Parliament's for "serious discussion, not just criticism"
30 October 2011 1840 hrs (SST)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that Parliament is a place for serious discussion and not just criticism.
Mr Lee added that Parliament is not just a place to hold either the government or opposition to account.
Instead both sides should participate in solving problems together, or Singapore would be worse off for it.
He was speaking to the Singapore media at the end of the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth on Sunday.
Earlier this month, Singapore's Parliament sat for the first time since the May General Election, and members shared their thoughts on the measures needed for the country to prosper.
Mr Lee said that while the opposition had put a lot of effort into their parliamentary speeches, it remains to be seen if they will participate in helping to solve problems.
"This is not just a show, it's not just theatre. This (Parliament) is a place where we are discussing very serious business and where we have to make very difficult choices for Singaporeans on behalf of our voters," he said.
"And I think as government, it's our responsibility to speak the truth to Singaporeans and I think it's the opposition's responsibility also to acknowledge the truth and to speak it, whether or not it's politically advantageous to them," added Mr Lee.
On Singapore's economy, Mr Lee said that there are dark clouds on the horizon, referring to the latest report from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The MAS report said that Singapore's economic growth will stall over the next few quarters before seeing a modest recovery late next year because the long-term structural problems in Europe will not disappear soon.
Prime Minister Lee added that Singapore is also facing slowing growth because the economy is more mature.
"For a developed economy, 3, 4% (growth) is not bad. Of course, we've been used to 5,6,7 (percent), or even more in the past, but it's a different phase. When you're an adolescent, you grow and shoot up inches every year. When you're mature you hope to grow, not necessarily taller but wiser and better," said Mr Lee.
On the government's move to raise the minimum qualifying salaries for foreign professionals and skilled workers, Mr Lee said that the government knows it has been painful for employers.
He added that accepting a lower growth rate is the price to pay for managing the population size in Singapore.
Even with these challenges, Mr Lee said Singapore should not be too downbeat. He said Singapore hopes to have quality growth - improved productivity for better wages.
Mr Lee also pointed out that he had met various leaders at CHOGM, all of whom expressed admiration for Singapore and said the country has done very well.
Referring to his meeting with Western Australia's Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Lee said it is keen to develop links with Singapore.
Mr Lee concluded that Singapore is "not doing badly", but can do better.
On CHOGM which had focused on reforms, Mr Lee said it would not be easy to transform the Commonwealth.
Calling the Commonwealth an "old boys' club" brought together by a shared history, he said members work together where they can but they also have disagreements.
On the failed proposal to appoint a watchdog for human rights, Mr Lee said Singapore's support will depend very much on whether such a commissioner will be productive.
The proposal for an independent commissioner on human rights, democracy and the rule of law was one of the reforms called for by an "Eminent Persons Group" that CHOGM itself commissioned two years ago to help it maintain relevancy.
I agree that the parliament should be a place for constructive debates.
But how many times did the government put bill up for debates when it had already been passed?
How many times did the PAP government themselves drawing their million dollars salaries but still call for assistance? Waste of tax payer money if you ask me.
I have no problem with the government making mistakes.
My main problem with this administration is their gross salaries.
Are these people worth being the most expensive cabinets in the world?
I admit there are a few good men in there but they are also what I call “YES MAN” which cannot do anything as long as there is a party whips in the PAP controlling these Member of Parliament.
But don’t forget, it is the people from your constituency that voted you in the represent them, strictly speaking you work for them and not for your party. Gosh they even pay your salary as well.
For Hsien Loong to make this statement, he must look at his own policy.
Can the current government open to criticisms and put bills for parliament debates before passing them?
Can the PAP for once work and think for the man on the street rather for themselves and the elites?
Can Hsien Loong stop thinking debates with the opposition parties are a waste of time and he need to “fix” them?
Talk is cheap. Just do it and the people will see for themselves Hsien Loong.