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PM: We'll make system better

"We can have the best intentions, make our best efforts but, from time to time, a mistake will happen. We will make mistakes," he said. -myp

Wed, May 04, 2011
my paper, AsiaOne

By Joy Fang

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday acknowledged that things do not always go as planned and there might be side effects from decisions made by the Government.

Describing Singapore as a "small boat on a stormy ocean, (and) not a nuclear (powered) aircraft carrier", Mr Lee said the Government has had to "watch the wind and the tide, and we have to pick our chances when we can and when the wind comes, put up your sail and go with it".

He was speaking yesterday at a People's Action Party (PAP) lunch-time rally held near UOB Plaza at noon. Other speakers included PAP candidates Ong Ye Kung, Heng Swee Keat and Brigadier- General (NS) TanChuan-Jin.

"And if it takes you slightly off-course, never mind. We will come back at the next gust of wind, and so we make progress.

If we hadn't done this we wouldn't be here today," he said.

"We can't go exactly on a straight line, from point A to point B, and have everything just perfect in every spot. There will be detours, sidetracks, side effects from our decisions," he said.

Citing examples, such as Singaporeans being put at risk of gambling problems due to the integrated resorts and congestion from the influx of foreign workers, he said: "These are real problems. We will tackle them.

But I hope you will understand that when these problems disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us.

"And if we didn't quite get it right, I'm sorry, but we will try and do better the next time."

"You know MM's style. He tells it like it is.
"When he tells you something, you know exactly what he's thinking and what he's talking about - straight from the shoulder, no ifs, no buts, solid hard talk.
"I think you've gotten used to our style. We understand the hard truths. We understand what we need to do, but we cannot do it and we don't try and do it MM's style. We do it our way.'
-PM Lee addressing a PAP lunchtime rally next to UOB Plaza in Boat Quay on Tuesday

Mr Lee said Singapore has a good government which has worked well for Singapore and enjoys the people's support and confidence. In fact, he noted that other countries hold Singapore as a model of how governments should work.

However, no government is perfect, he said. "We can have the best intentions, make our best efforts but, from time to time, a mistake will happen. We will make mistakes," he said.

Among these "mistakes", Mr Lee cited the escape of Mas Selamat in 2008 and the flooding of Orchard Road last year.

"When it happens, we should acknowledge it, we should apologise, take responsibility, (and) put things right," he stressed.

"If we have to discipline somebody we will do that. And we must learn from the lessons, and never make the same mistakes again."

Mr Lee also added that things occasionally do not turn out as the Government predicted, such as rising flat prices and the overcrowding in public transport.

The world is changing rapidly and, very often, action has to be taken with incomplete information or under uncertain conditions, he explained.

Mr Lee reiterated: "We are sorry we didn't get it exactly right... We are trying our best to fix the problems."

PM: Government now differs from that of MM

He said that the PAP Government has been around for more than 50 years, and while its ideals have not changed, its policies have been updated and its style has changed.

He also said that the Government under him works differently from that of Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew's generation.

"You know MM's style. He tells it like it is. When he tells you something, you know exactly what he is thinking and what he is talking about. Straight from the shoulder, no 'ifs', no 'buts', solid hard talk," he said with a smile.

But, he added that the PAP today cannot and does not try to do it the way of MM Lee.

"We do it our way. We spend some time to talk, to explain, to persuade, (and) to understand the difficulties and hesitations," he said.

In fact, the generational issue is often discussed in Cabinet.

Mr Lee recounted that MM Lee would sometimes ask why the Government does not do things a certain way as it is critical for Singapore.

"We say 'yes we understand, but please let us do it our way because we are different from you... So, give us time. I think we know what we are doing. We will work with Singaporeans in our own way to deliver results'," he said.

"MM understands that, but MM is MM. And whether it is ordinary times, or whether it is election time, you can be sure that it is still the same MM," he noted, to cheers from the crowd.

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More from the UOB Plaza lunchtime rally:

PAP must address frustration or moral authority will erode: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE - A softer approach in engaging the people is needed, said Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday.

Speaking at a lunchtime PAP rally next to UOB Plaza in the financial district, the 42-year-old candidate said the ruling party's moral authority to lead will take a hit if it does not address public frustration and angst.

The new candidate, tipped to be part of Singapore's fourth-generation leadership, is contesting in Marine Parade GRC, a five-member team led by SM Goh Chok Tong.

He spoke to the audience: "'Some feel that you're being talked down to, that there's not enough listening, that we need to be more compassionate and less calculative."

He added: "Whether real or not, if we are unable to address these perceptions and sentiments, our moral authority to lead will erode."

Decisive hand pulls S'pore out of crisis: Heng Swee Keat

Speaking at the same rally, PAP candidate for Tampines GRC Heng Swee Keat said Singapore pulled through the recent global financial meltdown with a steady and decisive hand at the wheel.

Mr Heng, the former managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said that the country's strong reserves allowed it to guide its dollar up and down in response to changing conditions, protecting Singaporeans' savings and jobs.

Over the last five years, Singapore has created 64,000 jobs in the financial sector, with the majority going to Singaporeans, he added.

But, the global economy is becoming more volatile, so he was very concerned with opposition proposals to "set aside billions, spend it", he said.

Mr Heng is a member of the 5-person PAP team led by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan contesting in Tampines GRC.

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