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Doing her job

Photo: theweek.in

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Ms. Jacinda Ardern has just won a landslide in New Zealand’s latest election. Ms. Ardern won some 49.1 percent of the votes cast and has 64 seats in the 120-seat parliament. It is, as the BBC reported, one of the rare occasions when a New Zealand Government has an outright majority.

What makes Ms. Ardern’s victory so incredible is the fact that, on the scale of things, a “newbie” politician who had not held any ministerial posts prior to her elevation to the premiership. Ms. Ardern had been a researcher prior to being elected as a Member of Parliament on the Party List in 2008 and only faced her first election in 2017, when she became a Member of Parliament for the Mount Albert Constituency in 2017, the year she became Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister. Within three years of taking the top job in politics, Ms. Ardern has gone from a relative unknown leader of a small country tucked at the edge of the world to being a global figure that has defined an ideal of leadership.

How did Ms. Ardern do it? The first part of the answer is what former British Prime Minister, Harold McMillian called “events.” Mr. McMillian argued that careers in politics were defined by events. Winston Churchill for example, was defined by World War II. How a politician reacted to a significant enough event would have the ability to define his or her legacy.

In Ms. Ardern’s case, history decided to give her not one but two major events, namely the March 2019 Christchurch Mosque shooting and the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. Both these events defined Ms. Ardern as someone that could be relied when the proverbial crap hit the fan.

The second part of the answer as to what turned her into an international superstar is the fact that she simply did her job as a leader. She showed she had the ability to communicate clearly and to provide real information when it was needed. She showed that she could be tough and empathetic at the same time and more importantly, she had the ability to get things done during the down times.

In the Christchurch mosque incident, Ms. Ardern was quick to done a headscarf [upper right] to show solidarity with the victimized community and refused to speak the name of the gunman, thus denying a terrorist publicity he hopped to gain. New Zealanders stayed united by the tragedy as the following Maori Hakka by a biker gang showed: LINK

More importantly, Ms. Ardern used thus momentum to get gun control legislation passed through parliament.

If the Christchurch Shooting put Ms. Ardern on the world map, her handling on the Covid-19 pandemic further enhanced her status as an icon of great leadership. New Zealand does have the advantage of being relatively small and geographically isolated but this should not detract from the fact that Ms. Ardern once again provided text book leadership. New Zealand went into lockdown mode early and Ms. Ardern was quick to communicate to New Zealanders that they would face economic hardship but it was necessary to get the pandemic under control. The results speak for themselves. At the time of writing, New Zealand has less than 2,000 cases.

The most important part of her leadership was the fact that she showed that she was willing to enforce the rules with no exceptions. She demoted her health minister, Dr. David Clark who took his family on a beach vacation during the first week of the lockdown. The message was clear, nobody was above the rules.

New Zealand has come as close as has been possible to beating the virus. It did have certain advantages like geographical isolation. Yet, that alone would not have been enough to make New Zealand one of the key success stories in the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Ardern’s leadership shown that it’s not so much a case of size but what you do with it that counts.

Let’s start with the obvious. Ms. Ardern has recognized the seriousness of the situation and communicated facts quickly, clearly and most importantly factually. Unlike her American counterpart, she’s avoided “downplaying” the virus and unlike her Brazilian counterpart understood that the virus is serious. Ms. Ardern has led by example and stayed healthy and not turned the seat of government into a hotbed of infection.

Unlike her Indian counterpart, she’s also done things that have been possible to execute and hence you don’t have the congestion of infrastructure that was seen in India as people were forced to stagger back to far away villages at the last minute.

Ms. Ardern has also done what her Singapore counterpart could not do, which was to remember ALL New Zealanders. While Singapore has a similar death rate from Covid-19 to New Zealand (and similar population), its case load was significantly higher. Why was that? The answer is simple – Ms. Ardern focused on doing her job at hand and remembered ALL living in New Zealand. While Singapore’s statistics remain comparatively good on the global scale, it was too focused on headlines that it forgot about a certain segment of society that was living in conditions designed to spread the virus.

Her insistence that her ministers followed the same rules as everyone else also made it easier for ordinary New Zealanders to go through the economic hardship caused by the lockdown. She turned down a salary increase and ensured that the ordinary person understood that the rules were for everyone for a reason.

Covid-19 has been tough on everyone. However, like all good crisis, it has helped to show up real leaders that the world needs and thanks to Ms. Ardern, New Zealand has shown that a small nation can show the rest of the world how things are done by doing her job.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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10 Responses to “Doing her job”

  • Boh Kia See:

    The New Zealand PM worked in a small town food store, and obviously did not go to Oxford or Cambridge. It was her first term as a Prime Minister until the latest election. Before this latest election, she was presiding over a coalition government.

    It puts to shame all the scholars that are governing Singapore who collectively showed a lack of decisiveness and guts. It also puts paid to the idea that you need to have a lot of nous and experience to run a country. That is the reality of the situation.

    Many years ago, New Zealand had a PM called David Lange who graduated as a lawyer and became a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. His tenure was a shambles–deteriorated into infighting between own Cabinet Ministers.

    It goes to show that scholars are basically not decision makers, and cannot see the forest for the trees.

    We need to remove the PAP from Government totally before Singapore can begin to implement improvements and grow. The work has to continue now and be on-going until the next election.

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  • True leadership:

    Salute to her leadership.
    Deserve to win.
    NZ got a good leader…fortunate for NZ.

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  • Tracey Ching:

    SHE is a lightweight! But she knows how to act and talk in front of the camera like bill clinton and actor Ronald regan. She failed on many policies fronts like the economy, housing, poverty and etc. The day Na has a good pm, is the day when kiwis will not fly to aussieland to find work for 30% higher in salary like Malaysians and foreigners coming to Singapore for work.

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  • NZ PM very "mediocre":

    Her pay is less than $500,000 a year. No hidden bonus. No side income from heading some “private” company.

    Way cheaper than any Singapore minister. Even cheaper than any Singapore mayor.

    Lau Goh would sneer at her and say she is very mediocre with such a low salary.

    Singaporeans have been overcharged. Looks like a Sim Lim Square cabinet.

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  • PAP mandate strong:

    Yes Ms Jacinda did not go to Cambridge nor Oxford but still she graduated from U of waikato.

    Please go wiki to do a bit of research.

    And i hope u are not again leaning on subject that dropouts are better.

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  • xoxo:

    Dont quite fancy kiwi people.
    But,yes,she is doing her country folks good.
    What about us?
    Take *UNTOUCHABLE* RESERVES TO SQUANDER ON NON-SGS HOLDING HIGHLY-PAID JOB$$$ stolen from sg-PMEs via daft FT POLICY implementation.

    Clever or stupid?
    Moron$!

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  • Maori Haka vs AhBeng Hakka:

    Tang Li, your comparison is flawed.
    You have to include the “dorm” factor into the equation either “+” or “-” to both NZ and Singapore. Right?

    As a matter of fact, you should comment on why Singapore need 20 ministers paid 1 million each to achieve the same results with Jacinda Ardern paid with only half a million?
    One “wooden” old c**k even says earning below 500k is mediocre.

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  • 154media:

    NZ PM is not meritocratic according to PAP standards, She is also not of aristocracy class. Unless u meet these 2 standards, u can be minister or someone top in singapore. That is the state of affairs in Singapore. Thanks to the daft 60%

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  • Harder Truths:

    Tang Li – you are trying to compare apples and bananas.

    New Zealand is a sparsely populated country with relatively large distances between townships and limited travel in winter. It is not an international travel hub. It is not host to foreigners making up more than half its population. It has a rule of law and an independent judiciary. It has a mostly Anglo-Saxon / Maori population and does not host third-world gangsters. It does not have two casinos. It has a real economy.

    New Zealand have their own problems and their own way to solve them. Whether the NZ PM is good or not is a matter for her own people to decide based on their own setup.

    Whether $G’s Team Despot is doing its job is a matter for $G citizens to (unfortunately) decide, based on $G’s communist regime and failing economic model.

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  • Zhenzidan:

    Harder Truths:
    Tang Li – you are trying to compare apples and bananas.

    New Zealand is a sparsely populated country with relatively large distances between townships and limited travel in winter. It is not an international travel hub. It is not host to foreigners making up more than half its population. It has a rule of law and an independent judiciary. It has a mostly Anglo-Saxon / Maori population and does not host third-world gangsters. It does not have two casinos. It has a real economy.

    New Zealand have their own problems and their own way to solve them. Whether the NZ PM is good or not is a matter for her own people to decide based on their own setup.

    Whether $G’s Team Despot is doing its job is a matter for $G citizens to (unfortunately) decide, based on $G’s communist regime and failing economic model.

    But NZ is much bigger than Singapore, so contact tracing won’t be easy. When the pandemic strikes, NZ effectively banned foreigner from entering NZ like what Taiwan did to China travellers despite China travellers being a major market in their travel industry.

    For the PAP, they did the stupid thing by telling and emphasizing to Singaporeans “No need to wear masks if you are not sick” despite emerging evidence of asymptomatic cases infecting the community.

    Arden postponed elections to concentrate on fighting the pandemic, but PAP insisted on holding the elections during the peak of the pandemic,with the stupid assumption that voters will run to the PAP for protection. It backfired into their faces as they lost one more GRC for the first time to 4 inexperienced candidates of which 3 are newbies.

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