Tan Jee Say : Cronyism and Aristocracy are the opposites of Meritocracy

Rally speech on 3 September 2015 at Jurong Stadium


Tan Jee Say, candidate for Tanjong Pagar GRC

Good evening fellow Singaporeans and residents of Jurong GRC and Tanjong Pagar GRC!

Thank you very much for coming to our first rally in this general election. Our party is only 1 year old and we are putting forward 10 candidates with good credentials. Not a bad start. And we are attracting attention. PAP has started to attack us by name.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, the prime minister in waiting, accused SingFirst of bribing children and the elderly with monthly allowances of $300. He said, “Please don’t insult my residents. You think..they are here to be bribed?” What does Mr Chan find insulting? Is $300 per month too small an amount or is the promise of financial help insulting? The PAP promised pioneer citizens $300 per quarter but our $300 allowance is for every month, making it $900 per quarter, 3 times more than PAP’s. But even this amount will not satisfy Mr Chan. Didn’t he talk with delight about XO chye tow kuay that costs $20 a plate? So $300 will buy him only 15 plates a month, not enough leh.

This is so typical of the man and his PAP cronies who forget their humble beginnings after rising up their career and then finding it demeaning to eat plain chay tow kuay that costs $2 a plate. We in SingFirst do not forget our humble family beginnings. I am the son of a washerwoman and my first option is to eat non-fancy food at a hawker centre because I know how hard it is to earn even a single dollar.

Let me next turn to Mr Chan’s second source of insult. He thinks “bribing” voters is insulting. But hasn’t his party been “bribing” voters all over Singapore in the name of celebrating SG50 and so-called rewarding pioneers? Isn’t this insulting Singaporeans? And it is big time money from taxpayers. To make it complete, why not call this election an SG50 election? Too blatant, too shameful?

Let me be very clear about this. We are not “bribing” the elderly with $300 a month. We are returning to them the money that rightfully belongs to them.

Let me explain. Every month, our workers put a sizeable portion of their salaries into the CPF. These CPF savings are paid an interest rate of 2.5% on average. They are used to buy Special Government Securities which are then invested by GIC. GIC earns a return of about 6% on these investments over a 20-year period but CPF members get paid only 2.5%, so the government keeps the excess of about 3.5%. By way of contrast, Malaysia’s EPF paid a dividend of 6.75% to its members last year, more than 2 and a half times our CPF.

Our CPF Members’ balances amounted to $250 billion at the beginning of 2014 and if all these were invested by GIC, the 3.5% excess return kept by the Government would mean a sum about $8.75 billion. Our $300 monthly allowance to elderly Singaporeans costs only $2 billion, less than one quarter of the $8.75 billion that the Government has short-changed us. Is it any wonder that more than half of Singaporeans do not have adequate savings to meet the CPF minimum sum requirement for retirement needs?

Our $300 monthly allowance will help the elderly retire comfortably with money that is rightfully theirs, so all this talk of bribing is nonsense.

Mr Chan also spoke about trust. He asked residents to vote for the party that they can trust. Of course, did he mean that only PAP is worthy of people’s trust. Really?

Let’s see what an independent international survey tells us. The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that in 2014, only 26% of Singaporeans trust their Government leaders to tell the truth; in other words, the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans do not trust PAP government leaders. Do you still want to vote for a party whose leaders have such a low level of trust among its citizens?

I would now like to answer Indranee Rajah who disputed our view that the Government favours foreigners over Singaporeans. She claimed that Singaporeans are front and centre of everything that PAP does. I will cite just three examples to show she is wrong, two in education and the other in business.

Education : In primary one school registration, Singapore citizens are not in front but share the same priority as PRs. Also Singaporean students pay school fees and take up student loans to pay university fees but foreign students get scholarships and free tuition fees to the tune of about $400 million every year.

Business :  The Economist magazine ranked Singapore as top 5 in the world on its Global Cronyism Index where “politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper”. Singapore comes fifth after Hong Kong, Russia, Malaysia and Ukraine. The word “cronyism” came into popular usage in Indonesia in the immediate post-Suharto era as part of a public revulsion against corruption, cronyism and nepotism. In Singapore, we do not have corruption, but a reputable international magazine says there is cronyism’; we do not have nepotism but we are told that natural aristocracy is good.

Cronyism and aristocracy mean that certain classes of people are favoured over ordinary businessmen and citizens who cannot therefore be in the front and centre of whatever a government does. They are the exact opposite of the principle of meritocracy which allows ordinary people to move ahead on the basis of their capability and not on the basis of political connections or birth. So when PAP leaders next open their mouths with the word “meritocracy”, remind them of these two other words “cronyism” and “aristocracy”.

I will now talk a little about Mr Tharman. As I said before, he was a good man until he joined the wrong party. In 2010, as chairman of the Economic Strategies Committee, he set a target of 3% growth in real income per year based on an annual productivity growth rate of 3%. But actual productivity growth has fallen way below Tharman’s target. In the last four years, productivity grew an average of 0.3% which is one-tenth of the target. We are half-way through the decade and it is clear that the 3% target will not be reached. So Tharman got cold feet and lowered his own productivity target from 3% to 2% for the remaining part of the decade. This means that even if the target of 2% is attained in the next 5 years, the overall productivity growth for the entire decade would only be about 1%. It also means that real income growth will only be about 1 % a year at best. Does this halfway change reflect well on a government that always tells us that it plans for the long term and is not constrained by short term fluctuations? Is Tharman a man of conviction or a man of convenience?

The problem of low productivity growth is not new. But it has been made much worse by the liberal entry of foreign workers in the past 10 years under the current PM. From 2004 to 2014, the average annual GDP growth of 5.8% comprised a huge increase of 5.1% in the labour force while productivity grew only 0.7% a year. PM and Tharman now say we have to increase our productivity through skills training, education and innovation. But they have been singing this same tune for umpteen years without an iota of success to show for their seriousness or competence. Can we trust them to do the job?

Tharman was education minister for 5 years from 2003 to 2008. Yet we were told that 60% of graduates from our institutions do not have the skills that employers want. There is therefore a serious mismatch somewhere which they cannot solve.

There is a similar issue with innovation. Our people must be encouraged to venture forth with courage, spontaneity and creativity. There must be freedom of expression so that people can try out different ideas even if they are crazy ideas. The controls over the print, broadcast and social media have to be liberalised. There might be abuses here and there but we are mature enough to handle them in a civilised manner.

The treatment of Amos Yee was unduly harsh and intimidating even though he might have gone overboard with his views and utterances. He is only a 16-year teenager and as parents with teenage children, we know how hard it is to deal with them. We must give them a second chance when they stray.

This reminds me of what President Obama said when he visited a US federal prison recently. The prisoners were there for drug offences. The President said that he had smoked marijuana when he was young just like the prisoners but the difference was that he was given a second chance but they were not. He blossomed with this second chance and the nation now has a president with a heart. Like the US President, we at SingFirst think with our hearts.

I would now like to introduce to you my fellow lions with a heart. I will start with our candidates for Jurong GRC, followed by Tanjong Pagar GRC…..

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2 replies »

  1. Mr. Tan Jee Say, Your comments are with true facts and figures which cannot be denied,and being once a topcivil servant U know very,well of the government. Well said and proven in what U have said. We in the Tanjong Pagar is all for U and your Party,and shall endorsed your party in this GE.

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