Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Engineering of Criticisms and an "Open" Debate in the White Paper

The beating of the drum by the former establishment cadres started again. This time, it is a criticism of the White Paper on population, a convincing criticism no doubt if one wants to be uncritical of what is being laid out in front of us, and not guessing about what is not laid out instead.

Donald Low, Senior Fellow and Assistant Dean (Research Centres) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, formerly from the Public Service Division and from the Ministry of Finance, said that he would fail the White Paper if it was a student work handed to him for marking as it lacked scholarship and academic rigour. A fellow government scholar and former government colleague, Yeoh Lam Keong, dismissed the paper as sociologically and politically naive. Lam Keong who was, this is priceless, GIC Director of Economics and Strategy and Chief Economist from October 2000 to June 2011. Anyone vaguely following GIC and Temasek's lacklustre record in the 2000s would know that these sovereign funds lost money for Singapore in the public's eyes despte what the ministry of finance and its GIC and Temasek bedfellows said. They lost our taxpayers and CPF money even some might speculate.

There are Criticisms and there are Criticisms

So Donald and Lam Keong have this image of former establishment scholars and inner circle management who have even turned around on their former employers. Lam Keong even has an image of a HDB man, humble and frugal. But if he stood as a PAP MP, we would scoff his contrived humble background instead. Donald and Lam Keong are now in think-thanks backed by the government - IPS and the LKY school. How independent is their criticism in the grand scheme of things? Then we look at the criticisms, they are actually obvious and echo what we already think that the White Paper is a superficial coffee table book, nothing new, nothing really critical, and nothing really damaging of the White Paper. Excuse my cynicism, if they were academics out to damage the White Paper seriously, why no facts and figures on how businesses would benefit or not benefit from the increase or decrease of foreigners, as that is the main slant in the importance of GDP growth in the White Paper. They are thought leaders from the ministry of finance and GIC after all.

Healthy Cynicism

Hence, are they just planted criticisms to steer the debate and institutionalised dissent that Donald himself talked about recently? Just like we know that the media pretends to be objective but are really pro-establishment, we have forgotten that the local think-tanks are pro-establishment in the end although they appear to be independent. Some argue that those formerly from the establishment and left have the greatest insights into the machinery and are thus more credible. Maybe. However, have they ever left the establishment? We will never know.


The said...

/// Lam Keong who was, this is priceless, GIC Director of Economics and Strategy and Chief Economist from October 2000 to June 2011. ///

I don't think it is fair to pin GIC's paper loss (and I stressed the then unrealized loss). Sure, he is the economist and may be involved in strategy. But it is the fund managers who do the actual stock picks. And for those high-profile deals, we can safely assume that it is the top honchos who approved those investments.

theonion said...

Lam Keong was one of the top honchos, so at the least collective blame is involved.
Now you know why committees are so popular on either side of the political divide