less tangible gains, while all over the world, democracies are also in trouble, and real competition is heating up?
Therefore, I don’t buy the argument that the presence of opposition enables constructive competition.
Sure, we don’t want to emulate those types of democracy where it is all a mess. But can it not be possible that the presence of PAP is the compromise between a democratic and authoritarian state?
Think about this: Is this the time to push for democratic change without any of the negative trade-offs? Can we afford this, when nations, particularly in our region, are becoming more practical, more competitive, when our immediate neighbours, with their natural resources and vast markets at command, are fast catching up?
It is economic growth that holds Singapore together, that ensures we have a say in ASEAN and beyond. In the dog-eat-dog world of international politics, poor beggars will be ripped to shreds.
Are we abandoning what is done, for what ought to be done? To this, Machiavelli had this to say: “He who abandons what is done for what should be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation”.
We should be mindful that Singapore’s economy is based on international trade and the free flow of capital. And international capital is easily spooked. Investor darling one day, pariah the next.
And increasingly, alternative options are multiplying in the investment horizon in emerging, growth markets.
We are sailing into uncharted seas, and to this, you need a single-minded determination – the captain that you can trust, the captain with the best proven track record.
We are all familiar by now about this driver/pilot analogy, but to be fair, let us hope that the co-navigator will attempt to provide constructive feedback and advice, instead of attempting to undermine the captain’s decisions at every chance, or God forbid, try to wrest the ship’s wheel.
Let us hope the opposition will be able to step up to the task, what more in a small, swift ship in a sea plied with much bigger vessels than ours, braving the storm, and some of these heeling.
Should not a small ship in turbulent seas be more pragmatic? Let us not forget that it is economic growth that holds Singapore together, that ensures we have a say in ASEAN and beyond. In the dog-eat-dog world of international politics, poor beggars will be ripped to shreds.
Detractors say that there is a need for “heartware”, beyond sheer hardware. This is another fair point.
But then again, take a look at today’s papers – not the Straits Times, for the skeptics – and you will notice countries with “soft power” reserves, which are enjoying life, are getting a massive reality check.
The Europeans are waking up to the fact that their lifestyle is not sustainable.
Even the Americans are facing up to the end of hegemony and a new, multi-polar, competitive world order.
Countries with “hard power” reserves and huge resources and markets are the ones delivering the goods. The era of small economies rapidly developing based on trade is over. From the old development “formula“ of Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea, now comes the aptly named BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and add to that, Indonesia.
The million dollar question remains – will the opposition ensure better governance, and better management? Let us hope so. To be fair, the debate about Singapore needing soulfulness is a perfectly good one, but above that, one is faced with the reality that continued economic performance and growth in a competitive world is what is needed to sustain this small island republic, and its already high living standards.
These are the issues that make an immediate impact on everyone’s daily lives.
Put simply, results feed people. This election, if nothing else, is a healthy injection of realpolitik.
Put simply, realistic politics.
Not the airy-fairy stuff that makes someone teary-eyed but nothing more.
Deliver the results; deliver us across these uncharted seas. For there be economic and political dragons, not ideological fancies. Let us hope the opposition does serve this function, if nothing else.
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