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25 Sep 2018

An Interview with A/P Walter Theseira, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP)

Introduced in 1990, the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP), is meant to ensure a greater diversity of voices in Singapore's Parliament. There can be up to nine NMPs each term, lasting two and a half years, and the current term ends in September.

Amongst the nine newly NMPs chosen to join Parliament, was Associate Professor of Economics Walter Edgar Theseira, Head, Master of Management (Urban Transport) Programme at SBIZ. Read more about the news here.

We met up with Walter to find out why he chose to stand and how he hopes to contribute to the country's political discussions and decision-making.

Walter joins eight other passionate and committed individuals to be the new cohort of NMP.

SUSS: Why did you applied for the NMP post?

Walter:  I want to bring an evidence-based approach to policy discussions to help Singapore avoid the type of "political polarisation" that has engulfed other developed countries. I think the NMP position is one of the ways we have in the system to bring a non-partisan view on the policies and challenges we face – a view that is neither restricted by the need to promote a united Government front, nor the need to stand in opposition. The NMP position shouldn't replace Government or Opposition MP views, but can serve to complement them.

SUSS: What were your thoughts when you are selected as a NMP?

Walter: I was surprised and humbled because there were many highly qualified applicants and any one of them could have done well in the role. So I had no expectations I would be selected. I see the selection process as not about choosing the 'best' applicants – I don't see myself as 'better' than others who applied – but rather, I think it is about building a group of NMPs that can complement each other, and the elected MPs, in what they can contribute to Parliament. So I have to do my best to contribute, to fulfil this responsibility and privilege that has been granted to me.

SUSS: How do you intend to contribute to Singapore's political discussions and decision-making?

Walter: I plan to speak on policy issues where social sciences and economics can help us understand the trade-offs and challenges we face as a society better. Besides what I can add as an academic, being at SUSS has also helped me understand how important lifelong learning is for those Singaporeans who may have difficulties fulfilling their educational aspirations more conventionally.

I expect when most people see an academic like myself, they think we had nothing but smooth sailing in our education, top grades all the way. But actually, I didn't take my studies seriously enough in secondary school especially in second language, and because of that I didn't complete JC or take a degree in Singapore. I had a second chance and with some luck and support I got my undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and then my Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Most of our students aren't as fortunate. So we have to continue creating those opportunities in Singapore for everyone because we can't rely on luck to help people advance.
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