For me, the saddest thing about the elections is the loss of George Yeo.
(Just to be clear on this point, I am delighted that the opposition won a GRC, and I’m pleased that Low’s team got in. But I am still sad that George is no longer around. as do many others, I blame our flawed GRC system for this.)
George is eloquent and smart, somebody who can represent Singapore in any corridor in the world. George is friendly and down-to-earth, engaging on Facebook, and discussing issues at McDonald’s with us regular folk. most of all, George just seems like a genuinely nice guy. Sadly, I can’t say all those things about all of our ministers.
When I was in grad school, I attended a class taught by Michael Porter, a strategy ‘guru’. Every week, we would discuss a different country’s development. During each, we had the good fortune of either listening directly to a senior politician from that country–Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, for instance, actually came for the class on his country–or watching a video of a politician from that country.
When it was Singapore’s turn, the discussion was fairly predictable, with lots of talk about rapid economic development, and rises in standards of living. as an international student amongst many other international students, it was stuff to feel rather smug about. But the best part was when George came on the screen.
Amongst many other wonderful things, he said, “the difference between Singapore and many other developed countries is that other countries measure their success by how well the people at the top do. In Singapore, we measure success by how well the people at the bottom do.” (I am misquoting, I’m sure, but it’s something like that)
Of course, this statement probably applies more to early Singapore than Singapore of the past 15 years, during which time the people at the bottom haven’t really seen their standards of living rise much. Income inequality has spiked. That is probably one of the major reasons why more people have been voting for the opposition.
In other words, George lost his seat partly because the PAP has recently failed to raise living standards of those at the bottom.
The great irony in this story is that George is probably one of the ministers most concerned about this issue. Nobody will ever know this for sure, but it’s just something I have a hunch about. Other PAP politicians do not seem as bothered about income inequality as George.
Adieu, George. You will be missed.