I can't help but compare with the NDRs of Lee Kuan Yew.
Firstly, I thought it was sad that time had to be spent during this NDR in explaining the CPF, the minimum sum, and retirement options.
But perhaps it was the zeitgeist - the concern of the day, of the people.
And perhaps it is an indictment of the government's communication of policy.
Secondly, I thought the NDR to be too inward looking.
Again, zeitgeist. And politics, I guess.
But I thought about LKY's rallies, and what would he talk about if he were PM today.
I think he would have chosen to focus on more important things.
What is more important than the concerns of the electorate in a time when PAP is losing votes and being accused of ignoring the concerns of the electorate? Would he focus on "more important things" and risk further antagonising or at least alienating a prickly electorate?
I may be wrong, but yes, I believe he would.
And what are the "more important things" that he might have focused on?
Yes, it is a country very far away and one wonders what relevance it might have to this Little Red Dot.
And yes, LHL did touch on the issue briefly with reference to MH17. And yes, that was ONE way the Russian situation MIGHT have affected us. But that was emotive at best. Possibly sensationalistic at least.
I believe LKY might have tried to get us to understand why Putin's ambition presents a risk even to this Little Red Dot, if not an outright danger.
Or how the danger might be contained, or ameliorated.
The European Union as a neighbour (or at least in the neighbourhood) to Russia could have provided a counterweight to Russia and perhaps helped to "contain" Putin. But it is weak. It's continued existence, likely not in doubt (barring some catastrophic event), is nevertheless, tenuous or at least wrought with uncertainties and "existentialistic angst" (I may be using this phrase incorrectly, or at least not in the usual sense).
What is the danger or risk to Singapore with a weakened, ineffective, undirected, unsynchronised, wracked with unemployment, threatened (by Russia) EU? I would trust that if this was an issue, LKY would have explained the importance of this to us. At NDR.
USA in Decline (?)
The question is, are the rumours of US's "death" greatly exaggerated? Certainly, with the so-called "end of history" the US was the pre-eminent and predominant Superpower in the world, but without an equal, without a sparring partner, without a challenger, they have gone soft, gone to seed.
Is this the start of a downward spiral which the US will be unable to reverse or is it reversible? Do we want it reversed? Is this to be the start of the Asian Century or even Asian Millennium and should we invest ourselves in this new age and abandon the old regime?
What are the dangers of a US in decline?
And what about China Rising? Will it "replace" the US, or displace the US, or just do their own thing? What does it mean for Asia, ASEAN, and Singapore? Again, LHL did touch on it briefly when he mentioned the disputed isles in the South China Sea, but then he moved onto what people wanted to hear.
But China presents several opportunities, threats, problems, and advantages to Singapore. We all understand these opportunities and threat and problems? No problem?
What does it mean for China and Russia to set up their own version of the World Bank or IMF to be controlled by China and Russia? For BRICS.
What if China falters? What are the chances that its growth will slump? That it will stumble? And what does it mean for Singapore?
What if China's rise is less than peaceful? Regardless of the protagonist.
What are the chances of any of this happening?
And how will China's neighbours respond to its Rise? Or stumble?
Japan has "liberalised" it's military from the pacifist constitution. Sort of.
What does this mean for Singapore? Is this a good thing (takes up some of the burden that the US had borne all by itself), or a bad thing (China will take it as a threat or provocation)?
Will it add stability to the region or will it actually destabilise the region?
What would be the alternative? China's rising, US is in decline, China take the opportunity to test its strength and steps on toes of neighbours like Vietnam and Japan.
Meanwhile, internally, China has made moves that suggest that HK will be under stricter control from the central Chinese govt in future.
Is this a threat to Singapore? Or an opportunity?
How has ASEAN responded to China's rise and the toe-stepping actions? How should it respond? How to engage China? Bring her into the ASEAN and Asian community?
China has her own ideas - trying to set up (with BRICS countries) an alternative to the World Bank, and a separate power bloc - to sidestep the established International groups and forums which China sees as favouring the status quo.
ASEAN has been in a conundrum - to engage China, resist China, or accept that China's will is inevitable and irresistible?
And what are Singapore's options?
Would Singaporeans be interested?
As we complain about housing, complain about transport, complain about rising costs of living, complain about foreigners in SG, complain about Govt control over our CPF, retirement, ownership of cars, would any of the above interest us, matter to us, be relevant to us?
The new normal is for the a more "responsive govt" to address EVERY ONE of our petty concerns and complaints.
And that was what LHL did.
But I can't help thinking that LKY might have gone a different route.
LKY might (these are all projections of my "understanding" of the man. Feel free to disagree, stop reading, and get lost) have decided that "yes, all the complaint and concerns are valid, but I have Ministers and Ministries to deal with that. This is the NDR, where I have a unique platform to explain to Singaporeans the other concerns, the bigger threats and the hidden opportunities out there that they need to understand, and which will affect our lives, our livelihood, our existence. And how we should prepare for them."
That would be visionary leadership.
[Update: Let's see if this works.