Younger Singaporeans more open to casino concept - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Many older Singaporeans are against the idea of having a casino in Singapore, compared to the younger people who do not see it as a big deal.

Singapore's Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew formed this impression from conversations with various people on the casino issue.

But the decision on whether to allow casino gaming in the republic is one that the younger generation of Singapore ministers have to make.

For more on this, Melanie Yip spoke with Associate Professor Lee Chun Wah, a political observer from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

LCW: I think in Singapore's context, all along the focus has shifted towards the younger generation because they represent a new paradigm for Singapore. It is also reflected in our cabinet where we have a combination of younger and older ministers. So overall, we focus on the younger generation, to prepare our society for this turn. It's not to say that we do not look after our older folks. I think the younger generation will form our upcoming leaders who will lead Singapore.

And what is the general make-up of the younger generation of ministers in Singapore's cabinet?

LCW: I think now is a combination of younger and older. By younger, I mean those who are in their mid-40s onwards. Of course, the Prime Minister himself is in his fifties, there are a couple of more experienced ministers who are in their fifties. And then, there is another batch where there are more senior ones who are moving towards their late fifties or their sixties and so on. The youngest so far is Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who is 44.

What is the consensus among the younger generation of Singapore ministers on the casino issue?

LCW: So far, as is reported by the media, not many of our younger Ministers have made any specific comments on this casino issue. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has been the most vocal so far. And I think the other Ministers who have commented on it every now and then are Mr Mah (Bow Tan), the Prime Minister himself, but not many of the younger Ministers have openly commented on the issue.

The Singapore cabinet works on the decision making process based on consensual agreements, which means there must be a majority of Ministers who agree on that issue in order for the policy to take place. Now do you see any challenges in trying to bridge different views in the casino issue, for example, between the more experienced, and the younger generation of ministers?

LCW: For this issue, I think if we strictly go by the majority view, I think it may be a problem. The cabinet has not decided firmly on this issue. It will have to debate on this issue and both the younger and more experienced Ministers will share their comments, look at the pluses and minuses of the whole casino issue. I think this is where we need to look at the various social costs, economic costs, and other related implications. And even if we do not have a decisive majority, I think it is the duty of the cabinet on the whole to carry this through, whether the decision is a yes or no. I don't think in this case, we should go for a majority vote. Yes, we need to come to a consensual agreement, but like the Minister Mentor has mentioned, he has all along been dead set against gaming in Singapore, and to a large degree, I agree with Minister Mentor. But because society has changed, the world has moved, we may have to re-look at this whole casino issue. I think the government will have a heavy responsibility, giving detailed explanations to the pluses and minuses of this casino issues, and recommending various safeguards that will be put in place. The Prime Minister and his cabinet Ministers will have to analyze this issue very seriously. It is not just about the issue of money contributing to the economy. What is the point of having a lot of money when you have a bunch of social ills. This is the crux of the matter.

Associate Professor Lee Chun Wah, from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He was speaking with Melanie Yip.

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