Tuesday 17 June 2014

有事鐘無艷, 無事夏迎春

Don't take good govt for granted

I AM not sure how Ms Catherine Lim would know how most Singaporeans feel about the Government ("Govt refutes author's claims over public trust"; June 14).

It was not too long ago that Ms Lim told the BBC that Singaporeans' lack of emotions was due to "authoritarian" government policies. The following year, Singapore appeared near the top of the list. There was no comment from Ms Lim.

It is critical that we do not extrapolate one's own opinion to encompass a wider population. There is the danger of a biased sample reinforced by a confirmation bias.

The classic case of such a faulty methodology is an opinion poll taken before the 1948 United States presidential election. It showed Mr Harry Truman's rival leading by an insurmountable margin. The survey was done via telephone, a luxury item at the time. Mr Truman won the election.

Ms Lim's claim that the Government does not care about regaining the trust of the people is astonishing as it clearly flies in the face of the many policies that have been and are being implemented since the 2011 election.

Indeed, over a few months, both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam have spoken about the importance of trust between the Government and the people. The Government cannot be led by opinion polls. Not doing what the people want is not the same as not wanting to gain the trust of the people. We need strong leadership, especially for a country as vulnerable as Singapore. 

It may be fashionable to be seen as anti-government, but when it comes to the crunch, the present government is the one people trust.

Take the election figures.

In the 1992 election, the People's Action Party secured 61 per cent of the votes cast, less than what it won in 2011 (62 per cent). In 1997, it won 65 per cent, less than two-thirds of the votes. In 1998, the Asian financial crisis took its toll.

In September 2001, the Twin Towers came down in the US. In November that year, the PAP returned to power with 75.3 per cent of the votes.

Singaporeans know who to trust in difficult times. The danger is we may take a good and trustworthy government for granted.

Eugene Tan
ST Forum, 17 Jun 2014

Singaporeans will vote prudently

I FEEL compelled to respond to my namesake's letter ("Don't take good govt for granted"; June 17) as many have assumed the writer's views are mine.

Mr Eugene Tan argues that "Singaporeans know who to trust in difficult times" and that "we may take a good and trustworthy government for granted". He also cautioned against the use of a "biased sample reinforced by a confirmation bias".

However, Mr Tan does not heed his own advice.

He relies on the selected General Election results of 1991 (not 1992, as Mr Tan asserts), 1997 and 2001 to make his simplistic case that Singaporeans know who to trust in difficult times. Further, contrary to Mr Tan's assertion, the PAP fared the worst electorally in 2011, not 1991.

Indeed, going by Mr Tan's logic and argument and if general election results are relied upon, then the long-term trend between 1984 and 2011 suggests that the PAP Government has experienced declining levels of political support when measured by electoral results.

Election results will vary from election to election, depending on the electorate's assessment of the Government's performance since the last election, the key election issues, and how political parties and candidates campaign.

A key ingredient of political support for any political party is trust. In turn, trust is determined by various factors, including the effectiveness and legitimacy of public policies, the responsiveness of the Government to people's concerns and unhappiness. These often find expression in the ballot boxes.

The general election and by-election results since 1968 demonstrate that Singaporeans can be counted upon to vote prudently in both good and bad times.

By the same token, good governance entails that a government, however effective and efficient, will not take the electorate for granted.

It is this iterative process by which political trust is nurtured and developed, and which reinforces good governance.

Eugene K.B. Tan
Nominated Member of Parliament
ST Forum, 24 Jun 2014

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