Does political debate make policy-making inefficient?

The recent policy roll-outs – particularly the population white paper and budget 2013 – have led to such heated debate that some have raised doubts on the effectiveness of a cacophonous political debate.

Political differences are to be expected, and they can even be part of a healthy and mature political environment.

But that’s only in cases where people and parties are able to put their differences aside to compromise and make decisions to benefit society at large.

Unfortunately in most cases political debates escalate, people attack each other’s beliefs, parties accuse each other, and agreements are hardly ever reached. Talk about efficiency!

The only thing most people will agree on is the fact that the ideal process leads to quick and efficient consensus that takes into account everyone’s best interest.

Most importantly, the ideal system allows the government to implement the consensus in an optimal and timely way.

That’s why despite what overseas critics may say, having a single, dominant political party in parliament remains the best way to ensure political decisions are quickly made and efficiently implemented.

Some will argue that a multi-party system – a “true democracy” – is the only way to achieve real development.

Well, look around!

Singapore wouldn’t be what it is today if it had wasted precious time and resources asking every single person’s personal opinion. That’s what elected officials are for, aren’t they?

Need more proof? Just look at the mess the US and Italy are in. How can they seriously make any headway in terms of budget priorities if politicians are too busy debating over every single detail?

Not only are divisions within a government inefficient, they put the economy at risk!

In Singapore, people may be debating on the pros and cons of certain budget measures, but the fact of the matter is that the diverging opinions aren’t keeping policy-makers and government officials from doing their job.

They are actually making things happen while being aware of people’s feelings and opinions, no matter how counter-productive these may be.

Informed discussions are positive signs of greater political participation, and even necessary to ensure that Singapore is headed in the right direction.

The important takeaway is for all parties to keep an open mind and not contribute to a divisive environment.

After all, nothing is cast in stone and there are plenty of common grounds to be reached in working towards a common end goal for Singaporeans.

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Najib A.

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