So there were a few negative comments to my previous post about giving credit to the gahmen for avoiding the problems that the dry spell is causing to Malaysia. Amongst these comments, there were two broad themes that need to be addressed:
Who say we should credit the current PAP govt? It was the previous team that had the foresight.
It didn’t take much googling to find out that the old PAP team… is pretty much the same as the current one. For the past 2 decades, the Minister for Environment and Water were:
- 1993-1995: Mah Bow Tan (what really?)
- 1995 to 1997: Teo Chee Hean
- 2000 to 2004: Lim Swee Say (what happened between 1997 and 2000? Was the job outsourced?)
- 2004 to 2011: Yaacob Ibrahim
- Today: Vivian Balakrishnan
Why do these dates matter? Because according to the all-knowing wikipedia, Singapore’s NEWater began with a study in 1998, and SG’s first desalination plant opened in 2005. Without these two sources, it’s just imported water and rainfall. So I think it’s safe to say that the current PAP team can be credited with their watery foresight.
No need to thank these million-dollar ministers. They are already well-paid (or over-paid)
Maybe it’s just me, but I still believe in thanking people for service, even if that is their job to begin with. So I stand by my belief that even over-paid Ministers deserve the occasional thanks.
But what really interests me, was how this comment exposed something even more revealingly sinister about ourselves. In the corporate world, there is a tendency to glorify the “front office” people who start and sell projects, whilst the “back-end” people who do the detailed implementation and maintenance are often forgotten. This same attitude also appears in the comments of netizens.
We tend to forget that the elected minister is just one person, and all this water infrastructure would not have been possible without the army of civil servants from MEWR and PUB who make things happen. There’s also the people on the ground who work in the NEWater & desalination plants, including those from commercial companies like Hyflux. All these people are fellow Singaporeans (and maybe some FTs?), and I think they deserve some thanks too for their hard work. So even if you don’t think the PAP deserves thanks, at least the rest of the gahmen should receive some recognition right?
Thankless Job For Bad luck PUB
PUB will probably never be remembered for surviving this dry spell, but they will always be remembered and blamed for the “once-in-50-years” floods. I think the government is doomed to the fate that it will not be thanked for doing a good job, and always be loudly blamed for doing a bad one.
Actually, I think this is an inherent problem for all governments. Prevention may be better than cure, but prevention is also much harder to give credit for, compared to cure. Here’s a theoretical example: The 2008 global financial crisis could have been prevented if banking regulators had correctly recognised the risk that credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations were causing to the entire system. If regulators had theoretically addressed these risks, would the public be any wiser on the potential consequences of failure?
Truly we do not appreciate what we have, until it is too late. We celebrate the heroics of the fireman, but not the steadfastness of the fire safety inspector.