More adversarial political system won’t be good for Singapore, says Heng Swee Keat
“The country cannot be going in 10 different directions because then we go nowhere,” says the Deputy Prime Minister.
SINGAPORE: A more “adversarial” system of politics with “plenty of disagreements” will not be good for Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told visiting journalists from Malaysia on Saturday (Jul 27).
He was asked if he thought Singapore should evolve into a more politically evolved system with more team rivalry even within the same party.
“I will say that even across the world, the systems which have operated well in delivering a better life for their people have been systems in which people are prepared to deal with differences, but not in an adversarial way,” the minister said.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said there needs to be a certain political maturity where people are encouraged to come up with different ideas of doing things.
“But at the end of the day, the country cannot be going in 10 different directions because then we go nowhere,” he said.
What is important, he said, is for people to have debated the options and agree on a course of action. It does not mean everyone will agree on everything all the time, but they must find as many areas as possible that are in agreement and work on these, he added.
“I think that it is very important that our energy is not frittered with plenty of disagreements and, in fact, going into an adversarial system because that does not solve the problem,” Mr Heng reiterated, adding he prefers to be a “constructive problem solver”.
BRACING FOR ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
This collective problem-solving ethos can be seen in how the Government has been working to mitigate the impact of the global economic slowdown.
Mr Heng said global economic uncertainty has increased and the trade tensions between China and the United States is “casting a pall” on the worldwide economy. It is not clear if the situation will get better or worse, but he hopes that “good sense will prevail” and the two major superpowers can reach some agreement.
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However, he noted that that the lessons learnt from the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis were that “none of us can predict the future”.
The Government can do its best to take the right course of action and advocate for it, but if things turn bad, it must be prepared to respond. This is why he has been discussing the issue with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, as well as with other ministers to find solutions, he said.
“We are ready with a package to help our businesses and help our workers should the global economy take a sharp downturn,” Mr Heng revealed.
He added that Singapore’s financial regulators are also watching the global financial markets very closely, as investors appear “a lot more jittery than before”.
“We just have to be alert to all these changes that are happening, and be prepared to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst,” he said.
Singapore’s exports fell more than expected in June, marking their biggest decline in six years even as the country tackles the challenges of tepid global demand and the US-China trade war.
This came after official estimates showed that the country’s economy grew by 0.1 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, which was the lowest in a decade.