Sunday, September 18, 2016

Economy on a freefall, birth rate zero, tourism down, real estate down, now ZIKA. Whats wrong with Singapore island, the nanny state?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There appears no let up for bad news in Singapore island, once touted to be the miracle of the world. Economy is down, businesses are down, real estate prices down, tourism arrivals down and now the Zika virus which has infected nearly 500 people! What's wrong with that island anyway.

The problem is not caused just because of the slowdown in world trade. The problem is the mentality of the people. It is a nanny state, where the society is incapable of thinking independently but looks to the state to tell what to do next.

It all started with Lee Kuan Yew the father of the present island Prime Minister. He placed his son on the job. In 1959 when Lee senior took hold of the island, he had ideas of his own. It was to create principally a planned state economy, just as in Communist countries. The government will create jobs, the government will build the infra structure. The government will build schools, the government will do everything.

As for the individual, he has to do nothing. First he should not criticize the government. He should accept that they are the masters. He should look for jobs created by his masters. He should do good work and expect to be promoted and succeed. His success depends on showing his support for his masters. A low level clerk obeys his superior, to look for advancement. His superior looks to his superior for advancement and so on along the totem pole.

No one needs to think on his own. Your ability and acumen don't count much. What counts is your obedience and loyalty to your superiors and up the chain of hierarchy.

Government's plan so far is targeted to certain industries. But since they are all dependent upon the world economy, when that falls, they too fall. You have the sectors of tourism, the shipping trade, some biotechnology, and you have the financial sector where the crooks of the world are invited there to launder money. So for a Singaporean you can find jobs in these sectors, and if there are none, you are in trouble. If you tell a Singaporean that he should do it this way, he promptly obeys. But if your were tell that to an Australian, he would probably respond by saying "Why?" So since the average citizen in Lee Kuan Yew's nanny state is unable to think on his own, when the situation get tough, he is doomed.

I was born in Singapore, spent my schooling there and practiced law there for 10 years. Let me tell you how bad the law is. First you have judges in Kangaroo courts. The judges are required to deliver judgments favorable to the government and their cronies. Although there is a wealth of law in the law of defamation, whenever you are sued by Lee Kuan Yew's son or his cronies, you know you lost even before you stepped into the courtroom. If you thought as a lawyer, you could develop a certain area of law and be expert at it to advance your career, you couldn't be more wrong. It is not how much you know but who are. If you are a lawyer from one of the government connected law firms and you are know to be a sympathizer, you can win even a bad case. On the other hand if you are a lawyer known to be a political opponent, forget any success at the Singapore courts. Once the judge looks at you, you are as good as history, and so is your client. I have had many occasions when I had good cases but one look at me, and I lost the case. After a while no one wanted to give me any cases since they knew their cause is as good as lost. As a result the law never progresses. Everyone is trying to impress their rulers and the law is not only abused, it deteriorates.

It is the same with every other occupation. As children of a nanny state, everyone is trying to impress their nanny, because if you are recognized, you stand to benefit immensely.

Lee Kuan Yew's son is greatly admired by the locals, not so much of how good he is, but more because of how much money he makes. The local mentality is to look to profit, even if the object of your envy might be a bloody fool.

And this sort of mentality brings to mind a book I read and re-reading " First you have to row a little boat" by Richard Bode. It is about a boy who wanted a sailboat but was told by a salty sailor that first he has to row a little boat. And the advice to any local Singaporean in that island is first you have to support Lee Kuan Yew's son and the ruling party before anything else.

This sort of mentality in a society makes it doomed to failure. Especially in a small island such as this without any natural resources. The human mind is capable of great things and great things come from individuals, not through state planning. When Lee Kuan Yew embarked on his nanny state, he forgot the most important component to the equation, which is the people. For him, Singaporeans were merely widgets or digits who can be pushed around any which way and they will merely curl and roll over. So far that is exactly what they have been doing and a people who will willingly curl and roll over at the slightest order are not a robust people who can stand on their own and create opportunities for themselves.

Let me give you an anecdote. In Singapore almost every taxi driver is someone who has lost his other job. It is as if they are incapable of thinking of any other job. If you lose your job as a clerk, apply for a taxi license, as simple as that. If you cannot drive, apply to become a security guard. Almost everyone who has lost his job is either a taxi drive or a security guard! Why, firstly because they incapable of thinking of anything else and more importantly they don't have any self esteem. And more importantly they are helpless because they are afraid of the government. The by product of fear is the inability to think independently. And what is worse, they have no respect for their government institutions. They know the courts are Kangaroo courts. They know the law is being misused to punish any detractors. But they appear resigned to that fact.

Let me give you an example. A few days ago I had called a Singapore lawyer called Sujatha Bhargawan with her firm Gavan Law Practice in the island. Her Email is and her phone is 63331323. She has been in practice for at least more than 30 years. I asked her if she finds practicing in the island distasteful because the Constitution was being abused. She said she didn't think so. When I asked her if the law had been abused to destroy Lee's opponent such as the late JB Jeyaretnam, she said that happens in only some cases and does that happen in other non-political cases. I asked her since she was a lawyer does she know the Singapore constitution, to which she said she is ignorant. To justify her continued practice in that jurisdiction, she said her roots and all her friends are there. End of conversation. And she is just like every single lawyer who practices in that island.

I know she has no respect for the legal system in Singapore. But because it is too hard to say so, she just lives.

Australia and New Zeeland are good comparisons to the island. Their population size is not too dissimilar compared to Australia's geographical size. Opposite to Singapore, the average Australian is proud of his country. It has rule of law, a free press and the people are able to think and act as they want. Which is why Australian law is far advanced, their scientists are far advanced, each Australian individual has a mind of his own. Why because they don't have to live in fear and submit to any master. Which is why despite anything Australians will ride the storm. If it was hard to find jobs, they would create one of their own. Which is why they have sportsmen who make millions, independent businesses of all sorts and burgeoning ideas all over the country. If an Australian loses his job, he does not automatically drive a taxi in Sydney. Instead he might think of creating a business exporting shoes to Gaborone, Botswana! Which is why he will survive good times or bad. Because he does not live in a nanny state, telling him what he should and should not do.

Singapore's business is heading down. I am monitoring the news to see how bad it will get in 3 months.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525

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