It appears that not all is rosy within the PAP's ranks despite the confirmation of Heng Swee Keat as the next PM. In a recent interview with CNA, one of the most senior figures in the PAP, Goh Chok Tong, revealed a an issue that many of us normal Singaporeans have witnessed over the decades. For many years, the PAP has recruited from the civil service. People from the teaching, police and military services were talent-spotted and approached. Not many turned down the opportunity. 

While the candidates, more often than not, come with fantastic academic credentials, they do not normally possess stellar non-academic credentials. PAP has acknowledged that it is a tough order to recruit people from the private sector. Besides the usual lawyers, doctors and academics, who also normally hail from the usual elite schools, PAP has found it harder to attract candidates who have stellar business credentials. 

What possibly happens is the fostering of groupthink, or as Goh puts it, a "civil service, public service[way of] thinking" to approaching problems and challenges. Goh qualifies that it is yet a huge problem in the immediate future but can be become very pronounced in the next two decades if the PAP continues to select from a narrow pool of "elite" civil servants.

Maybe Goh does not feel it now because he is still within the PAP's system but for normal Singaporeans looking on from the outside, the problem of "groupthink" is already very apparent.

This is not something that Singapore should be proud of. Moving forward, it will be even more problematic when more challenging global circumstances calls for more daring, unconventional, but informed approaches and consensus fostered through rigorous debates. For that too happen, there needs to be a greater diversity of lenses and world views within the PAP and within the parliament.

For so long, the PAP has maintained that Singapore's survival hinges on its ability to be adaptable and relevant. If the PAP does not change, the only way Singaporeans can ensure our survival is voting more opposition into parliament to ensure diversity of voices.



The writer, Kelvin, thinks a lot about PAP's groupthink.


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