The government sets policies and the mandarins execute them. The people either benefit or suffer from the consequences.
When the government acquire land compulsorily at low cost and built flats to house the people, it was a harsh necessity then but accepted. When there weren't enough to go around, population planning was introduced to ease pressures and with lesser mouths to feed, there were more to share. Life was tough but happiness were abundant as we care and share; for the better or worse! We were the master of our own Providence.
Humanity has always been united during adversity and divided when the North-South divide widens.
Policies always served to achieve certain pre-determined goals but their effectiveness, efficacies and relevance may change over time; you may arrive at the right place but at the wrong time!
When Mr Goh Keng Swee decided 'we are price taker', he was a 'hardnose bargainer'; he haggled, slogged and gave to best price to locals, not just any price. Affordability was not measured against the upper half of society but using the layman's ruler. There were pains in army life but there were comradeship, belonging and a common destiny. Foot-nurses visited homes for pre-natal checks, compulsory vaccinations and the 'prevention is better than cure' approach built a healthier citizenry. Education and skills development empowered the people to climb the social ladder.
The Cabinet then included the educated, the citizen-leaders, the labor movement and the commoners. Everyone has a role to play to unite, live and fight as 'one'. The politicians of the day were committed and fighting for a common cause, that is, for the betterment of Singapore & Singaporeans. They were leaders who stand up and speak out for the people, not invited nor 'employed'.
Today's Cabinet comprises of many with scholarly achievement; an admirable mix. Even our Mandarins are academically superb. But, how many can claim to really empathize, understand and share the dreams, fears and aspirations of the mass? I am not doubting anybody's abilities but to think and act 'out of the box and against groupthink', where applicable, is fundamental in steering away from mines of failures and discontent. A successful group needs both, the scholar and the streetwise, guys. Strictly speaking, the army of generals cannot win a war without the soldiers.
My guess is we are paralysed by the 'need for perfection and there is zero tolerance for errors, even signs of weaknesses are frowned upon'. Adding meritocracy and persistent challenges from imports and foreigners, the equation becomes 'survival of the fittest - the Law of the Jungle'!
Many of my foreign friends said Singapore is an excellent nation; clean, green, organised, well developed with good city-planning but ...lacks EQ - the human side, or should I say 'the feel', of life.
I am not just hopeful but confident that Singapore and Singaporeans will unite as one once we get our equation right.
(This article is written with imagination and hopes and is NOT to be misconstrued as speaking against anyone. If anyone feel offended, my sincerest apology)