12 November 2006

Bad rep costs

It is argued that the Singapore government will not change its authoritarian policies unless it sees either economic gain or pain, and so far there hasn't been any. I would suggest that Singapore is already paying a price, except that we're not looking or counting. Full essay.


KiWeTO said...


since its all hypothesis, and not empirically provable, the moneycrats that run the Singapore government will not budge from their paradigm.

Other countries that are democratic can survive bad leaders, because investors know at the end of the day, these bad examples of leadership will be tossed out, and the country stronger for the experience.

In SG, when all we had to do was copy earlier successful examples of capitalism and investment, it was very difficult to be a bad leader.

Now, when we have to compete as equals against the best cities in the world, we are starting to look rather pathetic at that race. Mistakes, missteps, mishaps...

Is there a reason why governments in most economically progressed countries change directions with regularity? Empirically, there aren't many examples of the same government being in power for >20 years (Sweden is one successful example, but even its long-serving government was thrown out of power earlier this year.) The only other governments that have lasted as long as SG's are? North Korea? Cuba? Other dictatorial/despotic countries in Asia?

IS there be a cost for taking an unchanging paradigm that our government has, due to the lack of change in its leaders' paradigms?

There probably is. Then again, SG's problems lie not only with our government's paradigm, but also from our own strategic limitations. But our government also seems to believe its approach to resolve the strategic limitations is better (but neighbourly relations don't seem to be that friendly to the layman).

If in genetics, incest is considerd high risk, does uniformity in the paradigms of our officebearers and civil servants also mean we carry a similarly high risk for our continued existence as a society?

Anonymous said...

with the democrats in control of congress, pro business policies would be under scrutiny; SG will have to adapt

Wolfgang said...

I can think of another reason why the gahmen doesn't change; Even though I believe a lot of NMCs (esp. from North America and Europe) don't want to invest in Singapore, there are still a number that do. So what the lay people see is that "because of the gahmen, companies are coming in and creating jobs" and basically that is what matters to the gahmen, not the "misses".

Furthermore, we only hear about the companies that are coming here, never about the ones that are doing a study to come here and don't, which means that Singaporeans will never know how much our "controls" are turning foreign investors off.

Nobody is going to bother about our tight controls until it really hits, but by then it might be too late.

Wolfgang said...

Oh yea, I forgot to add, when Singapore gets bad rep from international media, Singaporeans never hear about it. Our media doesn't tell them. So most people in Singapore will never know how much we might be despised because of our controls.

The World Bank/IMF is the best example. All the foreign media every wrote was that Singapore was an authoritarian society and a police state. None of them had a good thing to say about it.

Anonymous said...

Great Essay as usual. I think you touched on the reasons why so many of Singapore's investments were flushed down the drain due to our rigid totalitarian policies.

Keep the articles going. It's been enlightening ever since I found your blog.

Teck Soon said...

You rarely see Americans in Singapore. The ones that come here are paid a lot to be here. Go to the US and ask anyone if they have heard of Singapore, and the reply is always "Isn't that the place where they beat people to death with a stick?" You see, our government's insistence over a decade ago of caning an American teenager still forms the primary basis of Americans' opinions of us. They see us as a barbaric dictatorship, but because Singapore is so small and there are many countries in this world, Americans know little else about us. (And why should they? How much do Singaporeans know about other little countries, like Suriname? Do we even know who their leaders are or can locate it on a map?) My point isn't that it was nessarily wrong to cane the American boy back then, but that Singaporeans were not aware of the consequences, and are still not aware of the consequences because of local propaganda telling Singaporeans how much the rest of the world loves Singapore. Just recently I heard on Channel News Asia some story about attracting filmmakers to Singapore. They said something like, "Don't be surprised if the next Hollywood bluckbuster is filmed right here in Singapore." How laughable! What American would go WILLINGLY to Singapore, with so many other choices? The only Americans that would film in Singapore are the ones paid off by our government through some subsidy, to create good press. Without our bad leadership, perhaps Singapore would attract filmmakers without any incentive at all. How much lobbying did New Zealand do to get Lord of the Rings filmed there? Maybe Singapore is actually on the list of many possible filmmaking locations in Hollywood today for a scene or two, but is always crossed off in favor of places with less censorship and no fear of being caned or hanged while visiting for filming.

Jordan said...

Singapore has only ONE FAMILY in control.
Singaporeans are forbidden to know Singapore's federal reserves?
Power, money n total control for the last 40 years is a difficult habit to break. President George Bush who had a 6 year free-run of America, now has to factor in the Democrats. Every issue has to be accounted for n investigated.
Not in Singapore.
The Singapore' ruling elite are the Republicans of Asia. Yes, politically, there is no watchdog to watch the 'checks n balances' of Singapore spending. Singapore's Temasek, is the vehicle that goes to various countries buying up 'stakes' of what they hope are blue ribbon companies. That is Singapore's political/investment arm. We don't know what is happening with Temasek, except what we read. Temasek goes out, sees n buys.
You have National Service. That locks the poor in, for reservist re-calls, anyone making $10,000 above do not have to show up. Rich folks again are protected.
The minute u step 'outside' of your flat, you begin to pay.
Let's address the issues of Cuba, n N Korea.

Cuba- u have fidel castro, as old as our MM. He has his brother, when he drops dead. Whether the brother can hold the country together is left to be siad. But many are planning to return to Cuba, when the regime is over. and whoa...CNN thinks Fidel has cancer?

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/11/12/castro.health.ap/ -Fidel C
Outside of Cuba, Castro's relationship with America n Russia is bad since the failed American-led Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Castro's politics changed when the former USSR fell. Castro has since been partnering with regional socialist figures such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. South America has gone socialist, n this is an upset balance to America.
N Korea- another dictator, but he has the 'silent' nod from China.

Singapore is smart, it clings on to America, as sprouts of ferns sit tightly-imbedded to a old tree. In fact after Bush's defeat, he is doing a 2-day 'rehab' visit to Singapore.
As long as MM lee knows who to continue to 'brown-nose'to, he can do whatever he wants. Outside orgs can vent n fume, but nothing is done. It is known that dictators go on for forever, until they are 'overthrown'.
Singapore? I think Singaporeans are in for the long haul. Not forever...but long enough.
Look at Philippines? the Marcoses were stupid.
Singaporeans down the foodchain will have to scoot further down the money chain, before anything is done.
Gays are not given their 'entitlement', women count for nothing, the inside political scene for the average Singaporean is getting worse, as the top caters to the money people.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-sigbank11nov11,1,1428006.story?coll=la-headlines-business&track=crosspromo -Singapore's rich

That is what happens when you have a ONE-PARTY GOVT LIKE SINGAPORE.

Anonymous said...

Ha,I had to explain to a bunch of people about our caning policy at a dinner last night. Thats like all people ever remember abt singapore.. The caning and strict rules. On one hand, they thought it was great for potential tourists like them (the safety factor) but some prefered places like Thailand where its "more real and exciting". Unlike sterile, controlled singapore.
I was asked if singapore was a democracy. My reply was "it depends who you ask".

Anonymous said...

your points on the temasek/shin debacle are well made. as a singaporean living in bangkok and working for a singapore company, i have to say its definitely not a good time to say you are singaporean right now. almost embarassing. now i kind of know how japanese expats feel and why they tend to keep to themselves. at least the japanese showed remorse. there is an scathing commentary in today's Bangkok Post (13th Nov) about singapore leaders and how arrogant they are about the deal. its a bit too emotive IMHO, but at least emotions count for something in this country.

Anonymous said...

to be fair, is Thailand democratic?

Anonymous said...

Another reason why Singapore IS EVEN BEHIND CHINA:

BBC News
China gay group 'gets approval'
A homosexual group has been officially registered at a mainland Chinese university campus for the first time, a Hong Kong-based activist has said.

The Sun Yat Sen University in Zhuhai, southern China, has allowed a gay and lesbian group of students to be formally registered.

It is the first university in China to acknowledge the public existence of homosexual interests on campus.

Homosexuality is officially frowned upon in China.

According to a BBC correspondent in Hong Kong, it is highly unusual for official recognition to be granted to such a group.

Many informal groups of gay and lesbian Chinese exist but avoid official censure by using the internet.

'Growing diversity'

Hong Kong activist Chung To, who has visited the new group at Zhuhai, says its application focused not on the sexuality of members but on their wish to study gender issues.

"They are a group of students who would like to study and learn more about gay and lesbian issues," said Mr To, who is director of foundation that runs projects for children affected by Aids in China.

"I think the significance of the group mainly is that it is the first time the university officially approves the existence of such a group.

"In the past there have been informal gay and lesbian centred groups at universities. But this is the first time that a university was actually officially was given approval of such a group," he said.

Jordan said...

Check out these links.

http://www.365gay.com/Newscon06/11/110706china.htm- CHINA

http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/oct/05100601.html - JUDGE JUDY

Even Judge Judy condomes same sex couples.
The world is coming around, gays have a major role , we will continue in our endeavors to achieve our entitlement. I love Judge Judy. She is a realist, practical despite being a judge.

'Asked by Larry King about "gay marriage", Sheindlin replied, "Who is it hurting? You know, my grandmother used to say who is it hurting? So, I ask you, Larry, if you have two adults and they happen to both be of the same sex and they love each other and they want to set up a home with each other they have as much of a shot as heterogeneous couples do. Fifty-two percent of marriages end in divorce, you know."'- JUDGE JUDY ON LARRY KING LIVE/13 Nov 2006