Go with a smile!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lee Kuan Yew's Not Good 1980s

The 80s were not a great period for Lee Kuan Yew. Most of his mistakes were made during the 80s.

1. Closure of Nantah. Nobody could have predicted that today, 35 years down the road, China would be poised for world domination. But cutting off that channel to Chinese culture, to our fellow SE Asian Chinese, to the mainland is just plain stupid. Pissing off a significant proportion of the Singaporean Chinese is just plain stupid.
2. Speak Mandarin campaign. OK, this was in 1979. This may have been in anticipation of the rise of China. (Which made it curious that Nantah was closed around the same time, and most likely this was more political than for Singapore's good.) This cut off some of our ties from the past, and I'm still pretty pissed off about it up til today.
3. Special Assistance Plan. This was a push to get people who excelled in both Chinese and English to succeed in the school system. Well and good. But how come there wasn't an equivalent scheme for the Malays and Indians? Yes, you had advanced Malay, advanced Tamil. That was it.
4. Dealing with Devan Nair. Devan Nair should never have taken the presidency, because that opened the door for JBJ to enter parliament. But once he was in the Istana, they should have tried to ease him out in a better way than trying to drug him and discredit him as an alcoholic was simply buffoonish.
5. Elected presidency. Making the presidency an elected one has repercussions that extend all the way until today.
6. Operation Spectrum. 'nuff said.
7. Asset enhancement. This opened the door to the property price bubble that carries on until today.
8. Designating his son an eventual successor. Lee Hsien Loong is not a terrible prime minister, but there may have been better candidates, although we'd never know. Sometimes I think about what it might have been like if it were George Yeo or Tharman Shanmugaratnam being the PM instead of him. Then again, I'd take him over Teo Chee Hean anytime.
9. Productivity movement. It wasn't successful. Possibly because we didn't push on technology hard enough. Possibly because we weren't allowing people from outside of the system to succeed.
10. Graduate mother's scheme. This may have started the reintroduction of the class system into Singapore.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write very well and are really incisive. Can you write about what happened to George Yeo and Tharman?

7:05 PM

Blogger 7-8 said...

I don't have a very good idea about what happened about George Yeo. I'm observing from far away. In Aljunied, there was a big gamble, and it failed. In 2011, it was clear to everybody that - because of what previously happened to Eunos and Cheng San - Aljunied was the GRC where the PAP's hold on power was its weakest. The PAP had 2 options. One of them was to just give it up, and put in relatively junior people. The other was to shore up the defence and put all your good guys into Aljunied. Looking back, they put all their good guys into Aljunied. George Yeo, Lim Hwee Hwa, Ong Ye Kung and Zainal Abidin Rashid. And it was a gamble that they lost badly, and they lost 3 ministers and 1 speaker.

Then on nomination day, Low Thia Khiang took the bold but risky move of moving from Hougang to Aljunied. To see why it was risky, think about what would have happened if they lost Aljunied. Then Yaw Shin Leong would have been the only opposition MP in Singapore. And we know what happened to him afterwards. The WP might have been forced to fire him and probably Png Eng Huat would still have won but it'd have been pretty weird.

Maybe George Yeo was put in that position because he's the guy that everybody likes but not necessarily the one you want in your cabinet? It's funny that he's an old friend of Teo Chee Hean, because I can't think of anybody else in the cabinet who's less like him.

Regarding Tharman Shanmugaratnam, I'll just repeat what the PAP said: he was not the cabinet's favourite candidate. Lee Kuan Yew was instrumental in planning for the future prime ministers. Perhaps that was in line with his philosophy of keeping his family in the center of political power in Singapore. For whatever reason, Lee Hsien Loong is less keen on that. The real story of Oxleygate is that the Lee dynasty is over, and that's a little eerie because the predictable politics of Singapore is over.

There are 3 things that count against Tharman: first, he is Indian. Second, his politics don't gel well with the rest of the cabinet, and third, he's not that much younger than Lee Hsien Loong.

2:34 AM


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