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]

Be proud S’poreans, you have the courage not to fly the flag

August 6, 2014

I refer to the 5 Aug 2014 Straits Times letter “Be proud S’poreans, fly the flag” by Mr David Tan Kok Kheng.

National pride and political affiliation ought to be separate issues but sadly in real life they are not. On National Day, there will be a PAP and an NTUC contingent on the parade square. Every title, every accolade that the nation wins, the PAP is too eager to claim as theirs. How to separate national pride from political affiliation when political elements permeate all things national?

There are grave national issues at stake at the moment and the people feel betrayed. Flying the national flag means endorsing the policies of this nation which the people are against. The people’s feelings and actions are understandable. No one should be forced to fly the flag when he or she feels betrayed. No one should be accused of not loving the country for making a statement about how he or she feels towards the national agenda. This is the collective show of force by the silent majority.

Why should we be the laughing stock when we display the moral consistency of rejecting the over-flux of foreigners and not flying our flags to show our displeasure? On the contrary, the laughing stock belongs to those who claim to be unhappy with the PAP yet fly the flag to show solidarity with the PAP. Is how other countries view us more important than how we feel about our country? Our country is already divided at the core. No amount of flag flying can change that.

If this continues on Singapore’s 50th Independence Day, Singaporeans can pat themselves on their backs because they would have shown that they have the backbone and the pride to demonstrate in their own small ways what they want for their country.

Singaporeans don’t have to fly our flags to be proud Singaporeans. We can be proud that collectively and silently, we can show the ruling party, the strength of our unity.

This unique episode shows that ultimately it is the people, not the state that can demonstrate national pride. Without the people, national pride is meaningless even if the state were to plant flags everywhere. What better time to demonstrate this than the National Day?

Rebutting TodayOnline letter by Melvyn Chong

August 5, 2014

I refer to the 29 Jul 2014 TodayOnline letter “Open discussion of politics, religion part of becoming developed country” by Mr Melvyn Chong.

Singapore’s initial phase of experience didn’t happen after our independence. It happened after our founding in 1819. After blossoming for more than a hundred years under the guiding hand of our British administrators, Singapore could hardly be called a start-up by the time of our independence.

A start-up neither operates through press control nor through social engineering. Did Google founders Larry Page or Sergey Brin try to control what each other read or tried to engineer each other during Google’s start-up? Did Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen or Apples’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak try to do the same to each other respectively? It is ridiculous to characterize start-ups as operating through press control and social engineering. Start-ups start with few cooks not because they are afraid too many would spoil the broth but because there isn’t much broth to cook at first when customers are few.

It is a perpetual lie that Singapore went from Third World to First in less than 50 years. The truth is that Singapore went from Middle Income status back in 1965 to First.

Social media hasn’t pulled discussion in a different direction. Social media merely provides the truth that has been absent all these years. Would people flock to social media if the newspaper and television had been speaking the truth and speaking for the people all this while?

Positive change cannot help but create disunity when there are those who stubbornly cling on to the negative past.

Who is to say who the trolls, bigots or haters are? Given some of the nonsense that Mr Chong uttered, is he not a troll, bigot or hater himself?

Accepting diversity doesn’t mean accepting the continuous increase in diversity.

Why should our falling birth rate be compensated for by the influx of foreigners? According to Minister Tan Chuan Jin, Singapore’s CPF is supposed to ensure everyone has enough to retire so we need not worry about the aging of our population, we need not compensate for our falling birthrate.

The goodness of diversity cannot be the excuse to continuously import people beyond the point of overcrowding, beyond diminishing returns to diversity. No matter how diverse our people becomes, we still rush for the same trains and bid for the same COEs.

Why should Singapore’s dependence on migrant workers become our debt to them? Do we not pay them wages that are many times better than what they would get back home that is the reason why they come in the first place? Do they not come willingly? Do we not house them in good condition dormitories? Do we not fight for their welfare? The examples of First World nations like Australia and Hong Kong show that if pay is right, if industry practices are right, if social norms are right, there is no reason why Singaporeans cannot take up construction jobs.

In order to look up to the American dream for inspiration, we must first eradiate press control because press control is the ultimate antithesis to the American dream.

The interesting creation of a Singapore identity going beyond race and religion has already been experienced during colonial times. But any supposed Singapore identity that goes beyond nationality should not blur the difference between owners and visitors in Singapore. If visitors are elevated to the same status as owners in Singapore, the Singapore nationality will become worthless and the land of Singapore will cease to be worth defending.

How did 54% become 82%

August 1, 2014

I refer to the 19 Jul 2014 Straits Times reports “Work-life integration: Most happy but ‘more can be done’” and “The love-work imbalance”.

It was reported that local workers are quite satisfied with their work-life integration and that 82% of employees feel they are in control of their work-life arrangement.

But the accompanying ST graphics shows only 54% (42% + 12%) of employees agreeing or strongly agreeing with having the flexibility to integrate work and family life. How does the 54% who can integrate work with life translate to 82% who can control their work-life arrangement?

work life

EA chairman Claire Chiang reportedly said that these findings give the lie to recent polls painting Singaporean workers as miserable and disengaged and instead, show that Singaporeans love to work. Who is giving the lie Madam Chiang when “54% can integrate work-life” ends up becoming “82% can control work-life”?

MP Lim Biow Chuan said the contradiction between 82% who say they are in control of work-life and 84% who feel their personal life could be better if their work-life management is better is a symptom of Singaporean addiction to work. No Mr Lim, it is a symptom of Singaporeans getting caught in the rat race, striving to outdo one another in a winner takes all society. Mr Lim would be pleased to know that the contradiction is actually less because it is not 82% who can control work-life but 54% who can integrate work-life.


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