ESM Goh: The government must pass the demanding parental test

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On the eve of the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong gave a speech where he mentioned a perceived “loosening” of the ties between the Singaporean government and its people. The speech was delivered at a dinner event at Marine Parade.

Goh highlighted the importance of a solid relationship between the people and their government and how this relationship is fundamental in the success of a nation. He cited many of the effects that the deterioration of this relationship has had, but he seemed to be less than clear on how this state of affairs came to be.

In the speech, he drew parallels between the relationships of parents and children to that of citizens and government. Goh pointed out that we love our parents no matter what their flaws may be, but in regard to government citizens tend to be quick to criticize even for the slightest mistakes.

Goh proceeded to state that this apparent unhealthy relationship has become what he calls “the New Normal” and that this condition has caused the nation to lose its direction, saying, “We still discuss and debate, consult and engage. But each group is now more assertive than before in pushing its point of view and vested interests. Each side does not want to give an inch without taking a quarter. The common space for Singaporeans is getting smaller instead of bigger”

He then went on to call for a greater understanding and he spoke for the need for Singaporeans to pull together not only as a people, but also as a people with their government. Coming back to his parent and child theme, he said, “The government must pass the demanding parental test, which is to help the next generation succeed to the best of their capabilities. But the next generation, too, must pass the family test in building on what they have inherited. They must demand as much of themselves as they do of the government.”

Some of the concerns voiced by the former prime minister might be debatable, but it is true that a healthy relationship between citizens and their government is important. However, this is an issue that has causes problems in many nations throughout the history of civilized society and solutions to this problem are often hard to find.

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