Archive for August, 2015

Goh Keng Swee – neighbours has been seeking to bypass us since colonial times

August 31, 2015

In the postwar years … new governments would look askance at the middleman activity performed by Singapore. It was to be expected that these governments would seek to bypass Singapore, develop their own ports … But it is by no means a recent phenomenon. On the contrary, the history of Singapore abounds with examples of governments which had been doing precisely this thing. As early as 1823, four years after Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles, the first discriminatory measures against Singapore’s trade were introduced … the Dutch imposed a special levy on piece goods imported into Java from Singapore …Trade discrimination and flag discrimination were only two of the perils that 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 at other places in the Netherlands East Indies. None of these measures checked the growth of Singapore …

[Singapore Economics History Collection – The Practice of Economic Growth, Goh Keng Swee, page 5]

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Singapore’s first flats were built by the British colonial government, not by the PAP

August 30, 2015

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]

It is worth nothing that the first ten-storey tower blocks in London had appeared only three years before, in 1948.

[Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Ryan Bishop & John Phillips & Wei-Wei Ye, page 56]

The Singapore Improvement Trust … did provide the basis of a public housing bureaucracy with a valuable accumulation of experience, which could later be utilized by the Housing and Development Board. An illustration of this transition is the development of the first satellite town, Queenstown, which was originally planned by the Trust but was left to its successor to accomplish.

[The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore, Michael Hill and Kwen Fee Lian, page 114]

Although the development of Queenstown was initiated by the SIT in 1952, the estate was subsequently completed by SIT’s successor, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), in the early 1970s. A major part of the town was developed during the first Five-Year Building Programme (1960–1965). Between the years 1952 and 1968, a total of 19,372 housing units were built in the area.

[HistorySG, an online resource guide – Development of Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town]

Lee Kuan Yew only knew import substitution, he did not know export industrialisation

August 30, 2015

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 (merger with Malaysia) 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]

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]

Lee Kuan Yew, appearing in tears on television when announcing separation, was devastated. His feelings strongly contrasted with scenes in Chinatown where firecrackers were set off to celebrate liberation from rule by Malays from Kuala Lumpur. Most Singaporeans did not share the government’s dismay. Winsemius also did not share Lee’s dismay. He said in a 1981 interview: 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.

[The business of politics and ethnicity: a history of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 171]

Dr Goh Keng Swee’s four reasons why Singapore succeeded

August 30, 2015

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.

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.

Finally, what made Singapore grow as a trading centre despite mercantilist policies of neighbours was that the economics of the business did not add up to a zero sum game. This happy result emerges from the continuous and rapid economic development of the countries in Southeast Asia under British and Dutch colonial administrations.

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]

Get-it-right gets it wrong a second time

August 14, 2015

I refer to the 12 Aug 2015 TR Emeritus letter “My reply to Ng Kok Lim’s response to my article”.

Get-it-right wrote:

When it comes to one-party rule of SG, detractors are quick to point to N Korea. What about China? It is on the rise and rise under one-party longer than N. Korea.

The rise of China has been the exception than the rule. It at best shows that economic development can take place in spite of one party rule, it doesn’t show that one party rule is crucial to or necessary for economic development. It also doesn’t show that a multi-party China cannot be more prosperous.

Get-it-right wrote:

Comparatively, Taiwan, when under one-party rule, was an economic dynamo. Remember those days when you turned an electronic equipment over, you were most likely to find “Made in Taiwan” stamped on it? What is Taiwan known for today, after it adopted Western-style democracy? Strikes, protests, brawls in Parliament among elected representatives of the people, students take over Parliament, etc.

Multi-party Taiwan today is more prosperous than Taiwan under one party rule, not the other way around. If Acer, Asus, HTC and other Taiwan brands changed names to Taiwan, then “Made in Taiwan” would still be stamped in products all over the world.

Strikes and protests are normal facets of life in First World democracies. Even one-party China has strikes and protests. Strikes can be found all over the world except Singapore and North Korea.

Get-it-right wrote:

Look at Thailand. What has multi-party elections brought? A history of chaos followed by military coup.

Thai military coups are not brought about by multi-party elections as even Thai military governments have been subjected to coups.

Get-it-right wrote:

Look at the West. Britain, Europe and US are all on the decline.

The West is not on the decline but continues to lead in many areas of science and technology while the world continues to rely on the West for many of the products we consume like Microsoft Windows, Intel chips, Google and Apple products.

Get-it-right wrote:

The same Singaporeans who readily point out N.Korea as a bad example of one-party rule are also supporters of the Workers Party of Singapore. Do they not realize that the one party which rules N. Korea is the Workers Party?

The Workers Party of North Korea is a communist party but the Workers Party of Singapore is not. Just because they share the same name doesn’t mean they are therefore the same. Otherwise, the newborn Jeyaprakash Lee Kuan Yew of India will be the same as Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. Get-it-right is using the same shameless trick PAP used to destroy political opponents – labeling them communists when they were in fact not.

Get-it-right wrote:

Goh Keng Swee was quoted. I have great respect for him but you are accepting his thoughts blindly without thinking about things for yourself. Yet you are the first to accuse the government of brainwashing Singaporeans.

If Get-it-right rejects Dr Goh’s words, then surely he must also imply that Dr Goh himself was blind and unthinking because how else would Dr Goh end up with a conclusion opposite to that of the supposedly not blind but thinking Get-it-right?

Nowhere in the first reply was there any mention about brainwashing of Singaporeans by the government. Get-it-right should not make unfounded accusations or he will be called a liar.

Get-it-right wrote:

Before Singapore, Malacca was the port of call along the Straits of Malacca. Before the Brits, the Portuguese and the Dutch had built it up. Why did the Brits not continue with it?

Because Singapore’s location was and still is better.

Get-it-right wrote:

Since Singapore’s independence, Malaysia has tried to by-pass Singapore’s port. First it was Port Klang, then they got nearer with Tanjong Pelepas and Pasir Gudang which is just across Punggol Point. As far as geographical location is concerned, they are equal to Singapore. So too is any of the nearby Riau Islands of Indonesia such as Batam or Bintang.

Get-it-right would be very wrong to think that our neighbors’ quest to bypass us has only been a post independence phenomenon. Far from it, Dr Goh Keng Swee explained that this quest by our neighbors to bypass us already happened during colonial times.

In the postwar years … new governments would look askance at the middleman activity performed by Singapore. It was to be expected that these governments would seek to bypass Singapore, develop their own ports … But it is by no means a recent phenomenon. On the contrary, the history of Singapore abounds with examples of governments which had been doing precisely this thing. As early as 1823, four years after Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles, the first discriminatory measures against Singapore’s trade were introduced … the Dutch imposed a special levy on piece goods imported into Java from Singapore …Trade discrimination and flag discrimination were only two of the perils that 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 at other places in the Netherlands East Indies. None of these measures checked the growth of Singapore …

[Singapore Economics History Collection – The Practice of Economic Growth, Goh Keng Swee, page 5]

Dr Goh not only recognized that our neighbors will always try to by-pass us; he also recognized the strategic value of our excellent geographical location without which there would have been nothing for our neighbors to by-pass. The fact that Port Klang, Tanjong Pelepas, Pasir Gudang and other neighboring ports in the past have been set up to steal Singapore’s maritime position shows there is something worth stealing. If Singapore is transplanted to a far flung corner of Irian Jaya, our maritime position would become worthless for any country to want to steal or by-pass.

Get-it-right wrote:

More than a century after the Suez Canal, South Africa, the nation furthest from the canal in Africa, is still the most developed nation in that continent.

Contrary to what Get-it-right said, South Africa isn’t the most developed nation in the African continent. According to United Nations Human Development Index, South Africa is classified under medium human development whereas nations closer to the Suez Canal like Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are classified under high human development. Libya’s per capita GDP is also fairly close to South Africa’s. Detractors may point to Libya’s oil revenues but South Africa is also blessed with lots of diamond, gold and platinum.

Get-it-right wrote:

Geographically, South Africa’s location is worse than SG. It faces oceans in all directions except the north.

That’s part of the reason why Singapore is more successful than South Africa.

Get-it-right wrote:

We are talking about trade and investments from the US. If its geographical location, Mexico would be the first choice, followed by those Carribean islands, then Central and South America. Why would the American investors want to come tens of thousands of kilometers to tiny little Singapore?

American investors didn’t just travel thousands of kilometers to Singapore but to Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea as well. What attracted Americans to Singapore also attracted them to Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea and that attraction certainly wasn’t PAP.

Get-it-right wrote:

If geographical location can make all the difference, there would not be any need for the strategy to leapfrog the region to reach the First World. In reality, the government of the day had to go all out to sell Singapore to the world, to attract investments to its shore.

While geographical location doesn’t make all the difference, it did make a big difference. The strategy of leapfrogging the region was very much aided by our status as a transport hub as materials of all kinds flowed through Singapore, industrialists have easy access to raw materials; finished products can also be quickly exported to the world.

Even Lee Kuan Yew himself inadvertently admitted that location was important to a nation’s industrialization:

In 100 years from now, I go back to New Zealand and there will be the grass, the sheep, the cows, the tornados or hurricanes at Wellington, and there will always be this green pleasant place and not industrially developed because it’s the last stop in the bus line …

[Lee Kuan Yew’s interview with Mark Jacobson from National Geographic on 6 Jul 2009 for National Geographic Magazine Jan 2010]

Furthermore, the reality was that our leapfrogging strategy came from Dr Winsemius, not LKY, not PAP (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/dr-albert-winsemius-was-the-true-architect-of-singapores-industrialisation/).

Get-it-right wrote:

Many parts of the world were colonised by Europeans. When the colonies became independent nations, many of them had been colonised for over a hundred years or more, with well established institutions having been set up in all fields. Few of those independent nations have done well. None has done better than SG.
Sure, SG has received economic assistance under UNDP and its advisor Dr. Winsemius. So too those other colonies which became independent. They may not have Winsemius but they may have better advisors than him. Putting it in another way, if Winsemius were to be assigned to them, would he have such successful results as he had with SG?

Not all colonies were equally well run, even amongst British colonies, Singapore was already doing better than most other colonies during colonial times and that advantage carried on till this day. Singapore doing better than most newly independent nations today is the continuation of Singapore doing better than those colonies during colonial times.

Whether or not Winsemius was better, the fact remains that our industrialization followed his “United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore” to a ‘T’ (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/dr-albert-winsemius-was-the-true-architect-of-singapores-industrialisation/). Even Lee Kuan Yew expressed indebtedness to Dr Winsemius, how can anyone say our success has nothing to do with him?

We can turn the question around and ask how India would have turned out if we had put Lee Kuan Yew in India instead? In all likelihood, we would have ended up with a more chaotic, more corrupted India that is not a single bit more prosperous.

Get-it-right wrote:

Why would China’s Cultural Revolution have scared investors to Singapore? That was creating turmoil only within China. It would only have weakened China which meant it would have less capability of
mounting overseas adventures like exporting Communism through revolution. In fact, the US and its non-communist client states around China like S. Korea and Taiwan would like to see the collapse of the Communist regime in China.

North Korea was so turmoiled that a million children died of hunger. Yet, North Korean military threat was never taken lightly. Similarly, China’s Cultural Revolution did not lessen the military threat it posed to its neighbors.

It wasn’t the US government or its ally states but MNCs, corporatists and capitalists who decided where to relocate factories and geopolitical situation was one of the factors they considered including the danger posed by the Cultural Revolution.

Get-it-right wrote:

If the Cultural Revolution in China could scare investors to Singapore, then the Vietnam War would have scared them away. It happened closer to Singapore. If that did not scare them, the fall of South Vietnam should. LKY was a proponent of the Domino Theory. On the contrary, US investments continued to flow in thick and fast after the fall of Vietnam.

While Singapore’s competitors Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea (North Korea being allied with China) were situated right next to China, Vietnam wasn’t situated right next to Singapore. There were buffer states between Vietnam and Singapore including Thailand whose military power was comparable to Vietnam’s. Thus, Vietnam did not serve as big a threat to Singapore as China did to Taiwan and the others in the eyes of investors.

Get-it-right wrote:

Can we truly rely on the US to maintain peace in this region? In 1975, after the fall of South Vietnam, the US withdrew completely from Vietnam, exposing the rest of South-east Asia to the threat of a Vietnamese invasion. After the Vietnamese ventured into Cambodia, it was the Chinese who put a stop to their further ambitions on the rest of South-east Asia by attacking Vietnam.

The US did not withdraw from Southeast Asia but maintained military bases in the Philippines. Chinese intervention did not prevent Vietnam from occupying Cambodia for more than 10 years and was more for the purpose of defying Russia to which Vietnam was allied to than anything else.

Get-it-right wrote:

Shanmugam cannot be more wrong. Singapore cannot rely completely on the US, or for that matter any other nation, to underwrite its peace and the peace of the region. The US is here only for its own national interest, no more, no less. The US was here to fight Communism closer to its source. It is here again, rebalancing as it says, to push its frontier of war nearer to its newly perceived enemy China. Instead of peace, it may turn the Asia-Pacific into a theatre of war, like the Mid-East.

Shanmugam cannot be more right. Our need for self-reliance doesn’t change the fact that if Japan wants to conquer Singapore again tomorrow and no one else intervenes, Singapore will fall again. We must be honest about how much we can rely on ourselves, the US’ underwriting of the peace in the region cannot be understated.

Not everything that the US does is out of national interest. US’ intervention in Bosnia Herzegovina while belated, served little if any US national interest.

Get-it-right wrote:

I can’t imagine how SG would be like if its government and people had adopted this attitude. “OK, we have superb geographical location, good institutions left behind by our ex-British colonial master and the US to maintain peace. We have all the factors in our favor. We can afford to go slow and take it easy. Let’s just lay back and relax. Everything will work out fine by itself.” You think we will have a Singapore like what we have today?

Of course Get-it-right can, it’s purely his imagination. The correct attitude should be: “OK, we have superb geographical location, good institutions left behind by our ex-British colonial master and the US to maintain peace. We have all the factors in our favor. We should therefore make the best of these opportunities and make hay while the sun shines. It’s okay to lay back and relax after a hard day’s work. Everything will be fine if we give our best.”

Get-it-right wrote:

Geographical location, geopolitics are not of no importance but they are less so than other factors for the success of Singapore.

In the first place, there wouldn’t have been other success factors to consider if there hadn’t been the success factor of geographical location. If Raffles founded Singapore in a far flung corner of Irian Jaya, Singapore would have amounted to nothing and there would have been nothing more to talk about. If our location is so unimportant, would Get-it-right agree to transplant the entire Singapore infrastructure and people to a far flung corner of Irian Jaya in exchange for twice as much land since land is so precious to Singapore? Perhaps Get-it-right would but I doubt most reasonable Singaporeans would.

Get-it-right wrote:

What really make Singapore what it is today, a tiny island without natural resources but a world class nation with world class achievements? Its strong and wise leadership with wise and trusting followers. Its strong and wise government with sound values.

Contrary to what Get-it-right said, Singapore has an important natural resource which is our excellent geographical location. Dr Goh believed it; Lee Kuan Yew inadvertently admitted it. Apart from our geographical location, Dr Goh also believed that our success was due to the continuation of the success formula we inherited from the British colonial government which he described as priceless.

Get-it-right wrote:

When we celebrate our 50th year of Independence, let us not forget that all that have been achieved through much hardships and sacrifices throughout the years can easily unravel if the government and the people do not work as one.

While celebrating 50 years of independence, let’s not forget that Singapore was founded in 1819 and that the last 50 years would not have been possible without the 146 years preceding them, so we should not forget the hardships and sacrifices prior to 1965.

Singapore is already unraveling under a bungling government. Unity with a bungling government means joining in the bungling. Responsible Singaporeans cannot do that.

Dr Albert Winsemius was the true architect of Singapore’s industrialisation

August 7, 2015

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]

Singapore and I (Lee Kuan Yew) personally are indebted to him (Dr Albert Winsemius) for the time, energy and devotion he gave to Singapore. I learnt much about Western business and businessmen from him … He gave me practical lessons on how European and American companies operated … showed me that Singapore could plug into the global economic system of trade and investments.

[Straits Times, Singapore is indebted to Winsemius: SM, 10 Dec 1996]

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, Tong Dow Ngiam, 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]

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]

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]

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]

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 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]

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]

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]

PAP inherited world standard results from beyond the past 50 years

August 7, 2015

I refer to the 2 Aug 2015 TR Emeritus letter “PAP’s produced world-standard results the past 50 years” by “Get it right!”.

Get-it-right wrote:

The PAP has ruled and governed Singapore uninterrupted for more than 50 years now, winning every national elections which had been held, for the mandate to rule.
What is it about the PAP government that the people of Singapore find so appealing?

The Kim dynasty has ruled and governed North Korea uninterruptedly since 1948 for 67 years now, winning every national election for the mandate to rule. Asking why Singaporeans find PAP so appealing is like asking why North Koreans find their Kim dynasty so appealing.

Get-it-right wrote:

Governing a nation is not like running a circus. Its not clowning and entertainment. If it is the role of a government to keep the people happy all the time, then it would have to be a clown. In that case, the whole nation would be laughing all the way to its death.

In the earlier generation, there was no clowning around by politicians yet people were happier. There was more laughter too but no laughing till death. People do not need clowns to make them happy. Quite simply, whatever the people needs was more adequately provided for in the earlier generation but not so well provided for now.

Get-it-right wrote:

Governing a nation is hard work. The factors to consider are numerous and conflicting. There are many demands and constraints to satisfy. Sometimes the complexity is intractable. Some other times, there is no best solution, only optimal one. At any one time, there are more than one problems to be solved. It requires sound intellect to know how to prioritize them. It requires a lot of hard thinking, deep intellects. It requires insight to look into the depth of an issue and foresight to look into the future.

Since the current leadership cannot solve the multitude of problems that are supposedly numerous, conflicting, demanding, complex and intractable, wouldn’t that show that they lack sound intellect, prioritization, hard thinking, deep intellect, insight and the foresight to look into the future?

What is so rocket science about increasing housing and transport capacity to meet increased population influx? Never mind the lack of foresight or intellect to plan for population influx, what about the people’s timely feedback about sky rocketing housing prices as far back as 2007 that fell on deaf ears?

Get-it-right wrote:

Compounding the problems are the multi-ethnic and multi-religion context of Singapore. On top of these, for tiny Singapore, external factors can have big influence on the country. Its leader must have that additional ability to have a good grasp of world affairs and trends.

Under such complex and difficult settings, throughout the past 50+ years, the PAP government has produced world-standard results in tangible aspects of governance such as employment, housing, health, education, internal security, defence, transportation, communication, environment, social services, sports, recreation, you name it. Bread-and-butter-issues are well taken care of. The society is peaceful and harmonious. All these have benefited the citizens tremendously.

Colonial Singapore was already world famous for multi-ethnic and multi-religious peace and harmony (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/singapore-racial-harmony-during-colonial-times). Instead, it was Lee Kuan Yew’s political ambition that contributed to ethnic and racial tensions (https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/lee-kuan-yew-contributed-to-racial-riots).

The situation confronting Singapore wasn’t entirely difficult but contained critical favorable conditions instead as Dr Goh Keng Swee explained:

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. 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. Finally, what made Singapore grow as a trading centre despite mercantilist policies of neighbours was that the economics of the business did not add up to a zero sum game. This happy result emerges from the continuous and rapid economic development of the countries in Southeast Asia under British and Dutch colonial administrations. 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]

Dr Goh further went on to explain how the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s also made Singapore’s conditions more favorable:

It is a matter for speculation whether in the absence of the upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution in the mid and late 1960s, the large American multinationals – among them, National Semiconductors and Texas Instruments – would have sited their offshore facilities in countries more familiar to them, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These resources had skills superior to Singapore’s. My own judgment remains that these three areas were too close to the scene of trouble, the nature of which could not but cause alarm to multinational investors.

[Wealth of East Asian Nations, Goh Keng Swee, page 256]

Finally, we have Minister Shanmugam telling us how the US military made our situation even more favorable by underwriting our peace and the peace of the region.

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.

[The Brookings Institution, Southeast Asia and the United States: remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam, 22 Sept 2014]

Thus, if we consider the peace provided by US military presence, China’s Cultural Revolution scaring investors to Singapore, our four success factors listed by Dr Goh Keng Swee, our situation was actually quite favorable.

Get-it-right wrote:

So, what would best describe the relationship between the PAP government and Singaporeans? It is simply a pragmatic relationship of leader and followers – wise and strong leader, trusting followers.

This could be the relationship of some but not all Singaporeans with the PAP government. For other Singaporeans, the PAP is not a leader but a conceited, selfish and unprincipled parasite. Given its lousy record, only fools will trust the current PAP team.

Get-it-right wrote:

This is how the PAP has been able to govern Singapore uninterrupted in all these years. It deals firmly with the oppositions to ensure that politics are conducted at a high standard. With the resultant political stability, it then concentrates on developing the economy.

To say that PAP’s detention of Dr Lim Siew Hock and Dr Chia Thye Poh for 19 and 32 years respectively resulted in high standard politics is an insult to both gentlemen and to politics itself. What kind of high standard politics do we have today when PAP MPs regularly sleep through parliament sessions or conveniently pontang them?

Get-it-right wrote:

With the wealth brought in by a thriving economy, it builds up the nation’s defence and social programs and services. The whole nation progresses and every citizen benefits. This is not what the government has brainwashed the people to believe. The achievements of Singapore is recognised worldwide. It has become an exemplary nation that others want to learn from. It is ranked highly in the world.

Singapore was already a thriving economy during colonial times. Much of the progress we witness today is rooted in colonial times. Our first and only UNESCO listing, our Botanical Gardens, is a colonial era inheritance. Many of the institutions that underpin our success today like Tan Tock Seng Hospital, civil service, police force all originated from colonial times. Our first high rise flats and housing estates like Queenstown were built by the British. Lee Kuan Yew himself received education from a school set up by the colonial government – Raffles Institution. Singapore’s achievements may be world recognized, but what is not so recognized is that most of them have been accumulated over long periods since colonial times. Our example to the world is based on the false denial of critical colonial era inheritances that Dr Goh Keng Swee described as priceless.

Get-it-right wrote:

Singapore is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, the fourth-largest financial centre and one of the top two busiest container ports in the world for at least the past ten years. Its globalised and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially manufacturing, which accounted for around 30 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 2013.

Singapore was already the 5th most important port in the world in the 1930s. We were already four places away from becoming No. 1 some 30 years before PAP came to power. So the greater part of our ascent to the top was achieved under British, not PAP administration.

The growth of Singapore to its position not only as the key port of the Straits region by the late nineteenth century but also to a position as a major global port is perhaps the most exciting aspect of economic change in the Straits in this period (page 107).

By the early 1930s, Singapore was estimated to be the fifth or sixth most important port in the world (page 114).

[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca]

Furthermore, the person who first pushed for the containerization of our ports was not the PAP but our faithful advisor Dr Albert Winsemius:

“So being in Singapore, I think at that time Dr Goh was once more Minister for Finance or in his capacity of Deputy Prime Minister and indeed I thought I need a pusher; I need really a pusher. So I went to Dr Goh, said ‘Look here, that are my figures on the North Atlantic container-run. And it is going to happen here. I can guarantee you that. I can’t get them moving. And the World Bank is against it. They consider it too early. There is only one way, with the same figures, you and I go to the Harbour Board, to PSA, and in principle you tell them that you would consider it unwise to put it off. Even if there is a chance, let’s say half a year that container port is lying idle, using interest and doing nothing, Singapore has to be the first one as to attract it.

“’And you should tell them, in my opinion, at least give them very clearly the impression if they do not come with a plan to rapidly make a container port that you will continue to have them by the planners. On the other hand, if they do come with it, in as far as co-operation from Finance or even the Cabinet would be needed, that you will give them that protection.’

“So Dr Goh practically dictated them to build that container port regardless of the World Bank.”

[Dr Albert Winsemius’s oral history interview, Accession Number 000246, reel 12]

Even our industrialization strictly followed Dr Winsemius’ “A proposed industrialization programme for the State of Singapore”.

Thus, if we consider all the facts, we should realize that PAP comprised only a tiny fragment of our entire success story but ended up usurping all the credit to itself.

Get-it-right wrote:

Singapore places highly in international rankings with regard to standard of living, education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness. Singapore has one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the longest overall life expectancies in the world. The country is currently the only Asian country with a top AAA rating from all three major credit rating agencies, i.e. Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings.

The same can be said of our fellow East Asian dragon economies of Hong Kong Taiwan and South Korea which are either on par or ranked close by so it begs the question of where PAP’s value add is given that we do not significantly outperform these economies with similar backgrounds.

In conclusion, Get-it-right has mostly gotten it wrong.