Singapore: Global City of Buzz, Home for Us

Dear SM Goh,

I refer to your speech at the 29 Oct 2010 NTU Students’ Union Ministerial Forum as well as Straits Times’ report of the event on 1 Nov 2010.

Hong Kong is one example which shows that you don’t need a government with vision to create the right ‘buzz’ environment.

A strong economy doesn’t have to be a buzzing one. The Swiss economy is a strong one where Swiss watch makers earn good pay doing work that isn’t exactly very buzzing.

Our growth rate is one of the highest in the world because we have one of the highest import rates for foreign workers. If we have imported 50 million workers instead, our growth rate might even have been 1500%.

The increase in graduate pay from $2,800 to $2,920 is a meagre $120. Over the same time, average HDB resale flat price has risen by $55,016. It will take more than 38 years for the $120 pay rise to pay for the increase in resale flat price. Since new flat prices are pegged to resale flat prices, it will also take a similar number of years to pay for the increase in new flat price too.

The range of industries and jobs today is unimaginable 10 years ago because 10 years ago we still had our heads buried in electronics manufacturing not realising that they had started to migrate en masse to China.

Singapore is not the only top financial centre to feature from East Asia. Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai occupy the third to sixth places respectively in the most recent Global Financial Centres Index. Other East Asian cities have also done well and all are within the top one third of the index.

It’s hard to understand how the $20,000 government investment for each year of undergraduate study comes about. $20,000 can probably pay for four, five months of individual coaching from a phD. Also, the lost income from two years of national service and the multitude of sacrifices made throughout our reservist years would have gone a long way in repaying the $175,000 government investment.

After a hard day’s work, Singaporeans need rest and peace at home, not buzz at home. Singaporeans work hard for a living, they don’t live off Singapore like some people do giving useless speeches in return for millions.

Better education has not led to higher expectations. Better education has led to better understanding of the short end of the stick we have been getting all this while.

It is silly to label democracy as liberal and Western style as though an illiberal form of democracy exists. An illiberal democracy is simply not democracy. Democracy is in essence, government for the people and by the people which has to be distinguished from government for the government and by the government.

Despite partisan bickering and government gridlock, President Obama’s government successfully implemented healthcare reform and policies that brought the US and the rest of the world back from the depths of the Global Financial Crisis.

Democracy doesn’t stand in the way of a good guardian or trustee government. Democracy doesn’t prevent a good government from taking care of the people. On the other hand, once the government is not for the people and not by the people, it will start to take the people for granted and not take good care of them. The government has allowed the overcrowding of our island and for property prices to shoot up despite constant pleas from the people. This is the clearest indication that our government is no longer taking good care of the people and is no longer for the people, by the people.

While it is true that democracy may not lead to prosperity, it helps ensure that the fruits of prosperity are shared fairly amongst all.

Several issues prevent us from having truly fair general elections:

1. All paid newspapers have been amalgamated into one company whose shares are largely owned by government linked companies and whose chairman has always been important ex-ministers. There is a severe lack of an alternative voice in the printed media.

2. The GRC allows one strong incumbent to win five, six seats by himself which is unfair to opposition parties.

3. Right up to the last election, the threat of being denied HDB upgrading has always been an important factor encouraging the people to vote for the PAP. Hence, HDB upgrading has essentially been a form of vote buying. It remains to be seen if the opposition wards will indeed be given the same treatment as the other wards.

Rather than the PAP delivering a better life for Singaporeans, it is the other way round instead: Singaporeans have delivered a better life for the PAP. Few opposition MPs have been elected since 1968 because of the gross unfairness in our elections spelt out above. In addition, several of the few opposition MPs we had had somehow been hounded into oblivion. One had to hide in Thailand; one was charged till bankrupt and remained so almost until the day he died. The remaining surviving MPs cannot even state a simple undeniable fact that the Singapore prime ministership has spanned across generations in the Lee family without fear of getting sued for defamation.

It is not that Japan and Europe have become static, they have matured and have therefore slowed down. Asia is still growing very rapidly because there are still hundreds of millions of poor Asians who can contribute to the economic growth of Asia. Once the bulk of the Asian poor become middle class like they have in Japan and Europe, we will similarly see the stabilisation of Asian growth. This is an undeniable eventual outcome. To deny that outcome by continuously importing more people would be to delay the inevitable.

The key points in our history have been our founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and our industrialisation in the 1960s guided by Dr Albert Winsemius. So it’s true that we didn’t get where we are today by chance. We are forever indebted to these two gentlemen who are the true father and benefactor of Singapore respectively.

MM Lee didn’t fight for independence. David Marshall and Lim Yew Hock did by negotiating for self government with the British. Independence was thrust upon us when we separated from Malaya, not fought or won over by anyone. MM Lee didn’t fight communism for there were none in Singapore. MM Lee did make use of the British to destroy the Chinese leftist leadership who were essentially socialists like MM Lee was. MM Lee didn’t fight communalism as much as he created it with Tungku Abdul Rahman. Once Singapore and Malaya were separated, the political antagonism between the two leaders became disentangled along with the quietening of communalism.

We are not the only ‘improbable’ country with no natural resources that grew into a first world nation. Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea are other ‘improbable’ cities and countries that have little or no natural resources and that grew into first world nations too. What is remarkable about these four ‘improbable’ economic successes is that they are all from East Asia.

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