Beyond policies, what does the National Day Rally really tell us about the PAP Government? 

23/08/2023

In a tradition that has endured since 1966, the National Day Rally (NDR) is quite possibly the most significant speech our Prime Minister (PM) delivers every year and one that takes in the pulse of the nation. But besides new policies to keep housing affordable and a Majulah Package to ensure retirement adequacy, what other insights can we glimpse from 2023’s NDR, and what does it tell us about the PAP? 

Channelling Semangat yang Baru into the next generation 

Finding a common thread through a common language, cultural identity, or ethnicity tends to be how countries organise themselves and become what they are. That is why, to our forefathers’ credit, their ability to build a nation ‘regardless of race, language and religion’ makes Singapore somewhat of a miracle and an oddity.   

So, how did they do it? They create a stable, thriving nation out of thin air when so many others have failed.

The answer lies in Semangat yang Baru or a renewed Singapore Spirit. Abstract and intangible, one could be forgiven for disregarding its existence and relegating it as a myth. But it is there. 

Embedded into our policies, institutions, and all areas of governance are the fundamental ideas of justice, equality, fairness, integrity and honesty that the PAP stands for. As PM Lee Hsien Loong revealed, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was unyielding in his belief to the very end that Singapore must maintain a clean and incorruptible government at all costs.   

As a result, Singapore succeeded as a nation built upon layers and layers of integrity and incorruptibility. It is a unique selling point that puts us on the world map and remains pivotal in ensuring that trust within society is a rule rather than an exception. Most importantly, we can count on the next generation of PAP leaders to embrace the Singapore Spirit. Because as the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. 

Instead of firefighting, a good government prevent fires

Next, retirement adequacy, housing affordability and an ageing population are long-term challenges. Hence, solutions to these problems cannot be about digging into the reserves and spending public money on short-term and symbolic policies with the promise of quick results.   

Take housing, for instance. There have been proposals by the Opposition to ignore land costs, distort market conditions and sell HDB flats cheaply. While that would no doubt delight voters, it would mean getting trapped in a glorified rental scheme, or worse – making our children pay for such follies. Therefore, if the aim is to ensure housing affordability, would it not make more sense to increase means-tested subsidies and tighten restrictions on prime location flats, stabilising prices without crashing the market?   

In the end, policymaking is less about ‘who gets what’ but a concerted effort to generate the best outcomes for society in the long run. All while delicately managing the immediate concerns and expectations of Singaporeans. The slew of measures PM Lee had just announced best exemplifies this balancing act. After all, a good government aims to prevent fires rather than spend time fighting them. 

Photo Source: Lee Hsien Loong via Facebook