So you want a “first world Parliament”?

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Whilst some quarters of our society clamour and swoon for a “first world Parliament” (whatever they think it to mean) many countries in the West are struggling with how to reform theirs.

The system has failed many countries.

One of Britain’s justifications for colonialism in Africa was that it sought to “civilise the natives” by preparing them for democratic government based on the Westminster model.

At independence Ghana, Somalia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Zambia, Malawi, Gambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe had as one of their institutional legacies this model. So did the Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other countries in our region.

 

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The system has a few inherent traits that is hard to shed: it is adversarial, it creates skepticism and because of the “first past the post” nature, it is also mob rule.

Conflict between politicians trickle down to the common people, so inherently the system is also divisive. People fight.

When people fight, things get rocky – and that is why you need a matured electorate to be able to deal with this.

If I had a daughter, that would be one of the first things I would teach her: learn how to obey instructions first before learning how to make decisions.

Too much political conflict and the country plunges into instability and this frightens away businesses; which brings money..the one thing any country needs to help their citizens.

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When the PAP first took over the reigns of leadership, it is not certain whether the one party system was deliberately engineered or merely happenstance. But it did give us a cutting edge over other countries in the region: we had the ability to pass policies and new laws swiftly and decisively.

The very unpopular Land Acquisitions Act? Passed.

The Central Provident Fund Act? Passed.

The Enlistment Act? Passed.

Getting the trade unions to co-operate with the businesses and the government? In many countries, tripartism is a much desired ideal but almost impossible to actually implement. We got it done. No longer is there a need to cripple businesses, but to work with them instead for everyone’s benefit.

Meanwhile the Westminster Parliament in Britain is facing its own troubles. Parliament/Government fusion, a multitude of aging conventions, hung parliaments and partisan fights and a loss of true sovereignty because of Human Rights conventions are contributing sluggish and disabled policy making…and more skepticism than ever.

As a people, we have a lot of reason to be suspicious about positions of power. It is perfectly all right to demand them to be accountable to the exercise of their power and to give the political parties some competition to keep each one on their toes.

But here’s some food for thought though: Would Singapore have progressed the way it had if we had a handicapped government?

Or were we better off with political innovation and the ability to implement them?

 

 

 

About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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2 Comments

  • Well said once again, Benjamin. The spectre of countries such as Greece, which has become an economic basketcase accompanied by a loss of hope among many, is a case in point. A divisive situation has not only arisen but worsened, despite the number of elections, including a referendum, they have had. Many other countries are not much better off. I’m not saying we should adhere to ‘groupthink’ by any means; issues must be thoroughly discussed and debated, and alternative views given full voice. But ultimately we cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the grip of the polarities which are destroying the fabric of many other societies.

    No system is perfect by any means, but I think it is fair to say that Singapore has been on to something special for the past half-century and more. Such good governance is not something to be taken lightly!

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