Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why Singapore has lost it's direction

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China is known throughout the world for denying it's people human rights. It is a dictatorial communist country intolerant of dissent. Yet, it continues to receive massive foreign investment. China has become the world's number 1 manufacturing country. This is simply because China has cheap labor and Western countries need it to manufacture their goods.

Singapore is not China. Singapore now is seen by the world as not much different from China as regards human rights. It is an authoritarian state intolerant of dissent, where the press is state owned and political dissidents are jailed and bankrupted. In this appalling political climate which the world is now fully aware, the question is, whether Singapore can receive the necessary foreign investment to keep Singapore ticking? Unlike China, I think not. And I think, this is the beginning of the slippery slope of decline of Singapore.

Here are the reasons. Unlike China, Singapore no longer has cheap labor. Therefore it is no longer competitive to mass produce goods in Singapore for the Western market like China. Singapore does have a financial industry in offshore banking. But so has Bangkok, Hong Kong and any other place one can think of. Compared to Bangkok and Hong Kong, Singapore stands at a clear disadvantage, because Singapore has been painted with a very black brush as a brutal dictatorship that denies their citizens fundamental rights; which means that given the choice any foreign investor would prefer to put his money in a country that treats it's people well.

There are not that many other industries in Singapore. You have the biotechnology industry. This is a high value added, high wage sector. What need is there for a pharmaceutical company to be based in Singapore, when comparative wage costs are not much different, compared to say Ireland, which is a democracy where it's citizens are treated with respect.

What else is there? You have the petrochemical industry. Well so has Malaysia. Petroleum refining plants can be built anywhere in the world. This industry exists in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Therefore no special advantage for Singapore.

You of course have the Port of Singapore and the airport. Again, Singapore is losing out to it's neighbours. Tanjong Pelapas in Malaysia is already overtaking Singapore and ports are being revamped and improved throughout the region.

As for the airport, Singapore is steadily losing out to the rest. The past notion of a hub and spoke airport where flights arrive at a hub airport which provides feeder flights to neighbouring cities no longer holds good. With better aircraft, it is easier to fly straight from San Francisco to Chennai rather than stopping at Singapore before the Chennai leg.

Dubai airport for instance has already overtaken Singapore in every respect. Just as Dubai, everyone else is catching on.

You have of course tourism, with Chinese and Indian tourists making up the the majority. So there may be jobs in stores selling sundry items for tourists.

You also have numerous convention centers in the attempt to make Singapore a convention center.

Then of course you have the impending casinos which will cater to gamblers drunks and pimps.

These sort of industries are not enough to make Singapore great. It may trudge along, but as Lord Macaulay said, it is like an ostrich. It can run but it can never hope to soar.

And the reason for this sad state of affairs in Singapore is the arrogance of Lee and his government. No self respecting human being likes to be constantly told what to do. He wants to decide that for himself. And that is what this dictatorial Singapore government denies it's people. And when they are not given their right to have a say in the way the government is run, they are put off. They either refuse to show any interest in their work or if possible they emigrate.

Furthermore Lee has deliberately angered Singapore's neighbours and taken advantage of them. Lee had called Australians "white thrash". He has invested a large amount in Australia in almost every sector of every industry. Now the Australians angered by Lee's insults and the hanging of Australian citizen Ngyuen, are now threatening to renege on all investments of Singapore Tumasek Holdings and the GIC in Australia. They are particularly angry that Singapore is misleading Australia by claiming that Tumasek is a private company, when in actual fact it is an arm of the Singapore government. They are not happy that the Singapore government under false pretences, i.e. Tumasek Holdings, is in fact the owner of Australian assets. Surely an understandable sentiment.

You are aware of course that Thailand has already kicked out Singapore from it's Thai Shin Corp ownership. Indonesia has refused to sell anymore granite and sand to Singapore for it's building industry. The European Union and Canada have declared that they will not permit anymore Singapore government investments in their countries without scrutiny as to the true owners of those investments. If it is Singapore government which is seen as a country which denies their people fundamental rights, such investments may not be approved.

In other words, Lee and his government is turning out to be pariah among nations.

This dishonest deception by Singapore in Australia is now known by all other countries throughout the world. Singapore is expected to face hostility from all Western countries where Singapore has investments and may result in their having to withdraw them.

All this does not augur well for arrogant Lee and his arrogant government.

In this situation, that has been going on for the last 40 years, it is Lee Kuan Yew and his ministers deciding everything without any consultation with the people. You read one day in the press that the GST has gone up, the next day that the CPF has gone up, the next day that bus fares have gone up and so on. The inquiring man will rightly ask why is he not given any chance to participate in this decision making. Surely it is his country and he being a citizen has his rights.

But Lee is not interested in what he has to say. Lee believes he knows best. His government scholars who are Cabinet Ministers know best. They will decide.

And it is because it is only the government that is permitted to think, that Singapore doesn't appear to find it's direction. For Singapore to succeed, you need the participation of the public in citizenship and governance. And until such time as this dictator decides to permit his people the right to participate in the running of the country, Singapore will be going from failed disc drive industry, to failed bio tech industry to failed airport. And to a failed country.

It is always the case in countries where only a handful of people are permitted to think.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

No comments: