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Beware the danger of making policy promises too far into the future

I refer to the article, “Private developers may be involved in Vers scheme: Lawrence Wong” (Sept 10).

Beware the danger of making policy promises too far into the future

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had to take questions on Sept 10 from fellow parliamentarians on the new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme, which was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally in August.

Devadas Krishnadas

I refer to the article, “Private developers may be involved in Vers scheme: Lawrence Wong” (Sept 10). The new Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) to redevelop public housing estates is happening in about 20 years’ time, and the specifics of how it is going to work are not ready.

Only in Singapore can a government commit another government four terms into the future to significant but vaguely specified structural financial commitments without anyone raising an eyebrow, with the parliamentary debate focused instead on implementation details.

The assumption is so embedded that the political government is perennial — even eternal — that it is taken for granted that such advanced future policy promises are as good as present policy promises.

That is a dangerous premise for two reasons.

If we indulge a political incumbent with its expectation of longevity in office, we risk breeding complacency, arrogance and a sense of entitlement.

Beyond this, it also sets a dangerous precedent of meeting present-day political pressure by building up public expectations to be met by future governments.

Neither of these direct consequences is desirable nor easy to ameliorate when it takes root.

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