Chee Hean made a keynote speech to the elite civil servants, or shall I called them govt officials, on the role of govt last night. His key point was the role of government, and the paradox is that some people want more govt some want less. This is nothing new and is really not an issue. He also mentioned about doing the right things and doing them right.
What ever paradoxes there are, the worst paradox is a govt doing what it should not be doing and not doing what it should be doing. Put it in another way, things that the people did not want to govt to be doing but the govt insists on doing and things that the people want the govt to do but not doing. This is the paradox that the govt cannot see. It only believes in the proverbial ‘I’. It is always the ‘I decide, I say, I do’. The govt is the authority to do what it likes and to draw the OB markers.
The govt has never thought that the people also have their likes and their rights and also their OB markers. I recommend that all civil servants, not govt officials, should read JS Mills and try to understand what he meant by the rights of individuals. This may help them to understand that they must not cross into the rights of individuals though the govt has all the power to do so, to violate individual rights in the name of the common good. Think how many individual rights have the govt violated and think how not to do so.
Chee Hean also talked about the govt as a regulator, enabler and provider. As regulator, ‘the govt acts to safeguard the interests of the people, to find the right balance in its intervention’. Think housing policy, think influx of foreigners and population growth. Has the govt failed badly in these areas as a regulator?
Similarly, as an enabler, the govt is to ‘create a conducive environment so that “desirable activities can flourish”.’ This, the govt has succeeded in some areas and not in some other areas, depending on the beneficiaries and the losers.
As a provider, the ‘govt shall provide where there are societal needs non government players are not able to meet, such as national security.’ He agreed that there were debates or unhappiness in areas like education, public transport, housing and healthcare which should be provided by the govt but privatized. So the govt need not be the provider that it should be. And is the govt providing for the aged? Currently to some extent, but eventually may be zero as the aged are compelled through all the compulsory schemes in CPF and Medisave to provide for themselves. This would make the govt’s job easier or even redundant except to be the regulator to ensure the aged provide for themselves.
Very paradoxical indeed. Doing the right things and doing them right are as controversial as affordability. What is right and what is wrong can be very subjective and personal.