When the government responded to Catherine Lim's open letter to the Prime Minister about a crisis in trust on 13 June 2014, it chose to cite only one major indicator of the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer , namely the survey result that showed 75% of Singaporeans trust government institutions; this, it claimed, proved that the vast majority trust the government.
But a second key indicator gave a different dimension, namely that only 26% of Singaporeans trust their government leaders to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is. Does this 26% trust in leaders to tell the truth mean that 74% of Singaporeans cannot trust PAP government leaders to tell the truth or expect them to tell untruths or even lies? Now this is telling. If the statistics are true, it speaks volumes about the low level of trust Singaporeans have in PAP leaders. It is definitely a crisis for the PAP however hard the PAP might want to deny, ignore or gloss over it, not just in its response to Catherine Lim but also in DPM Tharman's speech to the Administrative Service in March earlier this year.
Again, if the statistics are true, this is a crisis of trust in PAP but not a crisis for Singapore. Indeed there is a silver lining for Singapore. In the survey, Singaporeans have made an important distinction between government institutions (which are supposed to be neutral) and government leaders (who are clearly PAP leaders). In past years, most Singaporeans regarded the government and PAP as inseparable and believed that Singapore could not and would not have a functional government without the PAP. Now Singaporeans have become more sophisticated in their view of government and can separate it from the party. Will this increased sophistication give confidence to Singaporeans to vote for a change of party in government in the next general election?