Much has been written about how Singapore has become the world’s cautionary tale, and how the “gold standard” of how to tackle the crisis has lost its shine due to a steep rise in coronavirus cases among the country’s foreign workers. Commenting on this, Donald Low, professor of Public Policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and our faculty associate, discusses where to draw the distinctions between where the Government is at fault, and where it has acted to the best of its ability.
He remarks that while Singaporeans are justifiably proud of their strong, competent government, this must come along with a society that provides sufficient checks to the Government and demands accountability at the right time. Otherwise, there lies the risk of the state becoming despotic and prone to the abuse of power. It is important that the Government be open-minded about dissenting perspectives, as this would help with flexibility in decision making process. In a crisis, the biggest cognitive threat a decision-maker faces is not disunity; rather it is the tunnel vision that comes from ‘being in the trenches’ for too long. The real takeaway, Prof Low says, is for Singaporeans to learn lessons in how important diversity and humility are. As this pandemic is uncharted territory for us all, Singaporeans do not need to claim to be superior, nor nitpick with how other countries are managing the crisis.
Read his opinion piece published on 16 April on The Independent.