How our leaders are chosen

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SM Goh speaks about qualities needed in next generation of ministers
By Channel NewsAsia's Hasnita A Majid in New Delhi | Posted: 28 March 2008 2330 hrs

NEW DELHI, India: Singapore is expecting a cabinet reshuffle soon, and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has given his take on what are some of the qualities needed in the next set of ministers to bring the country forward.

Speaking at the end of his visit to India on Friday, Senior Minister Goh said Singapore's new leaders must have the ability to anticipate problems, work out the solutions and have them accepted by the public.

He said, "If I may give an example, it will be in the heath sector. (Health) Minister Khaw (Boon Wan) anticipates the future needs of our health sector and works out solutions for them...But to sell to the public will not be easy.

So much for democracy. SM Goh sounds as if he is suggesting that the people already in power should be the ones deciding what kind of ministers get elected during the next general elections. It's an insult to the voting population to insinuate that they are incapable of voting in the right people, that the government has to tell them who they should vote for. In fact, this is quite far from the idea of a democracy.

But let's examine the qualities SM Goh put forth. Ability to anticipate problems - Is it the duty of the minister to anticipate problems? To frame issues in such a way that they sound like problems even if they don't? Or is it the people's rights to bring up their problems to the government, while it is the duty of the government to solve them. Mind you, Singaporeans are a largely educated bunch who are aware of the problems facing them. In fact, the problem is the flawed electoral process that discourages and disadvantages the opposition. Having SM Goh suggest that it is the government's duty to anticipate the problem sounds very risky to me. It allows the government to wave aside all other issues as being either "not-pressing" or "being dealt with already". While this is probably the situation Singapore is already in, it is certainly not one that fits that allows a democracy to truly exist in Singapore.