Making a case for a tyrannical government

There are some people in Singaporean civil society who advocate to the rest of the world that a tyrannical government is perhaps the best form of governance.

And believe it or not, I’m not talking about PAP supporters. In fact, the people I’m referring to are the members of our Opposition!

Allow me to elaborate: In all my years of keeping abreast of political developments in Singapore, I have read speeches by PAP leaders, and speeches by Opposition leaders. And criticisms on public policies aside, speeches by Opposition leaders have always (and without fail) made some sort of reference to how oppressive and tyrannical the Singapore government is.

Recently, a speech made by Catherine Lim (who fancies herself as a daring crusader with the PAP’s men in black hot on her heels) did just that. She examined the history of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and contrasted the paradox that Mr Lee was. In particular, what really struck me was how this paradox was going to be read by foreign observers.

As Catherine rightly pointed out near the end of her speech, BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are increasingly becoming the world’s model for governance. Western Democracy once stood triumphant amidst the rubble of the Berlin Wall, but today appears far less appealing in light of economic stagflation in Europe, and political deadlock in America.

The World is looking for a new model, and the Singapore model which balances economic growth and socio-political stability is appearing very attractive. BRIC nations have sent many delegations to Singapore to study the way we work and the way we are governed.

When these delegations come to Singapore, there are some things that they perceive, and some other things that our people tell them. In particular, I am concerned about how our Opposition paints a false and greatly exaggerated image of our “tyrannical and oppressive” government!

The Great Paradox

The following are takeaways that a foreign delegation might have. The words in bold are those that they empirically perceive by themselves. The words in  italics are the lies and exaggerations that our Opposition members are so fond of telling.

Singapore has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world. Singaporean Ministers employ legal corruption by paying themselves millions at the expense of others

The Singaporean Government is able to respond quickly and effectively to changing global circumstances. The Government imprisons, sues and silences its critics.

Singaporeans have a high standard of living and a low level of unemployment.Singaporeans do not have civic rights and freedoms.”

Here, you can see how people in other countries see an end objectiveand the supposed process to achieve it!

The Great Promise

Singapore has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world. Singaporean Ministers employ legal corruption by paying themselves millions at the expense of others

India currently grapples with widespread corruption, and this has led to a great deal of anger amongst their people. The Indian people are desperately looking for a solution, and if they turn to the Singapore model, it would appear to them that the solution to corruption is the justification

The Singaporean Government is able to respond quickly and effectively to changing global circumstances. The Government imprisons, sues and silences its critics.

The United States faces political gridlock. It takes backroom deals, under the table negotiations and quid pro quo between both Parties to pass a Bill in Congress. Between April and December of 2011, the US Government was faced with several instances where political brinkmanship nearly forced a Governmental Shutdown (if Congress failed to approve a raise in the deficit ceiling, the US Government would eventually be declared bankrupt). At least once, these threats of Shutdown occurred within a week of each other. Americans are now so divided along political fault lines, they see their fellow Americans who support the other Party as enemies.

Singaporeans have a high standard of living and a low level of unemployment.Singaporeans do not have civic rights and freedoms.”

The Eurozone is deep in debt and recession. The PIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) are characterized by out of control deficits (deficits are several times their GDP) and sky high unemployment (almost one in four adults under 30 are unemployed). To make matters worse, anti-austerity riots and strikes have denied their governments the political mandate to make tough policy decisions. If anything, more and more unemployed and underemployed Europeans will be willing to trade their civic rights for economic prosperity.

The Great Peril

What the Opposition in Singapore does not realize is that what they say can have a negative and false impact on political idealogy elsewhere in the world. And this irresponsible speech and portrayal belies the true reasons for Singapore’s success:-

  • That the real reason for Singapore’s low corruption is a fair wage, not a high wage. Our civil service and political leaders take a real but realistic pay cut in comparison to their contemporaries.
  • That the real reason for Singapore’s ability to act decisively in uncertain times is not oppression, but a true mandate of trust from the people.
  • That our prosperity and economic growth is not about trading away our civil liberties, but the recognition of economic realities. You can only spend within your means, and no one owes you a living.

In his National Day Rally, PM Lee referred to the National Conversation. But the world as we know it today is engaging in an International Conversation, one that will shape the way governments and peoples around the world approach these fundamental issues (corruption, political gridlock, economic prosperity), and the solutions to them.

The Opposition can exaggerate about how the Singapore Government is oppressive in order to find purpose and fulfillment in what they do.

But they should be careful not to make a case for a truly tyrannical government. One that sells a perverted version of the Singaporean Story to its own people.

by Alps Tan

*****************************************************************************************

image source : YoLo

What I’ve learned from Foreigners in Singapore

What I’ve learned from Foreigners in Singapore

While various groups of people are debating on the influx of foreigners about the glory or the shame, I looked things from a different perspective and tell you what I’ve learned from Foreigners and how much they’ve influenced me in a way.

They know what it’s like to be hungry

Of course I can’t say all of them since there are many which earn few times than us or even driving Ferraris speeding away. There’s a huge group of them who is less well off than us in their homeland. For majority of us, our biggest headache each day is perhaps to decide what to eat.  For some of them, the harvest of their crops would probably determine what’s for dinner.  When you’ve been seriously hungry before, you will be ruthlessly aggressive in getting what you want.

They are Risk Takers

In case you didn’t know, a lot of them who come to work in Singapore came with debts. They pay about RMB$30,000-RMB$50,000 for an air ticket to come here to work on a 2 year contract. Most of the time they would spend the first year repaying the debts until the next year to really start earning.  Would we have done the same? Suppose we remove the currency value and say we pay an agent SGD$30,000 to go to United States or Australia to work for 2 years? I think most response would be “Siao arh!”. I admired their courage sometimes, it’s like to them, it’s either you strike out your chance or you remain poor for the rest of your life.

To some extend of risk, they are almost to the extent of labeling fearless. I’ve known some people who’ve done moonlighting which may result in getting them send home if found out. Their reply?

“If I’ve been send home.. I will try to come back again after six months to another company”

They’ll do all the things which nobody else want to do

From janitors, construction workers, factory, retail, service to even KTV hostess or prostitution to the extreme end. All these are something which nobody else would do and they can/will do it as long as someone pays them.

It is this resilience attitude which makes them mercenaries and building towards their success. Someone ever told me that China has 1.6 billion people, if she would to wait for her government to help her and her family they would have been dead by now. So she doesn’t  count on her government but to count on herself and bring home the money.

They are pretty aggressive

Due to the debts that they have, they are more eager to learn things, to improvise themselves and to become as business critical as they can within the two years. As an employer you may think they are pretty dumb to do all the shit jobs but when their contract is up and they’ve learned almost everything that you can teach them, they will ask a 50% raise from you for recontract.

Even if you decided not to keep them, all they need is to come back to work again but this time their base salary would have been a lot higher than 2 years ago. The skills that they learn is their asset and this asset will help them in their advancement.

They keep upgrading themselves

There are a lot of foreigner workers who went on to upgrade themselves, through part time studies or skill set related course by the time they started their 2nd contract which is another 2 years. They juggle with work, overtime and studies which is not an easy thing. We may laugh at their diploma as most of them are not as prestige’s as ours but still it’s a somewhat accredited diploma. To top it up, they won’t be asking the salary of some of us stated in our resume who you’ve guessed the employer end up hiring who?

They are very fast in meeting demands / competition

Did you realize how fast foreigners have been setting up convenient stores; native goods retail stores, logistic services, recruitment agencies to even educational schools to cater the demand of their own people? I’ve known foreigners who took insurance and property license so that they can serve their own natives while they are here.

Very straight forward business model and relatively less consideration for ‘risk’, all they do is find investors and they can opened a shop faster than we come out a business proposal.

They have high Public Relations skills and Networking

If you’ve ever deal with them in your job or as customer, you might have been “touched” by their “professional” sincerity. At the end of the day, we would know it’s not entirely genuinely real interest but I applaud them for their level of fakeness when they need your help.

Suddenly you are a ‘brother’ to them, suddenly you get free lunch or free beer. All in all for requesting your support or assistance. I ever told my wife I don’t like to bootlick my boss and is pretty pissed with a nepotism culture. Her reply was to ask me don’t ever work in China because everyone in China behaves exactly that way in work or business.

I don’t know is it because of their small community but surely to me their networking is pretty scary.

Months ago, I introduced my wife to a fellow PRC within the neighborhood and within 2 weeks she had known more friends than me in the area. They have a good bonding community which would gathered frequently for lunch or shopping together and it puts me to shame the last time I saw my best buddy was like 6 months ago.

They are fantastic savers

Sometimes I wondered how they can afford to buy Resale flats with the need of paying COV as well as the 10% cash for a bank loan. Well, you would have to look into their financial model to understand. They earn and they save. They don’t eat out and they don’t really go clubbing or drinking. They cooked almost every meal and because they lived together and by economics of scale, the cost of the food prepared is perhaps cheaper than even buying from coffee shop.  Their weekends are spent on gatherings like going to beach or playing soccer where minimum spending is required. A typical foreigner may save up to 60% of his/her salary after paying all the rents and other expenses.

Conclusion

I agree that there are a lot of culture differences among foreigners which we don’t understand and hence the unacceptable feeling. I remembered when we were growing up, our parents would tell us that Malays cannot eat pork or touch a dog. They never really explained why but just to tell us to respect them and true enough we really did.

The infrastructure of Singapore is not able to cope with the total population at this point of time and this is the real reason why we are pissed.

Imagine today you lived with your parents and brother, you got married and your wife moved into your 5rm flat. She may have some issues with your mum but it can be resolved. However if her whole family would to move into your house. Sharing that 1 TV in the living room, the two toilets.

Surely friction will rise and unhappiness will be there.

To be fair, the wife’s parents won’t spend money to buy new TV because it’s your house and that is why you are angry.

We are not Anti-foreigners and there is so much we can learn from them through sharing and understanding.

by Anntonii Lim 

****************************************************************************

  • Comment to the above note ( which sght concur )

In life, there are many sides to it. The side that people choose to see it, is purely based on their personal perceptions and they can argue till the cows come home with their reasoning to defend their perspectives.

You obviously see it fro m a perspective of learning, acceptance and appreciation. Others may see it as an infringement, encroachment and event resentment. Everyone will have their own reasons to their own perspectives.

Unfortunately, that is something that we can’t change. I just hope that people can CHOOSE to be happy rather than be angry or envious or jealous or whatever. Because at the end of the day, the one that is going to feel lousy (or happy) from your perspective is one’s self.

You have chosen wisely.
************************************************************************************************
image source : Exposing The Truth

S’pore in 2032 might be like Greece if …

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted at the National Day Rally that S$8 billion, a sum exceeding our personal income tax collection, was drawn last year from our reserves’ Net Investment Returns Contributions (NIRC) for the Budget.

He predicted that social spending will go up, and so will taxes within 20 years. If we factor in the declining worker-elderly ratio, with the number of elderly doubling by 2032, we can foresee that balancing future Budgets would be a colossal task.

Have we thought of the implications? What is the risk of assuming that we can rely on the NIRC to balance future Budgets and that our reserves would grow perpetually?

Also, how confident are we that future generations would be willing to pay more taxes, perhaps twice what we pay now?

If something goes wrong in the future, could a sovereign debt crisis like that in Greece develop here?

From 1990 to 2010, its government debt increased by 300 billion euros, or about S$470 billion. Greece’s population is nearly three times our resident population.

If we were to use S$10 billion from the NIRC to balance future Budgets, it would add up to S$200 billion over the next 20 years.

Without our reserves and tax increases, a debt crisis could develop here in 20 years or sooner.

With this illustration and Mr Lee’s reminder that we have a responsibility to “husband” reserves for future generations, we should be careful not to overspend in the Budget. Any extra spending, once instituted, would be almost impossible to take back.

We should never take our reserves and prosperity for granted, or assume that future generations would be as prudent as we are.

From Ng Ya Ken, Todayonline, Aug 30, 2012
****************************************************************************
Source :

TRS Editor Alex Tan is currently being called up for investigation at the Tanglin Police Division.

Alex Tan used to run the infamous TR clone – Temasek Revealed – which was closed after it posted the hoaxed about “a 19-year-old Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) serviceman was shot in the right eye by a stray bullet in the Sembawang area and died on-the-scene.”

refer to link : Breaking News: (The Straits Times) Published on Jan 28, 2012 Temasek Review report on SAF serviceman’s death a hoax: Mindef

And now this. … the state of the opposition is in, *shake head*.

~~ by Fabrications About The PAP, and some comments :

  • Seriously about time. I dont agree with pap policies all the time but the way he posts his views tantamounts to inciting hate. Not what this little red dot needs.
  • We need more rational Singaporeans to speak up and voice our views. Otherwise the world will think we’d gone stupid and our children will suffer. By and large, I think we’re still rational.
  •  And to think their supporters believe they can improve Singapore….
  • He somewhat deserves it lah … always posting nonsensical information that are misleading at times (must always check for credibility and waste our time).
  • At least now he knows his feedback has not gone into a bottomless pit….be careful what you wish for
  • Kenneth R P Jeyaretnam :- I have found no evidence of Alex Tan having been arrested in any reliable public record. However to set the record straight let me state for the record that both Alex Tan and Arthero Lim were both expelled from the Reform Party soon after GE 2011.

Worker Party, Europe is waiting to know how You can implement First World Social Safety net without First World Debt and Taxes.

Image source : FiveStarsAndAMoon

***********************************************************************

In Singapore, opposition politician also pretend that social spending doesn’t cost the tax payers anything.

But usually stay silent when asked to “Show us the money”. The Workers Party’s First-World-Parliament-on-Facebook has Mr Chen Show Mao “quoted” Mr Donald Low that since it’s a social investment, it would pay for itself.

One only need to look at Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece, the UK and the United States to know that the PROMISE of the so called “Social Investment” has LAND-ed them in a deep hole of “cow dung”.

~ by Fabrications About The PAP, and some of the comments :

  •  Since when the word ‘investment’ invariably lead to ‘making money’? Investment can be loss making also. In that case, if the social investment is loss making, how would it ‘pay for itself’? Social spending is social spending. Don’t couch it as an investment. Layman will think social investment can earn to pay for itself. Misleading…
  • That is what happen in Japan, United Stages, company pension money, they put for so call investment and lost in the investment and what are they going to retire, on the social spending lor. One very good examples now in this century is LEMMAN BROTHER, more then a century year old investment bank and can go burst, what is the problem, wrong management, if Singapore vote the wrong man into the jobs be prepared to skip ship.
  •  In a way, the Euro crisis is good, only fools would argue that unfettered welfare is the way to go.
  • When asked “Show us the money” did  Mr Chen Show Mao or his party The Workers’ Party said in certain terms that it would required very high taxes to be funded like in the Nordic countries? Mr Chen and his merry men kept their silence in parliament until he conducted the First World Parliament on Facebook “quoting anonymously” Mr Donald Low that it is a “Social investment and would pay for by itself”?
  • Mr Low Thia Khiang even asked the Finance Minister to think of a way to have First World Social Safety Net without the First world Debt and Taxes.
    See, when spending money, Mr Low and Mr Chen is so fast to accuse that not enough is done. When ask to show us the money, only know how to ask other people to think of a way, when he has no idea of his own.
    I wonder how is the Mr Low getting along on that bestselling novel of his. Europe is waiting to know how Mr Low can implement First World Social Safety net without First World Debt and Taxes.

Wang Yuegu to retire


(From right) Wang Yuegu, Li Jiawei and Feng Tianwei at the victory ceremony for the Olympic team event earlier this month. They claimed the bronze in London to add to the silver from Beijing. — ST FILE PHOTOS

By Lin Xinyi

ON HOLIDAY in Beijing, Wang Yuegu spent yesterday morning going to the market with her mother, and the rest of the day relaxing.

After a table tennis career that spanned over two decades, the 32-year-old is finally living the life she has always dreamt of.

She announced her retirement to The Straits Times yesterday, officially marking the end of Singapore’s most successful team.

Together with team-mates Feng Tianwei and Li Jiawei, she won a women’s team silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then a bronze at this month’s London Games.

The trio were also part of the team that became world champions for the first time in 2010, when Singapore defeated powerhouses China 3-1 in Moscow.

“Now I’m ready to live like a pig – do nothing but eat and sleep,” the world No. 10 said laughingly, in stark contrast to a voice tinged with a hint of sadness just moments earlier, when she revealed that she had quit.

She insisted, however, that she had prepared for the moment, having decided to hang up her bat back in January,when she picked up a serious elbow injury.

“Nobody retires before the Olympics, it’s what we train for. I told myself to persevere until London,” she added in a telephone interview from the Chinese capital.

“It’s the right time to leave. I’m getting old, I’ve been injured, and I’ve a family now. It’s time to give our youth paddlers a chance.

“If it’s still the three of us (including Feng and Li, who has yet to confirm if she will play on) at Rio in 2016, it’s not good for the development of Singapore sport.”

So while table tennis will continue to be close to her heart, prompting her to watch the China Open on television last week, she is ready for change.

That means spending more time with her mum and her Germany-based Taiwanese husband Gabriel Lee, 29.

That means trying to start a family (she would like to have two kids). And that possibly means hitting the books to study economics and management, or sports psychology.

But one thing is for sure, she sees her future in Singapore.

“No matter where life takes me, I’ll always return to Singapore. I want my first child to be born here too,” said the Liaoning native, who became a Singapore citizen in 2007.

“I didn’t come here for money but for the love of the sport. I hate it when people keep associating medals with money.

“I can’t change their minds. But not everyone that comes from China hangs around for money.”

In contrast to many other China-born athletes, Wang has never been one to refrain from expressing her opinions – forcefully if need be.

In March, she criticised European umpires for being arrogant and amateurish, and just last month, she alleged that there was a German conspiracy against her during the Olympics.

But the winner of four Pro Tour singles titles insisted she has no regrets over her career.

“I gave it everything I had,” she said. “What we did in Moscow was my greatest achievement – to be able to beat the China team once in my life.

“But the two Olympics mean the most, that was my dream since I was young.”

Perhaps fittingly, the results from these three events are a gold, a silver and a bronze.

“I’m very satisfied. I have a complete collection,” she said.

By Lin Xinyi
linxinyi@sph.com.sg, StraitsTimes, Published on Aug 30, 2012 

IMF Says Singapore Should Allow Temporary Rise in Inflation Rate

Singapore should let its inflation rate rise temporarily to accommodate price gains from tighter labor markets even as those stemming from credit growth should be “forcefully tackled,” the International Monetary Fund said.

Gross domestic product growth is forecast to weaken this year to 2.9 percent, before accelerating to 3.4 percent in 2013, the Washington-based lender said in a report yesterday known as an Article IV Consultation. A low unemployment rate will spur domestic demand and inflation will remain elevated, it said.

The Singapore government this month trimmed its prediction for 2012 growth to 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent, from an earlier forecast for an expansion of as much as 3 percent. Policy makers across the world are girding for a deeper impact from Europe’s sovereign-debt turmoil, with Asian central banks from China to South Korea and the Philippines cutting interest rates last month, putting pressure on Singapore to ease monetary policy.

“Singapore has ample policy space and large buffers to mitigate the effects of a steeper global growth slowdown or financial turmoil,” the IMF said. “Given Singapore’s pronounced trade and financial openness, the impact of further euro-area turmoil, abrupt fiscal tightening in the United States, and/or a severe slowdown in China would be substantial.”

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, which uses the exchange rate to manage inflation, said in April it would allow faster gains in the currency to damp price pressures, diverging from most other regional economies that had left borrowing costs unchanged or eased monetary policy.

The tightening was appropriate, the IMF said yesterday. The central bank releases its next policy review in October.

Under Pressure

“Inflation should be permitted to rise temporarily to accommodate the increase in relative prices of labor-intensive products resulting from the tighter labor market conditions,” the IMF said. “Other sources of inflation — including from transport costs, credit growth and asset prices — should be forcefully tackled, including through continued recourse to macro prudential tools. Consideration could also be given to further absorbing liquidity.”

The monetary authority estimated last month consumer-price gains will average 4 percent to 4.5 percent this year, compared with the 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent range it forecast previously. The inflation rate was 4 percent in July, after holding at 5 percent or more in the previous four months.

“Inflation is expected to remain under pressure from the tight labor market and lagged effects of higher prices for vehicle permits and real estate,” the IMF said.

Productivity Growth

Singapore’s government said in 2010 that it aims to at least double its productivity growth to between 2 percent and 3 percent annually in the next 10 years, as it tries to reduce the island’s dependence on exports. Policy makers have cited some industries’ use of cheaper, low-skilled foreign labor as a reason for low productivity in the prior decade, and have tightened rules on hiring overseas workers.

“Slower foreign worker inflows will boost real wages and, if complemented with well-targeted incentives for technology and skills upgrading, should with time support productivity growth,” the IMF said. “In the near term, the strategy is expected to reduce potential growth and increase frictional unemployment. It will also push up inflation and contribute to a permanently more appreciated real exchange rate and narrower current-account surplus.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Shamim Adam in Singapore at sadam2@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net
Source : Bloomberg : 
IMF Says Singapore Should Allow Temporary Rise in Inflation Rate

Are we better than everyone else?

In Sunday’s National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gently chastised Singaporeans for having double standards in treating foreigners.

Concerned about the direction in which society here is heading, he noted that while we tend to slag off foreigners for behaving badly, we tend to shut up when Singaporeans do the same.

It’s like that Biblical verse: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Actually, I would argue that we don’t even seem to know that plank exists.

In recent years, a subtle sense of superiority has developed among Singaporeans. Every time we hear a case of anti-social behaviour, we tend to immediately assume the perpetrator was a foreigner, even when it isn’t the case.

Take the infamous “polite Ah Lian” incident, in which an auntie goes ballistic at a girl on the MRT train for not giving up her seat earlier. In the video clip, right off the bat, the auntie launches into a tirade saying: “So displeasing, most probably you’re from China” (The girl was Singaporean)

Then there was Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam’s Facebook posts about a resident who had e-mailed him racist remarks about Indians.

More than a few commenters could not seem to believe that the person was a born-and-bred Singaporean, even though the minister had identified him as such. They insisted that he must be a foreigner, or at least a new citizen.

Such is the power of the assumptions we hold about ourselves. Even when common sense and logic tells us that bad behaviour exists everywhere, we still believe Singaporeans can’t possibly be guilty of it.

Where did it all start?

I believe some of us have begun to believe because we are the products of a successful country, we must be better people all-round – when it comes to manners, civility, everything. After all, the country has transformed itself from a third-world slum into a sparkling clean, modern and efficient first-world economy through sheer determination and hard work.

So, something must be special about us Singaporeans, to have pulled off this economic miracle in the span of a few decades, succeeded against the odds and stayed ahead of our neighbours.

This construct is part of the official narrative to bond us as a people with a common purpose and to keep us together as a nation. Through the years we have willingly believed it again and again, as we became more and more successful.

I don’t blame us. Who wouldn’t want to think they’re special and number 1, especially when there’s ample evidence? We witnessed ourselves prosper, our GDP growth shoot up, and our homes get swankier.

But now that we have reached the top and are facing new challenges, that pride in our specialness as Singaporeans is showing its seamier side.

Those new challenges stem from the large, sudden influx of foreigners in recent years. We have always been comfortable with the Other sharing our space. But now that there’s so many Others, in our faces, all the time, our first instinct is to assert our identity.

One of the ways this is happening is by defining ourselves as more civilised and modern than foreigners. To be sure, there are uncouth foreigners in our midst, who don’t know basic manners or social etiquette, who talk loudly in trains and jump our queues and trash other races.

But when confronted with similar instances of bad behaviour perpetrated by our own kind, instead of owning up to the possibility that we too are not perfect, we experience cognitive dissonance instead. It then becomes denial – that rude girl must be a PRC, that racist resident must be a new citizen.

I’m all for asserting a stronger Singapore identity. In a way, this period – where we adjust to more foreigners in our midst, and more of them join us as new citizens – is a good opportunity to ask ourselves what makes us Singaporean. It’s also important that we continue to remain proud of what we’ve achieved as a nation.

But I wonder, should we also continue to define our identity as Singaporeans being intrinsically better than everyone else?

The danger of taking such a stance is that we would deprive ourselves of a chance to do serious soul-searching and ask some real hard questions. Such as: Is our success story all there is to being Singaporean? Is there really nothing else? And are we even that special in the first place?

Taking the easy way out with an attitude of “we’ve made it already” may preserve our collective ego. But in the long run, all we are doing is just showing our inner insecurities.

By Tessa Wong, twong@sph.com.sg
Source : SingaPolitics – Are we better than everyone else?

******************************************************************


image source : Exposing The Truth

Shaping the Singapore soul

OLDER Singaporeans will recall how Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s 1960s refrain of a rugged society inspired the people to overcome the odds in the difficult years. After the nation got over the hump, the buzzword was resilience. This was the consolidation phase, to preserve gains against vitiation while striving for niche accomplishments in a world become borderless.

A half-century on, with the status of a developed economy seemingly achieved, Singaporeans are taking a hard look in the mirror at themselves and the evolution of society.

Mission accomplished? Hardly. Coming next is the maturation phase, the locus of humanity by which successful societies are judged for their attractive civilisational qualities.

A jibe is occasionally heard about Singapore having First World trappings but Third World ways. If the people do not like the characterisation, they should take steps to change it. As an aspiration, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s invitation to the people to help create a society based on decency, a generosity of spirit and respect for diversity may arguably be the hardest call thus far in the Singapore Story because any change will have to first be at a personal and individual level.

At the National Day Rally, PM Lee asked that the people shape the kind of society they want. Materialism will assuredly remain. How it can be reconciled with the striving for a less stratified society is a point to ponder offered up by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who also spoke. Calling for some balance to “material pragmatism”, he noted that “extreme meritocracy and competition can lead to a winner- take-all society, with the winners thinking little of others”. This is one illustration of the difficulties in the consensus-building that he will lead.

There are pointers.

  • The Americans are admired for their philanthropic nature, a willingness to give aid and succour without expectation of a return.
  • Another example: Japanese victims of the quake-tsunami disaster. They showed respect and concern for one another in the face of death and devastation.

How did such character develop?

In societies imbued with the right values, people do not stop to gawk at accident scenes but offer what help they can. Motorists make way for ambulances. Old people are shown courtesy, animal cruelty is unthinkable.

Singapore’s next level of progress is towards a comparable level of such symbolic reckoners, where material norms will no longer be the sole measure of the country’s standing and a person’s worth. Civil society will thrive as conduits for social support and enlightenment. This can transpire only if the image in the mirror that Singaporeans earnestly wish to see is that of big-hearted people, gracious towards one another and others.

EDITORIAL, Published on Aug 29, 2012, StraitsTimes
*************************************************************

Don’t be a ‘one-eyed dragon’


— ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

This is an excerpt from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Mandarin speech on shedding negative mindsets about Singapore

IT HAS been almost 50 years since Singapore became independent.

In half a century, Singapore has changed dramatically. We are not yet a fully developed nation, even though we enjoy First World incomes.

Our basic needs have been met; we are now pursuing a better quality of life and in search of new development strategies.

The question is: At our level, what else should we do to scale greater heights? Like climbing a mountain, the higher we go, the tougher the climb.

Our situation is similar to that in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. After 30 to 40 years of rapid development, all the “Four Asian Dragons” are at a critical juncture.

The era of rapid growth is over. We are all searching for a stable new path forward. This requires new strategies and new formulas. No country can say: “We have found the formula.”

Hence, many East Asian societies are anxious about the future, a phenomenon that has been highlighted in the news media.

A Taiwanese writer recently wrote an article in the Yazhou Zhoukan, analysing the anxiety felt by the Taiwanese. She said Taiwan’s declining economy and shrinking job market have caused the Taiwanese to worry that their children’s lives will be worse than theirs.

The writer noted that interestingly, foreign visitors praise Taiwan’s economic and social accomplishments, but the Taiwanese are like a “one-eyed dragon”, seeing only the negative side of Taiwan.

She added that actually, the people in China, Hong Kong and Singapore have the same worries too.

Recently, Lianhe Zaobao columnist Ng Kin Kang expressed similar sentiments in an article. He observed that Singaporeans seem to be grumbling a lot more these days, comparing Singapore selectively with only the good points of other countries.

He said: “Singapore is not perfect. We are worse than some, but better than others.”

I agree with Mr Ng. Singapore is indeed not perfect. But I ask Singaporeans to look at Singapore with both eyes.

In reality, we are better off than many other countries. The media, government and people in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan believe there is more to learn from Singapore.

In recent years, they have sent study groups to look at our social and economic policies. They often conclude: Singapore is moving ahead faster and more steadily.

Singapore’s development is on track, but we must continue to drive forward. We must maintain a forward-looking mindset. We must constantly improve ourselves, and remain relevant in the new age.

We hope to help Singaporeans fulfil their potential and aspirations. And inspire our young to build a new Singapore.

Therefore, we must strive to develop a vibrant and growing economy. For growth is the foundation for a vibrant Singapore.

We have not focused blindly on economic growth. We have also placed emphasis on social development and quality of life.

In the next phase, we must strive to build a more compassionate and more gracious society. To do this, we need a strong economy.

Published on Aug 28, 2012, StraitsTimes