“Hard Choices, Challenging the Singapore consensus” – Book Review

Two main contributors of this collection of essays are Donald Low and Sudhir Vadaketh. The other contributors include Dr Linda Lim and Dr Thum Ping Tjin. Donald Low is Associate Dean at LKY School of Public Policy, NUS.

Released in 2014, the writers gave an in depth analysis of PAP government policy choices over the decades of Singapore’s independence with primary focus on last ten years. In 2011 General Election, PAP only garnered 60.1% of the vote down from 75.3% in 2001. Since 2011, there were shifts in the way the PAP governed arising from negative public sentiments. This book pulls materials together for readers who may want to recall events or policies in the past and also to gain a perspective from academic researchers and political commentators.

Persevere and read this book from cover to cover and you might then plug in to the current political debates and concerns of citizens.

Concerns include:

  1. Do we know what kind of meritocracy PAP is promoting or not engaging in?
  2. What it means to be a Singaporean vis-à-vis new immigrants?
  3. How unequal we are among us, from wages to skills to status?
  4. What are population challenges with limited land space? In 1990, more than 86% of Singapore’s population was made up of citizens. By 2011, the number was below 63%. 37% were foreigners. Even worse, less than 50% of Singapore’s population was actually born here. (Source: Chapter 5 of book)
  5. What cause the inequality between the rich and the rest in the society?
  6. Why are Singaporeans unhappy about? Cost of living, congested Singapore?

The last segment of the book covers 5 chapters which was a good read. It looks at what went wrong with the PAP in 2011? How is democracy and governance going to evolve? Is there space for alternative views from the citizens and from those who are more liberal leaning? Must old assumptions be changed in view of globalisation and more knowledgeable and vocal citizens?Hard Choices

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