Three journalists from The Straits Times interviewed Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam last week, and the videos are now online for all to watch.
In the wide ranging interview over two hours, Mr Tharman gamely tackled a slew of questions that had been chosen by readers of ST's current affairs website Singapolitics over a seven day period.
It wasn't easy for the Finance Minister. We made him switch from foreign workers, to politics, back to taxes and the reserves and then to more politics and social media.
related: ASK DPM THARMAN: The full transcript
ASK DPM THARMAN: Here are the answers
Tharman in the spotlight
This month, the spotlight in Singapore – quite deservedly – falls on Second Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. For two hours, Tharman, who joined the Cabinet only nine years ago, gave a polished performance befitting his title as a possible or potential prime minister.
He spoke about the gradual shift of ruling party’s ideology – from centre to centre left – to a new emphasis on social objectives, and more proposed taxation on wealth. Other subjects covered were wide-ranging. The tone was firmer than the generalities and hedging that the public has been hearing from some leading politicians.
At the end of the interview conducted with The Straits Times, serious-minded Singaporeans can feel a bit better about succession choices.
DPM Tharman comments on a number of issues
During a recent 2-hour interview with the Straits Times, DPM Tharman talked about a number of issues concerning Singapore. He said that it is in Singapore’s interest to have a dominant party and the PAP wants to remain that dominant party. He made the following comments:
Developing local talent
“When you’re a young Singaporean, be it in the financial sector or elsewhere, your employer must have his eye on you, to see what experience you need, what are the ways in which you can develop your career, what overseas postings would be in your interest. That should be the attitude. The Singapore core is not just a set of numbers. It’s a Singapore core that has to be developed and has to be developed proactively.”
“We’re not planning another round of measures, but it depends on market conditions. We’re determined to achieve our objective of having prices come down relative to incomes. And that can be achieved both through income growth as well as some stabilisation or even cooling of prices.”
related: Rebutting DPM Tharman on his interview with ST
Tharman's wishful meritocracy
Tharman's version of meritocracy will still yield a system where some products of meritocracy are more desirable than others. As long as our culture produce and reinforce a social hierarchy (Confucianism!) rather than egalitarianism we cannot escape this result. We would just produce new politically correct behavior of respecting and extolling the less meritorious but nevertheless meritocratic achievement in order to maintain social peace. I think we are too well informed for this bait.
Until we turn around nature trumps nurture to nurture over nature there is nothing to discuss except eventual social break down and chaos. We would have risen and fallen like any society in history when the social hierarchy ossifies and mobility disappears. To use nature to justify success through meritocratic sorting will only lead you to social bankruptcy. The elites would be overthrown, I hope peacefully. Over a couple of decades a new elite would be created and the cycle repeats itself. Terrible way to live.
What we need is a real meritocracy that disbelieve nature over nurture. Therefore the fruits of meritocratic achievement must always be open to fair competition and challenge. Today, much of our society and economy, winners receive the keys to open doors and then quickly shut and lock it after them. So we must also check the abuse of power by the successful to entrench their success, but first we must win the intellectual battle that would remove their claim to power to perpetuate themselves. The worst abusers of meritocracy is the PAP through the systematic abuse of the spirit of the law to create the most unlevel playing field in politics. That is why their MPs and ministers no longer command as much respect because they got in through the easy door. They say is meritocratic but how many are deceived? Enough people bought the crap as long as the wealth and lifestyle goods are delivered.
Woah… DPM Tharman!
ST carried a splendid interview with DPM Tharman Shamugaratnam today. Here are some key points: He said that no, we should not use reserves, but the G is willing to see if more of the income generated by the reserves can be used to fund social policies. Right now, that’s capped at half of income.
Also, he said that there has been no U-turn on foreign worker policy, but it’s not going to be tightened further too. It will be capped at one-third of workforce. What’s more interesting than the newspoints is how he strove to build new concepts around all themes. Like meritocracy.
He said: “We’ve got to be a broader meritocracy recognising different strengths and different individuals, but also a continuous meritocracy where it doesn’t matter so much what happened when you’re in Sec 4 or JC 2 or when you finish your polytechnic or ITE (course), but what happens after that.”
DPM Tharman: It’s in SG’s interest to have a dominant party
In a recent 2-hour interview with the Straits Times, DPM Tharman spoke on a number of topics concerning Singapore.
Answering questions about the People’s Action Party (PAP), DPM Tharman said that it is in Singapore’s interest to have a dominant party. He said, “It’s in Singapore’s interest that you do have a dominant party, but it’s got to be one that’s open to diversity, welcoming of a responsible opposition.”
The PAP wants to remain a dominant party anchored in society – without dominating in all areas, said Mr Tharman. It can do this as an open political party, he said, that galvanises a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions.
S’poreans declare they are ready for non-Chinese prime minister
After his wide-ranging and wisdom-filled interview got published in The Straits Times on April 19, 2013, deputy prime minister Tharman Shamugaratnam has been winning accolades from all quarters in Singapore the last 16 hours.
This is due to some of the never-heard-before ideas put forward by him, which include abolishing the academic caste system caused by the education system, building a more socialist government, allowing more opposition in parliament and encouraging social media to be a check on government policy.
This has led to talk among Singaporeans that Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, a topic that was broached five years ago.
I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED IN THE PAP, THEY WILL NEVER CHANGE!
I tried really hard to believe what Tharman said the other day, that the PAP will be 'open to diversity, welcoming of a responsible opposition'. That the PAP has changed and will continue to change with a younger generation of ministers leading the charge
But even before I can try to overlook how they had not only dominated, but also crushed without mercy any dissenting views in the past, a cartoonist was locked-up, and threats were allegedly made to withdraw funding to a community organisation, because one of its directors' civil society activities in his personal capacity
Now, I am more inclined to believe what Catherine Lim. "I believe that the PAP is incapable of re-inventing itself, because true re-invention would require the opening up of one crucial area, that the PAP seems determined to keep under control at all cost. This is the area of political liberties—open debate and criticism, independence of the media, public assemblies and street demonstrations for a cause, etc., all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies."
PAP: WE WILL REMAIN DOMINANT WITHOUT BEING DOMINATING
It can do this as an open political party, he said, that galvanises a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions. "I believe we can play a dominant role, retain a dominant position without wanting to completely dominate," DPM Tharman said in an interview with The Straits Times.
"It's in Singapore's interest that you do have a dominant party, but it's got to be one that's open to diversity, welcoming of a responsible opposition."
PAP - DOMINANT WITHOUT BEING DOMINATING IS WISHFUL THINKING
2 decades ago, there were few who would “want a check on the PAP”. The reason for most to insist on some external checks is the major screw ups, one after another.
What has been observed and experienced by Singaporeans is a PAP which has not been listening and in the process, created a huge mess of our lives. Credit should be given for its attempts to listen but one senses that PAP does not want to remove its acoustic earmuffs after it rammed the population white paper down our throats and continue to throw taxpayers’ money at solutions.
PAP has been dominating all its life. Are we to believe that a leopard can change its spots?
PAP out to regain support
WITH election three years away, the problem-besieged government is striving hard to win back votes lost in recent elections. In quick succession, it announced several measures in response to rising complaints of Singaporeans, including the high costs of public housing and new cars as well as congested public transport.
It was poor planning of these issues that forced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to apologise to the nation in the 2011 election campaign. The most radical proposal involves resolving the spiralling costs of public housing that may cut prices of new homes in non-mature estates by 30%.
Analysts said that if it could pull it off without damaging the confidence of the whole property market, the ruling party could regain a bit of its lost support.
The PAP And The People: Bread-And-Butter Concerns And Much More
I was much interested in and appreciative of, the quick, frank responses of readers to my article ‘The PAP in Critical Transition: Regaining Lost Trust‘, especially the point made by many about the primacy of bread-and-butter concerns over all others, including politically-based ones. I feel it is a point worth taking up and expanding, which I have tried to do in the follow-up article below.
In the current troubled transition following the General Election of 2011, the people’s voice is strongest and most anguished, understandably, when it comes to matters affecting the very sustainability of day-to-day living—unaffordable housing, increasing cost of living and decreasing incomes, loss of jobs, etc. Indeed, these basic bread-and-butter issues have taken on an emotional urgency that demands nothing less than immediate corrective action on the part of the PAP government.
It must be said, in all fairness to the government, that since GE 2011, it has been responding with a plethora of these remedial measures. Almost on a daily basis, one reads about this or that decision to provide more housing, improve transport, build more schools and child care centres, provide subsidies to employers to enable them to raise the wages of employees, tweak existing laws for the hiring of foreign workers to ensure fairness for citizens in the workforce, etc.
A crisis of leadership at the PAP
There is a crisis of leadership at the People’s Action Party (PAP). For many years now, the PAP has suffered from the lack of ability to recruit candidates of ministerial or MP caliber. The PAP’s self-renewal is under threat, as can be seen by the declining quality of candidates offered at each succeeding general election. There is a crisis of confidence in the PAP, and the matter is not going to be resolved anytime soon.
It is not surprising that things have turned out this way for the PAP, given that the party’s image has taken a severe beating in recent years. It is increasingly recognized that PAP’s policies have resulted in a declining standard of living and quality of life for Singaporeans, for example, overcrowding, structural underemployment faced by PMETs over the age of 40, lost of jobs and wage depression caused by having too much foreign labour, frequent breakdowns in the public transport system, and a property market that has gone haywire.
When so many of PAP’s policies have gone wrong, and the PAP still refuses to change course, then men and women of high caliber start to shun the party and refuse to be recruited into its ranks, no matter how high ministerial or public service salaries are. Good men and women do not want to be associated with a political entity that is increasingly being seen as a creator rather than a solver of problems, a party that is seen as making lives harder for Singaporeans.
Why PAP politicians like to hear their own trumpet?
I am so shock on PAP politicians are very out of touch with common citizens.
Many GOOD SINGAPOREANS are being displaced by PAP’s pro-Foreign Talents/Foreign Workers policies in manpower and immigration that marginalizing Singaporeans to end up unemployed, destitute as a result of depressed wages and so forth.
Not only this hurts Singaporeans to put food on the table for families but also cause disastrous effects on families in family cohesive, low TFR, physical and mental health, next generation Singaporean future etc. For example: Instead of focusing :
- Enact “Hire and Train Singaporean First” legislation
- Promote companies “To Hire Singaporean” campaign
- Investigate journalism or “Name and Shame” companies, including GLCs, government agencies, MNCs, etc to discourage “Hire-Their-Own-Kind” practices
FOREIGNERS SHOULD RESPECT LOCAL NORMS, SAYS DPM TEO
Fundamental to Singapore's history and national identity is that we are an open and inclusive society, and we must always remain so