Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Party Rule

Two-party system cannot work here, says PM Lee (18 Nov 2008, Straits Times)

A two-party system cannot work in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

This is because it is adversarial and guarantees neither good governance nor progress.

As long as the People's Action Party (PAP) changes itself and continues to provide clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve, the country is much better off with one dominant, strong, clean party, he said.

Speaking at the PAP annual conference, Mr Lee highlighted two examples of how the two-party system worked: The United States and Taiwan.

Concerning the US, he noted that Mr Barack Obama had campaigned on the theme of 'Change we can believe in'.

The President-elect would now try to change the direction of the country because that was the nature of the system in the US: One party changing what the other has done once it is in power.

The US could afford such change because it was a big country, said Mr Lee.

'It has a big pool from which to find political talent. Mr Obama will be able to find many able people to hold his administration... According to one report, they are all waiting beside their telephones waiting for the phone call.'

He added that while Republican presidential candidate John McCain might have given a 'very gracious' concession speech after he lost to Mr Obama, that will not alter the stark reality of adversarial politics in the US: The Republican Party will be doing all it can over the next four years 'to undermine the Democratic Party, and in the next elections, beat it, and get back into power'.

The US could withstand such an adversarial system because of its size: 'Whatever happens, the US will still be there. Eventually, problems will be put right and life will go on.'

In smaller countries however, there was no guarantee 'that if something goes can put Humpty Dumpty together again', he noted.

He cited Taiwan as an example of how two-party democracy had been detrimental to people's lives.

In 2000, its voters, unhappy with the 'corrupt' and 'stale' Kuomintang (KMT), voted in MrChen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

But after eight years of his presidency, they saw the 'sad results' - a stagnant economy, polarised politics and worsening corruption.

So they voted him out, and returned the KMT to power.

But the KMT found it was not so easy to get the economy restarted or to restore good government and have a less polarised political environment.

The Taiwanese today are disappointed with President Ma Ying-jeou because his campaign promise of instant improvements has not materialised, said Mr Lee.

Yet the alternative to President Ma in the form of the DPP leader would do no better.

Taiwan would qualify as a democracy by Western standards because it has had two changes of government in the past eight years, said Mr Lee, but it was not a political system that worked properly. It was 'malfunctioning'.

'I don't think you want that kind of political system in Singapore,' he said.

So just how well is his PAP team doing under the one-party rule system? Official statistics released show that the budget deficit for 2008 is negative $2.4 billion, revised from the earlier projected $0.8 billion.  In 2007 the government had a budget surplus of $6.5 billion. 
Also, it was reported that the Town Councils run by PAP members of parliament invested $16 million in failed Lehman Brothers-linked structured products. Statutory boards - Civil Service College, Singapore Land Authority, Infocomm Development Authority - incurred a 14 percent loss on investments in credit-linked notes.

The last word from his father is also worth noting: Lee Kuan Yew once told the media that if the PAP fails to deliver, he expects the military will step in.