PAP rallies: At lunchtime and at night - Tharman in Aljunied GRC walkabout

PAP is a party of balanced change, says DPM

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam and PAP Aljunied GRC candidate Yeo Guat Kwang at Kovan Market and Food Centre yesterday.
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam and PAP Aljunied GRC candidate Yeo Guat Kwang at Kovan Market and Food Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

The opposition may have cast covetous eyes at Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, but he was having none of it yesterday.

Responding to an opposition politician's hope that he would lead a coalition party to challenge the incumbent, Mr Tharman said that he joined the People's Action Party (PAP) because it was a "party of change", and that it remains a decision he is proud of.

"I'll have to say that I made an adult decision to join the PAP and I've never had regrets because it has been a party of change. I'm someone who has felt very strongly about the Prime Minister's thinking and agenda, and I've worked very closely with him to shape our policies," he told reporters after a walkabout in Aljunied GRC.

"It is a party of change. But it is balanced change, avoiding the extremes, making sure that we serve Singapore's interest, and I'm proud to be a member of the PAP."

He was responding to comments by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Paul Tambyah whosaid many opposition politicians "hope that, one day, DPM Tharman will have a falling-out with PM (Lee Hsien Loong) and will come out to lead a grand coalition of opposition parties".

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, also tackled criticisms by SDP chief Chee Soon Juan that sovereign wealth fund GIC and Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings made "failed" or "questionable" decisions in recent years. For example, Dr Chee said Temasek had invested about $4 billion in "debt-ridden" commodities trader Olam International last year.

Saying it did not help to be "highly selective" about one's examples, even when they are wrong, Mr Tharman added that understanding how the GIC or Temasek performs is "a process of education" - one that requires frequent explanation through annual reports, speeches and public communications.

He also said their portfolios must be evaluated in whole, and that people should "understand that when you take risks, not all investments turn out well".

"But on the whole, I think we've got two institutions that have done very credibly by international standards, meaning they've earned very good long-term returns."

Referring to opposition complaints that such funds did not channel their yields into citizens' Central Provident Fund, he said: "I find it a little amusing that there are people who sort of, on the one hand, talk about investments going bad, (but) on the other hand, complain about returns being too good."

At the walkabout at Kovan Market and Food Centre, Mr Tharman was greeted by warm applause and residents eager to take photos with him. Of this, he said: "We are underdogs, we know. We've had to work very hard to win back support and certainly today, compared to five years ago, there has been a measurable change. It's not hostile, it's friendly... Whether it translates into votes, it's hard to say."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'PAP is a party of balanced change, says DPM'. Print Edition | Subscribe