Monday, December 5, 2016

As tiny Singapore island slides headlong into economic collpase, what it needs is some democracy, some kindness and compassion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The economic bad news has been on the wall for a long time now. This tiny island's economy is heading to a total collapse. Every single economic sector of activity looks hopeless. The oil rig manufacture and supply is dead for obvious reasons. The days of fossil fuels are over, so the oil refining sector is dead. Pharmaceutical sector is dead. They are manufacturing it in cheaper countries. Casinos are dead. The Chinese don't have money to spare. Banking is collapsing because the idea of offshore banks supporting money launderers is failing.

Unless and until the rulers of Singapore realize that they need Singaporeans as their partners, and not their enemies, it is simply not going to work. What you have in Singapore is unadulterated merciless capitalism. You work for multi national companies and if you lose your job, you are destitute. There is no real safety net to speak of. This creates an atmosphere of fear, constant fear of losing one's job. This results in a sort of mental paralysis, lack of productivity and creativity since no one dares to venture into new enterprises for fear that you may fail and end up destitute.

And then you have a leadership that is seen by the average Singaporean as simply corrupt. The leaders pay themselves millions regardless of how anyone else lives. If you complain you are liable to be sued for defamation of character and hauled before their Kangaroo courts and made destitute.

The island has no basic freedoms. No freedom of speech, expression, assembly or freedom of the press. The citizens are required to simply obey and do as they are told.

And those who criticize, are treated very harshly. They are a very vindictive government. Many Singaporeans who have criticized the government have been driven into exile and either cannot return or are afraid to return. I was imprisoned in Singapore in 2008 for criticizing a judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean who unashamedly abused the law to punish an opposition politician Chee Soon Juan. Today he is completely marginalized. He was thrown out of his job and has no means of livelihood. I had to leave Singapore in 1991 because it was impossible for me to earn a living for criticizing the government. Today even though I am an American citizen, I fear returning to the island for fear of being imprisoned again on trumped up charges. There is no rule of law in the island. This sort of thing does not happen in any other country except in totalitarian dictatorships.

This sort of life results in deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The state is not seen as the partner of the citizens, but rather as their enemy about which there is nothing they can do.

If it has worked so far, it is only because in the 60s and 70s, there was no Internet. There was no instant news throughout the world. Today Singaporeans look at other countries where people live normal fruitful lives and ask why they have to live the way they do.

One country to take an example from is Finland. It is similarly sized in population of 5 million but has a much larger area. It is cold and a difficult country to live in. Yet they do exceptionally well despite their harsh climate.

1. It has real freedom, freedom of speech and every other freedom. It is truly a democratic society. Finns appreciate this and respect their government.

2. It has very generous unemployment benefits. This means that unlike Singaporeans they don't have to live in fear every minute of losing their job and becoming destitute. This enables Finns to experiment with new ventures and new enterprises. This promotes creativity and hence greater productivity.

3. They have free health care for all.

4. They have free education up to and through university. It does not matter what you study, it is free.

5. They have generous child care benefits. Mothers who have a child are given 3 months at full pay and another 7 months at 70% pay. You can if you want take more time off without pay. This encourages mothers to have children since they know that they don't have to be separated from a new born baby or lose their job if they took leave.

6. Child care centers are all over the country to cater for every Finnish child. And this too is free.

7. Finnish education system has been repeatedly declared the best in the world. Teachers are the most respected of professions and they are given great leeway on how or what they teach. Fin students constantly come up tops in mathematics and science in world ranking.

Understandably with this sort of welfare state, Finns are taxed higher than in Singapore, something which they willingly accept. This is because for the tax they pay, they get security in their lives and an opportunity to excel.

Finns despite their harsh climate are happy to live in their country. Unlike Singapore island which has one of the world's highest brain drain figures, Finns do not leave Finland.

The reader will be able to see why Finland is such a successful country. Their birth rate is much higher than in Singapore and some of the world's greatest companies are from Finland.

Unless and until Singapore realizes that they have to create a climate where their citizens can respect and trust their government, the economic decline will continue for the simple reason that the people dislike and distrust their government. The only question is whether the slide to economic collapse will be a gradual one or a sudden precipitous  one.

In spite of all this, I am certain of one thing. These corrupt millionaire rulers of Singapore island are not going to make any changes. It is going to be the same. And if that is so, no one can help Singapore.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont (San Francisco) USA
Tel: 510 491 8525


Daniel Kevlar said...

To echo something that a decent number of people on the island have been saying: "What tourism? Travel a few klicks north and you get more things for cheaper."

Honestly, heading to Malaysia for tourism isn't as clean and polished as the Singapore Tourism Board would have you think Singapore's tourist destinations are. The fact that most of the beaches here are littered with coastal trash and the fact that the island itself doesn't have much in terms of unique things to offer... what's the draw to Singapore?

I mean, if you look at Malaysia, they still have blacksmiths making knives, machetes, cleavers and even metal art pieces (which is banned here in Singapore). They have airsoft (something that's banned in Singapore for some godawful reason), paintball, air guns, hunting, forests, colder and warmer climates due to the larger size of the peninsula, various wildlife that aren't limited to the zoos, chewing gum and plenty of other things. Sure, you can say that this comes with the lack of better living but for god's sake, people are free to live how they want compared to the strictness of Singapore's absurd restrictions. I mean, BORAX is banned as a "controlled poison", yet Clorox bleach isn't?

Truly ridiculous.
-Daniel Kevlar

Julie O'Connor said...

I have brought numerous matters of serious concern to the attention of Audit Committee Chairpersons of SGX listed entities, Banks and regulatory bodies, it would appear to no avail. Claims of forged signatures on four documents and invoices inflated to enable kickbacks to name a few. Are these not considered corrupt acts, which I thought were not tolerated in Singapore?

I wonder, is it because I'm an Ang Moh, the status of the person of concern or a combination of both, that these matters are not investigated in a transparent manner?

I have a website and am currently writing a book about my experience of fighting for transparency in Singapore.