Saturday, April 9, 2022

Point of Order: The co-governance debate – why Singapore would eschew such a model (and look how well the people of that nation are doing)

Peter Dunne, who was leader of United Future and served as a minister in former National and Labour governments, is right to remind us that “co-governance” is not a new idea, It has been at the heart of many of the successful treaty settlements of the past 30 years, he points out in an article posted on Newsroom.

“In the specific instances where it has been applied, it has generally worked well.”

A recent Stuff headline echoed this: How co-governance is already working

The accompanying article began:

Co-governance is back in the headlines. Glenn McConnell looks at what it means and how it’s already working.

McConnell began by recalling the passage of the Waikato River Settlement Act in 2010 which (a) called for government funding to clean up the Waikato River and (b) established a co-governance board to manage the river’s restoration.

The resultant Waikato River Authority is governed by 10 board members – five appointed by the Crown, the other five from Waikato tribes.

Earlier than that, in 1990 the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapū Trust started management over part of the Waitomo Caves working alongside the Department of Conservation.

And since the authority’s creation, similar co-governance or co-management arrangements have started across the country.

Not all of them have required new legislation, which means they have been introduced without any opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny.

McConnell quotes Waikato River Authority chief executive Bob Penter, who says the co-governance model is working.


Peter Dunne says that elsewhere in New Zealand, too, these models have generally worked well.

But bit by bit, co-governance is being extended to other institutions. Whether the public generally should have some say in this is one question. Whether we should consider a model that would work even better is another.

Let’s look at how things are done in Singapore, a country of 5.686 million people that – like New Zealand – was once a British colony. Nearly 75% of Singapore’s residents are ethnic Chinese, 13.5% are Malay and 9% are Indian.

Singapore is a parliamentary representative democratic republic with a president as head of state. The Prime Minister of Singapore is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet from the parliament, and to a lesser extent, the president. Cabinet has the general direction and control of the Government and is accountable to Parliament.

Hmm. Much the same as New Zealand.

But let’s temper that by noting this from The Diplomat:

Think Singapore and one might bring to mind a developed city-state that is efficient but somewhat authoritarian. Globally, it is often known for its strict legislation. For instance, selling gum is illegal, littering can lead to hefty SG$2,000 fines, and vandals may be caned…

Singapore employs corporal punishment in the form of severe caning on the bare buttocks for several criminal offences if committed by males under 50. This is a mandatory sentence for some 30 offences.

Oh, and Singapore enforces the death penalty by hanging. This is mandatory for premeditated and aggravated murder and for the possession or trafficking of more than 14 grams (0.49 oz) of heroin in its pure form (diamorphine).

According to Amnesty International, Singapore has one of the world’s highest execution rates relative to its population.

The government argues that death penalty is meted out for the most serious crimes to curb the drug menace because Singapore is particularly vulnerable due to its small size and location near the Golden Triangle.

But let’s look at the economic rewards of living under a model that works.

The Global’s “government effectiveness index” ranks Singapore number one.

New Zealand ranks 16th, behind Switzerland (2), Hong Kong (12), Canada (13) and Australia (14).

When it comes to GDP per capita, the figure for Singapore in 2020 was US$98,520.

New Zealand was well behind with US$44,491.3.

Point of Order was particularly interested in the way Singapore handles its race mix.

On a government website, we found an article headed CULTIVATING A HARMONIOUS SOCIETY, BECOMING ONE PEOPLE

Before independence from Britain was gained in 1965, it says, the major ethnic groups on the island were each assigned their own separate communal area in which to live and work. Interactions between ethnic communities were minimal.

Since independence, ever-mindful of social strife and racial conflict, the government has worked hard to make a nation of one people, building bonds of trust that bridge our ethnic, social and cultural differences.

In other words, separatism has been eschewed.

The post-independence Constitution guarantees the right of every person to embrace and practise his or her religion freely.

The Constitution protects religious freedom: every individual has a constitutional right to profess, practise and propagate his religion as long as such activities do not affect public order, public health or morality.

Our commitment to being “one united people regardless of race, language or religion” is also enshrined and resonantly expressed in our National Pledge, drafted in 1966 by Singapore’s first Foreign Minister Mr S. Rajaratnam.

One united people? How will that go down with the champions of co-governance?

And then there is this –

A Common Language for All
To be able to live together, we must first be able to communicate and understand one another. The use of English as a common language of administration and instruction after Independence helped to unify all Singaporeans without privileging any one cultural group, even as the different communities were encouraged to preserve their own languages and cultural roots. This allowed a common civic space to develop in which Singaporeans could share experiences, memories, and values and form a truly national identity.

In his article for Newsroom, let’s note, Peter Dunne went beyond observing that co-governance – in the specific instances where it has been applied – had generally worked well. He said:

The question now is not so much whether we should have co-governance arrangements, because we already do, but rather the extent of future arrangements in other areas and how these are to be managed. There is the opportunity to develop an overarching co-governance framework, rather than the current essentially ad hoc, case-by-case approach, but only if the constructive goodwill is there to do so.

So far, so good.

But why confine our deliberations to the merits of extending co-governance, how far it should be extended, and the extent to which we should dismantle our democratic structures and the ideal of all citizens having the same rights.

There are other ways of doing things. The Singapore model is one option and – so far as we can see – the government there has been able to manage the potentially volatile racial mix of its population while providing its people with a much higher standard of living than New Zealand’s.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton.


Janine said...

I haven't been 5o Singapore but I believe it is a very clean and orderly place. The question of course has to be are the aims of the different ethnic groups in harmony with each other? The people appear to be high achievers and all going in the same direction. How tolerant are they of different measures being applied to their different ethnicities? Do they have a large number of able- bodied people unemployed like we do? Do they have different tax requirements like we have here for Maori and Non - Maori corporations? Do they continually promote a harmonious society? Our Maori representatives in parliament at the moment definitely do not. Also our minority party is working to establish a pidgin English language.

I think somebody needs to assure us that we are all aiming for an equal outcome if we are to consider co- governance in New Zealand.

Terry Morrissey said...

Any instances of co-governance in New Zealand have been rammed down our throats without any consultation. Where does Peter Dunne get the co in that?
So why do we not have a referendum to see who agrees with it?
"But bit by bit, co-governance is being extended to other institutions." So is apartheid and Marxist communism.
Singapore uses English as the language of administration. Why must we be forced to use pidgin?
Singapore has a very low rate of recidivism for murderers and serious drug dealers?
"Think Singapore and one might bring to mind a developed city-state that is efficient but somewhat authoritarian." Unlike New Zealand which has a totalitarian government that is totally incompetent.
When I was there Singapore was a beautiful country, but back then so was New Zealand before being trashed by successive socialist governments.