Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat tells the Economic Society of Singapore: “What we need is a certain shift in orientation – a readiness for change and a willingness to try, learn and try again.”
Mr Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister, declares to our workers that “major changes are afoot, and it is time to adapt” to a changed world.
Mr Lawrence Wong points the way forward for the real estate industry to “adapt to change, and transform in the face of digital innovation.”
The other Education Minister, Ng Chee Meng, exhorts students to “find break-throughs, of wanting to innovate...taking into account the risks involved and doing it anyway.”
Mr Chan Chun Sing proclaims that Singaporeans “can be the agents of change, rather than waiting for the system to change.”
Never has there been a time where such elocution been so pleasing to the ears of thoughtful Singaporeans who see a nation facing an increasingly fraught future with an economy in extremis, stymied by a population straightjacketed by a fossilised political system.
But word and deed, as those familiar with PAP politics might come to expect, don't always match.
Indeed, Singapore officialdom's penchant for the kind of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do sanctimonious blather has come to typify the nation's politics, the kind that breeds cynicism and drains public trust.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, for example, insists that the one-party system is the way for Singapore's future even as he delivers homilies to workers about change. Everyone one else must change and adapt – everyone, that is, except us in the PAP.
Mr Ong's war-cry is reminiscent of Mr Lee Hsien Loong's famous admission that the PM would have to spend all his time fixing opposition MPs if more are elected.
Then there is agents-of-change Mr Chan Chun Sing who recently delivered a rite-of-passage address that contained all the talking points of his mentor Mr Lee Hsien Loong, making the two look like Tweedle Dum and, albeit a much younger, Tweedle Dee.
Following in PM Lee's footsteps is to walk backwards. Throughout his tenure as PM, Mr Lee has placed huge boulders on the path to political change by upholding the PAP's cherished practice of changing laws, the Constitution even, to deepen the party's purchase on power (think Halimah Yacob).
Not a single one of the ministers named above, all presumably vying for the post of the next prime minister, has articulated a vision that takes Singapore into a democratic future. Change cannot come with everyone trying to be like everyone else.
Even more vexing is their inability to hold on to their own convictions. This was clearly demonstrated when Mr Goh Chok Tong needled the lot (and, by extension, PM Lee) to quickly choose a PM-designate, calling the matter an “urgent challenge” that should be settled within six to nine months.
The young ministers responded with a statement that acknowledged that they were “keenly aware” that deciding on the new leader was “a pressing issue”. They did not push Mr Goh back on the suggested time frame.
At least not until a miffed PM Lee shot back at the Emeritus Senior Minister. Mr Lee retorted that Mr Goh was speaking with “the privilege of watching things, rather than being responsible to make it happen.”
Two days later, Mr Ong Ye Kung found the wherewithal to come out from behind the PM to also reject Mr Goh's deadline. “We still need time to work together,” Mr Ong clarified, apparently forgetting the pressing-ness of the issue he and his mates had acknowledged in their statement.
If such dauntlessness, or the lack thereof, doesn't give you the willies as far as our next leader is concerned, then this will. In rejecting Mr Goh's timeline, PM Lee said of his younger charges: “They are working adults, they are learning to work together.”
Working adults? I've heard bosses describing their young interns as working adults but, for goodness sake, we are talking about ministers charged with the solemn duty of running our country. Can the PM be any more insulting? And should we pare down our expectations because Mr Heng and Mr Wong and Mr Chan are working adults still learning to work together?
To be clear, most of these younger ministers have held ministerial positions in one form or another for more than one-term. If they are not ready by now to step forward and lead the nation, they will never be.
All this hand-holding of the candidates does not inspire confidence. Given the haziness of the country's future, the lack of clear and bold leadership is most disconcerting.
Imagine Winston Churchill waiting for his people “to get a feel for him” before he rose to his country's greatest challenge or Jawaharlal Nehru being told he needed to “learn to work together” with others before he led his nation to independence.
And imagine Lim Chin Siong waiting in the background and told that he was a “working adult” who needed more time. Lim was all of 24 years of age – half that of the current set of PM contenders – when he saw the perils that Singapore faced, strode forth and persuaded his people of a compelling vision of a free, independent and compassionate Singapore. He didn't wait to be picked, he didn't ask for permission. He led. And they followed. He was a giant among his peers, a leader to whom even Lee Kuan Yew deferred.
No, leaders don't wait to “settle” on one among them “in good time”. They don't have their team picked for them. They don't make ostentatious calls for others to change while they retreat into their cubby-holes of autocratic security. They don't just show the way, they go the way.
Leaders lead. They inspire. They enable change. They bring resolve in times of uncertainty, hope in times of distress. They forge intellectual heft with moral might to break down the walls of deceit and oppression and, in so doing, lead their peoples to enlightened freedom, to greater civilisation.
But, alas, even with a change of the prime minister, Singapore will still be looking for a leader for a long time to come.