• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 7:28pm

Trust in Singaporean government remains high despite claims made by writer Catherine Lim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 3:42am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 3:42am

Your report, "Writer Catherine Lim's open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate" (June 9), quotes the writer saying "Singaporeans no longer trust their leaders".

Ms Lim first asserted this two decades ago in 1994. The ruling party had won the 1991 general election with 61 per cent of the vote. Ms Lim thought that was a poor performance and spied "a great affective divide" in Singapore between the government and the people.

Since then the ruling party has taken Singapore through a number of serious crises relatively unscathed - the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, and the 2008 global financial crisis. In addition, it has won four further general elections by healthy margins. But still Ms Lim continues to regularly bemoan a collapse of trust and respect for the government.

There are international benchmarks of trust in government. For example, the Edelman Trust Barometer found only 37 per cent of respondents in the United States trusted their government. The UK scores 42 per cent, and Hong Kong 45 per cent. Singapore scored a respectable 75 per cent.

Of course, not all is perfect in Singapore. Like other developed societies, our middle class too feels the squeeze from globalisation. The government has openly acknowledged the problems of income inequality and slowing social mobility. It has done much to overcome them, and is doing more in a sustainable and responsible, not populist, way. That is why trust in government in Singapore remains high.

Ms Lim is also wrong to claim that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's defamation suit against a blogger will further erode trust. On the contrary, Mr Lee acted because the government prizes integrity as the ultimate source of the trust it enjoys. A leader who does nothing when he is accused of criminally misappropriating monies from the state pension system must engender mistrust in his honesty and leadership. The person making the accusations should have basis for the accusations, and should not be gratuitously lying.

It is no coincidence that in countries where lies and false accusations are the stock in trade of public debate, people have a low opinion of all politicians, and a very low trust in their governments.

Jacky Foo, consul-general of Singapore in Hong Kong


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It's interesting how this plays out like many 'expert' views on the economy.
As long as the economy is at the moment, going up, it can only ever go up. Vice Versa.
My dear Jacky. The past may be a useful source of data for helping to predict what might happen in the future, but you shouldn't assume that it's going to be 100% accurate.
How about focusing on the 'Now' instead, heh? It's interesting how advent PAP supporters can't seem to understand that change is the only constant. I'm not with the opposition, just in case.
Also, I think you're talking about the wrong type of 'trust'. Here, the trust is not really about corruption. It's more about trust that the govt has the people's priorities in mind. Trust that they're doing what they can for the benefit for Singaporeans. Trust that the PAP is capable.
There's another assumption in your reply here that's should be looked at. Are you sure it's the lies and false accusations that's undermining trust? Or is it the growing incompetence of the govt and its institutions themselves that's causing the lost of trust, with the symptom being the growing resentment and frustration of the people?
"It is no coincidence that in countries where the government is not transparent about the whereabout of the CPF money and increases the difficulty for the common people to get back their own money, there is a very low trust in their governments." enough said.
How can the lost of trust be due to incompentency of the govt when all independent metrics show the govt's performance is the best? How can erosion of trust be because some people like to speak as if govt is their enemy? Ms Lim's criticism is different (even though might not be totally accurate) from those graffiti/videos/hong lim park protests as she does not treat someone like her enemies.
How can she claims that singaporeans have lost trust in the govt by using so small no of protestors and critics to represent all singaporeans? It is expected to have some in any society. Majority should be used to guide govt policies mainly with secondary considerations to the minority whenever possible. This divide here is between those who have wealth of experience in managing a large spectrum of people from the humblest to the elite and those who do not have such experience. In singapore critics are according to mine observations those professionals who lack the privilege of managing all the demands of the whole spectrum of society,
The govt has almost 50 yrs ruling spore - naturally there would have accumulated sizeable no who are deeply offended by the 'too much rain' and/or 'too much sunshine' as the govt is not perfect. Also, there could be some professionals who are not able to make it to the elite but refuse to accept the ordinary professional life and attracted by the good MP compensation which now seem so easily available to them by running for opposition.
You make some valid points. There have been some missteps, particularly with regards to immigration, housing and transportation. All are being addressed as you know. As the writer put it, no society is perfect. You can say that about the government as well. To be fair, I think over the last 15-20 years, it has most certainly expanded its engagement with the people. More can certainly be done. It can do better. The concept that the government knows best is clearly eroding. That said, growing resentment and frustration can also be attributed at times to unreasonable expectations. As much as more Singaporeans want to have greater say in policies, they should also learn to grow up and become less reliant on the government and the state. They need to understand certain constants about Singapore. For example, the fact that it is a small country, and will always be so. Hence it can never have the liberal rules to car ownership compared to far bigger countries like the US or Australia without creating a traffic gridlock. Hence, cars will always be the most expensive in the world. A finer balance between personal and collective responsibility needs to be engendered. Unfortunately, some Singaporeans in the frustrated camp are just a bunch of spoilt brats who are constantly asking what the government can do for them, instead of asking what they can do for themselves
The government invests the people's money in profitable businesses and pass the money back to them in due course. What's wrong with that?
I think if you are going to use someone else's quote, than use it according to what the writer has written instead of subverting it for your own purpose. Yes, I can understand your snarkiness, but really mate, CPF is unique to Singapore. No other country has it in case you don't already know. Besides, to be sure, I am not exactly sure if all the "common people" have the good sense to use their money wisely. In fact, it is well known, that a fair number have blown it all away in a few years. When they run out of money, who do they turn to? The gahmen, society or often times their next of kin. So really, the gahmen is really trying to save these "common people" from themselves, and the burden that they inflict on the rest. Better to pay these folks out in terms of monthly annuities to last them at least a good 10-15 years till their last breath than one big lump sum for them to fritter away in a blink either on themselves or their family members. Any person with good financial sense and discipline, will appreciate this logic. Just look at the Malaysian cleaner who blew close to a million dollars from donations raised in the Lion City to help her tide over the tragic loss of her husband in an accident in one year. Are you so sure that she is an exception in human weakness? Let's also not forget that Singapore is an ageing society


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