From ‘Credible competition is more beneficial’, 9 April 2011, Voices, Today online
(Soon Sze Meng):I DISAGREE with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s point in “Two-party system ‘not workable in Singapore due to shortage of talent’” (April 6). Let me use a simple comparison: Microsoft and the People’s Action Party.
Both provide what users and citizens need. They are competent and aspire to innovate from within. They look for the best talent and continually create value for their customers and people.
On the other hand, they are a monopolistic player in their respective spheres – Microsoft operating system and politics. They have few credible competitors.
Why did the United States government sue Microsoft for antitrust behaviour if it was competent and generated immense value for the US economy? The answer is simple.
External competition forces everyone to respond better to their customers, and always provides better value products at lower cost.
History is constantly vindicating this notion, and rejecting the idea than internally driven betterment is more sustainable than external-driven ones.
The PAP and Singapore citizens would benefit more if we have credible competition in the political arena.
What struck me about this letter is not so much the analogy of a notoriously resilient political party of a tiny nation of 5 million vs a global juggernaut with a stranglehold over billions of consumers, but rather how it’s a copy-and-paste affair from the same complainant made 10 years ago (Need for competition, 1 Dec 2001, Today). One rather interesting edit from the 2001 original is how the ‘simplicity’ of the argument has been toned down from ‘The answer is very simple’ to ‘simple’ in the 2011 version. Perhaps someone realised that we’re not America, that 10 years ago our homepages were still set at Yahoo.com (not Google), we were buying kopi-o takeaway from coffee shops and not Starbucks, and Apple were just beginning to conceptualise funky silhouette ads for the Ipod. Of course the relevance of this analogy goes as far as how these two bodies have dominated their respective fields; if an operating system crashes, Microsoft will gladly take the blame and compensate their users as part of their promise to the consumer. If a country fails, the ruling party has an abundance of excuses to deflect the blame, and instead of compensation citizens get all sorts of fingerpointing and whitewashing and there are no terms and conditions in black and white that come with the package you bought (with your vote) to refer to if you want your money back.
Microsoft aside, we also have biblical references for the PAP, with the Opposition as giant killers’(Press on, little David! Your day is coming, 1 Nov 2001, Today), and the PAP as Goliath ever since1984 (Case of David and Goliath, 17 Dec 1984, ST). Perhaps not an apt comparison today, since the PAP doesn’t look like it’s going to be toppled by a pebble in the eye anytime soon, if the outcome of that fable is anything to go by. And I doubt our Opposition members would appreciate being called ‘Little Davids’ either.
As an Asian powerhouse, it was also inevitable that someone had to make a Tiger reference some day, none more eloquently than author Dennis Bloodworth, who called the PAP Ma-ma Hu-Hu (Horse Horse Tiger Tiger), which brings to mind a galloping centaur except with a tiger’s head, like those chimeric beasts of Greek mythology( When the horse rode the tiger to triumph, 20 June 1984, ST) I personally prefer this one among all three, not only because it’s imaginative, but if you’re familiar with Chinese idioms, you’ll realise how it sort of makes sense.