Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Only a political decision will disqualify Tan Cheng Bock from the next presidential race

The Report by the Constitutional Commission to review the Elected Presidency was released by the Government earlier today. By all accounts, it is a very comprehensive report which had considered the submissions and views of several different people and organisations.
After reading the Report, what stood out for me was the Commission’s determination to clearly demarcate Constitutional and Political ambits of the Elected Presidency.
For example, the Commission reported that “one pair of contributors submitted that after the experience of the last 25 years, the Elected Presidency should be abolished and Singapore should return to a system where the President is appointed by Parliament.” The Commission noted that this submission is “a matter that falls clearly beyond the Terms of Reference (of the Commission). The choice of constitutional design and arrangements to achieve particular ends are quintessentially political questions. They should be left to the Legislature or, in extreme circumstances, the electorate voting in a referendum.”
Throughout the Report there are several such references which clearly specify that the Office of the Elected President is as much a political construct, as it is a constitutional one.
The Report, for instance, referred to some contributors suggestion to defer “the implementation of any proposed changes to the qualification criteria so as to prevent candidates who might previously have qualified to contest the Presidential office from being excluded from contesting the 2017 Presidential elections.” I was one of the contributors who made that submission.
The Commission said that “the question of whether and when any amendments should be introduced is a political matter for Parliament to determine.”
If the Constitutional Commission’s proposals are accepted and passed as legislation by Parliament, it will mean that Dr Tan Cheng Bock who had previously qualified for the Presidential Election will now not qualify for several reasons.
For one, the commission recommended increasing the S$100 million paid-up capital threshold to S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, in absolute terms. According to Law Prof Eugene Tan, Dr Tan Cheng Bock fulfilled the elected presidency criteria in 2011 because he was the Chairman of Chuan Hup Holdings for 20 years. Prof Tan calculated that the paid-up capital of Chuan Hup was about $177 million when Dr Tan retired in 2011, exceeding the $100 million minimum.
Another reason why Dr Tan could be disqualified is because of the Commission’s proposal that “when a member from any racial group has not occupied the President’s office for 5 continuous terms, the next Presidential elections should be reserved for candidates from that group.”
Singapore has not had a Malay President for six terms, since Yusof Ishak. And has not had one from the Eurasian community since President Benjamin Sheares.
Some contributors like me had suggested to the Commission that in the event the Commission decides on changing the existing criteria of qualifications for the Elected President, it should include a ‘grandfather clause’ in the changes which would allow the candidates who qualified to contest in the 2011 Presidential Election to do so in the next Presidential Election.
The Commission has decided that such a decision should be a political one for Parliament to determine. And the People’s Action Party has a super-majority in the House to advance its political agenda.

Read the full report here:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

‘Contempt of Court’ Bill may stifle netizens free speech and prompt system failure

In a letter written to The Straits Times forum in 2012, writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh succinctly explained why the Singapore system would have failed without the scrutiny of netizens. That is the reason why I am concerned about the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill.
As a layman and untrained in the law, I think the State with the wording in the Bill (which is both vague and broad) has usurped a lot of power for itself. And this is scary because it has a potential to stifle free speech further in Singapore.
I am not against the principles of the right to fair trials, or the need to ensure that court orders are obeyed. I further agree that judicial independence is crucial to any democratic society, and welcome moves to ensure this independence. But as the  website ‘simisaialsocontempt‘ explains, this is what I am concerned about:
  • The Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill is problematic because its wording is both vague and broad, and there is a lack of clarity over what sort of comment or action is/isn’t in contempt of court. The legal tests applied to determining whether something is/isn’t in contempt of court is also troublingly low. The presence of such confusion and doubt leads to a ‘chilling effect’, where people opt for the safety of silence, rather than risk falling foul of the law.
    • This chilling effect could lead to the curtailing of important discussions on matters of public interest, which could have prompted improvements in public institutions and practices. We have seen this happen in cases like with Jover Chew, where public discussions led to the clean-up of Sim Lim Square, or with Benjamin Lim, where public outcry led to the Ministry of Education and Singapore Police Force to improve their procedures relating to minors/vulnerable people involved in investigations.
  • The bill gives the state wide powers, creating an imbalance between the state and its people.
    • For example, the Attorney-General can seek a court order to compel an individual to take down his/her post, as long as a possibility of contempt can be shown. The individual need not be informed that a court order has been sought. If the individual fails to comply with the court order after it has been served, he/she could face a penalty of a $20,000 fine and/or 12 months in prison.
    • The bill also allows the Government (or someone speaking on behalf of the Government) to comment on ongoing cases if it is deemed to be in the public interest. This essentially means that while comments from members of the public might be found in contempt, the Government is able to comment on cases.
  • A bill with such wide implications on public discussion and speech cannot be passed in haste. Extensive public education and consultation are needed to craft a robust bill that increases public confidence.
    • The bill was tabled, and had its first reading in Parliament, on 11 July. The call for public input on REACH was only put up on 12 July – there has been insufficient time for the public to scrutinise the bill, understand its implications and provide feedback.
    • We are aware that certain groups have been consulted, from lawyers to civil society organisations. However, there is a lack of clarity as to which groups were consulted, how they were selected, how representative they are of the population and how the feedback they provided was considered and taken on board (or not).

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit: Death knell for entrenched politics

By: Ravi Philemon
In Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam's words, this if how Brexit looks like:

"London and Scotland voted to stay in the EU; Wales and the English provinces outside London voted to leave. The majority of the educated class voting to stay; the less educated to leave. Those doing well in their jobs and incomes voting to stay; those who felt they’ve been losing out voted to leave. Many more of the young voted to stay; old voting to leave."

The DPM is also absolutely right in saying that the more profound questions about Brexit revolves around politics and not necessarily around economics, and is centered on the issues relating to the need for jobs and security, and a balance in immigration that preserves a sense of identity.

The British majority voted to exit Europe because they feel disenchanted with the establishment, and they feel that there is a need to disrupt the 'as usual' politics which has prospered just a select few at the expense of many others.

Considering that the age of disruptive innovation is here upon us, Brexit is normal.
This is how Wikipedia describes disruptive innovation: "A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances."

With disruptive technology (like Fintech challenging established banks and technology like Uber testing taxi companies severely), such innovations - at least theoretically - provide better outcomes for customers, making life that much better for them. By embracing such disruptive technology to fix real problems that they face, the people have given their support and trust to such disruptors. 
Where the governments of the day are perceived to be slow and laggard, only tweaking their policies a little to the left and to the right; and only when there is vociferous opposition to status quo, it is understandable why the majority will choose disruption.

Results like Brexit are symbols of tacit support by the majority for disruption, in the hopes that such disruption will bring innovation to make lives better for them. Brexit sends a loud and clear message to the establishment and status-quo.

It is quite natural for the leaders of entrenched-politics to label such disruptors as 'nationalists', 'demagogues' and even 'racists'. That is the tried and tested method of how certain leaders shame, divide and keep status quo in any society. But labeling is not going to make disruption go away anytime soon.

In fact, experts like Robert Goldman have predicted that the majority's trust in disruption is not a misplaced one. He said disruption will make human needs like water, electricity and even healthcare cheaper in the future, making life that much better for everyone. (see his predictions here:

Brexit may be the death knell on unrestrained globalisation which has unfairly benefited the well-heeled and the well-connected. Why should these people have the leg-up over the majority in a democracy?

Brexit has forced first world governments to stop being laggards and respond quickly to the real needs of the people. Brexit has forced such governments to put the brakes on unrestrained globalisation and assess if it really benefits the citizens of their countries.
If they won't, the majority will no longer be afraid to try uncharted disruptions. That is the Brexit message. And it has to be welcomed from that perspective. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

My submission to the Constitutional Commission to Review Specific Aspects of the Elected Presidency

The following is my submission to the Constitutional Commission to Review Specific Aspects of the Elected Presidency.

1. Constitutional Limits
Article 21 of the constitution of Singapore outlines the constitutional limits placed on the Elected president. For example, the President must exercise his functions on the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, in the areas of granting of clemency in death penalty cases. in certain other cases the President must consult the Council of Presidential Advisors (CPA) before exercising discretion. The President must also consult the CPA before he approves proposed drawdowns on past financial reserves, and the appointments and dismissals of key office holders.If he does not concur with the recommendations of the CPA, Parliament can override his decision. These limits were carefully considered and placed on the Elected President and there no pressing reasons to change such limits on the Elected President.

2. Elected President envisioned to be independent-minded
I propose that despite the constitutional limits placed on the Elected President, he was not envisioned to be an extension of the Executive, but to be independent minded. As an example and referencing Article 21(2) Discharge of performance and functions of President, which reads:

“The withholding of concurrence under Article 151 (4) in relation to the detention of or further detention of any person under any law or ordinance made or promulgated in pursuance of Part XII.”

This Article says that where there is no agreement between the Cabinet and the preventive detention advisory body on the detention or further detention of any person, the President’s decision on the matter will be final; and that he can make this decision without consulting or heeding the advise of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

This is a clear example of how Parliament envisioned the Elected president to be independent-minded when it legislated the Office.

3. Elected President not envisioned to be elitist but principled
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Speech in Parliament on 27 January 2016 said that in 1993 there were 158 companies with $100 million in paid up capital while today it is over 2100. I however beg to disagree with the Prime Minister on this point. I do not think this criteria was placed because Parliament wanted to limit the number of candidates who would be eligible to contest for the presidency. If it were so, it would not place such a broad criteria from which candidates may qualify. A person is qualified to be a candidate for election as President if he (besides other criteria) has held office for a period of not less than 3 years in position of seniority and responsibility in the public or private sector as described below:

as Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Attorney-General, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, Accountant-General or Permanent Secretary;
as chairman or chief executive officer of a statutory board to which Article 22A of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore applies;
as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency; or
in any other similar or comparable position of seniority and responsibility in any other organization or department of equivalent size or complexity in the public or private sector which, in the opinion of the Presidential Elections Committee, has given him such experience and ability in administering and managing financial affairs as to enable him to carry out effectively the functions and duties of the office of President.
If it was meant to be restrictive, Parliament would have left out the clause “as chairman of the board of directors or chief executive officer of a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency.”

I propose that the ‘$100 million paid up capital’ criteria was proposed because as opposed to a sole-proprietor company, or partnerships, or private limited companies, companies which are not specifically prohibited from dipping into their past profits and reserves; companies incorporated or registered under the Companies Act (Cap. 50) with a paid-up capital of at least $100 million or its equivalent in foreign currency, have clear guidelines spelt out in the Companies Act, especially on the Reserve Policy.

This is an important principle the Elected President should have as he or she would be the custodian of Singapore’s Reserves.

4. Election of minority as President
The belief that if not legislated minorities may not be fielded or be elected as President though understandable, is not proven. In the 2011 General Election, the People’s Action Party (PAP) fielded a minority, Mr Michael Palmer, in the Punggol East single member constituency and he won the contest. While writing this email, the local Chinese newspaper, Zaobao, has reported that a minority, Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, may be fielded as PAP’s candidate in the Bukit Batok by-election. Why would the PAP consider fielding a minority in such a crucial electoral contest if it feels that he does not have a chance of winning?

There are persons from the establishment who are from the minority and highly regarded, for example, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Speaker of the House Halimah Yacob, and even our Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. In my opinion, all these individuals, though minority, are highly electable as President.

5. Grandfather Clause
I further propose that in the event the Commission decides on changing the existing criteria of qualifications for the Elected President, it would include a ‘grandfather clause’ in the changes which would allow the candidates who qualified to contest in the 2011 Presidential Election to do so at least in the next Presidential Election.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Presidential Election needs no further tweaks or tampering

There have been calls for tweaks to the elected presidency. One letter writer fearing that a multi-cornered contest for the Elected Presidency may mean that the candidate who is eventually elected may win with only a small percentage, raising concerns of the winners political legitimacy, suggests having 2-rounds of voting when there are more than 2 candidates contesting for the Office.

Another worrying that the Elected President may politic beyond the Constitutional boundaries set for the Office, thereby affecting governance, suggested scraping the Elected Presidency altogether and reverting to the old system of an appointed President.

Although in principle I agree that a Westminster Parliamentary system such as ours does not need an Elected President, because we have a Parliament which is overwhelmingly dominated by one political party, the rationale for an Elected President to safeguard national interests and for good governance is a pragmatic one.

The fear that there being more companies with a paid-up capital of $100 million means that more Presidential candidates may emerge is an unfounded one. Also, having more candidates need not necessarily be bad, for it would mean that the electorate could see the diversity of possibilities within the constitutionally limited custodial powers of the Elected Presidency and vote for the one who they best identify with.

At the close of the hotly contested Presidential Election of 2011, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed that he felt reassured by Singaporean voters for they recognised and valued the strengths as well as the inclusive approach of the winning-Candidate and the first runner-up, in voting for them. We must continue to believe in the wisdom of the electorate, that they will make the choices which are in the best interest of the country.

Moreover, all aspirants to the Office must first pass the stringent scrutiny of the Presidential Elections Committee which qualifies them for the contest. This gives voters the assurance that whoever wins in our first-past-the-post electoral system, regardless of the margin of victory, is well qualified for the job.

The Elected President holds two key veto powers, one on the use of national reserves and the other on appointments to top public sector posts. These are important checks against the Executive whose Party holds an overwhelming majority in the House. The Elected President therefore must have the moral high-ground of being elected to the Office by the citizens of Singapore.

The system of election for the Office of the Elected President is fine as it is and don't need any further tweaks or tampering.

Friday, September 4, 2015

My Promise to the Voters of Hong Kah North SMC

Dear Voters of Hong Kah North

In my walkabouts in your constituency, you had raised some questions with my team and me. I address a couple of more important ones here.

Why were you not here earlier?
I have worked with the less-privileged in the community for a fairly long time. The homeless families I work with come from all constituencies. When I blog about various issues, it concerns a good number of Singaporeans from various constituencies. For example, you were just as affected by the recent massive MRT breakdown as someone living in Aljunied. So, when I was making myself counted on such issues, I was doing so also on your behalf.

I have a family and held a full-time job. As the main breadwinner, my priority like most of you, is my family and my job. As such, time, resources and money for my activism for the society and speaking up on the various issues are very limited. Whatever activism I did, whatever issues I speak up on are done on a voluntary basis. I do not earn almost a million dollars a year, like the Senior Minister of State does for serving you.

Although I have lived a good part of my adult life here, and so am very familiar with the western parts of our country (the first flat that I bought after marriage was in Bukit Gombak), I have since come to realise that there are some problems that are unique to Hong Kah North smc.

I apologies to you, voters of Hong Kah North, for not walking about in your constituency earlier.

Regardless of if I am elected or not, I promise to work in your constituency and get to know you better. My commitment to you will only be limited by the time and resources I have at my disposal.

You are not Chinese, how will you understand me?
I am a 4th Generation Singaporean and have friends of all races in Singapore. I speak English, Tamil, pasar Malay and a smattering of Mandarin and Hokkien. Residents were pleasantly surprised when I go for home visits and introduce myself in Mandarin, "Wan shang hou. Wo men shi cong xinjiapo renming tang. wo the ming la wei..."

I may not be able to hold a full conversation in Chinese, but I can make out what you are saying and understand you. More importantly, I have capable and dedicated workers in my team who can hold proper dialogues in Chinese and Malay. I promise that I will cross the language barrier to understand and serve you to the best of my abilities.

I hope you will accept me, a 4th generation Singaporean, as one of your own. 

Some concerns that you had raised with me in my walkabouts were:

The bus-stop for Westwood Secondary School is located a good distance away from the school and students from this school have to walk along the road to reach their school. That area is also surrounded by an industrial estate. Considering the heavy vehicles that ply the road and the safety of the students, can the bus-stop be moved nearer to the school?

(Several spoke to us on the issue of transport. One related how she finished work at 6pm, but reached home only past 11pm during the massive MRT breakdown in July.)
There are limited buses in Hong Kah North smc - both in the Bukit Batok area and Jurong West part. A new peak-period bus (no. 651) recently started serving the residents in the Jurong West area, but this is insufficient. The transport plan for this area seem to be one of feeder-bus services to connect to the nearby MRT stations. With the frequent delays and breakdowns of the trains, you would like more buses in your area to serve you.

A good number of you spoke to us about the escalating cost of living, about how a plate of chap chye png is at least $4/plate now. One family shared that they were not better off despite Dr Amy Khor spending $160 million for your constituency in the past 5-years.

A number of you had expressed that when you needed to see your MP on pressing urgent matters, she is not available because she rotates her MPS between the 2 areas in your constituency.

Some of you were concerned that your HDB flats were older, as they were built in the 1980s; if you will be able to sell your flats to monetise it (for retirement or emergencies) in a few years time.

Some residents in Blks. 301, 302, 303, 304...Bukit Batok area are concerned about the rats problem which is still persistent in that area. "Even my dog is afraid of them. They are as big as my dog", exclaimed one resident.

Some residents expressed how the town council is relatively slow in responding to some of their queries and concerns. "Is it because we are in Choa Chu Kang town council? So they give first preference to Choa Chu Kang residents?" asked one Hong Kah North resident.

A number of you we had spoken to expressed concerns of job security. One resident is his late 40s expressed how he found another job soon after losing his previous one, but that he had to take a 30% pay cut. "Can you imagine our quality of life now?" he asked.

Another, a taxi-driver was concerned that now anyone with a private car can compete with taxi drivers who have to be Singaporeans and have to have a vocational license. "Why must we pay hundred over dollars for taxi rentl?" he asked.

One couple whose only son is in Sec 2 in the Normal stream was concerned about the opportunities for her son in the future. "He is already branded as normal. Means not good enough," she sighed.

Some residents are older - in their 50s and 60s - and live separate from their children. They are working now but have concerns about not being able to work and not having enough money as they grow much older.

It is also important for me to share about my strengths to the voters of Hong Kah North smc.

1. I am a good campaigner. For example, in the 2009/2010 period I campaigned with some others from the disabled community for concessions for them on public transports. The Transport Minister then said that he will be very slow in recommending such a concession to the transport operators. I did not give up, but lobbied hard for a favourable outcome. Today there are concessions for persons with disability on public transports. I was nominated for the Singapore Advocacy Award by this group, in recognition of my work in the campaign.

2. I am a hardworker. The residents of Hong Kah North would have seen how hardworking my team and I have been in your constituency in the past months.

3. Having worked in the social welfare sector I can relate to and empathise with ordinary people. 

4. By working in senior management positions in Non-Government Organisations I have acquired the skills of Fundraising.

5. I am efficient and cost-effective. If you notice the collateral that I have put in the hands of Hong Kah Noth smc voters so far, you would have noticed that it is printed without colour in normal grade paper. I believe that substance is more important than sleekness. That the message is more important than how it is packaged.

I have read Dr Khor's manifesto and I appreciate and welcome the various upgrading projects in Hong Kah North.  A good number of flats in Hong Kah North smc are more than 30 years old and could use the upgrading.

Dr Khor can bring this upgrading to you as a grassroots Advisor even if she is not elected by you. There is precedence for this. In 2012, Hougang smc got various upgrading and the Grassroots Advisor of that area, not the elected MP, unveiled the projects and was in-charge of it.

By electing me, you will have me working diligently for you to keep the promises I made to you; while Dr Khor will have the Government's resources and funds to serve you as the Grassroots Advisor. Both of us will compete to earn your favour and votes in the next General Election. This can only be good for for you, the voters of Hong Kah North smc.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Khaw should know better than to hold political activity in a VWO

According to news reports, the People’s Action Party (PAP) said that it went ahead with the introduction at the Home because the Party had chosen the venue previously for its ‘Kopi Talk’ with the residents there. SWAMI Home is a Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO).

I have several years of senior management working experience in VWOs, and so I know that most VWOs’ Constitutions specify that such organisations shall not indulge in any political activity or allow its funds and/or premises to be used for political purposes.

Is this clause also specified in SWAMI Home’s Constitution? If so, did SWAMI Home contravene its own Constitution by allowing its premises to be used for political purposes?

The introduction of PAP candidates who will contest in Sembawang GRC in the next General Election is clearly a political activity.

When the Grassroots Organisations organise such ‘Kopi Talks’ in VWOs, it is usually to better explain Government initiatives like the Pioneer Generation Package to the clients of the VWO. Such events are sometimes graced by Members of Parliament (MP) from the PAP acting in their capacities as Grassroots Advisers.

Such meetings by Grassroots Advisers with VWO clients are supposed to be apolitical, to interact with and better explain certain Government policies.

What was the purpose of the ‘Kopi Talk’? If the purpose of the Talk had changed from its original intention, did the Grassroots Adviser explain that the nature of the ‘Kopi Talk’ will now be political to the management of SWAMI Home?

Grassroots Advisers should not conflate this apolitical role with the role expected of them as members of the PAP.

Of all persons, Mr Khaw – being the Chairman of PAP – should know why it is important to keep both roles separate. SWAMI Home is registered as a society under the Registry of Societies (ROS). ROS too should explain if the Society had contravened its Constitution and, if it had, what actions ROS will take against it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

PAP will form the next Government, Vote Opposition without fear

There is an article on TOC titled 'PAP in panic mode, loss of power inevitable'. The title is only half correct.

Yes, it is true that PAP is in panic mode. If it is not, why should it convene the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee just two months after Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away?

Surely it shows that they want to ride on the depth of emotion shown by Singaporeans following the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. But it also shows that they are afraid that the longer they delay, the more fiascoes there are going to be, and that the sentiment of the voters are going to be turned against them because of these.

Some say that GE 2011 was a watershed election. But what were the major fiascoes before that GE? Well, I can remember Mat Selamat's escape from detention, the escalating property prices, influx of foreigners... These were the issues.

The mess of the last election looks trivial when you compare it with what has happened since then:

There was the SMRT drivers protest, there was the Little India riot, there was the AIM saga, there was the 6.9 million population paper, there were 2 major MRT breakdowns in 2011 and 1 really, really big one this month...

These makes me shudder! Why are we having a snap election? What about the future is the PAP so afraid of? What's going to be the magnitude of such failures?

That said, I do not think that the PAP will lose power in this election. A more realistic expectation is for the opposition to win just 15 seats in the next election.

So, the PAP is not going to lose power any time soon. Although I will be happy to be proven wrong, I predict that they will return to form the next Government.

Why is it important to know that? So that you can cast your vote for the opposition without fearing if there will be a change of Government.

In fact, with the massive outpouring of grief after Mr Lee's death, and the euphoria over the Jubilee Year celebrations, there are chances that some people who voted for the opposition in the last election may vote for the PAP this time round.

But is it to our advantage for the PAP to have a larger percentage of votes than what they had in the last GE? Perhaps not!

Even if there may not be a reversal of some of the more populist policies they had implemented as a result of how we voted in the last election, they may increase the pace of foreigners who come here to live and work; and without exploring other options to pay for social spending, they may just increase the GST to 10%.

There is one way you can prevent this from happening. Vote for the opposition!

Vote for them without fear because there's not going to be a change of Government any time soon. And also because voting for the opposition will mean that you will keep the Government on its toes to serve you diligently for the next 5 years.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Natural aristocracy and the detriment of our society

See entire cartoon here:

Lamenting the lack of concentration of brilliance in Singapore, PM Lee Hsien Loong in a IPS dialogue held recently said that he believed in having a certain natural aristocracy in the system (a form of elitism where people are respected because they have earned that) for without that society will lose out. (Transcript of Speech here:

His views are of course not new and he had articulated them in another Speech in the year 2007, expressing why he believed that Singapore does not have enough talent for two A-Teams (link:

I am not sure if this view is healthy for Singapore. Why I say that? Let me quote a few persons and articles before I make my point.

An academic speaking at a forum focused on Singapore's middle-class in November last year said, "when we think about the middle class, we think of security, comfort and social mobility. But all these are sort of in decline".

2 years ago, a secondary school's Vice-Principal had this to say:
"How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it)." (
An Economist article discussing America's New Aristocracy has this to say about the culture of tolerance for dynasties in the USA:
"today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains."
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam replying to a question if 'Lee Kuan Yew's family will always be in-charge' while acknowledging that it would be the most unusual if it were so and that most Singaporeans would not expect it, also said:
"I mean to be frank, if you look at parliamentarians below the age of 30 in India, every single one of them is a member of a political dynasty. Every single one of them. So, we believe in meritocracy, it’s hard work, sometimes it’s imperfect. There’s always advantage in family connections and wealth but we got to keep working against that.” (
Every parent would want to ensure that his or her child has a good shot at life, a better one than he or she has had. And in trying to ensure that they have the best of opportunities in life, they will not hesitate to use their wealth and connections to give them a leg-up in education and career.

In the case of natural aristocrats, it is in their interest to ensure that the talent pool remains small so that their own children will have the best opportunity in taking a bite of the cherry.

In that sense the view that Singapore needs natural aristocrats and that our country does not have enough talent for 2 or more A-Teams is unhealthy because it is circular reasoning.

It is extremely hard to work against wealth and connections. Even if we keep working against it, after the passage of a generation or two, natural aristocracy may become the basis for a prescriptive one - much to the detriment of our society, where ordinary citizens may have to scrape and bow.