Our transformation wasn’t from nothing

Dear Mr Wen Quan,

I refer to the 21 Dec 2012 Straits Times translation of your Xinhua News Agency article “Transforming an island from nothing”.

The notion that Singapore was transformed from nothing is far from the truth. The truth is that Singapore was already a prosperous city under the British long before the PAP came to power. Singapore has had 194 years of development since 1819, not just 40 years of hard work. The PAP government came to power riding on strong foundations and success left by the British colonial government and inheriting some of the finest institutions and government apparatus any government can hope to inherit. We were already the 4th richest state in Asia in 1960, we were already well ahead of the pack back then.

The miracle of forging success without hinterland, huge domestic market or natural resources was similarly achieved by our fellow East Asian economic dragons Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Our so-called economic miracle is common place amongst East Asian economies.

Sharing of fruits of development has been far from adequate to prevent widening of our income gap.

Singapore is paradise only when compared to the worst nations riddled with corruption, hatred, terrorism and extremism. Singapore pales when compared to truly First World nations. Singapore scored a dismal 26th in the United Nations Human Development Index, far from the paradise epitomised by chart toppers Norway, Australia and the Netherlands.

The success of many Western nation welfare states shows that success need not necessarily require making people pay for everything in life. Western nations also show that free education need not necessarily be detrimental to national success. The belief that fear of caning discourages criminals from committing crimes again is challenged by a letter from a prison volunteer who professed that caning is no longer the deterrent it used to be [1].

No one is above the law must now be tempered by the reality that MPs can, at their discretion, waive off parking fines as and when they deem fit. The law, as far as past events show, has nearly always ended in favour of the ruling party. This is merely stating the obvious based on past realities with no other implications whatsoever.

No additional allowances, housing allocation and health-care benefits are no justifications for astronomically high ministerial pay. In the case of the British, allowances don’t fatten politicians’ pockets but simply reimburse real, actual expenditures incurred in the course of performing duties.

The assistance and support schemes for our poor are pittances compared to those disbursed by First World nations.

There was no thorough debate before the government decided to open casinos. While we were allowed to make some noises, our views were in the end, not respected. The supposedly huge economic benefits are debatable considering that not all details are revealed, not all costs are considered and some supposed economic benefits are dubious.

Nordic governments perform better in governance and are more incorruptible without having to resort to million dollar salaries. It is the clearest example that million dollar salaries aren’t needed for politicians to do their job properly. In any case, going by the slew of recent problems, we may not be getting our money’s worth for the millions we are paying.

If the government understood the people, it wouldn’t have needed an election setback to decide to lower salaries, would it? It took not courage but a knock on its head before it would make such a decision.

The supposed acknowledgement by the government that its people are its most valuable resource may have become lip service now. From denying people’s call to control property prices until it could no longer deny it anymore to making callous statements like whether the people want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant, its callous attitude towards the people is obvious beyond doubt. Singapore doesn’t ensure everyone’s potential is maximised, it focuses instead on a few elites while the rest just makes up numbers. That is why we have one of the highest income inequality indices in the world. It ensures everyone is worked to the max by pricing everything so high that people simply can’t afford to slow down. This makes us not a dazzling garden city, but a debilitating, dehumanising corporation.

To ask the world to learn from Singapore’s people-oriented spirit is to ask people to search for Big Foot or the Loch Ness’ monster. Singapore has no people-oriented spirit for if we had, we wouldn’t be having so many grievances and votes against the government would we?

[1] STForum, 8 Jan 2013, Why Death Penalty is Needed
“ … the only punishment that they are truly frightened of is the death penalty.
Even though caning is very painful, for many of the prisoners, it is no longer a deterrent, and I know that many would be prepared to be caned again if the trade-off is that their prison terms can be shortened.
… among the older prisoners, many of whom were telling the man who was about to be caned that, compared to the “good old days”, the caning he would soon receive was “a piece of cake”.
Even though the maximum number of strokes that can be handed down by the courts is 24, I know of many prisoners who have been caned more than 50 times, over many prison terms.
Which means that for many hardcore offenders, once they have been caned, the fear of caning is no longer an effective deterrent.”

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2 Responses to “Our transformation wasn’t from nothing”

  1. Concerned Says:

    I am constantly astonished and totally disgusted at the number of people who seem to think this place was a swamp, a desert, a collection of fishing villages and other absurdities, 54 years ago.

    What garbage are they teaching them in schools? Why is everyone simply swallowing these wild stories of life 50 years ago? Doesn’t anyone check? Has no one seen pictures of this country 50 years back? Are they not even Vaguely aware of how old some buildings and houses in this place are? Are they so guillible that they actually Believe this country could be as built up as it is now – in 50 years???

    No wonder Lee Kuan Yew keeps calling Singaporeans names! Singaporeans deserve it, because yes, they ARE daft. In fact, they are plain old Stupid!! Pathetic even! And Mr Lee is being FAR too kind in his description of Singaporeans.

  2. Luther Says:

    “Our transformation wasnt from nothing Yours Truly Singapore” ended up being a very
    wonderful posting, . Continue creating and I’ll try to continue to keep following! Thanks ,Lorenza

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