Despite both PMs having strong authoritarian tendencies in governing but TDM’s administration basically institutionalised a system that entrenched rampant political corruption as the norm – whilst LKY demonstrated what can be achieved by a goverment with a zero tolerance of corruption.That’s the underlying difference between the 2 PMs and their respective ideals of Governing a nation with a multi cultural identity.
For LKY it was all or nothing,and particularly stern against money politics that drags many Goverments down.Self-less interests style of LKY ,everything was for the best interests of his nation state vs Selfish interests of TDM’s goverment, ,inverted priorities .!
And results today in SIngapore and Malaysia ,esp of the goverment machinery is a testimony to that.
If TDM had the foresight to recognize the rot of corruption and wanted to or chosed to confront and address corruption firmly and sternly when he was at the height of his powerful premiership,Malaysia may very well have been better off ,and who knows ,perhaps even match or surpass the efficiency and success story Singapore is today.
Point being ,both PMs and their governing style is a reflection of their own mentalities/attitudes /convictions of what and how their perspectives of the immediate world around them are , and how they view their own societies and perhaps allows a sneak peek into a window of what their personal personalities may be like -by the paths they chose to thread in Governing their own nation and the collective society they think they understand .
Pragmatism vs Materialism in Game of Power and Influence
LKY’s pragmatism and foresight in recognising the formula to efficient governing above all , is a clean goverment with no nonsense approach to corruption- whereby TDM opted to leverage corrupt practices to his advantage and hence a barely functional goverment machinery ,prioritized by greed and personal interests in accumulating wealth , as among the driving force formulas – was put into momentum, where practices such as “commisions ,percentages ,third party or under table etc etc” are the standard – without which things may not get done efficiently.
And that momentum has been sliding downhill ever since – casting aside Govermental Transparency/ Accountability .
Dubious questionable financial practices are allowed to slide because of influence or political connections ,as long as there is a “greasing of palms” , that almost every Malaysian or non Malaysian business entities or even the man on the street has acknowledged that it is the standard on how things are done – in many Malaysian business environments,particularly in dealings with Federal/National entities.
Can “Kow Tim” perhaps in Malaysia but don’t even consider the notion in Singapore !
Just mull on what the word ” Kow Tim” means to Malaysians.Essentially in most Malaysian psyches,most will just good naturedly shrugged it off as how things “are” and always “have been” . And nothing objectionable to the term.
Yet in SIngaporean mindsets,even a whiff of something similar can land one in hot soup and is an abhorrent thing to even suggest as an option to gain any advantage in commercial enterprises or extricate one from a bind with the authorities..
That is the stark difference in the societal mindsets of the 2 nations.
Malaysians visiting or working in Singapore will never dare to even hint at “Kow Tim” when dealing with Singaporean Authorities/Civil service/Ministries , knowing for a fact that its un-acceptable and not tolerated and definitely worsen things if they are already in trouble with the authorities.
But on the other hand , almost instinctively, “Kow Tim” or “selesai ” or ” settle” will be amongst the open options , considered in the mindsets , if they are in a “situation” in Malaysia, in dealing with authority. Fact is that , the thought of perhaps they can buy themselves out of a “tight spot” in whatever trouble they are in – does come to mind.
But in Singapore,that thought is banished and dare not be entertained as a reflex and rule. That’s the difference of the environment and societal psyches in Singapore and Malaysia.,where ,in the former ,- regardless of ethnicity /nationality or country of origin – All in residence in the city state – acknowledge and respect and take the rule of law and clean governance very seriously .
Essence of LKY’s non-corruptible governance
And that is the essence of LKY’s premiership that to his credit ,managed to inculcate into non-Singaporean residents ,a healthy respect for the laws of the city state , forged a level of self-discipline into not only the average Singaporeans but also those who do public service for their own Singaporean people – always having the collective best interests of the nation and sense of well being of the people as the priority..
And in-place is a Govermental structure that is efficient and by and large non-corruptible.The anchor formula or foundation pillar that supports all the policies and strategies which resulted in the Singaporean goverment’s economic success and prosperity..
The very formula that TDM chosed to ignore but instead selected govermental patronage , by selectively enriching hand picked cronies , who through their collective accumulated wealth , can be translated into power and influence that can be leveraged to political advantage. And be used to stay the hold on power. .
And transparency and accountability in Governance need to take a back seat in order to consolidate his power, through the purchasing of influence by keeping his stable of wealthy, powerful and hence influential circle of supporters – well fed.
Inadvertently ,the wealth of the nation was unevenly distributed, and even those supposed to be beneficiaries of the Govermental affirmative action policies was invariably sidelined..
Simple equation of -Financial Clout equates to Political Power !
Perhaps Mahathir subscribed to the view that to be a powerful effective leader, first priority is to accumulate as much wealth as possible, wealth equals power – to buy influence – to have the financial clout or resources to ward off challenges to his leadership and to fund his own political battles.
Perhaps TDM was convinced that everything/everyone has a price..and thus,he wants to ensure He can afford it all ,whatever the price tag..