A compilation of quotes from Sunday by various ministers

Some of Singapore’s Ministers and Ministers of State were busy appearing in public on this past Sunday (18 January), and they had some interesting things to say about various matters which we should all really pay attention to.

On research and development

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Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was speaking at the opening ceremony of the third Global Young Scientists Summit at Nanyang Technological University on Sunday, and what he said revealed an ongoing governmental effort to improve the quality of life of an ageing population — something which countries such as Japan face, alongside Singapore.

“In recent years, the Singapore Government has placed even stronger emphasis on research and development (R&D), innovation and enterprise.”

This emphasis on R&D is also aimed at helping to solve global issues such as population, urbanisation, healthcare and ageing pressures.

What we think: We’re not going to argue against money being poured into R&D, as long as results are seen, but when the military steals technology from entrepreneurs and then sues them back, it makes us wonder: do inventors and entrepreneurs have a future in Singapore without working for the government?

On bursaries and students being held to ransom

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Over at a bursary presentation ceremony at Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Minister Ng Eng Hen commented on the need for poor families to seek help from their MPs if they have financial difficulties and are unable to pay for their childrens’ education.

However, he emphasized the need for students to work hard and give back to society in return. Even parents have to play their part in encouraging their children to study.

What we think: Education is a universal right mandated by the United Nations, and what Minister Ng implies — that students who accept bursaries must give back to society if they are successful — is a flawed notion that the students work for the betterment of the nation and not vice-versa.

Bursaries are different from scholarships in that there isn’t an onus for students to have exceptional grades and is meant as financial assistance for struggling families.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” If a family has financial difficulties, jobs and opportunities should be opened up for them so they can support their child’s education, in addition to bursaries and scholarships.

On not being able to prevent FTs from working in Singapore

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Minister of State Grace Fu was speaking at a dialogue with students and residents in Tampines East as part of her ministerial visit.

Although she claimed that the government will put Singaporeans first in terms of education and housing, she also emphasized the need for integration among foreigners and Singaporeans for various reasons: namely, low population growth, to supplement the workforce and to compete on a global scale.

She mentions the presence of black sheep among both Singaporeans and foreigners, and that people should not get too emotional over insensitive comments made online.

What we think: When people like Edz Ello come into Singapore and proclaim that all Singaporeans should die, no one can feasibly expect Singaporeans to sit still and not get emotional. It’s like asking a house owner to keep calm after their guest has defecated on the house floor. That said, we agree that there are black sheep who cannot refrain from making anti-government and anti-foreigner comments.

Shouldn’t we put ourselves in their shoes and understand why these xenophobes could have been driven to make hateful remarks against foreigners, instead of dismissing their words by saying “they should not be emotional”?

The inflow of foreigners cannot become the majority of our workforce, for that would be counterproductive to Singaporeans. Besides relying on making more babies, are there other things that the government can do?

On Singapore’s multi-racial society

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Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam attended the Pongal (a Tamil harvest festival) celebrations at Bukit Panjang and claimed that “peace, understanding and genuine interest in each other’s values and traditions” are the special ingredients that make Singapore a harmonious multi-racial society.

What we think: He paints a rosy picture of an (enforced) harmonious society, but in reality is doing little more than sweeping issues below the carpet. Under the surface, there are areas which prevent Singapore from truly being a racially and religiously harmonious society — and the government is perpetuating them.

The government still collects statistics according to race. If Singapore is to be truly harmonious, we should be embracing the country as a melting pot with no racial distinctions. Racial diversity can be acknowledged by understanding and respecting each others’ cultures, but they do not have to be segregated like the government subtly does — highlighting examination results by race is just one of these areas.

Eradicate the race mentality, then we can talk about a harmonious multi-racial society where people aren’t judged by their race.

Do the things they say actually hold meaning?

It was a rare day for so many ministers to appear in public. Maybe these events all happened to coincide? They did shed light on several political matters and regardless of what PM Lee said about the GE not being planned to happen yet, it would seem that the ministers are already starting to posture for the GE, albeit not strongly yet.

That said, it is useful to read into what politicians mean when they say something because their statements are rarely made off-hand — they can also be a hint for what’s to come in future policy-making.


Featured image via The Real Singapore
With references via Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia, Channel NewsAsia