Monday, April 18, 2011

Pragmatism shouldn't be only consideration

Apr 18, 2011

READING the many opinions for and against a multi-party government, I think we need to first re-examine the assumption that alternative parties will challenge the incumbent's policies blindly and that they do not have Singapore's interest at heart.

Members of the opposition parties are after all fellow Singaporeans, who had their education under the same system and grew up in a similar social and cultural climate. And theirs and their families' well-being will mirror the state of health of Singapore.

Granted, they have different ideologies and choose to look at issues through different perspectives, and they definitely do not have the experience that People's Action Party (PAP) members have of running a country. But does that mean their views are definitely always wrong?

Looking at the Parliament speeches, blogs and interviews of the members of these alternative parties, I must say there are interesting ideas raised which seem plausible and deserve further discussion.

While I am impressed by the rigorous process that PAP has put in place to identify its talent pool, there is always a concern that such a formulaic selection process will inevitably value some attributes over the others. So no matter how diverse the talents are as claimed, one cannot help feeling that they are just more of the same.

Although there may be no "groupthink" within the PAP, can it be that the group is so conditioned to think what is best for Singapore mostly in terms of economic values and social efficiency, that other less valued factors are not taken as much into consideration or given as much weight during the deliberation process?

Good deliberation can occur only when groups with truly different ideologies, not bound by one-party discipline, are able to come together to each present their perspectives and understand why it can or cannot work.

[Because this writer's tone is respectful, I shall restrain myself from my usual rant. 

I do not see how good deliberation can occur with members of the group with truly different ideologies. If one party believes that the free market is the best way for economic growth and government regulation just distorts the market, and the other party believes that while on the whole the free market does work, the natural greed and exploitative instincts of businesses needs to be controlled and regulated, the two parties will never be able to agree on how to regulate business. One will insist that it is necessary to rein in excesses, while the other will accuse the first of being an interventionist govt that will only distort and skew the market. How can there ever be a decision?]

Only then can the resulting resolution or compromise claim to have been fully looked at from all angles and not just based on the most pragmatic reasons.

As we have moved away from the survival phase of nation-building, pragmatism should no longer be the main or only consideration for policymaking.

[If not pragmatism, what? Idealism? Non-pragmatism? ]

For me, a good government does not necessarily equate a one-party government, but it is one which is formed by morally sound and competent individuals. I look forward to the day when competent and upright Singaporeans, with the same heart to serve, regardless of their ideologies, can pull their weight together for the betterment of Singapore.

[So are you saying that the current government is immoral, unsound, incompetent and made up of non-upright Singaporeans?]

Lee Jing Yng (Ms)

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