TL;DR – Why why why?
You must have come across at least one article about the new Forward Singapore exercise that has been launched earlier this week by our newly-minted DPM Lawrence Wong. But have you heard about the juicy drama surrounding it?
Well, the latest is that DPM Wong has launched the year-long engagement exercise to refresh the government’s understanding of Singaporeans and how we relate to one another.
It will be organised along six pillars – economy and jobs, education and lifelong learning, health and social support, home and living environment, environmental and fiscal sustainability, and the Singapore identity – each led by 4G leaders.
A CNA report on this has set off a side debate on why Ng Chee Meng will be one of those involved in leading the exercise. If you have forgotten, Ng Chee Meng is the current Union Chief and also one of the PAP candidates who lost in the Sengkang GRC.
In a FB post, an ex-journalist has questioned DPM Wong’s move to include Ng Chee Meng. In another FB post, resident social commenter Calvin Cheng supported DPM Wong’s decision, saying that ‘nobody said only elected persons can be leaders’.
Do you think it was inappropriate to include Ng Chee Meng in this exercise?
At first glance, maybe. But if we stop for a second and relook at the situation, maybe it wasn’t all that inappropriate.
The main reason why Ng Chee Meng is included could simply be because he is the Labour Chief.
The truth is: NTUC has a massive representation of workers in Singapore
The union represents over 1 million workers and has units dedicated to serving the needs of different worker types. There are units within NTUC looking after interests of different worker groups, including freelancers, self-employed persons, PMEs, Lower-Wage Workers, etc. This means that NTUC and its unions have direct access to the workers and the power to mobilise workers from all walks of life.
How else to reach out to a huge group of Singaporeans efficiently, if not to work with NTUC? To fulfil its very mission to support workers, the NTUC must already have insights and structures in place to facilitate such exercises.
So how can the government tap on this additional resource, if not by making Ng Chee Meng, the top man at NTUC, part of the exercise? In fact, some may say that it’s a well-played game on DPM Wong’s part to include Ng Chee Meng into the plan. (A cheeky thought here – wouldn’t this ‘free resource’ benefit DPM Wong’s MOF budget too?)
After all, Ng Chee Meng had been elected through a vote by NTUC’s Central Committee to be the secretary-general. Surely, he must have earned the respect of those in NTUC and has the power to steer the unions into supporting the Forward Singapore exercise.
If anything, political drama enthusiasts (like us) may even go as far as to speculate that the newly-minted ‘leader’ of the PAP has made this move to give Ng Chee Meng a chance to prove himself worthy to him. And will he? Only the results will tell.