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News Reports

The Cabinet has new drawers

A long time ago, there was a Ministry of Culture and it morphed over time to become the Ministry of Information and the Arts. I remember ribbing the new minister then, George Yeo, about leading the MIA. He inserted a T, so it became MITA or Mita. Then it became Mica when Communications went under the ministry. Now it has become MCI. Plus MCCY. Plus MSF. Gosh, we’re gonna have problems figuring out who does what. In fact, if you read BT today, you’ll think that Mica is still going to be around….

I suppose MSF – Social and Family Development is  a bit like the old Social Welfare ministry except Social Welfare seems like such a quaint term and welfare is a bad word. As for the MCCY – culture, community and youth – it’s like the Fun ministry. And the re-constituted MCI – communication and information – with its emphasis on public engagement. Propaganda ministry?

Ok. I believe I’ve  upset some people by now. So I’ll get serious. Frankly, I am not too interested in who’s moving up or down, or sideways or who will make it into the fourth-generation of leaders. Political fortunes rise and fall and crystal ball gazing is just that – crystal ball gazing. You can’t predict what the  PM will do, or the will of the electorate. What’s more important is what those in charge will do with the portfolios they now hold. I agree entirely with Ignatius Low in ST today that the G seems to have “re-boxed” (my word) the portfolios into hardware and heartware – the Cabinet has new drawers…And it reflects some new priorities on the part of the G.

So families will get its own champion – I suppose this will include the task getting Singaporeans to marry and have more children? And what to do about levelling up the bottom? I wonder though if childcare and pre-school will remain under this category – or move to the hardware ministry, Education?  Seems like plenty of people want it this way to up academic standards. If it does remain under MSF – it’s got to work fast, because it’s increasingly being viewed as a big reason for a widening income gap. Also, I would like to know what social development means – becoming a more gracious society?

MCCY – I suppose this is the “bonding” ministry. I mean, that’s what community means no? So its the PA and other agencies which will go under its ambit. I guess not Community Development Councils since it looks more Social Development to me….I am nit-picking here. I’m sure the G has all this sorted out. Anyway, I think it’s biggest job is going to be settling this discontent that is seeping into the general population about the foreigners’ role in Singapore. It’s getting uglier and uglier in my view…the G’s move to slow down foreign inflow might have been made too late. It’s other job must be to convince the “culture” people – sports, arts etc – that it’s interested in raising standards and not just see culture as “bonding” mechanism or a means to an end.

As for the propa..oops MCI. Let’s hope it does a better job of listening to rumblings so that the G acts faster – and not as slow as what I’ve said earlier. I also hope that the priority is in engagement – that is, two-way. Not one-way messages that are “better designed” to reach the public. I have a beef about such things…You know how panels etc always ask for FEEDBACK? What’s feedback? It’s one-way. People are no longer satisfied with giving feedback. They want to talk about things, argue, be persuaded – or not.

While I am at this, I notice that ministers are increasingly “engaging” the public through social media, with FB postings and blogging etc. I don’t know about you but I see these as just another “press release” for the net-savvy and for the MSM (mainstream media – not another ministry) to pick up for the not so net-savvy. I have some misgivings, which could be unfounded. Seems like “messages” are getting  out through more channels but are those messages being challenged as well? Questioned? And as quickly? Or are we still in the novelty phase – waaah, this minister has an FB page…!

Maybe I worry too much. I was reading BT and ST on this whole issue of job growth. ST went predictably more rah-rah. But the new MOM (manpower ministry – not my mother) guy Tan Chuan-Jin blogged about it. And what BT picked up was interesting – “While good employment figures are always laduable, if I were to be self-critical, I would be somewhat concerned that employers were adding jobs at a faster pace, at a time of slowing economic growth. This would  dampen out our labour productivity.”  That’s a good point, and unusually frank for a  politician. So employers could be adding jobs willy-nilly. ST only paraphrased him saying he was concerned about how long the labour market would last.

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Hmm….why leh? If the G itself doesn’t think it’s so hunky-dory, why not just report it ?

Sigh. I guess the G men should keep blogging.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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