Parliament: The “moral value” of public policies?


How can our public policies have “moral value” when from a cashflow perspective – we do not spend any money on pensions, public housing and healthcare?

I refer to the article “Make the language of morality our vernacular in policy matters” (Today, May 18).

It states that “Today, Mr Speaker, I argue one simple idea – which is to rethink the way we evaluate ideas.

We need to rethink the role of the market and of economic reasoning. For a long time, the economic reasoning that our government applied to public policies has stood us in good stead. Whether in health care, in housing or in the management of much of our social policy, such reasoning has allowed us to make good use of our resources.

The magic words in any policy were whether it was “sustainable”, that is, whether it would “pay for itself”. A long-term reliance on government funding is sometimes the kiss of death for a good idea. For if the idea was good, surely money could be found from the market.”

As to “But economic reasoning is empty without a moral foundation; such foundations cannot and do not exist without a conversation about values. Not just what is cheap, but what is right, not just about generating income, but about giving meaning. For too long, we have made decisions based more on an economic compass, as if the use of one dollar has the moral equivalence of the loss of another” – isn’t it time for us to reassess our policies of – from a cashflow perspective –  not spending any money on pensions (CPF), healthcare or public housing (HDB)?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.