The PM has set out to defend three principles : the pursuit of economic growth – not at a “ridiculous high speed’’ but at about 2 to 3 per cent growth; an openness to foreigners and the system of meritocracy. I think that’s a good starting point to get the Singapore conversation more focused. Three big categories – and let’s see what sort of consensus we can achieve. Then sub-divided into smaller areas where this consensus can be re-calibrated on the policy front.
Actually there was one phrase PM which struck me: the results of “over-correction’’. You know, too many people praise Singapore for being efficient and organised. We’re small and nimble which means we can move fast. It’s one of the advantages of being a small country. So when we cut the CPF rate to help employers, everyone moves and so does the economy. One indication from on high and everyone falls in line. We take the cue, we follow. Good if the lead is a good one, but what will happen if we go the wrong course? The Singapore system will kick in and everyone will move – right down the wrong path.
I think I see some of this happening. Like the foreign workers tap being tightened. The G has come out several times to say that the approach hasn’t changed. That the numbers are still tied to how many Singaporeans are hired. But this is the Singapore system. One cue and everyone reacts. It’s not just about a policy change, it’s about the people who do what they think they are being asked to do. So employers find it harder to get the employment passes renewed and find other stumbling blocks in the way. That’s because people down the line want to, well, toe the line. The effect is then a big effect, bigger than expected.
It’s the same thing too on the education front. Because the MOE says it doesn’t want to release the names of top students, principals suddenly think that they too should do likewise. Odd. Principals were quite happy to broadcast names in the past, and now they suddenly agree they shouldn’t? Is there no room for independent thinking?
I think that’s why people always look to the G for answers. If the G says so, it must be so and it will do so. And the Singapore system starts cranking. Very flattering for the G – and not necessarily the people.