19 Jul 2004

The Straits Jacket

Your future rulers have just been decided. The possibilty of a change in future governements being run by another political party in Singapore has just been ruled 'void'.

Lets not even pretend that the electorate decide who will rule them.

JULY 19, 2004
S'pore way of political succession here to stay

Ministers and MPs say Aug 12 handover will show system of peaceful leadership renewal has been proven to work
SINGAPORE will on Aug 12 demonstrate that it is possible for its government to plan for and carry out leadership renewal in a peaceful and orderly fashion not once but twice.

Ministers and Members of Parliament said this is the significance of the Istana ceremony at which Mr Lee Hsien Loong will be sworn in as the country's third prime minister.

The transition to a third generation of leaders in the same low-key, well-planned manner as happened 14 years ago, when Mr Goh Chok Tong became Prime Minister, will entrench the system put in place by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the first-generation leaders.

It will show that the Singapore way of political succession is here to stay.

Among the MPs who highlighted this point was West Coast GRC MP S. Iswaran.
'We do it once, it's an isolated event. When we do it twice, and over a span of more than 35 years, we establish a certain commitment to a system which is good for the country,' he said.

Agreeing, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong said: 'The system has been proven to work and Singaporeans now view it as a tradition.'

Mr Chan Soo Sen, Minister of State (Education, Community Development and Sports), compared this state of affairs to the 'turmoil' that often accompanies generational change in other countries.

'Singapore's stability is its strength,' he said.

Several MPs also welcomed the way Mr Goh has fine-tuned the system established by SM Lee, by allowing MPs to either endorse the person that Cabinet ministers choose to lead the country or to put forward their own candidate.
MPs did so at a meeting in May, unanimously supporting Deputy Prime Minister Lee as their choice.

As for what they see as the key challenges facing Mr Lee and his team, most said yesterday that the No 1 issue would be to keep the economy growing even as competition for jobs and investments intensifies.

At the lower end, Singapore would face competition from huge countries like China and India, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said.

But even in higher-value-added sectors, it would have to compete against developed countries.
'So we have to be on our feet all the time and be nimble to adjust to all these challenges,' he said.

Mr Wong and Acting Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen also highlighted structural unemployment as a key concern.
Even though the economy is recovering, 'unemployment will continue to be a challenge' because some workers find it difficult to acquire new skills, Dr Ng said.

'We have to help this group join the economy,' he added.

Some labour MPs said a key task will be to assure lower-income Singaporeans that they will also have a share in the country's future growth. They are hoping that Mr Lee will make workers a key focus of his maiden speech.

Ministers and MPs alike interviewed said Mr Lee and his Cabinet would also need to find new ways to connect with a younger generation of Singaporeans, who have many more options than their parents ever did as to where they want to work and live.
Mr Wong observed that those born after Singapore gained independence in 1965 will form 'a very significant part of the electorate'.

'We have to continue to adapt and engage the young people so that they remain supportive of the Government,' he said.
Dr Ng described the challenge as one of getting this new generation of Singaporeans 'to gel and give them confidence'.
Ms Indranee Thurai Rajah of Tanjong Pagar GRC said the milestones were much clearer 40 years ago, when SM Lee and the old-guard ministers set out to transform Singapore from a Third World economy to a First World economy.

'The new PM's room for manoeuvring is far less because of the mature, developed economy and a population that is more sophisticated and better educated,' she said.

When asked about the future roles of Mr Goh and SM Lee, the MPs said they supported DPM Lee's decision to keep the two leaders in Cabinet.

Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Mayor of Northeast Community Development Council and Aljunied GRC MP, said their experience in international and regional affairs 'will provide the continuity and steady hand to strengthen the Cabinet'.

Mr Seng noted that in Mr Goh's 14 years as prime minister, he has extended Singapore's networking well beyond Asean to Europe, South Asia and even the Middle East.

'Now that we are competing globally, we really need someone like Mr Goh to help continue this kind of global networking,' he said.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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