Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus

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By Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh and Donald Low
Contributions by Linda Lim and Ping Tjin Thum

ebook available at

Singapore is changing. The consensus that the PAP government has constructed and maintained over five decades is fraying. The assumptions that underpin Singaporean exceptionalism are no longer accepted as easily and readily as before. Among these are the ideas that the country is uniquely vulnerable, that this vulnerability limits its policy and political options, that good governance demands a degree of political consensus that ordinary democratic arrangements cannot produce, and that the country's success requires a competitive meritocracy accompanied by relatively little income or wealth redistribution.

But the policy and political conundrums that Singapore faces today are complex and defy easy answers. Confronted with a political landscape that is likely to become more contested, how should the government respond? What reforms should it pursue? This collection of essays suggests that a far-reaching and radical rethinking of the country's policies and institutions is necessary, even if it weakens the very consensus that enabled Singapore to succeed in its first fifty years.

"Whether you agree with it or not, arguably the most stimulating and provocative book ever written on public policy in Singapore. It deservers the wide readership it has received."
Vikram Khanna, Business Times

"These wide-ranging, diverse, and richly stimulating essays deserve to be read by anyone seriously interested in Singapore's future." Donald K. Emmerson

"Not a hard choice -- just read it!"
Bertha Henson

“In a brilliant new book about their country, Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore ConsensusDonald Low and Sudhir Vadaketh dare something few Singaporeans attempt: they question this orthodox view of Singapore and ask how fit for the future their country is. In doing so, they do something infinitely more subtle and profound than identify weaknesses in national policy; they implicitly question many of the central assumptions on which all developed nations today are pinning their hopes for the future.”
Margaret Heffernan

Donald Low is Associate Dean for executive education and research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh is the author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore. He also writes for a variety of publications, including The Economist and Yahoo! SG.

Publication Year: 2014
272 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-816-4, Paperback

NUS Press