SINGAPORE: A "strong, stable coherent political system" is needed to inspire confidence in the economy, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Nov 11).
It would also allow Singapore to attract "strong economic investments, creation of good jobs, helping everybody move along amidst all the disruption, and this will allow us to support a strong political system, and a virtual cycle continues to spiral upwards," he said in an interview with CNA's Dawn Tan.
A fractured political system will emerge without strong economic performance, strong investments and good jobs, he said adding that politics and economics are "closely intertwined".
The minister was responding to a question on what is at stake in the upcoming Singapore general election, which must be held by April 2021.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that the next general election is going to decide if Singapore can sustain a good and stable government and take care of the lives and well-being of Singaporeans.
Mr Chan said what other countries have found is that when the political system is weak and unable to act with coherence, the economic system becomes even weaker because they can't help their people make the adjustments.
"You can't give confidence to the investors, to make long term investments, the new jobs, the quality jobs are not created, society fragments, incomes stagnate, people get divided between the haves and the have nots, inequality increases, social immobility increases and then it leads to a negative feedback onto the political system.
"People vote for populist leaders who promise them easy solutions, people vote in a parliament that is divided and fractured, and that negative cycle continues to spiral downwards."
"It is critical in the next election for us to send that positive signal not just to ourselves but to the rest of the world, that we can easily go on an upward spiral and pull apart from the competition," said Mr Chan who is also the second assistant secretary-general of the People's Action Party.
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In the wide ranging interview, Mr Chan also discussed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the relationship between GDP growth and climate change, the US-China trade war and Singapore’s innovation ecosystem.
Addressing Singapore’s position amid the global uncertainty, Mr Chan said that Singapore must continue to distinguish itself to “have a chance to stand out” amid the global turbulence and competition.
“The first order of business in order to distinguish ourselves is to ensure we have a strong mandate that can signal to the international community that we are here for the long haul, that we mean business, we are coherent, we will execute and deliver on what we promise,” he said.
Adding that Singapore will be “done for” if the society is no longer cohesive and Singaporeans vote for a political system that is “unable to reconcile their differences and move forward”, he noted that Singapore can be “easily torn apart”.
As for long term challenges, Mr Chan said how the government manages its fiscal and financial system so that this generation leaves behind more resources for the next will determine the long term survival of Singapore.
Adding that the challenges could be climate change and financial uncertainties, he highlighted that one in every five dollars in Singapore’s budget comes from the savings of predecessors.
“Whereas in countries like the US, every one out of every five dollars goes to paying the debts of predecessors. Now that is a significant difference.”
Mr Chan noted that investments in infrastructure and education will be key, to make sure that “every generation will be able to fulfill their potential” and have “the physical resources to paint their dreams upon for the next generation”.
“If we can get these set of issues right, then I think we can be very confident that, never mind SG100, SG 200 we'll get there.”