What did Singaporean say about Tharman’s interveiw at St. Gallen Symposium

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The best response

Bouncing off Tharman’s trampoline

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/opinion/bouncing-off-tharmans-trampoline MAY 23, 2015
TWO seconds – that’s all it took for Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to deliver the sound bite of the month.The gem of a comment happened during a one-on-one interview by BBC Hardtalk presenter Stephen Sackur, at the St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland earlier in May. Fittingly for Singapore, the theme for this year was “Proudly Small”.Here’s an excerpt from the now widely-shared exchange (which can be watched in full on YouTube):Mr Sackur: “Do you believe in the concept of a safety net?”Mr Tharman: “We believe in a concept of support for you taking up opportunities. So we don’t have unemployment–“Mr Sackur: “I believe in the sometimes simplicity of yes or no answers. What about this idea of a safety net? Does Singapore believe in the notion of a safety net for those who fall between the cracks of a successful economy?”

Mr Tharman: “I believe in the notion of a trampoline.”

Cue a moment of stunned silence, and then appreciative laughter and applause from the audience. Mr Sackur, for his part, seems caught off-guard – for a full 10 seconds he says nothing, capable only of a few chuckles.

It’s a pity Mr Tharman didn’t elaborate on the trampoline metaphor in his own words. Why his choice of the springy contraption over the more conventional safety net?

First, there’s the obvious: a trampoline doesn’t just catch you if you fall – it helps you to bounce back up.

But it’s also true that on a trampoline, you’re going to come back down. Indeed, the analogy prompted Mr Sackur to ask: “So people are just bouncing up and down in Singapore?”

Mr Tharman’s reply: “No, it boils down to what policies you’re talking about. If you provide help for someone who is willing to study hard; if you provide help for someone who is willing to take up a job and work at it, and make life not so easy if you stay out of work; if you provide help for someone who wants to own a home . . . it transforms culture.

“It’s not just about transactions. It’s not just about the size of grants. It’s about keeping alive a culture where I feel proud that I own my home and I earn my own success through my job. I feel proud that I’m raising my family. And keeping that culture going is what keeps a society vibrant.”

Mr Tharman admits that “it’s almost a paradox” – where an active government intervenes to support social mobility, without undermining personal and family responsibility.

In the trampoline metaphor, such government support could take the shape of a platform for the jumper to leap up on to, or a rope to grab a hold of. Either would allow the person to avoid the inevitable drop back down.

There’s also a link to personal effort here. Unlike a safety net – which has slack to accommodate a hard fall – a trampoline bed is pulled taut by its surrounding springs. The potential energy stored in these springs means that you’re only going to bounce up as high as you make the effort to; your chances of escaping to the platform of stability are determined solely by your willingness to try.

But as someone who spent countless after-school hours jumping up and down on a trampoline, I should also add: those things are pretty darn dangerous. Land badly, and broken bones are par for the course; you could also fly off the trampoline altogether and land in a mangled heap on the floor.

While wince-worthy, it’s apt in describing Singapore’s long-held stance on social assistance – it’s not supposed to provide for a comfortable life, and the prickliness of the situation is meant to spur you back on your feet. As Mr Tharman said, the government looks to “make life not so easy if you stay out of work”.

The good news, though, is that once you clamber back on, a trampoline will support your efforts once more. That’s not going to happen with a safety net – while it may help to break your fall, it will do nothing to assist in your ascent back up.

All of this decoding aside, one could argue that a trampoline isn’t the best metaphor, simply because a drop back down is inevitable. If this is so, maybe Mr Tharman’s decision to use the trope was motivated by something far more simple.

For one, it could have been a well-timed verbal sleight of hand – deploy a wholly unanticipated metaphor, and startle the audience (and Mr Sackur) into silent contemplation.

Secondly – and more seriously – it could have stemmed from an unwillingness to engage with the term, “social safety net”, as it is understood and defined in the West.

After all, Mr Tharman has never shied away from using the term when speaking to Singaporeans. Just this year in his Budget 2015 speech, for example, he referred to ComCare and Medifund as “safety nets that help Singaporeans who fall on hard times”.

So by choosing to invoke the image of a trampoline at St. Gallen, Mr Tharman succeeds in getting a broader message across. As he says earlier in the interview: “The larger point is this: I think we all need some humility on the ways that best advance a liberal order . . . economically, socially, and politically. We all need some liberty, some humility, as to how we achieve that – not just for today, but for tomorrow.”

It’s a timely reminder for Singaporeans, especially in this jubilee year. In many ways, 50 years on, the nation itself is now suspended in mid-air. Moving forward (or upward?), how do we want to see the country evolve, and how much effort are we willing to put in to get there?

Already, citizens are calling for greater social spending, but the reality is that this must come with a new social compact – where a stronger sense of collective responsibility bolsters the age-old foundation of personal effort.

Whether we get there by safety nets, trampolines, or bouncy castles, one thing’s for sure: we’re going to need a generous dose of humility.

The writer is a former national trampoline champion who knows all about flying high and falling

What others are saying

DPM Tharman took the horns of the bull and all its bullish questions about Western liberal democracy, freedom of speech, welfare state with great humility. His responses showed wisdom in Singapore’s governance.Things in its natural order will not move towards social justice and fairness and he correctly pointed out UK’s minorities perpetually gravitated towards the bottom. In Singapore, the government works to uplift their welfare through social intervention. Not the invisible hands at work but the very visible hands dealing the cards. I think most Singaporeans know that the cards that we are given are not complete and we are even short of cards. Our stacks already put us in the disadvantaged. Singapore manages to deal those cards with clever re-shuffles- luckily we do not have many jokers in the stack – and we come up with more aces than the rest. It is not random but our social and economic governance and intervention lead to where we are.Does Singapore want a welfare state with safety net? No, we have a social trampoline where the government advocates bouncing back and up through personal up-skilling and personal responsibility.We must not be moulded into the light of the Western’s democracy. Whether they call us hybrid or totalitarian- does it matter when we can walk safely in the streets at night, where social mobility and meritocracy is evidently better than many developed nations and we are not in debts like many states in US and countries in Europe. This is Singapore and only Singaporeans decide how we want Singapore to be.I am so touched with DPM’s candid, direct responses filled with humility. A mark of a great man and like generations of our leaders in Singapore- I’ll deem him in the league of the greats.

David Leong

 

I hope the host stops interrupting DPM Tharman.

And yes! We have a trampoline in place of a safety net. If you fall onto the trampoline, bounce up, grab the trapeze and swing yourself onto a platform you can reach, you don’t have to stay at the safety net at the bottom.

Eunice Chia

 

From the reaction of the moderator and the audiences, you could tell that they are quite uncomfortable that Singapore’s model of democracy is different from theirs.

When asked if there is social safety net in sg, dpm replied with there is a social trampoline which allows Singaporeans to get back on their feet when they are down.

Edmund Sim

 

While wince-worthy, it’s apt in describing Singapore’s long-held stance on social assistance – it’s not supposed to provide for a comfortable life, and the prickliness of the situation is meant to spur you back on your feet. As Mr Tharman said, the government looks to “make life not so easy if you stay out of work”.

The good news, though, is that once you clamber back on, atrampoline will support your efforts once more. That’s not going to happen with a safety net – while it may help to break your fall, it will do nothing to assist in your ascent back up.”

Julie Chin

полотенцесушитель в ваннуюотзывы о сафари в кении и танзании

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