Singapore

Associate dean Donald Low of LKY School resigns

Academic Donald Low has resigned from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), The Straits Times has learnt.

When contacted on Tuesday (April 3), the associate professor said his departure was an “internal issue”, declining to elaborate further on the reason. He later added that he is leaving the school on good terms. His last day will be on April 30.

Prof Low joined the school nearly six years ago in 2012, and is currently its associate dean for research and executive education. He told ST that he has not decided on his next steps.

When reached for comment, an LKYSPP spokesman said the school has accepted Prof Low’s resignation and thanked him for his contributions. She did not elaborate on the reasons for his departure. 

Prof Low’s resignation comes about three months after former LKYSPP dean Kishore Mahbubani stepped down on Dec 31 last year. 

Before he became an academic, Prof Low worked in the public service for 15 years in various roles, including as director of fiscal policy at the Finance Ministry and director of the Strategic Policy Office at the Public Service Division.

At the school, his research interests include inequality and social spending, as well as governance and politics. His works, such as the 2014 book titled Hard Choices: Challenging The Singapore Consensus, have raised questions about aspects of governance and called for a radical rethinking of the country’s policies and institutions.

Prof Low was in the spotlight last year when Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam called him out for misrepresenting his views in an article on news site Today. Mr Shanmugam had said criminal penalties should reflect public opinion but added that public opinion cannot be the sole or decisive factor in proposing laws. 

Commenting on this in a Facebook post, Prof Low said “making laws on the basis of public opinion is populism by another name” – drawing a rebuke from the minister. Prof Low later apologised.

The academic also weighed in on this year’s Budget, writing a commentary arguing that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget speech did not articulate a social policy vision or new social compact that would persuade most Singaporeans to accept a tax increase. He added that the new social compact must go beyond help for the needy, with the middle-income group in particular having to feel they are intended beneficiaries of the system too.

Earlier this year, he wrote a controversial Facebook post, which said that teenage blogger Amos Yee – who had being convicted for derogatory remarks about Christians in a YouTube video – “has all the traits that we want in our youth”, drawing criticism online. He later deleted the post. 

Education