"When he held a contrary view, he would challenge my decisions and make me re-examine the premises on which they were made. As a result, we reached better decisions for Singapore."
- MM Lee's Eulogy [Link]
I read all the eulogies for Dr. Goh but found this sentence by MM Lee most interesting. He talks about the importance of being challenged and questioned by Dr. Goh to force him to 're-examine the premises'. The result of Dr. Goh's contrarian view is the govt reaching 'better decisions for Singapore'.
Dr. Goh left the govt more than 20 years ago. So who was around to provide 'contrary views' and challenge MM Lee's and subsequent prime ministers' premises? You notice how long it takes for the govt to fix its birth control policies and adjust its foreign workers policies. It is done long after everyone knows something is wrong.
I was at the National Museum open house yesterday and there was an old clip of Dr. Goh and the Jurong Industrial Park. The park cost the govt $50M and there was tremendous fear among the decision makers (Dr. Goh and Hon Sui Sen) that the investment can go wrong and they would have to live with the consequence i.e. Jurong Industry Park would have been known as "Goh Folly" to the next generation ,,,,,,if it had failed he was ready to take responsibility and that would have been the end of his political career. $50M in those days was huge sum given that our entire reserves was only $400M. Today, the Singapore govt can lose a few billion here, tens of billions there and you don't hear of anyone taking responsibility for the loss. Perhaps "contrary views" and "challenges" to those big risky investment decisions would have resulted in better outcomes for Singapore.