It is this dramatic improvement in the social, economic makeup of the citizenry, with the backdrop of significant technological advances that will prove to be the largest challenges the PAP government will ever face in this next 10 years.
Actually, this is also the reason for my concern. The PAP government has through the solid performances of eradicating unemployment and housing its people in public housing (HDB), won election after election since 1959. Its is also unashamed of the way it governs. Paternalistic and completely logic driven. This method of government might have been appropriate in the early years, but with a burgeoning young and educated electorate, it can no longer afford to continue like the emperor with a mandate from heaven. I’m sure they realise this, with SM Goh Chok Tong and now PM Lee Hsien Loong’s promise for a more inclusive society. But, I’m not sure if they realise that they’re not doing quite a good job of this. Getting the P65 MPs to hip hop to groovy tunes is not going to do the trick. You need more than that.
This, in my opinion will become the archilles heel for the PAP government. If it doesn’t already know, it has seriously mis-calculated or mis-read the young of today. They have unbridled energy. They are very vocal, yet impressionable. They want changes fast, and are easily disappointed when they do not see change. Because the young are impressionable, they can easily fall into the seductive persuasions of people with less than honourable intentions. If left unchecked, the problems that come with this new generation will grow to a tipping point for the PAP government, and may de-stabilise Singapore in the long run.
The solution? I’m no expert, but I feel that the PAP government needs to target the thinking generation (19 to 45). The government needs to come down from its pedestal, and meet with people one on one. Discuss policies in the open, explain policies, crystallise them for people to understand. Put important policies to national referendum. Decisions like the Integrated Resort is one example. I think deep down, people understand that the IRs are a required poison for the long term viability of Singapore. By putting it to a national referendum, the PAP government would not only have a solid confirmation of their decision, but they would also have given people their voices, and made people feel they are included in the decision making of the country.
For example, the “Stop at 2” policy of the 1960s. This has been criticised many many times, but I believe it was the right policy for that time. In the 1960s, unemployment was at 10% and more. Structural unemployment was a very real threat. The population kept growing and growing. Housing was an issue. The policy to stop at 2 was sound, and logical for that time. What was wrong, was that it was allowed to continue past the mid 70s, when employment dropped to 3% or lower. Families were still penalised for their 3rd and 3+nth child. This is an example of a correct policy, but slightly over done. The government should explain this to the people so that they understand. Instead, because of this resulting mis-conception, there are people who use it as one of the key reasons (completely out of context) why we are short of citizens and have to resort to foreign talent. Conversely, if the government were to engage in robust debate with its citizens, people would have realised that to not have the “Stop at 2” policy, we might never have resolved our unemployment problem, our education problem, our housing problem, etc. Singapore might not be where we are today.
The needs of a new generation needs to be met with an equally creative and diligent government willing to engage its citizens on all matters of policies. To this regard, the PAP government has many things it needs to change.