What if Singapore had our version of Donald Trump?

Without getting into the merits of his policies, it was interesting watching the newly minted American President get busy moving headlines and sparking protests. People are divided as to whether his moves are insane, or political genius. I’ve seen opinions swing from opposition, to neutral and then even to grudged support and vice versa.

The one thing I find that is a clear disaster, is the apparent failure to seek consensus or at the very least, persuade a people to see the benefits of a policy. Trump appeared to have made decisions at the snap of the finger. It looked like one-man policy making. If there was a plan and strategy for the rolling out these executive decisions, you certainly didn’t see it. If there had been quantified, substantiated justifications for these decisions, you couldn’t find it.

All these policies rolled out on a whim were justified on the basis that it was in the best interests of the people and in the name of keeping trouble out. But you know… the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

These are noble reasons but when you do these without a planned strategy, without identifying the fallout that could happen (and is happening), you risk setting your nation back economically and politically.

The acts that you intended to benefit your citizens would end up worsening their situation.

Even if America gets displaced as a global leader, stagnates economically and loses diplomatic clout, it is still a mighty nation. It can be be…um, great again under a different leadership.

But can Singapore? What if we get a questionable Prime Minister and Cabinet that takes over in a freak election?

I argue it is necessary to have one party run Singapore even if it was not the PAP. Ong Ye Kung had made this interesting remark: single-party rule is the best way for a small country like Singapore to succeed. He emphasised that the party need not be the PAP, but whichever party is the most capable.

If this one party was to fail, then it shall fail spectacularly and dismissed as one collective whole. Painful, but quick. This would be better than having entrenched dysfunction in all Singapore and be imprisoned in an extended political limbo.

The founders of modern Singapore were realistic in the building of the nation. They were realistic to the fact that a capable government would not last forever and the country had to be equipped for the rule of a rouge.

The role of Elected President plays such a role.

It amazes me when people think that his role is a mere symbolic ornament. The administration that designed this role had no appetite for such frivolous vanity. The seat of the President is highly functional – it has powers to restrict access to the hundreds of billions of dollars (or more) that Singapore has in reserves. It has powers to prevent ascension to Acts of Parliament. It also has powers to select Government appointments.

If the day comes that we get a Prime Minister that gets trigger happy with policies and like Trump, in a matter of days carries out projects that harm the nation – we only have these few mechanisms to keep them in check, without destroying the flexibility a government needs in order to do its work.

America can be great again. Singapore, not so likely. The only real advantage we have to keep the economy buzzing for our citizens, is that of political stability, security and peace. Not only are these fragile things, it can be easily replicated by any of our neighbours if they just had the political will to do so.

This day should never come to Singapore and it can only start by having an informed, thinking citizenry.

 

 

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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