You are here

Minority PM inevitable, but Tharman rules himself out

PM Lee enjoys S'pore's trust and confidence, he says, and younger candidates are in the wings

BT_20150704_KTTHARMAN4M38Y_1757464.jpg
'... BUT I'M NOT THE STRIKER': Using a sports analogy to explain why the prime ministership was not his cup of tea, Mr Tharman said he enjoyed playing half-back, but was not the striker - unless he was forced to, and he didn't think he would be forced to, because Singapore had choices.

Singapore

IT is only a matter of time before Singapore has its first minority-race prime minister, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Friday - but it won't be him because he isn't interested in the job.

He said: "Let me put it this way. We all have our preferences, and I was always, in sports, playing centre-half rather than centre-forward. I enjoy playing half-back and making the long passes, but I am not the striker. Unless I'm forced to be, and I don't think I'll be forced to it, because I think we've got choices.

"We won't always get it the way we expect it to be, but we think very hard about succession in Singapore."

sentifi.com

Market voices on:

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking at at the two-day SG50+ conference jointly organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and themed "Singapore at 50: What lies ahead?".

His preferences aside, Mr Tharman said he doesn't need to become prime minister because there is a great deal of trust and confidence in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is fortunately very healthy, and also because younger candidates are already waiting in the wings; those already in the fray and those entering it will provide Singapore's future leadership, he said.

"It seems to me inevitable that at some point, a minority prime minister - Indian, Malay, Eurasian, or some mixture - is going to be a feature of the political landscape, because we've got a meritocracy; it's an open system. It's just a matter of time."

He had been asked, during a dialogue with American journalist and author Fareed Zakaria, which was a part of the conference, whether Singapore could have an Indian prime minister.

As for the set-up of Singapore's political landscape, Mr Tharman rejected the idea that Singapore is a one-party state - one where the People's Action Party (PAP) faces no serious competition.

In response to Dr Zakaria, who asked: "You have 80 out of 87 (elected) seats (in Parliament), how is that serious competition?", Mr Tharman replied: "That's an outcome, that's not a design," to appreciative applause from the 640-strong audience.

The minister was making the broader point that one inherent advantage in having a dominant player in politics is that longer-term investments and policies can be planned for and implemented.

A one-party state, however, would be a disadvantage, he said: "It lacks the competition, it lacks the contest - and we don't have a one-party state. We've got to be subjected to serious competition, as we are."

Saying he and his fellow Singapore politicians spend a lot of time interacting with people, he added: "It's not what you see in typical one-party states. It's not even what you see in multiparty states where you have a dominant party that fixes the system."

Still, he stressed that a political structure in which one player is dominant will work only under two conditions: The leading party must be subject to competition, and it must be held accountable to the people - at every election and during its term of government.

grab

Receive $80 Grab vouchers valid for use on all Grab services except GrabHitch and GrabShuttle when you subscribe to BT All-Digital at only $0.99*/month.

Find out more at btsub.sg/promo

Powered by GET.comGetCom