Saturday, 29 January 2011

Election Watch Part IV - Hard Truths on Climate of Fear

The following article is contributed to the Singapore General Election Portal (SGEP). The articles refered to could be found in the SGEP.

Hard Truths on Climate of Fear

The following were the questions posed by a team of 7 Straits Times journalists to MM Lee and his answers were eventually included as part of his latest book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going. [MM Lee, does your food go through a food taster? – 26 Jan 2011 – Local Media]

Q: Is the ‘climate of fear’ Singaporeans feel here partly your doing?

A: ‘Come off it! Are you fearful? If you’re fearful why do you ask me this question? Is anything going to happen to you? Utter rubbish!’

Q: We may not personally be fearful but we did encounter quite a few young people who were.

A: ‘I cannot explain that and I’m not interested whether they’re fearful or not fearful. I think it’s better that they’re fearful and they take me seriously, than if they think I’m somebody they can brush off. That’s all. And if you’re the prime minister and you’re brushed off, you’re in trouble.’

The last sentence, “And if you’re the prime minister and you’re brushed off, you’re in trouble”, must be the most interesting.

The Nature of Fears

Based on theoretical research, the categories of fears may be linked to Maslow's hierarchy of needs – Physiological, Safety, Love and belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization.

Fears associated with the basic needs of Physiological, Safety, Love and belonging are often linked to "Loss". We fear that we will not have “food” if we lose our jobs. We fear we will not have a “roof” over us if housing is not affordable. We fear to lose our loved ones if they are very sick and medical costs are high.

At the higher level, fears associated with the needs of Esteem and Self-actualization is often linked to “Fear of Failure” and “Fear of Success”. We fear about failing our examinations. We fear that once we are successful in our careers, we may have lesser time and freedom.

Obviously, MM Lee is “not interested” whether Singaporeans are “fearful or not fearful”. Who set the OB markers? Who is guaranteed a job and high salary and who is not? Who is guaranteed a “roof” and who is not? Who can “manage” to have a heart operation at $8 and who cannot? And if you had “Already demolished the rivals” [ 25 Jan 2011 – Blogs], what is there to fear about?

And obviously the easiest way an Electorate could be threatened is such as to link “lift upgrading” to the vote when there was no “cooling-off” period, i.e. to capitalise on the basic “physiological” weaknesses and fears of the Electorate. The converse is to offer “Election carrots”.

As the fears climbed to “Esteem and Self-actualization” level, the threat is somewhat more leveled and this is synonymous with a more sophisticated Electorate. We are no more the first generation of “kampong folks” shifting into the satellite town of Toa Payoh.

Fear of Failure

The PAP fears failures, particularly in the face of various slackening performance records by various Ministers in the previous year. Comparatively, the likely Opposition candidates are more noticeable as they have nothing to fear about failing. They are even more noticeable than whom the next likely 4G Prime Minister or President will be.

Fear of Success

The PAP fears about its own success. It fears to have more than 2 opposition MPs. It fears to lose a GRC which is cited as its success to prevent under-representation of the minority races. In contrast, the Opposition has no fears about success. So what if LTK and CST are re-elected again for Hougang and Potong Pasir, the basic fears about losing their lift-upgrading and MRT station is not there anymore.

The “Esteem and Self-actualization” needs of MM Lee must have been to demolish those “duds” he thinks "deserve to be demolished”. [MM Lee on why he demolished rivals...; 25 Jan 2011 – Blogs]. But this is a fear linked to his success. Does it deliver "common good" to the ordinary people of Singapore?

Do you fear when issues are brushed off?

The answer must be certainly YES as the Electorate gets more sophisticated with its “Esteem and Self-actualization” needs.

The high cost of living will certainly be a key Election topic. Inflation here hit 4.6 per cent last month - the highest since December 2008 - due to rising transport, housing and food prices. GST was raised after the last Election and rumoured would be raised again after the coming one. These are basic fears adversely affecting the pockets of the Electorate. [Inflation at highest level since Dec '08; 26 Jan 2011 – Local Media].

At a community event in Marine Parade, SM Goh spoke on rising prices, "I would expect the Finance Minister to come up with some ways to help lower the cost of living for Singaporeans. How he does it - I do not know at this stage, how much he wants to do, I do not know at this stage, but logically speaking, it'll be surprising if he doesn't do anything." [Prices of food items should be stabilized; 23 Jan 2011 – Local Media].

In another event, PM Lee assured Singaporeans there's no cause for alarm… "In 2008, when food prices went up sharply also, particularly rice prices at that time, there was a shortage of supply and wholesale prices went up by 50 percent, even more. And in Singapore we had to make sure that we had enough supplies and we were able to maintain, keep the prices stable, and see ourselves through that period. After a few months, the prices came down again and inflation stabilised. I expect that to happen again this time."

If you walk into a NTUC Fairprice supermarket and find that a box of 28~30 (XL) Lukan oranges are selling substantially at a higher price as compared to another neighbourhood supermarket, will you logically be surprised and alarmed? We are not talking about “Bakkwa” which cost $48~$50 / kg, at least you have to hold 2 oranges in your hands when you go CNY visiting?

Yong Chun Lukan 28/30 (XL) cost $12.50/box at SHOP n SAVE Supermarket (incl GST)

Same Lukan cost $16.88 / box at NTUC Fairprice (35% more expensive)
What the ordinary Singaporeans need is not just reassurance through good PR, if not propaganda. “PM Lee: Govt knows who the most needy are”; 23 Jan 2011 – Local Media]. And are you just trying to save the trouble by just helping the needy, through the Finance Minister’s blunt “budget axe”?

Look at what the Malaysian Ministers are doing? [11 items on M'sian price control list for CNY; 24 Jan 2011 – Malaysia Media]. Eleven items have been placed on the price control list for the coming CNY celebrations - Among the items are live chicken, standard chicken (slaughtered with head, feet, liver, and gizzard), super chicken (slaughtered without head, feet, liver and gizzard). Also included are graded eggs, imported round cabbages from Indonesia and China (not including from Beijing) bawal putih (white pomfret), udang putih besar (large prawns), pork (belly) and pork (lean and fat).

Items Under Price Control in Malaysia
No wonder Malaysia has an “innovative” ministerial portfolio of “Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Co-operatives Minister”. And this Malay Minister is certainly doing his job well. He said these items were popular with the Chinese community. Conversely, MM Lee is urging Singapore Muslims to “be less strict on Islamic observances” to aid integration. [LKY's concerns about Islam unjustified; 27 Jan 2011 – Malaysia Media].

"When you are a very old politician, younger people will always see you as out of touch, irrelevant, even a hindrance.” [Minister Mentor's remarks on integration draw flak; 27 Jan 2011 – Blogs]. Aspiring to a middle-class lifestyle is not the problem [27 Jan 2011 – Letters] for Singapore. Are our Ministers thinking too much but doing too little basically for the common good of our people? ]. For the Electorate, the "Mother” of all fears must be when issues are simply brushed off. “And if you’re the prime minister and you’re brushed off, you’re in trouble”.

Visit SGEP for more links to interesting articles.

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