Opinion: Ng Kok Song Outshone Opponents In Presidential Forum Due To His Composure & Eloquence

This piece is part of MS Speaks, a segment in which MS News reporters share their honest views on current affairs and trending topics.

Ng Kok Song Proves To Be A Worthy Contender During 2023 Presidential Forum

We are days away from the 2023 Singapore Presidential Elections (PE2023), and candidates are showing more of their strengths to the public. Mr Ng Kok Song, in particular, stole the show at the Presidential Forum on Monday (28 Aug).

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam showed the tact and wisdom he often displayed in his previous political roles.

Mr Tan Kin Lin was all smiles, though he referred to his script the most among all three.

But to me, Mr Ng was the one who stood out with his composure throughout the nearly hour-long broadcast.

Before, he was simply the former GIC investment chief with a young fiancée. Now, he has proven his smarts in dealing with matters of national concern, pitting himself as a promising presidential candidate.

Candidates were asked about factors they would consider before granting access to past reserves

If you didn’t watch the entire thing, bear with me as I talk about the questions posed during the forum for context.

Granted, what the candidates said about their experience and expertise wasn’t new — we all know their backgrounds by now. What intrigued me most was how they answered the question about using the second key to the Past Reserves.

The question was, “Beyond what the Government tells you, what factors would you consider, before using the second key to the Past Reserves?”

Mr Tharman went first, listing his factors:

  • whether the crisis is short-term, or if we cannot see the end of it
  • spending money wisely to help people and firms survive and build strength in a crisis
  • fair distribution to ensure recovery of all levels of society after the crisis

Thereafter, Mr Tan mentioned his two key factors — whether the use of the Reserves benefits the people and whether it’s “proper”.

When Mr Ng’s turn came, he repeated the question to CNA’s Otelli Edwards as if to confirm that he got it right.

Source: CNA on YouTube

To me, that’s already the mark of a good leader. He demonstrated that he was listening, and ensured that he listened correctly before making any comments.

Ability to handle difficult questions impressive

The way he began his reply was also noteworthy. Mr Ng put the people first, thinking about how his decisions would affect current and future Singaporeans.

I think the critical thing to understand is that our Past Reserves should benefit present generations of Singaporeans as well as future generations.

He then segmented his decisions according to what needed to be spent and saved.

To make such a decision, he would need the following information from the Government:

  • the size of Singapore’s Reserves
  • how much they’re asking to spend from the Reserves
  • their assumptions regarding the crisis — is it an international or domestic crisis? how long do they expect it to last?
  • whether they’ve exhausted the possibility of raising revenue from other areas
  • what are the expected returns on the Reserves for the future?
  • how will these returns compare to historical rates of return on our Reserves?

While I’m in no position to comment on whose approach is best, I’m sure we can agree that a rational leader would look at a problem from various angles before offering solutions.

In the 1.5 minutes that each candidate received, Mr Ng was able to cover the most ground in assessing the use of the Reserves.

He considered short and long-term repercussions, as well as the impact on Singaporeans and Singapore as a whole.

His ability to analyse the situation quickly, in my opinion, shows that he could keep his cool in times of crisis and make the best call for the nation.

Whether this will prove true is something we can only find out if he’s elected to office.

Ng Kok Song stands out among candidates in Presidential Forum

Mr Ng’s level-headedness during the Forum didn’t escape viewers’ attention either.

If you look at the YouTube comments, you’ll notice they are mostly filled with praise for the 75-year-old’s intelligence and grace in delivering his responses.

Source: YouTube

Gone are the criticisms about his age or his relationship with Ms Sybil Lau. The spotlight this time fell on Mr Ng’s abilities to communicate and present himself well as a leader.

As the underdog in the three-way contest, Mr Ng has a lot to prove, and he certainly did so in the Forum.

We’ve heard enough about their hopes and dreams for Singapore, but when it comes to the real challenges, Mr Ng has given a glimpse of what he can do and what kinds of calls he can make.

With his performance at the Forum, I no longer find it as difficult to imagine Mr Ng as President. He has no doubt put himself forward as a formidable contender.

Has Mr Ng made you rethink your options for the election too? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.

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Featured image adapted from CNA on YouTube.

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