If it’s not already obvious, the government has changed their PR strategy. They’ve learnt this – if you voice out something that you are unhappy about, we will say what you want to hear and we will address them. We will talk about how to resolve them. Now, what are you going to do about that?
But to be clear, the government isn’t bending over for the sake of bending over. That would simply be a case of a weak government without strategy and resolve. Most certainly, whatever plans the government are now introducing to ‘appease’ us would have been plans in the making, or they have learnt to pitch in to us in a way that we want to hear.
For example, if you aren’t unhappy about the education system, let’s talk about that. But you know, instead of talking about it broadly, let’s talk specifically about something. Let’s talk about PSLE. So enlighten me here, was it Singaporeans who narrowed down the concern of the education system to be just about the PSLE or did the government do so? I’m not quite sure. But if I’m the government, if you do not know what to champion about, let us do it for you. It’s not possible for the government to relook the education system all at one go. They have to narrow it down – they have to pick one. So, what is something that we are already planning to do anyway, or what is it that we can do without drastically affecting the quality of our educational system? – PSLE. And what is it about the PSLE that we can change. We shouldn’t remove it! We need to continue to gauge people academically. Let’s talk about tweaking the components of how we gauge PSLE instead! And so there, the government chanced on this and went big – REALLY big on a PR campaign on this. And it has worked. They’ve managed to invoke people into discussion specifically about the PSLE. But which came first – the people’s concerns or the government’s strategy?
I would pander to say that the current focus is created by an effective PR strategy, where the government took the concerns of the people, picked out something specific that they can manage within their current wants, and shout about it. And it has worked. Some stray ‘sheep’ have asked – but why are only focusing on PSLE when there are other broader areas about the educational system that we can talk about and rally for change? These are the some who have been able to seen behind the veil.
Another example is this – the government has said that it will introduce new policies for boosting birth rates in Singapore. To be realistic, the government has already done its calculations and it knows how much more it’s willing to increase – it shouldn’t be much. One reason is that financially, the government doesn’t think it’s completely their role to be responsible for the production of workers for the economy. The other reason is in principle this – is increasing the number of Singaporeans necessarily a strategic economic and political decision? But either way, the government knows it has to do something. But before it does, what can the government tap on so that it can further its cause? If money is not something we want to doe out freely, then what – family values. This has always been something the government has championed. “Family values” take the responsibility away from the government to have to baby us and family values allow a manageable hierarchical group to control its own people, before the government takes things into their own hands. And so, they’ve gone BIG on family values. So certain ministers have come out talking about them. Once again, it works – people believe in their families and when you talk about family values, whatever the motive is, people buy it. Strike two – among many others of course.
So, see the government has reworked their PR strategy and they are doing a fine deal here.
The question is – how will Singaporeans respond? There’s really not much else we can shout about now. You’ve made us happy so what can we complain about? Even at the discussions held at Our National Conversation, people are saying what the people are saying. We’ve made a habit out of critiquing the government and it’s personalities. We can’t possibly be critiquing our people for giving feedback to the government which is truly what we want. At this point, I would give the government complete marks for managing their PR strategy really fantastically and in a way, uniting Singaporeans under one umbrella, for the first time in many months.
So, what do we do? Recently, there has been a major uproar about a taxi driver who earns $7,000. We’ve dug up news about the driver, then about the reporter. We’ve flamed them, then we’ve decided the driver is innocent and then we’ve flamed the reporter. Who is right then? I do not know. I’m not a taxi driver. But what’s really happening here? We’ve run out of things to critique about. If the government is so good at addressing our needs, and we still need to let out but we can’t let out at them because they’ve covered their tracks quite well, who do we? We let out at other people – people who make the amount of money we cannot and people who write for the government mouthpiece. But is this the issue? I would say it’s misplaced priorities on our side.
First, we need to look deeper at why we have decided to flame the people in this situation. Are we unhappy about wages? Are we unhappy about how The Straits Times is reporting news which we feel isn’t completely honest? What is it? Are we talking about work or reporting ethics? Are we talking about the ability to work smart. The news about the driver who makes an awesome amount of money was meant to bring out some points. If we learn to critically analyse them, we would understand what it is we are unhappy about. But we have chosen to get upset and go on a witch hunt. And if you look deeper behind why we had gone on a witch hunt, it’s precisely because of these issues which we haven’t learnt to critically analyse.
What this has shown to ourselves is this – we aren’t interested in having a critical discussion on moving Singapore forward. We are simply unhappy people who want to vent our frustrations. We are cowards. If I cannot go on a witch hunt on our politicians, we will take our next best bet – people whom we speak for them, and so we’ve targeted the reporters and the reported. Ask yourself this – is this fair? Imagine if I’m the reporter or the taxi driver, is it fair for me to go through the emotional anguish simply because I wrote something or agreed to be interviewed for something? Do we really have Singapore and Singaporeans’ interests at heart? Perhaps? But what we are also really doing is to pander to our own self-centred needs for wanting our grievances to be heard.
But there are many ways we can express our grievances. And there are many ways we can express them without hurting others.
See, the government has made its move. What will you do? The government is saying – I know you are unhappy, I know perhaps I need to improve. Yes, I would. And I would also tweak my PR strategy because I know I need to communicate better about my strategies and ensure that my broad strategies for the country are not upset. And they’ve found a way to do this. And it has worked. People are feeling that their concerns are being addressed and they are feeling satisfied. But there are people who are still angry. Then to these people – the question is, what’s your next move?
Are you going to keep being angry? Are you going to keep going on a witch hunt? Then in this next round, you will lose. What this means for us is this – the government has up its game, which means we have to move up in ours. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about it as a game – perhaps I should say that the government has somewhat found a balance between being responsible, at least in the way they speak, and in ensuring they are still able to execute the strategy that they have planned for Singapore.
Then the question is this – will you up your game? Rather, will you help them, or help us or yourself? The government has taken the game up on notch by talking about policies it can implement to address our needs – and ideas and thoughts about how they want to govern. And thus our ministers have started sharing on their vision and philosophies about how they envision Singapore. Will you up your game by discussing about your ideals and philosophies for the governance of Singapore? Will you propose policy recommendations?
At this juncture, there are two things we can do.
- For the Singaporeans who feel appeased and satisfied that the government is hearing them, we can keep quiet and go back into waiting for the government to do everything for us – again.
- Or with this new-found voice and ability to contribute, we can decide to move up a notch to provide quality debate by discussing about policies, ideas and philosophies – this will decide whether the government will continue to take Singaporeans seriously as we move into another phase.