Letter to Ms Heffernan – the limts of lessons from Singapore

October 1, 2014

Dear Ms Heffernan,

I refer to your 28 Sept 2014 Huffington Post article “The Limits of Ideology: Lessons from Singapore”.

Next year is not the 50th anniversary of the creation of Singapore. Singapore was created in 1819 when it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles. Next year will be the 196th year of Singapore’s founding and creation.

East Asian Tiger economies

Singapore is no more successful than the other three East Asian Tiger economies. According to the Penn World Tables, Singapore falls behind both South Korea in real per capita GDP growth since 1960.

Country 2011 over 1960 per capita real GDP (output) Country 2011 over 1960 per capita real GDP (expenditure)
Korea, Republic of 27.1 Korea, Republic of 25.6
Taiwan 14.7 Singapore 21.4
Singapore 9.4 Taiwan 15.1
China 8.8 Hong Kong 11.6
Hong Kong 6 China 8.7

Port

Singapore didn’t just become one of the world’s most important ports under PAP or Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore was already the 5th most important port in the world by the early 1930s when Lee Kuan Yew was still a child and long before PAP was born.

• Singapore was already the estimated 5th or 6th most important port in the world by the early 1930s and the key port in the Straits region by the late 19th century
[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114]

Financial centre

Singapore’s financial centre roots can be traced back to colonial times when Singapore served as the banking and financial centre for the surrounding region.

• In the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century Singapore was the most important of the three British “Straits Settlements” functioning as trade entrepots on the Malayan Peninsula. The sizeable flows of goods channeled through Singapore supported a significant business in banking and trade finance. During its colonial period Singapore thus served to a limited degree as banking and financial centre for the immediately surrounding region.
[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 337]

Lack of natural resources

According to Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singaporeans’ No. 1 most respected post independence leader, Singapore’s lack of natural resources is more than made up for by our priceless geographical location.

• There are four reasons which enabled Singapore throughout her history as a British colony, and today as an independent republic, to survive and even prosper in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties. First, there is the well-known fact of a superb central geographical location with a natural harbor swept by currents flowing between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.
[Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7]

Complex ethnic composition

Whatever complexity in our ethnic composition could not prevent our three biggest races – the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians from co-existing happily for more than 100 years under British colonial rule. Racial tensions appeared only after Lee Kuan Yew came to power.

• Racial Harmony In Malaya
To those who know their Malaya from one end to the other, no less than to the casual visitor, it is a constant source of wonder how so many different races and communities live and work together in the utmost harmony … we repeat, that the different communities live and work in harmony because the British system of justice and administration enables them to obtain fair play. There are no discriminatory or repressive laws, there are few, if any race prejudices in the bazaars and counting houses, there is nothing to prevent the humblest coolie from rising to great wealth – many indeed have done so …
[The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 July 1935, Page 8]

• MALAYA’S RACIAL HARMONY IMPRESSES
“It is a pleasing feature of life in Malaya that there is not merely a complete absence of friction but much cordiality in the relations between the different races inhabiting it. It is quite common to find Malays, Chinese and Indian all living the same street in perfect harmony and apparently, with some degree of intimacy.” The Mui-Tsai Commission Report Chapter VIII.
[The Straits Times, 1 March 1937, Page 13]

• SINO-MALAYAN AMITY IMPRESSES GEN. WU
It makes me happy to see the Chinese and other peoples here co-operating so well with each other.
[The Straits Times, 15 November 1940, Page 11]

• The Malayan Melting-Pot
The Sultan of Perak … “I wish to say to you that Chinese and Malay in the past eighty years before the coming of the Japanese lived side by side in absolute peace. The Chinese lived in the midst of Malays without any trace of fear, and the Chinese also fearlessly and peacefully pursued his vocation in any Malay settlement … Here in Singapore we are constantly impressed by the easy, natural and friendly relationships existing between Eurasians, Straits Chinese, Straits-born Indians and others who went to school together and now meet each other in adult life … Boys – and girls – of the local-born communities who sit side by side in the classrooms of Raffles Institution and St. Joseph’s and St. Andrew’s and the A.C.S., learn to become unconscious of racial differences, to meet on common ground, and to accept each other simply as Singaporeans – not as members of this racial community or that. Naturally this process is more penetrating in the secondary schools than in the elementary ones, because the influence of the school is exerted for a longer period and in years of higher mental awakening …
[The Straits Times, 25 May 1946, Page 4]

• S’pore an ‘example’ of race harmony
Singapore has set an example to the world of racial harmony, said Mr. T. P. F. McNeice, President, in reply to Mr. C. F. J. Ess, at the meeting of the City Council yesterday.
[The Straits Times, 29 September 1951, Page 5]

• Duchess praises ‘one people’ idea
The Duchess of Kent, the first Royal Freeman of the City of Singapore, said yesterday that its people were engaged upon a project of far-reaching significance – the casting into one mould of elements derived from many different cultures. “This plan in itself testifies to the good will and good sense so characteristic of the people of this island,’ she said.
[The Straits Times, 2 October 1952, Page 1]

• Police help island troop to learn sailing
Singapore’s 84th Pulau Tekong Sea-Scout Troop is certainly helping to strengthen the bonds of friendship among Malays and Chinese on the island. It is undoubtedly a Sino-Malay affair for half of its 20 members are drawn from each race. Even the four patrol leaders in the troop are equally divided on a communal basis. Members of each patrol, however, are mixed.
[The Singapore Free Press, 17 July 1953, Page 12]

• Our racial harmony inspiration to bishop
An American Negro bishop said in Singapore yesterday that complete racial harmony among students and teachers in Colony schools was an inspiration to him. He said it proved his theory that if you get people of all races close enough together for them to smile at each other racial pride and prejudices will vanish quickly
[The Straits Times, 30 September 1954, Page 4]

• A Chinese bank to train Malay
The Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation has awarded a one-year scholarship to Inche Mohamed Yasin bin Abdul Rahman, a member of the Johore State Council, to study general banking with its head office in Singapore. This is the first time the bank has awarded such a scholarship to a Malay.
[The Straits Times, 3 February 1955, Page 4]

• ‘See yourselves as just one people’ Governor’s advice to teachers
The people of Singapore must not think of themselves in terms of their racial and language loyalties, but as Singaporeans, the Governor, Sir William Goode, said yesterday. Schools must be Singapore schools, not English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil schools … In 1953, he said, English was the only medium of instruction at the college, but today they worked in English, Malay and Chinese. “In this way too the different races in the Colony can be welded into a united people with a common loyalty and a common pride in Singapore and a united determination to work for the good of Singapore.”
[The Straits Times, 12 October 1958, Page 7]

• U.S. TEACHERS ‘IMPRESSED’
Eighteen American teachers (above) from 11 states left for Bangkok by CPA this morning after a four-day stay here … Prof. Mulder said they were impressed by the racial harmony they had observed in Singapore and had come to know the state much better.
[The Singapore Free Press, 16 July 1959, Page 10]

• TELLING THE PEOPLE
So many races, but one nation
If a world list were compiled of countries enjoying high degree of inter-racial harmony Singapore would undoubtedly occupy a leading position. Here people of various races work, play and live together happily as one nation. They help each other in time of difficulty. They rejoice in each other’s happiness. And they share each other’s grief. Such is the respect, understanding and goodwill between the Malay, Chinese, Indian, European and other races living here that visitors in Singapore have often praised the State as an example for the rest of the world to follow. The latest visitor to express this view is Mrs. A. Qugley, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, who passed through the State during a tour of the Far East. She said that “the people here must be extremely proud of themselves for the “really great” racial harmony that was evident
[The Singapore Free Press, 6 July 1961, Page 6]

Founding father

Lee Kuan Yew is no founding father of Singapore in any sense of the phrase. Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles not Lee Kuan Yew. There has been no re-founding of Singapore ever since. Lee Kuan Yew did not fight for Singapore’s independence like your founding fathers did. He married us off into Malaysia instead and so caused us to lose our independence to Malaysia. Our independence in 1965 was due to Tungku Abdul Rahman kicking us out of Malaysia, not due to Lee Kuan Yew fighting for our independence. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even want independence, he cried and cried in front of national television when we separated from Malaysia and ended up convalescing at Changi chalet for 6 weeks. You cannot credit someone who didn’t fight for our independence, who didn’t even want Singapore to be independent, who merely unwillingly received our independence as our founding father. That would be an insult to what founding father means and an insult to all honest Singaporeans.

From Birth to Prosperity

It’s wrong to use the phrase “a nation from birth to prosperity” to describe Singapore post independence because Singapore wasn’t born in 1965 but in 1819 instead.

Singapore was already quite prosperous in 1959. The Penn World Tables puts our 1960 per capita GDP as 3rd in Asia after Iran and Hong Kong. Ours isn’t a rags-to-riches story but a middle income to rich story.

Most importantly, it was our Dutch advisor from the United Nations, Dr Albert Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew, who masterminded Singapore’s post independence economic progress.

Discrediting Western principles

Singapore’s inability to solve its problems is not a discredit to Western principles but evidence that it deviates from them. The Western principle of social democracy practiced by Northern and Central European nations has largely resolved the problems you have described – rising inequality, declining social mobility, widening gulf between haves and have-nots, self-entitlement and self-reference of those in power, longest working hours, least happy workers, over half of population wishing to emigrate. The fact of the matter is that for every dollar the Singapore government spends, it takes two back. No matter how it spends, it will always squeeze even more back from the populace. Singapore under the present government will never solve its current problems because it is fundamentally against the Western principle of social democracy.

Thank you

Ng Kok Lim

Excerpts from “The Limits of Ideology: Lessons from Singapore” by Margaret Heffernan, CEO and Author, 28 Sept 2014

Next year will see the 50th anniversary of the creating of Singapore, widely hailed as one of the most successful of the Asian tigers. In that short space of time, the tiny nation state has grown into one of the world’s largest financial cities and most important ports. It has done so by becoming the partner every nation wants to work with: efficient, trustworthy and stable. In education, healthcare and economic competitiveness, Singapore routinely occupies a high position in global rankings. So it’s not surprising that commentators like Thomas Friedman often point to Singapore as doing well what the west does badly.

Competitive Meritocracy but Rising Inequality

Commentators routinely praise the competitive nature of Singapore’s schools and civil service. Slavish devotion to exams and credentials, they like to believe, is what bring the best to the top. In the early days of Singapore’s independence, this principle was coupled with the belief that everyone should have a fair shot at success. But as inequality has risen and social mobility has declined, those values look more like a justification for elitism. Does preserving this meritocracy does more to protect those in power than enable those who aspire to it?

Without social mobility and the continuing expansion of choices to the multi-ethnic population, meritocracy can come to feel like intrinsic, existential superiority: the sense that some are intrinsically more deserving than others. The bubble of money and power is isolating, severing the connections between governors and the governed. The surprise that greeted the 2011 election, in which the opposition to the governing PAP made significant gains, illustrated just how self-referential many in power had become.

With some of the longest working hours in the developed world, some of the least happy workers in the world and a population over half of which would emigrate if they could, Singapore’s society represents a more than statistical challenge. That trickle-down is now widely discredited as an economic defense for inequality only further exposes it to challenge. That a few are so wealthy and so powerful is no longer seen as providing a wider social benefit; indeed the rich may pose a bigger social threat than the poor.

Security requires trade-offs
The physical vulnerability of tiny Singapore, wedged between Malaysia and Indonesia, coupled with its lack of natural resources and its complex ethnic composition, has been used in the past as an argument for restricted freedoms: only a very strong and unquestioned government can protect such a fragile state. Safety demanded the abdication of personal freedoms.

Poetry or Money?
Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, once insisted that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford” but few still believe that that is still true.

US – or THEM?
Seen in this light, the early success of Singapore represents a triumphant validation of principles that the west holds dear. Imitation may be a sincere form of flattery but in holding a mirror up to our values, we may not like what we see; the country’s current challenges and frustrations show us limitations we all need to see. Meritocracies, powerful central states and transactional social modes, in other words, may be enough to get a nation from birth to prosperity – but not nearly enough to keep it there. In that respect, the United States and Europe have far more in common with Singapore than perhaps their governments recognize.
What Singapore holds in reserve, however, is an asset western leaders would give their eye teeth for: a national surplus accrued over many years of fastidious economic management. How will this wealth be used? While western leaders use insolvency as a perennial alibi for their failure to make coherent strategic choices, Singapore’s government has the money and the power to effect real change. Should it fail to do so, after this incisive an analysis of its opportunities, no politicians in Singapore will be able to claim they didn’t see their chance. If, with the freedom to spend that most western leaders lack, Singapore cannot address its problems, then the principles it espouses – principles still broadly accepted by western governments – will be discredited for good.

Brookings Lee Kuan Yew Chair for Southeast Asian Studies – letter to Susan Rice

September 24, 2014

Dear Ms Susan Rice,

I refer to your 22 Sept 2014 remarks at Brookings Institution’s formal announcement of the creation of the Lee Kuan Yew Chair for Southeast Asian Studies.

Founding father

You said:

it’s fitting that Brookings’ new Chair in Southeast Asian Studies is named for Singapore’s founding father, a man who has played such a key role in shaping the region’s growth, Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore’s founding father is not Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. There has been no re-founding of Singapore ever since. Lee Kuan Yew studied at a school named after Raffles.

In Lee Kuan Yew’s own words, Singapore was already ¾ independent in 1959 when he came to power. That ¾ independence wasn’t won by Lee Kuan Yew but won by Singapore’s independence fighters who were generally regarded as the Leftists, Lee’s most hated enemies.

Lee Kuan Yew didn’t build on this hard won ¾ independence but married us off instead into Malaysia. We would have ended up with eternal Malaysian servitude had Malaysian Prime Minister Tungku Abdul Rahman not kicked us out. Our last ¼ independence was born out of the Tungku’s kick, not born out of us fighting for it. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t even want independence. He cried and cried in front of national television at our separation from Malaysia and had to convalesce at Changi chalet for 6 weeks. So do not confuse Lee Kuan Yew with America’s founding fathers please. Lee Kuan Yew is no founding father in any sense of that phrase. He never fought for Singapore’s independence, never got into harm’s way for fellow Singaporeans in the way your founding fathers did.

Shaping region’s growth, Asia’s rise

Lee Kuan Yew did not play a key role in shaping the region’s growth. Neither was

“Asia’s rise in global affairs is due in no small part to Southeast Asia’s contributions.”

May I quote Singapore law minister Mr Shanmugam’s remarks on the same occasion:

Modern East Asia, including Southeast Asia is what it is today because of the crucial role the United States played in underwriting security in Asia-Pacific. The U.S. provided security and stability that helped to stem the tide of communism, the 7th Fleet kept the ceilings open. The U.S. generously opened its markets to the region, and that sustained economic growth and prosperity of many Asian countries. In turn, that created conditions that allowed East Asia, beginning with Japan, to seize opportunity to uplift their people’s lives, and China is a most recent example of that. Success of countries in the region created a dynamism which has also created new challenges and opportunities, and let me add … the U.S. did all of it

Thus, contrary to what you have said, it was United States, not Lee Kuan Yew, not Southeast Asia that has been instrumental in shaping the region’s growth and Asia’s rise. Lee Kuan Yew never stopped bickering with his Malaysian counterpart so it’s hard to imagine Lee earnestly helping to shape Malaysia’s growth.

During Deng Xiaoping’s famous Southern tour in 1992, he called for China to learn from South Korea, to catch up with the four dragons, to build several Hong Kongs along the coast. Thus, China’s rise was due to learning from the rest of prospering East Asia and not just Singapore alone. If China’s rise was predominantly learnt from Singapore, how can they end up with so much corruption and food scandals involving gutter oil and tainted baby milk? How can they have such promising home grown technology firms as Lenovo, Xiaomi, Huawei or Baidu while we don’t (excluding the ‘has been’ Creative)? The great many Taiwanese and Hong Kong firms that have invested in China probably left a larger footprint on China’s economy than Singapore did.

Arc of development

You said:

Singapore embodies the arc of development that nations across Southeast Asia are achieving.

Please understand that this embodiment was already there even before Lee Kuan Yew took power in 1959. Singapore was already the third richest nation in Asia back in 1960 after Iran and Hong Kong and we were already top in Southeast Asia before Lee Kuan Yew took power (Penn World Tables 8.0, real per capita GDP, output).

Country 1960 real per capita GDP (output) 1960 real per capita GDP (expenditure)
Singapore $5,075 $2,413
Malaysia $2,789 $2,252
Philippines $1,647 $1,708
Indonesia $1,530 $790
Thailand $964 $986

Dictatorship and democracy

You said:

Entrenched dictatorships have given way to new democracies, and throughout the region, citizens are playing a greater role in their government and civil life. As President Obama said in Malaysia earlier this year, “perhaps no region on earth has changed so dramatically” during the past several decades.

How can you celebrate democracy and the dis-entrenching of dictatorships in Southeast Asia while at the same time exalt in the naming of an important Brookings Institution after a Singapore leader when Singapore is bottom most amongst the original five members of ASEAN in EIU’s Democracy Index 2012?

Countries EIU Democracy Index 2012
Indonesia 6.76
Thailand 6.55
Malaysia 6.41
Philippines 6.3
Singapore 5.88

Singapore is also ranked 150th in World Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders in 2014. How much truth can come out of a country ranked 150th for press freedom?

Many Singaporeans suffered years of incarceration under Lee Kuan Yew, some for longer than Nelson Mandela had been, without ever being charged in court. There were also those who were forced to run away from Singapore to escape being detained without trial. One of them, Mr Francis Seow is still in the US under political asylum. A recent movie made to highlight the plight of these Singaporean political exiles was effectively banned by our government for purportedly “undermining national security”. Does this look like democracy or dictatorship to you? Lee Kuan Yew himself is not ashamed to say that he is not an advocate of democracy.

“I’m not intellectually convinced that one-man-one-vote is the best. We practise it because that’s what the British bequeathed us.” – Lee Kuan Yew, 1994

“There are some flaws in the assumptions made for democracy. It is assumed that all men and women are equal or should be equal. Hence, one-man-one-vote. But is equality realistic? If it is not, to insist on equality must lead to regression.” – Lee Kuan Yew, Create 21 Asahi Forum Tokyo, Nov 20 1992

Putting Lee Kuan Yew on the Chair for Southeast Asian studies is to shame, tarnish and to humiliate Southeast Asian democracy and basic human decency.

Already sacrificed yesterday, no rewards yet sacrifice some more?

September 18, 2014

I refer to the 14 Sept 2014 Straits Times article “Sacrificing now for a better tomorrow” by Dr Lee Wei Ling.

Jurong Rock Cavern

Dr Lee refers to the Jurong Rock Cavern as a huge project requiring foresight, vision and staying power. But ancient civilizations have been building underground caverns since thousands of years ago such as the massive Derinkuyu Underground City in Turkey. What’s so foresighted or visionary about building underground, thousands of years after others have done so? The Jurong Cavern is also nothing compared to the much larger 816 underground nuclear plant in China’s Chongqing Fuling district. Nor is it deeper than the Seikan undersea tunnel linking Honshu and Hokkaido. Staying power is essentially money power which is nothing more than the government’s great ability to squeeze ever more money out of the populace.

MNCs

Lee Kuan Yew in the early 1960s was none the wiser than contemporary Third World leaders. Like Third World leaders, he too fell for the conventional wisdom of import substitution as he became Singapore’s champion for merger with Malaysia and import substitution through the Malayan Common Market. Export industrialization through MNCs wasn’t a conscious choice by Lee Kuan Yew but the only path left to us after our expulsion from Malaysia.

• Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP proposed a political union with Malaysia, which would provide a good-sized domestic market for an industrial strategy of import substitution. Expulsion from the union with Malaysia in 1965, on political grounds by the government in Kuala Lumpur, destroyed the import-substitution strategy.
[The Fraser Institute, Case Studies in the Relationship between Political, Economic and Civil Freedoms, page 155]

• During the federation period and immediately afterward, Lee’s government initially pursued an import substitution strategy … but the alienation from Malaysia, with its much larger market, rendered the strategy impractical.
[Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Asia Competitiveness Institute, Remaking Singapore, Michael Porter and Christian Ketels and Neo Boon Siong and Susan Chung, July 2008]

• Until 1965, the economic strategy of the country hinged on a merger with Malaya to establish the larger domestic market, deemed necessary for economic viability.
[Helen Hughes, The Dangers of export pessimism: developing countries and industrial markets, page 225]

• Singapore at first adopted the industrialisation policy of import substitution, followed after 1966 by the export of labour intensive manufactured goods.
[Jacques Charmes, In-service training: five Asian experiences, Bernard Salomé, Page 21]

• Singapore’s industrialisation strategy was originally dependent on policies of import substitution within the Malaysian common market, but the attainment of political independence in 1965 led to export industrialisation.
[Robert Fitzgerald, The Competitive advantages of Far Eastern business, Page 55]

• Import substitution was adopted in the early 1960s in anticipation of the Malayan common market. However, Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 dashing the hopes of the common market, hence an export strategy was promoted instead.
[Eddie C. Y. Kuo / Chee Meng Loh / K. S. Raman, Information technology and Singapore society, Page 87]

If Lee Kuan Yew knew that export industrialization will allow Singapore to prosper without depending on Malaysia, why did he fight so feverishly for merger with Malaysia? Why did he become so devastated at our separation that he had to cry and cry until he ended up convalescing at Changi for six weeks? Instead of crying, shouldn’t he have been his usual cocky self, smiling at the TV camera and proudly and confidently claiming that Singapore will prevail through MNC led export industrialization? The turn of events shows that at the point of separation, Lee had no idea of the enormous potential MNC led export industrialization held. That Lee had placed all his bets on import substitution for Malaysia and knew of no other way for Singapore to survive let alone thrive is well documented by himself and others:

• Everyone knows the reasons why the Federation is important to Singapore. It is the hinterland which produces rubber and tin and that keeps our shop window economy going. It is the base that made Singapore the capital city. Without this economic base, Singapore would not survive. Without merger … and an integration of our two economies, our economic position will slowly and steadily get worse. Your livelihood will get worse …
[The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew Volume 1, Lee Kuan Yew, page 109]

• Prime Minister said … “… We are taking a decision of momentous proportion” … “This is something bigger than ourselves. This is going to ensure our survival”
[Lee Kuan Yew: The Crucial Years, Alex Josey, page 178]

• Singapore’s leaders were especially keen on the merger because they felt that, as a small island without any natural resources, Singapore could not survive as an independent state.
[Consumption, Cities and States: Comparing Singapore with Asian and Western ..., Ann Brooks and Lionel Wee, page 40]

LKY’s loss of confidence at our separation from Malaysia was in sharp contrast to the optimism of Dr Winsemius who never believed in the Malaysian common market and whose faith in Singapore never wavered.

• Lee’s dismay was also not shared by the country’s most prominent foreign advisor. Winsemius, the former leader of the UN development mission and now a regular consultant to the Singapore government, said in an interview in 1981 … to my amazement, a discussion had started: can Singapore survive? That was the only time I got angry in Singapore. I said: ‘now you have your hands free – use them!’ It was the best thing that happened during the whole period from 1960 till today.
[Sikko Visscher, The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, page 171]

• Dr Winsemius and I.F. Tang in their heart of hearts never believed in a Malaysian Common Market.
[Tong Dow Ngiam, A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, page 66]

In the end, it was Dr Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew, who was unencumbered by conventional Third World wisdom. Dr Winsemius not only came up with Singapore’s industrialization plan, he also personally persuaded important Dutch multinationals like Shell and Phillips to invest in Singapore. Even Lee Kuan Yew himself admitted to learning from and being indebted to Winsemius.

• Most of all, he (Dr Winsemius) was wise and canny. I (Lee Kuan Yew) learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him. He gave me practical lessons on how … Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments by using their desire for profits … It was Singapore’s good fortune that he took a deep and personal interest in Singapore’s development. Singapore and I personally, are indebted to him for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore.
[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

• He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.
[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

• He was behind the 10-year development plan that saw the island state transform into today’s high technology, high value added industrial hub.
[Straits Times, He Believed in Singapore’s Future, 7 Dec 1996]

• Singapore’s economic miracle owes something to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius. Dr Albert Winsemius was not merely a consultant, he was someone who revolutionalised and set Singapore’s economy in the right direction.
[Tactical Globalization: Learning from the Singapore Experiment, Aaron Kon, page 170]

• Dr Winsemius of the Netherlands and Mr I.F. Tang of China were two foreign friends of Singapore who made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.
[A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, Ngiam Tong Dow, page 66]

• Goh Keng Swee and Dr Albert Winsemius are generally regarded as the brains behind the coherent export/foreign investment oriented policies that Singapore has followed.
[Multinationals and the Growth of the Singapore Economy, Hafiz Mirza, page 77]

• The Winsemius Report, as it is commonly known, eventually formed the blueprint for Singapore’s development efforts.
[No Miracle: What Asia Can Teach All Countries about Growth, Mitchell Wigdor, Chapter 6]

• In line with the recommendation of the Winsemius Mission, Singapore implemented policies contrary to the spirit of the 1960s by allowing foreign companies full ownership of their investments and control of operations. This gave Singapore an immediate advantage over other countries that had adopted a more nationalistic or socialist philosophy that prevented complete foreign ownership and control of large manufacturing investments.
[Singapore, the Energy Economy: From the first refinery to the end of cheap oil, Ng Weng Hoong, page 12]

• With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.
[State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Philip Nalliah Pillai, page 30]

• A year after his first visit to Singapore, he presented a 10-year economic development plan. Winsemius also advised the government about large scale housing projects in Singapore and managed to get Philips, Shell and Exxon to Singapore.
[Managing Transaction Costs in the Era of Globalization, F. A. G. den Butter, page 38]

• Albert Winsemius presented a ten-year development plan to turn Singapore from a port dependent on entrepot trade to a manufacturing and industrial centre. Following the Winsemius Report, the Legislative Assembly passed an Act in 1961 to create a statutory board to promote industrialisation and economic development. The EDB came into being …
[Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore, Asad Latif, page 106]

• Singapore’s emergence as a pivotal manufacturing node in the emerging network of transnational capitalism was partly made possible by missionary zeal displayed in the adoption of the Winsemius Report, submitted on behalf of the United Nations Industrial Survey Mission of 1960.
[CyberAsia: The Internet And Society in Asia, Zaheer Baber, page 59]

• The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB. The Winsemius report provided the basis for Singapore’s first development plan. It made two particularly notable observations. The first was that Singapore did not lack entrepreneurs but they were mainly in commerce and not in manufacturing. This suggested the need for the government to participate directly to operate certain basic industries if neither foreign nor local enterprises were prepared to do so. However, said the report, long-run government participation might harm the investment climate unless it was true to commercial and market principles. The second point recommended the establishment of a nonpolitical EDB with divisions for financing, industrial facilities, projects, technical consulting, services, and promotion. The report recognised that the EDB’s core function should be the promotion of investment and that it should eventually hand over its financing activities to an industrial development bank. The Winsemous report was accepted and its recommendations implemented almost immediately. In its early years, the EDB had technical advisers from the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Initially, it concentrated on the four industries identified in the Winsemius report, namely, shipbuilding and repair, metal engineering, chemicals, and electrical equipment and appliances.
[Lessons from East Asia, Danny M Leipziger, pages 240, 241]

• In 1960, a UN industrial survey mission headed by Albert Winsemius was sent to Singapore, at the PAP government’s request, to survey the possibility of industrialisation. The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts, by wooing well-known foreign firms to set up joint ventures with local firms. It also advised that the new local industries to be set up should aim at the overseas market, since the domestic market was tiny. In 1961, the government drew the State Development Plan based on the Winsemius Report, which later became a Five-Year Development Plan. That same year, in accordance with the advice given by Winsemius, it set up the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was then given the task of constructing industrial estates, providing loans to firms in the private sector, attracting FDI, setting up joint ventures with foreign MNCs, and putting into practice fiscal measures under the Pioneer Industries Ordinance.
[Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31]

Jurong

The bold, innovative way of reclaiming Jurong Island off the sea came from Japanese contractor Penta Ocean, not PAP. Because PAP is not innovative, it had to pay an innovative contractor to do the innovation.

Marina Bay

Lee Kuan Yew’s idea of a Venice-like Marina Bay was nothing extraordinary as the Venice theme was already replicated in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. In the day time, Gardens by the Bay doesn’t look very different from Bishan Park or Punggol Park. It would be good if a survey can be carried out to find out how Singaporeans feel about the $1.05 billion spent on Gardens by the Bay and whether it is money well spent. In any case, it was the Botanical Gardens, not Gardens by the Bay that was voted the top park in Asia by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards, not once but twice in a row.

• SINGAPORE — The Singapore Botanic Gardens has been ranked the top park in Asia for the second year in a row in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards, the travel site said yesterday.
[TodayOnline, Botanic Gardens again voted top park in Asia by travel site, 18 Jun 2014]

HDB

HDB inherited and built upon the work of the SIT. The 1940s British colonial report saying Singapore had one of the worst slums shows the honesty with which the British governed us. The British acted upon this report and built beautiful housing precincts like Tiong Bahru and Queenstown that became Singapore’s pride and admiration at that time.

• The housing of 150,000 Singaporeans by the SIT had no parallel elsewhere in Asia. Straits Times, 2 Feb 1960
[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop and John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo, page 57]

• … He told the Straits Times: “I have never seen such wonderful blocks of flats … The S.I.T. flats, which he toured yesterday, “staggered him.” … “People in Liverpool where we consider ourselves to be in the forefront of town planning and slum clearance, would fight to get an S.I.T flat in one of the new blocks I saw to-day.
[The Straits Times, 10 June 1952, Page 5, He is all praise for SIT homes]

• The S.I.T should be congratulated for developing Queenstown into a beautiful estate which was once covered with shrubs and graveyards. Queenstown should now be considered a model housing estate for Singapore. It has the highest building, schools, markets, good roads and plenty of playing grounds for children and very good flats.
[The Straits Times, 8 September 1956, Page 12, A SLUM IN THE MAKING]

• One of its enduring achievements was the building of a new town at Tiong Bahru, intended to relieve the congestion in Chinatown. It housed 6,600 people and was to have been the first of a series of satellite towns.
[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 18]

• The SIT record shows that by the end of 1959, it had built 22,115 housing units, 904 shops, and twelve markets. Another solid achievement to its credit was the completion of the Master Plan. It is often commented that the performance of the SIT was unremarkable compared with that of its successor, the HDB. But the different conditions under which the two bodies worked should be taken into account.
[Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore, Kernial Singh Sandhu and Paul Wheatley, page 19]

First World

Singapore reached First World status in record time primarily because it didn’t start from the starting line but from mid-way along the race because Singapore was already middle income status by the time Lee Kuan Yew took power in 1959.

If Dr Lee thinks that the usual trajectory for small countries with no resources is slow, she would be well advised to know that the usual trajectory for large countries with resources is even slower.

Gumption

Lee Kuan Yew was no leader with gumption as he broke down in front of national TV time and again and had to convalesce at Changi chalet for six weeks. His good comrade Goh Keng Swee also testified to Toh Chin Chye saying that after the big split of 1961, Lee Kuan Yew was just staring at the ceiling looking defeated.

• When Lee Kuan Yew got back to Singapore, he invited the members of the Convention to attend his press conference. He was crying. I don’t understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it. He held two successive press conferences, and in which both he cried. On the third morning I went to work, and saw the press boys again. I asked Lee Wei Ching, his press secretary, “Why are they hanging around here?” Another press conference! I told Lee Wei Ching, “You ought to tell the Prime Minister to go to Changi and take a rest. Call the press conference off! Another crying bout, and the people of Singapore will think the government is on its knees. So he went to Changi, staying at the government bungalow for six weeks. There was a big time gap … between our last parliamentary meeting and the next meeting. More than five months. One would have thought with such a big event, Parliament should be immediately summoned and the announcement made to Parliament. The opposition came at me. Why is there no Parliament sitting? So I had to hold the fort. I was not appointed to act for him while he was away. When he went off to Changi, Parliament did not meet. So Singapore had a Parliament in suspended animation. Keng Swee and Lim Kim San saw me and asked me what was the constitutional position. Has he recovered? What if he does not recover? So what happens? I said I thought he was getting better, although I could not see him and telephone calls were not put through.
[Excerpt of an interview with Dr Toh Chin Chye, published in ‘Leaders of Singapore’ by Melanie Chew, 1996]

• During the Big Split … Dr Goh Keng Swee … recalled Dr Toh Chin Chye visiting him in his Fullerton Building office in 1961, after seeing Mr Lee, saying: ‘I have just come from Harry’s office. He was staring at the ceiling just like you did. You should snap out of this mood. The fighting has just begun. It is going to be long and nasty. But if we keep wringing our hands in anguish, we are sure to lose.
[Straits Times, What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?, 4 Feb 2012]

Short term hardship for long term hope

Having exhorted about how we’ve made it to First World in record time, isn’t it ironic that Dr Lee then tells us that we must continue to suffer hardships? What’s the point of making it to First World in record time only to continue to suffer hardships? In any case, we’ve suffered for 50 years already. Must we suffer another 50 years?

Dr Lee senses a shift in the ground towards immediate satisfaction and less willingness to persevere in times of difficulties. But our pioneers have persevered for 50 years already. They now want to enjoy what is rightfully theirs. How can that be seen as wanting immediate satisfaction? Satisfaction after 50 long years is no immediate satisfaction.

Dr Lee claims our country will be in trouble if our expectations can only be met by a price we are unwilling to pay. Is Dr Lee saying that our pioneers who deserve our utmost respect haven’t paid enough to deserve what they expect today?

Dr Lee urges all to emulate our pioneer generation in working hard, accepting trade-offs and sacrificing for a better future. What’s the point of emulating the pioneer generation in giving our all to our nation, only to be denied our just rewards at the end of the day?

Exceptional people, exceptional leadership

Going by Dr Lee’s examples:
• MNC led export industrialization (Dr Winsemius)
• Jurong Rock Cavern (Penta Ocean)
• Gardens by the Bay (Grant Associates and Wilkinson Eyre Architects)

Successive governments were led by the foresight of foreign consultants and contractors who were the exceptional people that Singapore leaders depended on. So it didn’t really matter that our leaders weren’t exceptional as long as the consultants and contractors they employed were.

Straits Times, Sacrificing now for a better tomorrow, 14 Sept 2014, Lee Wei Ling

I had stopped reading the newspapers for some weeks as there seemed to be nothing but bad news. But the photograph of the gothic-looking Jurong Rock Caverns on the front page of The Straits Times on Sept 3 caught my attention. The underground space would free up 60ha of space above ground – the equivalent of about 80 football fields.
The cavern took six years of planning and over eight years of construction at a cost of $950 million. It can store up to 1.47 million cubic metres of liquid hydrocarbons, which can fill more than 500 Olympic-sized pools.
Such a huge project requires foresight, vision and staying power to bring to fruition, and this is not the first time Singapore has completed such projects.

The best example of such massive infrastructure projects from our past is the Jurong Industrial Estate. In the 1960s, the received wisdom was that multinational corporations (MNCs) were exploiters of cheap land, labour and raw mate-rials. Third World leaders generally believed this theory of neo-colonial exploitation. Singapore leaders Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Lee Kuan Yew were not impressed.
Singapore had no natural resources for MNCs to exploit. All it had were hardworking people, basic infrastructure and a Government determined to deliver. If MNCs could give workers jobs and impart know-how to Singaporeans, why shouldn’t we welcome them?
Dr Goh and Mr Lee thus decided to start the Jurong Industrial Estate. The estate – Singapore’s largest infrastructure development – covered over 3,600ha with roads, sewers, drainage, power, gas and water all laid out. Other massive infrastructure projects include Jurong Island. The artificial island was conceived in the 1980s to support Singapore’s growth as a petrochemical hub.
It was created by shooting tonnes of sand in a rainbow arc into the sea to fill up the water channels separating the seven southern islands. It was a bold and innovative way to increase our land size and attract investments to create good jobs.
The costly clean-up of the Singapore and Kallang rivers is yet another example. If Mr Lee had not pushed this project through despite the hefty price – thousands of businesses along the rivers were moved – waterways, like Jakarta’s Ciliwung River or Manila’s Pasig River, would be flowing sluggishly through downtown Singapore.
Mr Lee later imagined a Venice-like site in the reclaimed Marina Bay area. So Gardens by the Bay was born at a cost of $1.05 billion. Now, the combination of Marina Bay Sands, the Marina Barrage and the Gardens presents a magnificent sight.
The Housing and Development Board was established in 1960. It was headed by a man with sharp business sense, Mr Lim Kim San.
A British colonial report on housing had noted that the Singapore of the 1940s and 1950s had “one of the world’s worst slums – a disgrace to a civilised community”.
That was soon history. By any measure, Singapore’s achievement in public housing was remarkable.
Singapore is a small country. We have done well so far, reaching First World status in record time. This is not the usual trajectory of small countries with no resources.
We got here because successive governments were led by people with gumption and foresight. Equally, if not more importantly, the people were prepared to gel together as one and accept short-term hardships in exchange for long-term hope.
I sense that the ground has shifted in recent years. We have become more demanding of imme-diate satisfaction and less willing to persevere when there are difficulties. Our country will be in trouble if our expectations can only be met at a price we are unwilling to pay.
We must emulate our pioneer generation: Work hard, be willing to sacrifice for a better future and accept necessary trade-offs. The Government must be able to persuade our citizens why we must adopt a particular difficult course.
Only an exceptional people led by exceptional leadership could have built Jurong Industrial Estate, Jurong Island, the Jurong Rock Caverns and, in time to come, the Jurong Lake Gardens. If Singapore is to continue to survive and thrive, both its Government and people must remain exceptional.

Cheers for all our pioneers since 1819

August 28, 2014

I refer to the 18 Aug 2014 Straits Times report “Heartfelt cheers for pioneers”.

When PM Lee referred to Singaporeans born before 1950 who helped transform the island from poverty to success, did he refer to people like Tan Kah Kee, Lim Boon Keng, Gan Eng Seng, Seah Eu Chin or Tan Kim Seng? Would he disqualify these luminaries by saying they weren’t Singaporeans? Singaporeans have been referring to one another as Singaporeans since colonial times:

While the peculiarities of his predecessor, amounting almost to eccentricity, had laid us unfortunate Singaporeans under his ban …
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 17 Aug 1848, page 3

Do then the Singaporeans acquiesce in the opinions of the Straits Times?
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Adverstiser, 15 Feb 1850, page 2

And last but not least comes “Snoutt-a-Goosta,” also new to Singaporeans …
Straits Times Overland Journal, 27 Apr 1869, page 4, “The Coming Races”

I should be much surprised if it were found that the Singaporeans approve of this scant politeness shewn to a meritorious officer …
Straits Times Overland Journal, 6 Dec 1871, page 4, “Reception of admiral Kellet”

The library is visited by large numbers of passing visitors and by numerous Singaporeans …
Straits Times Weekly Issue, 20 May 1891, page 13, “The Raffles Library”

… there certainly appears to be an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans in favour of the “Cuss you, Jack, I’m all right” spirit I had the misfortune to encounter …
The Straits Times, 4 Nov 1925, page 10, Singapore Courtesy

As another Singaporean, I wish to say that his last remark was quite uncalled for …
The Straits Times, 21 Dec 1925, page 10, News Services

Sir, it is curious how illogical, I almost wrote obtuse, are the minds of some Singaporeans.
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 25 Aug 1928, page 10, Fullerton Building

The degradation of Waterloo Street here is known to every Singaporean …
The Straits Times, 1 May 1939, page 15, Waterloo Street in Singapore

Would he disqualify them because they died before 1965 and hence did not contribute to our post independence prosperity? Would he disregard their pre-independence economic contributions that formed the strong foundation that independent Singapore’s success rested upon?

It would be heartless to deny that our Singapore luminaries were Singaporeans. It would be heartless to deny their contributions to Singapore’s success. If we accept they were our Singaporean pioneers and if we celebrate their contributions to Singapore’s success, it means our heartfelt cheers for our pioneers must go all the way back to colonial times for that was when our road to success began. Since the spirit and enduring values of our pioneers began in 1819, it is not enough that we merely celebrate SG50 next year, more importantly we must celebrate SG200 five years later in 2019.

Singapore’s difficult situation at independence wasn’t something Singapore experienced for the first time. On the contrary, difficult situations have arisen from time to time since colonial times as Dr Goh Keng Swee expained:

… Speaking of the 1840s … At this time there were misgivings as to the future of our trade; the acquisition of Hong Kong and the opening up of commerce with China were expected to affect our interests injuriously; it was thought that the zenith of Singapore’s prosperity had been reached … And so down the century, we have always had from time to time these gloomy forebodings … As early as 1823, four years after Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles, the first discriminatory measures against Singapore … were introduced … the Dutch imposed a special levy on … goods … from Singapore … By 1834 the duty was increased to 70 per cent. Further, shipments from Singapore could not be made directly to Sumatra, Borneo or the Celebes … Trade discrimination and flag discrimination were only two of the perils Singapore merchants had to contend with. Another took the form of the establishment of rival trading centres. In 1847, Makassar was converted into a free port by the Dutch to take away the flourishing Bugis trade from Singapore. In the next five years five more free ports were established …
[The practice of economic growth, Goh Keng Swee, page 4-5]

In Lee Kuan Yew’s own words, ¾ of our sovereignty and independence had already been achieved by 1959, six years before our independence. The last ¼ sovereignty and independence was courtesy of Tungku Abdul Rahman.

Lee Kuan Yew was no rugged leader as he broke down in front of national TV and had to convalesce at the Changi chalet for six weeks. His good comrade Goh Keng Swee also testified to Toh Chin Chye saying that after the big split of 1961, Lee Kuan Yew was just staring at the ceiling looking defeated.

When Lee Kuan Yew got back to Singapore, he invited the members of the Convention to attend his press conference. He was crying. I don’t understand him at all. On one hand, he worked so hard for merger. Having gotten the cupful, he shattered it. And then cried over it. He held two successive press conferences, and in which both he cried. On the third morning I went to work, and saw the press boys again. I asked Lee Wei Ching, his press secretary, “Why are they hanging around here?” Another press conference! I told Lee Wei Ching, “You ought to tell the Prime Minister to go to Changi and take a rest. Call the press conference off! Another crying bout, and the people of Singapore will think the government is on its knees. So he went to Changi, staying at the government bungalow for six weeks. There was a big time gap … between our last parliamentary meeting and the next meeting. More than five months. One would have thought with such a big event, Parliament should be immediately summoned and the announcement made to Parliament. The opposition came at me. Why is there no Parliament sitting? So I had to hold the fort. I was not appointed to act for him while he was away. When he went off to Changi, Parliament did not meet. So Singapore had a Parliament in suspended animation. Keng Swee and Lim Kim San saw me and asked me what was the constitutional position. Has he recovered? What if he does not recover? So what happens? I said I thought he was getting better, although I could not see him and telephone calls were not put through.
[Excerpt of an interview with Dr Toh Chin Chye, published in ‘Leaders of Singapore’ by Melanie Chew, 1996]

During the Big Split … Dr Goh Keng Swee … recalled Dr Toh Chin Chye visiting him in his Fullerton Building office in 1961, after seeing Mr Lee, saying: ‘I have just come from Harry’s office. He was staring at the ceiling just like you did. You should snap out of this mood. The fighting has just begun. It is going to be long and nasty. But if we keep wringing our hands in anguish, we are sure to lose.
[Straits Times, What if there had been no Toh Chin Chye?, 4 Feb 2012]

Mr Rahmat didn’t drive Lee Kuan Yew all over constituencies to rally support against communists. According to his son, Mr Rahmat drove Lee Kuan Yew all over constituencies to campaign for the general election. This is an example of PAP using national resources for personal election campaign use.

When I got older, I knew that the Land Rover with firecrackers and garlands was used during the then Prime Minister’s general election campaign.
[Straits Times, A father, a driver and a pioneer who gave to S'pore, 19 Aug 2014]

The generation that inherited Singapore from the British, contributed to the Singapore Story but did not write its opening chapters. The opening chapters of the Singapore Story were written by the pioneers who came after 1819. It was they who carved a beautiful city out of virgin jungle and built Singapore from scratch.

Straits Times, Heartfelt cheers for pioneers, 18 Aug 2014

FIFTY citizens from the pioneer generation were special guests at last night’s National Day Rally.
They were invited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to represent the nearly half a million Singaporeans born before 1950 who helped transform the island from poverty to success.
Right at the start of his two-hour speech in English, and also in his speeches in Malay and Mandarin, he homed in on this cohort, thanking them for their sacrifices in building Singapore.
“Our pioneers were ordinary people who worked together to do extraordinary things. They overcame difficult and dangerous situations to build a sovereign, independent country,” PM Lee said. “They always looked to the future and strove to give their children better lives than themselves.”
And they were “rugged” just like leaders from former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s generation, who worked all the time and had no work-life balance.
Among pioneers present were former School Health Service director Uma Rajan, 74, who helped start the School Health Programme, and radiographer Ng Hon Weng, 79, from the Singapore General Hospital.
PM Lee also paid tribute to Madam Wong Ah Woon, 87, who worked as a Samsui woman for more than four decades, building Housing Board blocks and familiar buildings such as the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Inviting pioneers in the audience to stand, he thanked them and led a rousing round of applause for them. “This is why we are commemorating SG50 next year: to celebrate the spirit of our pioneers, and to commit ourselves to their enduring values as we make our way forward,” he said.
He recalled how he thought carefully last year about how to meaningfully thank the nation’s living pioneers, before deciding to focus on health care.
Under the Pioneer Generation Package, citizens aged 65 who became Singaporeans before 1987 receive enhanced subsidies for outpatient treatment, additional annual Medisave top-ups and help with premiums for the new MediShield Life national insurance scheme.
He also spoke of a pioneer who is no longer around – Mr Rahmat Yusak, who died two weeks ago aged 95. In the 1960s, Mr Rahmat drove former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew all over as Mr Lee visited constituencies to rally supporters against the communists.
Addressing Mr Rahmat’s son, Mr Mohamed Zulkifli, 59, who sat in the audience, he said: “We will never forget your father …nor the many pioneers who built Singapore. They boldly wrote the opening chapters of the Singapore Story, and paved the way for their children to do better and write the rest.”

Comments on new book “The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race To Reinvent The State”

August 18, 2014

Dear Mr Micklethwait and Mr Wooldridge,

I refer to the 16 Aug 2014 Straits Times review of your new book “The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race To Reinvent The State”.

Productive governance on leanest budget

According to Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singaporeans’ undisputed No. 1 most respected post independence leader, Singapore owes its productive governance on the leanest of budgets to our British colonial government. He wrote:

There are four reasons which enabled Singapore throughout her history as a British colony, and today as an independent republic, to survive and even prosper in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties … The second reason must be ascribed … to Sir Stamford Raffles’ great vision of the island growing into a great emporium founded on the Victorian belief in the virtues of free trade. Successive colonial governors zealously nurtured the port, maintained lean and efficient administrators, and allowed merchants and bankers full scope for the exercise of their talents. In the modern idiom, the Victorians who governed Singapore established and maintained an infrastructure at minimum cost with maximum efficiency. The third reason derives from the second condition, the nurturing of the free enterprise system. In the absence of monopolies and privileged business interests, keen and free competition ensured efficient business … For well over a hundred years Singapore learnt to adapt her economy to changing circumstances. This ability to adapt which was won in the hard school of experience remains an asset which the government of independent Singapore decided to retain. It might have been politically expedient to rid ourselves of institutions and practices that bore the taint of colonial associations. Had we done so, we would have thrown away a priceless advantage.
[Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth, Chapter 1: Why Singapore succeeds, pages 6-7]

The so-called Singapore Fourth Revolution is merely the Victorian era Second Revolution that we inherited from the British.

Creating founding father

Singapore’s creating founding father was Sir Stamford Raffles, not Lee Kuan Yew. It was Sir Stamford Raffles who created this beautiful and prosperous port city when he founded Singapore in 1819. Lee Kuan Yew merely inherited Singapore and inheritance cannot be considered founding.

Greatest economic miracle

There are four East Asian economic miracles, not just one. There is no reason to overly praise Singapore for what is essentially a common East Asian success story that includes South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and many parts of China.

Between 1945 and 1959, Singapore recovered from the devastation of the war under the guiding hand of our British colonial government. To include those years as part of our supposed 70 years of greatest economic miracle would compel us to also thank and praise the British for their involvement in 20% of those 70 years.

But as far as data is available, the earliest comparison we can make is 1960 since that is the earliest year Singapore GDP figures are available in the Penn World tables. The table below constructed using data from the Penn World tables shows that besides Botswana and Equatorial Guinea which struck diamond and oil respectively, South Korea outgrew every other country from 1960 to 2011 and should be the undisputed No. 1 greatest economic miracle followed by arguably Taiwan which takes 2nd and 3rd place respectively for output and expenditure per capita GDP growth. Singapore takes 3rd place, a very good position but not good enough to be considered the greatest economic miracle.

Country 2011 over 1960 per capita real GDP (output) Country 2011 over 1960 per capita real GDP (expenditure)
Korea, Republic of 27.1 Equatorial Guinea 32.2
Botswana 22.1 Botswana 30.9
Equatorial Guinea 21.6 Korea, Republic of 25.6
Taiwan 14.7 Singapore 21.4
Malta 11.1 Taiwan 15.1
Romania 10.3 Hong Kong 11.6
Japan 9.8 Romania 10.6
Singapore 9.4 Cyprus 9.4
China 8.8 China 8.7
Cyprus 8.7 Egypt 8.6
Thailand 8.5 Thailand 8.6
Zimbabwe 7.7 Japan 7.8
Egypt 6.9 Malta 6.6
Ireland 6.9 Ireland 6.5
Hong Kong 6 Portugal 6.1

CPF

The CPF is fast becoming a farce as more and more Singaporeans realize their CPF won’t be able to see them through retirement. Instead of the “all-you-can-eat” buffet, we have the “eat-yourself” cannibalism.

China learnt from Singapore

China’s capitalism isn’t merely copied from Singapore but from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan too. During Deng Xiaoping’s famous Southern tour in 1992, he called for China to learn from South Korea, to catch up with the four dragons, to build several Hong Kongs along the coast. In other words, China didn’t just copy from Singapore but from the rest of prospering East Asia as well. If China capitalism is predominantly a Singapore copy, how could they have such promising home grown technology firms as Lenovo, Xiaomi, Huawei or Baidu while we don’t (excluding the has been Creative)? The great many Taiwanese and Hong Kong firms that have invested in China probably left a larger footprint on China’s economy than Singapore did.

The copying of Singapore style social governance by communist countries like China or Russia is not something Singaporeans are particularly proud of. China president Xi Jinping recently espoused the wisdom that blind pursuit of GDP doesn’t equate to a nation’s success, a clear deviation from copying Singapore but learning from Singapore’s mistakes instead.

The First Revolution

We hardly have Hobbes’ First Revolution. Too many of our rights have been unfairly restrained. We can’t even walk in a group of five in the streets without risking being hauled to jail for illegal assembly. We don’t have a single independent newspaper. Too many of our politicians have been locked away without trial, one of them Chia Thye Poh for longer than Nelson Mandela had been. Too many of our politicians have been bankrupted or forced to leave Singapore for reasons any First World nation would deem ridiculous.

Yet on the other hand, we don’t get much protection for the sacrifices we make. Most of the old folks retiring today cannot depend on their CPF for retirement. An old folk honored by our prime minister during a recent National Day rally committed suicide because she didn’t want to burden her family with stupendous medical expenses. Many old folks are reduced to picking up old cardboard pieces to sell for a living. So correction please, Singapore, not created by Lee Kuan Yew but ruthlessly ran by him, has next to zero parts Hobbes.

Nordic big government

The following books show that both the Danish and Swedish crises were the result of financial market deregulation, not due to big welfare systems.

• IMF, World Economic Outlook – Crisis and recovery, April 2009, Chapter 3 “From recession to recovery: how soon and how strong?”, page 135

Financial crises

• Lessons from the Nordic Financial Crisis, Lars Jonung, Lund University Department of Economics, 29 Dec 2010

The Nordic crises have their roots in the process of financial liberalization … In the 1980s, the financial systems of Finland, Norway and Sweden underwent major deregulation. Financial liberalization set off a sustained lending boom, capital inflows, rising asset prices … The boom turned into a bust around 1990, with capital outflows, widespread bankruptcies … systemic banking crises … Eventually, the central banks of Finland, Norway and Sweden were forced o move to flexible rates in the fall of 1992 in order to avert the depression.

Conclusion

• Our so-called 4th revolution lean government is actually our 2nd revolution inheritance from the British.

• Lee Kuan Yew isn’t our creating founding father, Sir Stamford Raffles was. Lee Kuan Yew went to a school named after Raffles.

• Singapore isn’t the greatest economic miracle in the last 70 years. According to Penn World Tables, the greatest economic miracle since 1960 should be South Korea.

• China didn’t just learn from Singapore but from the rest of East Asia as well.

• Singaporeans sacrificed too much and got too little in return to be considered to be enjoying Hobbe’s First Revolution.

• The Nordic economic crises, as with most modern day crises, is financial sector triggered, not triggered by big government.

Assuming Straits Times’ review of your book is accurate, the chapter on Singapore contains critical falsehoods and misrepresentations that diminish the credibility of your book.

More to being grateful for what we have

August 11, 2014

I refer to the 3 Mar 2014 Straits Times letter “Let’s be grateful for what we have here” by Mr Elgar Lee.

If Singapore is the proverbial oasis in the middle of the desert, why is Mr Mahbubani asking Singaporeans to visit neighboring Southeast Asian ‘deserts’ (Straits Times, “$5 meals, $500 holidays and $50k homes for SG50”, 12 Jul 2014)? Why is our oasis importing water from the surrounding desert?

We do not always have drinkable water from our taps 24/7. Just three months ago, 50 Punggol blocks had brown water flowing from their taps (Today, Brown water flows out of taps in 50 Punggol blocks, 13 Jun 2014). If the authorities say that brown water is drinkable, they should drink brown water for one year. Why offer rebates if there was nothing wrong with the brown water?

Mr Lee should understand that Malaysia water rationing earlier this year was the result of record dry weather in this region which last happened 145 years ago.

• BONE-DRY February has entered the record books as the country’s driest month in nearly 150 years, and the windiest in three decades, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). A paltry 0.2mm of rain was recorded last month at Changi climate station. This is the least that has fallen since 1869, and is well below the previous record of 6.3mm recorded in February 2010 and the mean February rainfall of 161mm.
[Straits Times, February sets record as driest month since 1869, 5 Mar 2014]

Singapore should be thankful the February drought didn’t last longer for if it did and Johor’s rivers dried up, Malaysia wouldn’t have been able to supply us with water, our NEWater and desalination plants wouldn’t have been able to cope with the 380 million gallons of water Singapore needs each day [1], we would have been forced to ration water as well.

Mr Lee is grateful we do not have political stalemate because he belongs to the group with the political upper hand. If the tables are turned and Mr Lee ends up in the group that is politically disadvantaged and bullied all day long, would he continue to sing the same tune? Would he prefer to be disadvantaged, gagged, suffering and suffocating under oppression or would he prefer to have the freedom to fight for what he believes in?

Mr Lee was looking at only one side of the coin when he compared Singapore to cities with no mass transit systems. Would Mr Lee flip the coin around and compare Singapore with so many First World cities with better transit systems?

Being thankful may result in us being taken for granted rather than us having more. If we do not concentrate on what we do not have, we may end up with the status quo of not having more.

Singapore is just one of many bright stars in this universe. There is no more reason to be thankful for what one lucky star has compared to another lucky star.

[1]

• At the height of the dry spell over the past two months, the PUB had stepped up desalination to the full capacity of 100 million gallons a day. NEWater production was also raised to more than 100 million gallons a day for industrial use and to top up the country’s reservoirs by 35 million gallons a day.
[TodayOnline, P.U.B reducing production at NEWater, desalination plants, 21 Mar 2014]

• Today, water demand is about 380 million gallons a day (mgd) or 1,730,000 cubic metres a day (m3/day).
[http://www.pub.gov.sg/LongTermWaterPlans/gwtf.html]

Sharing more about Singapore with Chance Wilson

August 10, 2014

Dear Chance,

I refer to the 20 Jul 2014 Straits Times report of your noble initiative.

Poverty

A picture tells a thousand words. The following are pictures of poor people in Singapore picking up bits and pieces of rubbish to sell for a living:

http://therealsingapore.com/sites/default/files/field/image/elderly_singaporeans_scrounging_1.jpg

http://therealsingapore.com/sites/default/files/field/image/elderlypoor-balaveniseflickr_0.jpg

http://guanyinmiao.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/singapore-elderly.jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Kfdiy9ELUl0/TmKYZH1dDcI/AAAAAAAAAHI/zM2MWzDdG_Y/s1600/singapore-poor-woman.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YY-sG-SpMVA/UZeLTn2AA7I/AAAAAAAAAFE/TW1sChouVfw/s1600/informal-recycling-collection-by-elderly.jpg

http://www.transitioning.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/poor.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-gMMMkopbI5w/URzYh16DvFI/AAAAAAAACfg/FxMPTAg65yI/s1600/poor4rs.jpg

The following are some news about Singapore’s hidden poverty problem:

• Straits Times, More poor people in Singapore than figures show, 25 Sept 2013

http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/srn/more-poor-people-in-spore-than-figures-show

• Straits Times, The invisible poor?, 26 Oct 2013

http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/straitstimes.com-The_invisible_poor.pdf

• BBC News Singapore, How do Singapore’s poor families get by?, 27 Feb 2014

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26349689

• BBC News Singapore, Are Singapore’s poor better off? 17 Feb 2012

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16920951

• Methodist Welfare Services, The face of poverty in Singapore,

http://www.mws.org.sg/Dispatcher?action=SocialIssueTopic&id=Sc12ce388725076

• Diary of a Singaporean Cabby, The poor of Singapore, 4 Sept 2011

http://cabby65.blogspot.sg/2011/09/poors-of-singapore.html

• Singapore poverty in the spot light, 9 Nov 2013

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/11/singapore-poverty-spotlight-20131178362669442.html

• The Lien Centre for Social Innovation and SMU School of Social Sciences, Measuring poverty in Singapore

https://centres.smu.edu.sg/lien/files/2013/11/SocialSpace2013-2014_SanushkaMudaliar.pdf

Most expensive city in the world

A number of global indexes place Singapore amongst the most expensive in the world:

• Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living 2014 puts Singapore in No. 1 position as world’s most expensive city

• Mercer Cost of Living 2014 puts Singapore as 4th most expensive in the world. Singapore was 5th most expensive in 2013

The expensiveness of this country means that you don’t have to be African poor to be poor in Singapore.

Inequality

The chart below shows that from 1980 onwards, Singapore’s GINI inequality index has always been amongst the highest of First World nations (United Nations University data http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/WIID-3a/en_GB/wiid/)

GINI

Our high income inequality exacerbates our poverty problems.

No press freedom, no democracy

There are other not so flattering facets about Singapore you might want to know:

• Singapore is ranked 150th in the world for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders in 2014

• Singapore was ranked 81st by Economist Intelligence Unit for Democracy Index in 2012

Thus, Singapore may not be as amazing as have been reported by our world No. 150th press.

Education

Singapore’s strong education performance mirrors those of other East Asian cities / nations like Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Shanghai and reflects the East Asian society’s emphasis on education. Although East Asian competitiveness in education extends to our work places, when it comes to innovation and the creation of revolutionary new products, services, concepts or brands, America is still the country to beat.

Correcting Diamond Industries’ Mr Frank Chew’s ST advertisement

August 10, 2014

I refer to the 9 Aug 2014 Straits Times advertisement (Money section, page C7) by Mr Frank Chew Chong Khay of Diamond Industries Pte Ltd.

bullshit

Mr Chew wrote:

• “Today, I am extremely grateful … especially to the father and architect of modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Through his far-sighted visions for the country, he has brought about a stable and thriving environment for us to live and work in, one in which I am able to care for my parents in the way that I hope to. At the same time, I am able to give my children what my parents had to strive so hard for in the past.”

Mr Chew is mistaken. Lee Kuan Yew was neither father nor architect of modern Singapore. The father of modern Singapore was Sir Stamford Raffles while the architect and far sighted visionary of our export industrialization was Dr Albert Winsemius. Others like Dr Goh Keng Swee also played a vital role but ultimately, it was Singaporeans from all walks of life who contributed to the nation’s success.

Lee Kuan Yew himself had credited Dr Winsemius for our success:

• Most of all, he was wise and canny. I learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him. He gave me practical lessons on how … Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments by using their desire for profits … It was Singapore’s good fortune that he took a deep and personal interest in Singapore’s development. Singapore and I personally, are indebted to him for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore.
[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

Straits Times, PAP stalwart Lim Kim San, eminent civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow and various authors all attribute Singapore’s post independence prosperity to Dr Winsemius:

• He was Singapore’s trusted guide through economically uncharted waters for 25 years from 1960. Through him, Singapore borrowed ideas and strategies that worked for Netherlands and other developed nations. Singapore’s economy is flying high today, thanks in large measure to his sound advice and patient counsel. He is the Father of Jurong, the Dutchman behind Singapore Incorporated. Dr Winsemius was a special person for he had changed Singapore to what it is today. For Singaporeans today, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the Dutch economist.
[Straits Times, Dr Albert Winsemius Singapore’s trusted guide, 7 Dec 1996]

• He was behind the 10-year development plan that saw the island state transform into today’s high technology, high value added industrial hub.
[Straits Times, He Believed in Singapore’s Future, 7 Dec 1996]

• Singapore’s economic miracle owes something to Dutch economist Dr Albert Winsemius. Dr Albert Winsemius was not merely a consultant, he was someone who revolutionalised and set Singapore’s economy in the right direction.
[Tactical Globalization: Learning from the Singapore Experiment, Aaron Kon, page 170]

• Dr Winsemius of the Netherlands and Mr I.F. Tang of China were two foreign friends of Singapore who made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.
[A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections, Ngiam Tong Dow, page 66]

• Goh Keng Swee and Dr Albert Winsemius are generally regarded as the brains behind the coherent export/foreign investment oriented policies that Singapore has followed.
[Multinationals and the Growth of the Singapore Economy, Hafiz Mirza, page 77]

• The Winsemius Report, as it is commonly known, eventually formed the blueprint for Singapore’s development efforts.
[No Miracle: What Asia Can Teach All Countries about Growth, Mitchell Wigdor, Chapter 6]

• In line with the recommendation of the Winsemius Mission, Singapore implemented policies contrary to the spirit of the 1960s by allowing foreign companies full ownership of their investments and control of operations. This gave Singapore an immediate advantage over other countries that had adopted a more nationalistic or socialist philosophy that prevented complete foreign ownership and control of large manufacturing investments.
[Singapore, the Energy Economy: From the first refinery to the end of cheap oil, Ng Weng Hoong, page 12]

• With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.
[State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Philip Nalliah Pillai, page 30]

• A year after his first visit to Singapore, he presented a 10-year economic development plan. Winsemius also advised the government about large scale housing projects in Singapore and managed to get Philips, Shell and Exxon to Singapore.
[Managing Transaction Costs in the Era of Globalization, F. A. G. den Butter, page 38]

• Albert Winsemius presented a ten-year development plan to turn Singapore from a port dependent on entrepot trade to a manufacturing and industrial centre. Following the Winsemius Report, the Legislative Assembly passed an Act in 1961 to create a statutory board to promote industrialisation and economic development. The EDB came into being …
[Lim Kim San: A Builder of Singapore, Asad Latif, page 106]

• Singapore’s emergence as a pivotal manufacturing node in the emerging network of transnational capitalism was partly made possible by missionary zeal displayed in the adoption of the Winsemius Report, submitted on behalf of the United Nations Industrial Survey Mission of 1960.
[CyberAsia: The Internet And Society in Asia, Zaheer Baber, page 59]

• The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB. The Winsemius report provided the basis for Singapore’s first development plan. It made two particularly notable observations. The first was that Singapore did not lack entrepreneurs but they were mainly in commerce and not in manufacturing. This suggested the need for the government to participate directly to operate certain basic industries if neither foreign nor local enterprises were prepared to do so. However, said the report, long-run government participation might harm the investment climate unless it was true to commercial and market principles. The second point recommended the establishment of a nonpolitical EDB with divisions for financing, industrial facilities, projects, technical consulting, services, and promotion. The report recognised that the EDB’s core function should be the promotion of investment and that it should eventually hand over its financing activities to an industrial development bank. The Winsemous report was accepted and its recommendations implemented almost immediately. In its early years, the EDB had technical advisers from the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Initially, it concentrated on the four industries identified in the Winsemius report, namely, shipbuilding and repair, metal engineering, chemicals, and electrical equipment and appliances.
[Lessons from East Asia, Danny M Leipziger, pages 240, 241]

• In 1960, a UN industrial survey mission headed by Albert Winsemius was sent to Singapore, at the PAP government’s request, to survey the possibility of industrialisation. The Winsemius Report recommended, among other things, that Singapore should make use of the skills and ability of the local labour force to develop certain selected industries including chemicals, building material, steel-rolling, ship-building, and electrical appliances and parts, by wooing well-known foreign firms to set up joint ventures with local firms. It also advised that the new local industries to be set up should aim at the overseas market, since the domestic market was tiny. In 1961, the government drew the State Development Plan based on the Winsemius Report, which later became a Five-Year Development Plan. That same year, in accordance with the advice given by Winsemius, it set up the Economic Development Board (EDB), which was then given the task of constructing industrial estates, providing loans to firms in the private sector, attracting FDI, setting up joint ventures with foreign MNCs, and putting into practice fiscal measures under the Pioneer Industries Ordinance.
[Japanese Firms in Contemporary Singapore, Hiroshi Shimizu, page 31]

• An area of 2,025 hectares was suggested at first for the new Jurong Industrial Estate. In June 1961, Dr Albert Winsemius, an economic expert from the United Nations Bureau of Technical Assistance, submitted his report on an Industrialization Programme for Singapore, and recommended 6,480 hectares. The Winsemius Report also proposed the setting up of an Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop the area and promote free-enterprise industry.
[http://tamanjurong.sg/about-us]

Mr Chew also wrote:

• “When I was young, I did not recognize the importance or significance of national service. It was merely a requirement that had to be fulfilled. If given a chance to live that part of my life again, I would do it wholeheartedly because I am now convinced of the need to defend my country and family.”

If Mr Chew now understands the importance of defending the country and the family, then he should also understand the gravity of not defending the country and the family. Lee Kuan Yew did not rise up to the occasion in Singapore’s hour of need to defend our country against the Japanese invaders. In the aftermath of our surrender, Lee Kuan Yew also worked for the Japanese military. How does Mr Chew’s supposed understanding of the importance of defending our country square with his admiration of someone who not only failed to defend our country but had also worked for the enemy as well?

Rebutting Tam Chen Hee and Edmund Lam

August 10, 2014

Heed call for political culture of moderation

I refer to the 6 Aug 2014 Straits Times letter “Heed call for political culture of moderation” by Tam Chen Hee (Dr).

Professor Chan Heng Chee’s analysis of post war Singapore sums up the false perceptions of that period. If the regurgitation of these false perceptions demonstrates the intellectual prowess of the foremost minds in Singapore history and politics, Singapore history and politics are hopeless.

The PAP wasn’t supposed to be an alliance of strange bed fellows for both Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong were supposed to be socialists. But we know what Lee Kuan Yew turned out to be and how Lim Chin Siong had been maligned till this day.

Singapore’s history was such that Goliath hammered David to smithereens, not the other way round. The British and its Special Branch all but wiped out communism in Singapore. The Lim Yew Hock and the PAP government also effectively used the might of the ISD to crush the Leftists.

How to moderate between truth and falsehood? 50% truth, 50% falsehood? Dr Tan might want to refer to the 21 May 2014 Straits Times report “Asean Sec-Gen rebuts remarks on neutrality” for Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh’s remarks:

“Neutrality does not mean standing in the middle between right and wrong”.

Similarly, moderation cannot be standing between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood.

If contending voices lacked sensibility, are establishment views that have led to our current problems the sensible ones instead?

If our earlier political vision included all Singaporeans, how come Hougang and Potong Pasir were excluded from HDB upgrading for as long as anyone could remember?

Mark of a mature society: Being civil even when we disagree

I refer to the 6 Aug 2014 Straits Times letter “Mark of a mature society: Being civil even when we disagree” by Edmund Lam (Dr).

It is wrong to say that Singapore’s past had been single handedly molded by founding leaders. Our leaders in 1965 weren’t founding leaders for Singapore was never founded in 1965 but in 1819 instead. Receiving our independence in 1965 is not the same as founding. Moreover, much of post 1965 Singapore had been the mere continuation of our modus operandi since colonial days as our preeminent Dr Goh Keng Swee admitted. The only extra punch that drove Singapore even faster was the economic plan by Dr Albert Winsemius.

Our nation’s society isn’t so young any more having continuously evolved since 1819 for close to 200 years already. There is no need for a variety of visions for fairness, our GINI coefficient already clearly and unambiguously shows how unfair our society is.

Considering different views and not just that of the ruling party’s isn’t just the hope of the young but the right of all modern civilized societies.

For too long, the PAP elites have never had to listen. Dr Lam’s call for listening as a core tenet to conflict resolution should start with PAP elites.

The government’s internet brigade is the first and foremost who should heed Dr Lam’s call for civility and a stop to bullying and demonizing behavior.

Why should Singaporeans commit to working on diversity when it is not our prerogative but those of the PAP’s?

Dr Lam’s advice of avoiding fighting and of talking through differences should start with PM Lee and Roy Ngerng.

Valuing diversity doesn’t mean asking for more. Singapore is already quite diverse; there is no need to keep piling diversity upon diversity. Singaporeans value the old way of life, not the rapid and never ending push towards greater diversity.

Learning to talk through differences – a reply to Ms Chan Heng Chee

August 9, 2014

Dear Ms Chan Heng Chee,

I refer to your 2 Aug 2014 Straits Times column “Learning to talk through our differences”.

Never static doesn’t mean Singapore’s national identity should be rapidly and artificially changed.

PM David Cameron’s call for Britishness has little to do with Scottish independence and everything to do with immigration influx.

Nation building, in the context of Singapore, predates our independence. For nearly 150 years prior to our independence, the British government along with Singapore pioneers built this nation, carving a beautiful city out of virgin jungle. By the time of our independence, all the essential trappings and hallmarks of a prosperous nation – roads, buildings, schools, hospitals, civil service, law, police force, 5th most important port in the world, airport, industry, commerce, businesses, running water and even flats – were already existing. All that independent Singapore had to do was to continue and to improve on this solid foundation.

While PAP may be obsessed with identity creation, Singaporeans have, since colonial times, come to see one another as Singaporeans.

There is no birth of our nation in so far as 1965 is concerned for the receipt of our independence is not equal to our birth. Neither were our leaders then founding leaders for they did nothing that remotely qualified them as founding. They didn’t create but inherited Singapore. They didn’t fight but left the fighting for our independence to others.

The struggle between communist and non-communist had been a fairy tale written to make the bad look good and the good look bad.

The merger with Malaya was just the short sighted wish of one man and Singapore was lucky that it all came apart in the end.

The language policy was the extension of the political policy. Just before the merger, Malay became compulsory, once we were out, it became not compulsory.

Communism

The following texts show that our triumph over the communists was quite a piece of cake:

• The Malayan Communist Party … was not particularly effective. It hosted a meeting … most notable … for the comprehensive surveillance by the British Special Branch … Subsequent mass arrests decimated the MCP [page 134]
[Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the], [James R. Arnold]

• The MCP itself … seems to have been more a figment of the imagination of … the British Special Branch and the right-wing forces in Singapore. Its “ghost” may have lived a much longer and more active life than the real one ever did. While the party … attracted idealistic recruits from Singapore … we may question the extent of its organization and power in Singapore, particularly during … 1952-63. Repeated waves of arrests, banishments and defections between 1948 and 1963 severely limited its ability to launch an effective organization [page 101]
[Singapore: Wealth, Power and the Culture of Control], [Carl A. Trocki]

• In December 1949 the Special Branch obtained the full list of the STC through a planted informer, and conducted a raid on 1 May 1950. Singapore Town Committee Vice Secretary Ah Har and three other committee members were arrested … Later that month, 20 more MCP and ABL members were arrested. Seven months later, on 5 December, because of an alert Special Branch officer, STC Secretary Ah Chin and his assistant, Ho Seng, were caught …the mass arrests caused the near collapse of the MCP’s operations in Singapore [page 61]

• The first thing to realise is that although left-wing and anti-colonial radicalism flourished to unprecedented levels during the first half of the 1950s, the Communist Party itself was diminishing as a controlling force in Singapore over the same period [page 26]
[Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-building Project], [Michael D. Barr, Zlatko Skrbiš]

The epicenter of the Cold War was in faraway Berlin, not a good bogeyman for stirring up fear for communism in Singapore. The above evidences show that Singapore had little to fear of China’s communism export. The MCP largely operated in Malaya; hardly in Singapore. The above evidences also show that the Special Branch had all but wiped out communism in Singapore.

‘Moderate’ is not a word you would use to describe someone capable of locking up political opponents for longer than Nelson Mandela had been.

There are two reasons why it is wrong to say that the PAP collaborated with the communists. Lim Chin Siong, the central figure that the PAP supposedly collaborated with was actually a PAP founder. It is oxymoron to refer to a PAP founder as collaborating with the PAP while he was still a PAP central committee cadre. Secondly, declassified British government documents have proven that Lim Chin Siong was never a communist. Even Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye who were both banished from Singapore for communism have had their names rehabilitated. It is understandable why the British, the Lim Yew Hock and then the PAP governments found it convenient to label the Leftists as communists because it gave them the perfect excuse to lock these trouble makers away for no reason. The Leftists had been so maligned it isn’t surprising that even the Tungku believed they were communists. The fact remains that all of them were detained without trial but if we were to apply the fundamental principle of law today, we ought not to continue labeling them as communists unless we show iron clad proof that they were.

Public housing, public education and public health had already existed before PAP took power. Singapore’s first high rise flats were built by our colonial government. Singapore’s first public school, Raffles Institution was also founded by the British. Singapore hospitals like KK Hospital and Tan Tock Seng have histories that stretch to the early colonial years. Whatever cut backs Reaganomics and Thatcherite ideas recommended still provided far more than Singapore ever did.

Blaming inequality on globalization, while fashionable, is ultimately wrong because globalization has been happening since the 1960s; MNCs have been investing overseas since the 1960s. How can something that has been happening since the 1960s explain our recent inequality? Globalization touched all nations, not just Singapore. How can globalization simultaneously cause inequality in Singapore and hardly cause inequality in the West, particularly Northern and Central Europe?

No matter how fiercely the United States and Britain debates, they are still doing a lot more than what we have been doing.

Malayan merger

If most people had wanted merger with Malaya, why would Lee Kuan Yew set up a false referendum that even included spoilt votes as votes for merger?

The special position of the Malays had already been codified in Article 153 of the Malayan constitution prior to Singapore joining Malaysia. For the purpose of the merger, Article 153 was expanded to include the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak. These, Lee Kuan Yew, a lawyer himself, could not have missed. Having married Singapore into Malaysia with his eyes wide open, to then cry foul of Malay special privilege is simply hypocritical. Mr Lee’s Malaysian Malaysia slogan was nothing than political mileage designed to further his political career in Malaysia. If he had been sincere in fighting for racial equality in Malaysia, he should have done it before the merger, not after the merger, not after agreeing to Article 153.

There was no reason why Singapore could not have existed harmoniously in Malaysia like the Chinese in Malaysia do today. What came sooner than later was Lee Kuan Yew’s challenge for power in Malaysia. The May 13 riots in 1969 were the culmination of the power struggle between Lee and the Tungku.

Language

Sri Lanka’s riots after the 1958 Sinhala Only Act mirrored clashes in Singapore arising out of Chinese language / Chinese education issues [1].

The supposed significance of Lee Kuan Yew’s achievement in making Malay our national language is merely skin deep only for which national language in this world is spoken only by ¼ of its population? The language issue in the 1950s couldn’t merely have been political; it was at its very core a struggle by the Chinese to defend its own language and culture. The decision then wasn’t just to retain English but to expand it as much as possible to crowd out Chinese.

The watershed in our bilingual policy wasn’t 1972 but 1953 when Mr Lee Kong Chian became the first person to propose the bilingual policy, close to 20 years before Lee Kuan Yew did. The conversion of Singapore society to English by 1972 was the result of the harsh culling of the Chinese language by the PAP. Colonial era Singaporeans who communicated by learning one another’s languages were no less united than post 1972 Singaporeans speaking the common English language.

Civility has never been lacking from the dissenting voice. Civility shouldn’t require humoring and fawning should it? Learning to negotiate through differences should not mean acquiescing to the government’s ivory tower view, should it?

Race equality and others are our independence values, not our founding values for Singapore was never founded in 1965 but in 1819. It is not up to the government to unilaterally reinterpret the spirit of our values without the approval of our people.

[1]
• The second issue was the conversion of Chinese middle school structure into an English-medium, multi-ethnic school system and the repeated denial of full government support for the newly established Chinese-medium Nanyang University. When the battle over educational reforms fused with the 1961 internal party split within the PAP …, the campuses of these four tertiary institutions were rocked with protests. Students from these institutions often banded together to launch manifestos, classroom boycotts, hunger strikes and street marches so as to protest against government raids, arrests, expulsions … The post-independence period from 1965 was similarly turbulent as the PAP was determined to follow through with its educational reforms by using the Wang Gungwu Report on Nanyang University … In October and November 1966, hundreds of students again had another serious clash with the police at the Ministry of Education
[The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts, Lysa Hong and Jianli Huang, page 138]

• … in another major student protest, the examination strike of 1961, which was also sparked by the government’s initiative to change the Chinese school system. The examination strikes that took place in 1961 were prompted by changes made to the Chinese school system. Traditionally, the Chinese middle schools followed the so-called “3-3 system” … Lim Yew Hock’s … government announced that … Chinese middle school system would be changed to a four-year system in line with the English school system … this new system was opposed by Chinese educators. One major concern was that Chinese schools would disappear … There were also worries that students who failed the Middle Four examinations would lose two years of education … When the PAP took over … in 1959 … the new government planned to go ahead with the change from the “3-3 system” to the “4-2″ system.” … the new government also announced that, starting in 1962, all students in the Middle Four classes would have to take a general school-leaving examination set by the government before they would be allowed to go on to the next level (pre-university). The implementation of the new policy caused conflict between the PAP government and the Chinese educators and eventually led to the examination strikes by the Chinese students.
[Singapore Chinese Society in Transition: Business, Politics, & Socio-Economic Change, 1945-1965, Liu Hong, page 153]


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