Kenneth Jeyaratnam, leader of the Reform Party, has written a number of articles on Singapore’s loan to the IMF. In his latest post, he writes that the proper parliamentary and presidential approvals have not been sought before the $4b loan to the IMF (which may be unconstitutional). He then cites that the President and Finance Minister have failed to give him enough information, and that the role of the President is an impotent one.
After all he has said and done, the reaction from netizens is….. pretty much lukewarm. Which goes to show that nobody really cares.
Why don’t Singaporeans care about the IMF loan?
If we assume that KJ is right about a unconstitutional loan, there’s a couple of reasons why citizens still don’t care:
1. Following proper parliamentary process means little to the voter. Firstly, the parliament is dominated by PAP anyway. The President is as close to the PAP as we can get. So if the parliament and president had followed due process, the IMF loan would have been awarded anyway.
2. We’re very likely to get our money back. When it comes to our reserves, citizens only have two key concerns. Firstly, are we losing money? Secondly, why isn’t the govt spending money on me? In this case, we are not loaning the money to some shaky organisation. We’re loaning it to the IMF, and other countries also loan to the IMF. Nobody believes the IMF is going to collapse in the foreseeable future.
3. Most citizens don’t even know the IMF loan exists. At least not until KJ wrote about it, and even then that is restricted to netizens who don’t form the majority of our population.
4. Loaning to the IMF can actually benefit us. For the netizens who bothered to read further about what the IMF intends to do with the money, they will learn that the IMF is trying to rescue Europe. Singapore’s open economy is linked to Europe, so keeping Europe stable isn’t a bad idea.
5. There are more important & interesting things to care/read about. Things like job priority for Singaporeans, inflation, COE, stressful education, abolishing the ISA etc. These are the issues that matter to Singaporeans, not some esoteric loan to the IMF. Even sticker lady generated more interest.
6. A large bunch of people objecting to the IMF loan are the kind that object against anything the PAP does. It is a fact that we have a bunch of citizens who will vote for anyone as long as it is running against the PAP in an election. KJ is preaching to the choir here, instead of aggressively growing his voter base.
What should KJ do?
KJ has to decide whether he wants to continue pursuing this IMF loan issue. Having devoted so much effort to this issue, it will look odd to pull back now. By choosing to harp on an issue that people don’t really care about, KJ has put himself in an uncomfortable spot.
Sometimes the stuff that is unsaid is actually important too. KJ has been talking about the IMF loan for 2 months now, but the other parties have remained silent. Why doesn’t the Worker’s Party or the NSP talk about this issue? Is it because there are more important things for Singapore to work on?
I think the Reform Party should take a leaf from the WP, SDP (and even the NSP) by focusing on the fundamentals. Focus on the bread-and-butter issues that Singaporeans really care about. Focus on suggesting policy solutions. And most importantly, focus on growing the Reform Party with talented and visible people. The WP has multiple MPs that are household names. Most citizens can name at least 2 members in the SDP and NSP. But for the Reform Party, I believe it is difficult to find a citizen that can name anyone other than KJ himself.