Singapore Elections 2011

Someone told me that when Margaret Thatcher visited Singapore, she made a comment that she & Lee Kuan Yew were similar in the way they ruled a country, however, LKY was more fortunate because he had many more years to roll out his policies.  I am unable to verify the authenticity of that comment, though, even if taken as a parable, I still see the point it is trying to make. 

I believe that one of the reasons why Singapore has moved from being a Third World country to First World so quickly is because the same party has been in power for the last few decades.  Think about it.  Elections have to be called every 5 years.  If the ruling party changed every time, it means that the newly elected party has only 5 years to implement whatever policies it has for the country.  It will probably take about 2 years for the newly elected party to run off the policies implemented by the previous government, by which it only has up to 3 years to implement its own policies, plus plan for the next elections.  Given the short frame of time, it is almost practically impossible for the ruling party to do any real long term planning for a country.  Will the government be able to do any sort of 5-year & 10-year blueprint?  For long term plans that are midway in execution, what happens to them when the ruling party changes?  Do these plans get abandoned?  Modified?  How effective & efficient will the country be if long term plans get disrupted all the time?

People have jokingly called Singapore’s ruling party a dictatorship.  But I think how Singapore’s political system has differed from a dictatorship is that although the same party has been in power for many years, there has been proper succession planning & renewal at the top ranks.  As a thought, is it necessarily bad that the same party has ruled for so many years?  Having the same party in power has ensured that plans and policies have been followed through.  Sure, there may have been some wrong decisions made, or opportunities missed.  What’s important, however, is that the people who made those decisions were also around to rectify & improve things.  I feel that that’s way better than having new politicians come in all the time, give their 5-year shot at running the country, then either moving back to the private sector to earn big bucks leveraging from their political career, or running off because they screwed up.

People talk about our ruling party having “group think” but I think the herd mentality is more applicable & evident in people who bash the government, just for the sake of complaining.  There will always be opposition parties in Singapore and there is merit in that.  What I hope is that Singaporeans will cast a meaningful vote.  Vote for the party that can take our country forward, not for the one who makes the greatest noise.

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April 2011