Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Manifesto for a New Singapore - In Honour of My Favourite Young Politician's 18th Birthday

Towards a New Singapore

My fellow Singaporeans, I am honoured to announce to you that I will be launching a new political movement, a movement, that I hope will bring Singapore into a more prosperous future for all Singaporeans.

My movement will be called – “Singapore for Singaporeans.” I’m sure many of you may be wondering what I mean by “Singapore for Singaporeans,” so bear with me as I outline my simple platform for elected office.

What Do I Dream for Singapore?

Everything starts with a dream and a Singapore for Singaporeans starts on the premise that Singapore was created by the sheer hard work and ingenuity of Singaporeans. I want to return Singapore to the value system that made it a shinning red dot. Values such as visionary leadership, individual responsibility and human ingenuity must be restored if Singapore is to claim its place as a civilised and prosperous citizen of the global community.

Visionary Leadership

Singapore has been blessed with visionary leadership. Under the firm but fair hand of men like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore has developed from an insignificant island into a thriving centre for commerce. These men have all played a role in making this nation everything a nation should be – clean, green, rich and safe. As a Singaporean I am proud to be able to walk down streets that are covered by trees and free of litter that pollutes so many other cities around the world.

If elected, I will continue the legacy of these great men by providing what we call leadership. Leadership being the concept of taking responsibility for decisions no matter how popular and demanding higher standards of ones self than what one demands of others. Is this old fashioned? It is old fashioned because these are timeless and successful concepts that have been proven successful across cultures and national boundaries. To this end, I will implement the following policies:

  • Parliament will be given more powers to hold the executive to account. As our national legislature it is the job of parliament to ensure that the executive, lead by the Prime Minister will be held accountable to parliament and the people. From now on, parliamentary committees will have the power to summon ministers for questioning. The committees will have the power to make recommendations to dismiss ministers who do not comply. The buck stops at the top and we must institutionalise this truism. .
  • Secondly, the Prime Minister will be required to make an annual report to Parliament on the state of the nation. This will be in addition to the Presidential address at the opening of parliament. Singaporeans pay “top-dollar” to get a world class government and highly paid government officials must be responsible to their paymasters. All government servants will be subject to annual reviews and the bottom ten percent of every review will be terminated. Government cannot be seen as an employer of those who do wish to excel.
  • Laws on libel will also be reviewed and revised so that they are not open to abuse. The media has a vital role to play in ensuring that the relationship between the government and governed remains an open channel of communication. We maintain the position that no one individual media owner will be given the power to topple and elected government but it is also important that the press plays a role in investigating rumours and bringing facts to the public attention. Failure to do so due to perceived political sensitivities not be tolerated – it is irresponsible journalism.

Individual Responsibility and Human Ingenuity

While visionary political leadership is important to the development of society, it is useless if the population has no interest in accepting responsibility in developing the nation. Singapore was built by hard working and ingenious people – people who had the courage to create opportunities for themselves. We cannot have a system where people behave in certain ways merely to suit government legislation. Gone are the days when government was sole source of ideas.

Privatisation of Temasek Holdings and Annual Reporting by GIC

Singapore’s reserves are currently managed by the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC) and Temasek Holdings. In recent years these companies have been buying into foreign companies to preserve Singapore’s financial future. However, this has often led to complaints that the Government is pursuing its political agenda overseas and that is using the money of Singaporeans to further its own commercial interest. These concepts must be removed, so to this end greater transparency must be created. Previous governments have argued that secrecy was necessary to protect Singapore from international speculators. However, the experience of public companies has shown that greater transparency has lead to greater efficiency in its use of capital.

  • To this end, if elected, my government will make it a law to ensure that the Chairman of the GIC will be required to make an annual report to a parliamentary committee on the state of GIC’s investments. This will provide Singaporeans with a clear view of how their money is being spent and the value which it provides the nation. This will also make it easier for GIC to deal with foreign governments in its investments.
  • More importantly, Temasek Holdings will be privatised. The government will maintain a controlling interest but eventually the majority of shares will be owned by the Singaporean public. This will have several benefits. It will create greater liquidity in the stock market. It will provide our aging population with another means of securing their future. More importantly it will subject Temasek Holdings to the laws of the stock exchange and provide benefits like greater transparency and allow the shareholders to hold management to account for their performance.
  • As a small nation, Singapore needs to keep its markets free to foreign competition if it expects larger markets to allow Singapore companies free access. To this end, anti-monopoly laws will be strengthened to ensure that larger companies to do engage in practices that endanger competition. This will include making former state monopolies open up use of their infrastructure to competitors and it will prevent anyone company from controlling anyone market. Government exist to protect the interest of consumers, not the profits of companies. Companies that cannot make money in a competitive market have incompetent management and the government is not in the business of protecting incompetence.
  • SAF commanders will also be given more autonomy. As our most important arm of national defence, the SAF must be lead by men who are capable of making decisions and have the ingenuity to think differently. The nature of warfare has changed and we need leaders who can think along the lines that defeats today’s new enemy. Skills like being able to work with foreign counterparts has now become integral to modern warfare and we need commanders with such skills. From now on, promotion to the highest ranks will be based on service in trans-national forces like the UN. As for those below, it is important that they have the feeling that they are part of an organisation that is valued. This will begin with a simply symbolic change – the members of the brigade of guards and military police will have responsibility to guarding the Istana without the presence of the Singapore Police Force. The military must be seen to be more than decorative.

Singapore has run a successful course but it is now necessary to ensure it continues to do so in the future. A vote for us is a vote for leadership that is willing to create the culture that will protect our future.

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