Archive for the ‘Singapore affairs’ Category
The year was 1981. Against impossible odds, Harbans Singh of the United People’s Front threw his hat into the Anson by-election ring, together with WP’s Joshua Bin Jeyaretnam (JBJ) and the PAP candidate, with Chiam See Tong’s SDP withdrawing only on Nomination Day itself. Though Harbans Singh ultimately lost, his party UPF soon became a household name and a force to be reckoned with in Singapore’s political landscape, opening the doors and ushering in multi-party parliamentary democracy in Singapore for the next three decades.
Unfortunately this never happened. History remembers Harbans Singh as a potential vote-spoiler, whose vote share of 1% consigned both the party and its leader to oblivion. Ask most Singaporeans today why JBJ’s legacy was significant and they’ll say he was the first opposition candidate to win a parliamentary seat since Singapore’s independence. Few remember that JBJ did so despite a three-cornered fight, and even fewer (if at all) remember the party and the candidate which nearly caused JBJ to lose.
Update June 12th: Via the Straits Times, NUS and Yale has denied the $300m deal. Unfortunately the article is truncated, so we’ll have to wait till it becomes available elsewhere.
Yesterday, Jim Sleeper of the Huffington Post authored a long post criticising Yale’s partnership with NUS here. The article is very lengthy, and much of it rehashes topics such as human rights and freedom of speech. However, what caught my attention were the following paragraphs:
As Amsterdam was being denied entry into Singapore last month, I was seated at a dinner in Germany next to a very high official of a European university who’d been to Singapore a few times himself. “There’s $300 million for Yale in its deal with NUS,” he confided to me.
“What? How do you know that?” I asked. “Yale claims it’s not getting a dime from Singapore, although Singapore is paying all the costs of constructing and staffing the college itself.”
“Oh, it’s not a direct payment,” my interlocutor explained. “It’s what you call insider trading: Yale will be cut in on prime investments that Singapore controls and restricts through its sovereign wealth fund. These will be only investments, not payments, so there’s some risk. But you’ll [see] Yale’s endowment will swell by several hundred million in consequence of its getting in on these ventures.”
I’m not sure what to make of counter protests by the Straits Times and its apologists that it reported the Hougang by-election coverage objectively and dispassionately. Yes those are the words used by the Straits Times editor in its reply to WP’s Low here. As previously written, when then MM Lee Kuan Yew slipped up under oath in 2008, the Straits Times could have spun the headline the same way it did for the by-election such as MM Lee made misstatement under oath, or as it did to WP even something like MM Lee faces allegations of perjury.
But what did Straits Times choose to go with instead? A headline firmly on the MM and PAP’s side: Govt rebuts law group’s attack on S’pore judiciary. Why the inconsistency, Straits Times?
Png Eng Huat, the WP candidate for MP in the Hougang By-election 2012 recently came under fire when DPM Teo Chee Hean said WP was not being truthful. Png had earlier said that he had taken out his name from the WP CEC NCMP ballot, but this appeared to have contradicted by a leaked minutes of the 2011 CEC minutes which saw one vote recorded for him. Png later clarified that he had misspoke and merely his preference that he should not be selected as NCMP.
The Straits Times, long known to be sympathetic to the ruling party, wasted no time in printing the front page headline as follows, juxtaposing a picture of WP’s Low and Sylvia Lim whispering over Png Eng Huat, as if reinforcing the idea that the allegations are true:
Why does Singapore have one of the lowest crime rates in the world? What is responsible for such a phenomena? Of course the usual PAP establishment apologists attribute this to the government’s policies on crime, which they argued have kept Singapore as one of the safest cities in the world. But is there all there is to it? How exactly did the PAP do it?
Let us first examine the trend of overall crime decline. Looking at old articles, the crime rate began falling in 1989 as stated in this 1991 ST article:
Senior Assistant Commissioner Khoo Boon Hui said yesterday: “The decline in the overall crime this year is particularly heartening as it indicates that the police have successfully sustained the falling crime trend of the past 2 1/2 years.”
What could account for such a steady drop in committed crimes? Kishore Mahbubani, a Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy professor attributed it to policies such as the high level of trust between the public and police, tough laws, economic growth and development as well universal education. But is that all?
Update: Amended the title just to be more specific with the content of the article.
Some time ago I wrote this post explaining why I felt that Singapore’s high GDP per capita ranking is unexceptional when put into context. It’s still worth a read. The main gist of the argument (more specifically the 2nd point) is that Singapore’s GDP per capita when compared to numerous other cities does not rank amongst the top in the world. The obsession with GDP per capita, is understood to have reached fever pitch when Singapore was judged to have reached a Swiss standard of living simply by attaining a comparable GNP per capita with Switzerland’s in 1999. For example, Matt Miller of the Washington Post gushed over Singapore’s GDP per capita in a recent op-ed here.
A recent publication by an American think tank seems to support this argument. The report argues that the US is more economically developed than much of Europe simply because more of their population is packed into mega-cities:
The United States, it turns out, actually derives more economic benefit from its cities than any other country on the planet. Roughly 83 percent of America’s GDP came from its “large cities,” defined as cities with a population of 150,000 or more. By contrast, China got 78 percent of its GDP from large cities and Western Europe got a surprisingly small 65 percent of its GDP from its large urban areas. Here’s the chart:
The report’s authors argue that the city gap between the United States and Europe account for about three-quarters of the difference in per capita GDP between the two. In other words, the United States appears to be wealthier than Europe because it has a greater share of its population living in large, productive cities.
All told, some 80 percent of Americans live in large cities, versus just 58 percent of Western Europeans.
In any case, the report also notes that America’s largest cities will continue to play an outsized role in the global economy. In 2025, the report predicts, about 600 cities around the globe will account for 60 percent of the world’s GDP.
So what does this tell us? It means that if a country has more cities and a larger proportion of its people residing or packed in mega-cities, it is expected that the country would enjoy stronger economic growth. Taken to extremes, what happens if your country consists of just one mega-city (ie. a city-state)? The answer is that you would enjoy stellar high GDP per capita figures.
Recently, Finance Minister Tharman stirred up a ruckus when he defended the foreign talent scheme by citing how Taiwanese wages had flattened over the last decade due to its closed door policy. Popular blogger Lucky Tan rebutted Tharman here and here, primarily by turning Tharman’s argument on its head: Tharman essentially put the cart before the horse; the reason why Taiwan’s not attracting foreign talent is precisely because of stagnant wages which had flatlined over the past ten years, not the other way round.
This point is echoed by Taiwan’s deputy Labour minister:
It is not the government’s policies that have led to the brain drain, but Taiwan’s “comparatively low wage levels,” which have failed to retain local talent or attract professionals from overseas, Pan said.
While the average starting pay for new graduates in Taiwan is between NT$20,000 and NT$30,000, “a Taiwanese college graduate may earn NT$50,000, NT$60,000 or even NT$70,000 if they work in Singapore,” he said.
“The problem lies with enterprises who are unwilling to raise salaries for their staff members,” Pan said.
So I happened to chance upon a link posted by TOC FB, to Ravi’s blog (who is TOC’s chief editor). Ravi posted a screenshot asking if a certain controversial MP had come around and learned to take criticisms in her stride. Ravi cited a Facebook post, ostensibly linked by TPL in linking to a Youtube clip which mocks her now infamous behaviour of stamping her feet:
I’ve not written much recently, given work commitments which allows me only enough time to catch up on stories during weekdays and write on weekends. But I thought I should say something about Temasek Review.
Temasek Review has been offline since 5th Sept, and there’s no word from the main site as to what happened to the web admins. I hope that they are all right and would continue to run the website.
Many online folks blame TR for endorsing Tan Jee Say who won 25% of the votes, a distant finish compared to Dr Tan Cheng Bock who nearly upset the eventual PE winner Tony Tan by less than 1%. Some critics of the establishment have even called it a fiasco. Yet others have gone even further and baselessly claimed that TR is an ISD or PAP-backed website which supported TJS with the secret intention of helping Tony Tan win the PE. I beg to disagree.
I believe such a view however is poorly thought out and misinformed. The key argument I put forward here is that Tony Tan would have performed much better if TR wasn’t around. My own take on this was that TR played a critical role in publicising stories which drove up negative perception of Tony Tan, causing him to win just over 35% of the vote despite the fact that he was much more well-known by the public. I believe that if TR hadn’t existed, or had not reported the way it did, Tony Tan would probably have had won with over 40% of the vote.