Governance of a City-State
[The Angle] The Politics of the NDR 2015 Speech

The Prime Minister (PM) has delivered his National Day Rally speech.  Set within the context of SG50 and an impending general election, the speech focused on what were the key governing principles that have helped Singapore beat the odds and become as successful as it has.

The new initiatives that are targeted at improving the lives of poor families (think of the Fresh Start Programme) and at improving the accessibility and affordability of public housing to a broader range of Singaporeans (think of the raising of the income cut-offs for qualifying for HDB flats and executive condominiums and increase in the Special Housing Grant) speak of the PAP government’s commitment to social inclusion. The commitment to vocationally-oriented tertiary education with a new central campus for the Singapore Institute of Technology and the reference to the SkillsFuture programme are an attempt to reinforce the PAP government’s egalitarian credentials.

To add to that, if we recall how the full inclusion of Malays into our Singapore Armed Forces has been a sticking point for that community, then the spotlight given to the two pilots speaks of the government’s conscious effort to address those concerns.  Over the years, the community is better represented in all parts of the SAF and perhaps the old ambivalences about including them in defence duties have dissipated.

The commitment to a multiracial Singapore; the ethic of self-reliance balanced with mutual support and the government keeping the faith with citizens are those principles that must continue to shape Singapore in the years ahead.

Any concerns that the speech would be baldly partisan will have been allayed.  We know how heated the issue of “integrity” has been in the past weeks as the PAP politicians highlighted the governance issues arising from the management of the AHPETC. References to that were subtle – the PM said only in passing that when his late father, Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was asked whether Singapore would survive the next fifty years, one of his responses was – “yes, if there is no corruption”.

The PM asked for a strong mandate, for Singaporeans to return current ministers to office and picked two for special mention.  They were the Minister for Water and the Environment, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Manpower Minister, Mr Lim Swee Say.  He could easily have cited Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam for the sterling job he has done at the International Monetary Fund for instance, but chose instead, Dr Balakrishnan and Mr Lim who will be standing in the two GRCs – Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and East Coast GRC respectively – that are likely to be the most hotly contested electoral divisions outside of those that the Workers’ Party will defend.

The PM’s message was that in a complex world and a changing global environment, Singapore must have leaders who will not just look after the local and national patch well but also make quiet yet significant contributions on the global stage in office. He may also have been thinking of Foreign Minister George Yeo, who left politics after 54.7% of the Aljunied voters picked the WP team in the 2011 General Election.

Dr Gillian Koh is a Senior Research Fellow at IPS. View her profile here.

Photo via PM Lee’s Facebook

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to our mailing list to get updated with our latest articles!