Opposition wards achieve more with less

The Straits Times carried a commentary by one of its journalists today criticizing the Government’s handling of the Town Council Management Report (TCMR). The journalist gave the Government “at best an E -” grade for “effort”. In other words, the Government failed miserably. (In the ‘O’ levels, a ‘D’ is already a failing grade.)

My 13 June blog post, Underwhelmed by town council report, was quoted in the ST article:

Workers’ Party member Gerald Giam wrote on his blog: ‘Why does the MND suddenly feel the urge to tell residents what they should think of their town councils, and by extension, their MPs?

‘Residents are personally affected by their town council’s performance. If they feel that their MPs are not performing, they would have voted them out long ago.’

— “Perception of bias dents report’s credibility”, Straits Times, 3 July 2010.

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‘Underwhelmed’ by Town Council report

Residents are personally affected by their Town Councils’ performance. If they feel that their MPs are not performing, they would have voted them out long ago. But the two opposition MPs have been returned to office again and again for the last 18 to 25 years–longer than any other PAP MPs save one. Why does MND suddenly feel the urge to tell residents what they should think of their TCs?

It is hard to contain one’s scepticism when reading the news about the Town Council Management Report (TCMR).

The Straits Times reported on Friday:

The two best performers are Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Tanjong Pagar headed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, according to the government’s Town Council Management Report.

The two worst performers are run by the opposition: Hougang, by the Workers’ Party’s Low Thia Khiang, and Potong Pasir by the Singapore People’s Party’s Chiam See Tong.

Isn’t it interesting that the two Town Councils (TCs) that “top” the report are the ones “headed” by the PM Lee and MM Lee, and the two “worst performers” are those headed by opposition MPs? (Technically the two Lees do not head their Town Councils. They have delegated that less glamorous job to their backbencher MPs.)

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Revamp the role of MPs to attract potential ministers

The Straits Times did an Insight piece about PAP MP Hri Kumar’s controversial proposal of having nominated (non-elected) ministers. They quoted some comments I made on my previous blog post:

For administrative aspects, there are already people like the permanent secretaries heading the various ministries, he notes.

The view is shared by IT consultant Gerald Giam, a founding member of the socio-political blog The Online Citizen.

He writes on his blog that ministers need to have the common touch; they need to be people who can empathise with ordinary Singaporeans.

‘If we open the doors to this segment of society to lead us, we will be fishing from the wrong pond. We will, in the long run, attract the wrong sort of people to lead our country – people with a different set of values and motivations,’ he says.

Mr Giam, Mr Siew and Dr Tan all say that a parallel cannot be drawn between Singapore’s parliamentary system and the presidential system in the United States, where the Cabinet is made up of people who are appointed, not elected.

Some friends have expressed to me publicly and privately that they in principle support the idea of non-elected ministers because some ministries (e.g., finance) need “technocratic minds”. However, I still maintain my disagreement with the idea.

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