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Parliament: 'Singapore should not have to play catch-up in terms of fairness', says NMP Eugene Tan

Published on May 28, 2014 3:31 PM
Singapore should not have to play catch-up in its quest for fairness and equality, Nominated MP Eugene Tan said in Parliament on May 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore should not have to play catch-up in its quest for fairness and equality, said Nominated MP Eugene Tan on Wednesday. Instead, it must do more to ensure a fairer system from the start.

He cited several examples in education and politics. Financial assistance, like bursaries and more affordable access to pre-school education, are "essentially remedial".

"They kick in after a fact, and have limited efficacy and effectiveness in levelling up children from less well-to-do backgrounds if the overall system reinforces social immobility," he said.

He wondered if such measures could be avoided if it had a fairer system in the first place. Pointing to his alma mater, Raffles Institution, he noted that it did not seem to attract as many Malay students or those from neighbourhood schools.

"Does our system incentivise opportunity hoarding at the top?" he asked. "Improving social mobility requires upward mobility and, less appreciated, downward mobility from the top as well."

He acknowledged that social structure is not easy to change, but called on the Government to "critically re-examine" its system of meritocracy. "Is our conception of merit too narrowly geared towards a privileged few?" he challenged.

He also called on the Government to pay attention to Singaporeans' desire for a fairer political system, and asked for a review on the electoral rules.

"Singaporeans must have the cognitive and affective connection to the political system," he said. "Not only must (the political system) be fair but it must also seen to be fair in its workings."