From “denial” to “acknowledgement”, and “action”?

TR Emeritus
August 13th, 2013

Mr Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “S’pore must change to avert crisis: ESM Goh” (Straits Times, Aug 12).

Only just begun now after so many years?

It states that “Political leaders have already begun reviewing and improving policies on issues that cause the most anxiety.

Affordable HDB, healthcare and jobs?

He cited three examples: health-care costs, keeping flats affordable and ensuring that Singaporeans have access to good jobs. These were the top concerns among Singaporeans across most income groups, in a survey conducted as part of the recently ended Our Singapore Conversation.

Build a (more) fair and just society?

Mr Goh’s comments on the pressing need for change were made three days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day message that the Government will play a bigger role to build a fair and just society and help everyone succeed.

Governance today is not just about solving problems in a “practical, ruthlessly efficient, bureaucratic way”, but about winning hearts rather than just arguments.”

Shift from “denial” to “acknowledgement”? 

After writing thousands of articles, having about 500 letters published in newspaper forum pages, more than a thousand media interviews and a few hundred presentations at conferences and seminars, over the last 15 years or so, I can sense a distinct shift in the general tone of the Government, in recent media reports and press releases.

If you just look back at the past, we were arguably what I describe as being in a state of “denial”

HDB flats are affordable ($1,000 income can own a HDB flat) – lose money on every flat sold – deficit of $1 to $2 billion a year, but refuse to breakdown costs,

Healthcare is affordable (500,000 or about 99 per cent of Medifund applications were approved in a year),

CPF is working well (Retirement Study by local university academics commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) comes to the conclusion that Singaporeans will be better prepared for retirement than OECD countries’ average – the opposite of almost every international study saying that Singaporeans are amongst the least  prepared for retirement), etc.

We are now apparently in what I call a state of “acknowledgement” – “Political leaders have already begun reviewing and improving policies on issues that cause the most anxiety. He cited three examples: health-care costs, keeping flats affordable and ensuring that Singaporeans have access to good jobs“,

and just a few days ago – we need to look out for PMETs?, etc.


What I hope will really happen soon is to move to what I call a state of “action”.

And action is best measured by the outcomes and statistics.

And not what the recent latest statistics may be telling us – much talk and rhetoric, but not much action.

For example, increasing Medishield premiums and deductibles from 1 March, when the excess of premiums collected over claims paid is as I understand it about $850 million,

HDB BTO flats’ prices rising at an even higher rate of increase than the HDB Resale Price Index (“The Singapore Public Housing Success Story? Lose $ on every flat sold?“, Jun 19),

MediShield: Premiums, surpluses up?

MediShield premiums increased by 450, 511 and 309 per cent compared to 2005, for age 30, 50 and 70 respectively

This is an annualised increase of 24, 25 and 19 per cent per annum, over the eight years. despite accumulated MediShield reserves growing from $205 to $530 million, from 2008 to 2010, an increase of 158 per cent,

an estimated only one out of 8 Singaporeans at age 55 being able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum entirely from cash in one’s CPF account?

Alas! Real change to help particularly lower-income Singaporeans?

As to “It also comes a week ahead of Mr Lee’s National Day Rally speech, where he will announce changes to health care, housing and the education policy. One expected announcement involves help for the pioneer generation’s medical bills.

“It’s going to be an important National Day Rally which sets out the agenda for the coming years,” said Mr Goh. Even as policies are tweaked, what must also evolve is the way Singapore’s leaders govern, he added”, I am sure that many Singaporeans like me will be anxiously waiting for the policy changes that are expected to be announced at the National Day Rally.

With regard to “The former prime minister likened the government to an architect designing a common home, adding that individuals have to play their part” – I’m writing this article in the spirit of answering the call for Singaporeans to play our part.


Leong Sze Hian

Leong Sze Hian is the Past President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, an alumnus of Harvard University, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow and an author of 4 books. He is frequently quoted in the media. He has also been invited to speak more than 100 times in 25 countries on 5 continents. He has served as Honorary Consul of Jamaica, Chairman of the Institute of Administrative Management, and founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Brunei and Indonesia. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional qualifications. He blogs at


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.