30 Nov 2004

Singapore Aims for More Babies, Immigration

Mon Nov 29, 2004 09:49 AM ET

By Jason Szep
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore, facing a record-low birth rate and an aging workforce, is aiming for a 40 percent rise in the number of babies born a year following new pro-fertility steps designed to rekindle the embers of romance.

Singapore's government was also looking at other ways to expand its population, including increasing its foreign workers, said Junior Finance Minister Lim Hwee Hua, a member of the government's "Working Committee on Population."

Singapore is grappling with one of Asia's lowest birth rates, with the number of babies born each year well below the 2.1 per woman needed to replenish its population.

In an interview with Reuters, Lim said Singapore needed more babies and more foreign workers to counter a rapidly aging workforce and to fill jobs in service industries that will lead Singapore in a new era of competition from China and India.

"We do need a critical mass," she said.

The size of that mass is a source of speculation.

Dianel Lian, Southeast Asian economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a recent report that Singapore may be on the cusp of a monumental policy shift that could lead to a doubling in its current population of 4.2 million over the long term.

Its about to get damn crowded in Singapore...

The actual figure from Morgan Stanley is quoted below along with a link to the actual article.

The following is the introduction to an article from Morgan Stanley written by Daniel Lian on September 10, 2004. It is of course not a public government backed announcement just their speculation of the future population size, is it possible and what effect might it have on the market.... However if it in any way relates to the future population size then its going to get damn crowded.

A Bigger Singapore?

A Monumental Population Policy Shift?

On September 3, the Singapore government announced measures to broaden immigration criteria, so as to boost its population. The key criteria shift appears to be on academic qualifications and social integration. The previous emphasis on tertiary or professional qualifications is now balanced by essential/appropriate job skills needed by the Singapore economy, as well as the ability of the immigrants and their families to integrate successfully into Singapore's society. Prior to the shift, Singapore had always preferred to take in well educated (or wealthy, in some cases)
foreigners, so as to enlarge its pool of highly skilled labour.

The announced new measures do not seem to be drastic at first glance. However, we believe Singapore can leverage a much bigger population to help it 'sharpen' its three-pronged economic strategy. While we are not privy to any policy insight, we believe it is quite possible that the country will contemplate a monumental shift in its population policy - one that would substantially increase its population from the present 4 million to perhaps 6 to 8 million over the long term.

For the rest of the article read...
Demographic and Labor Force Snapshots

The following are links to two of my previous posts on the birth rate in Singapore.
Birth Rate
The Battle of Sexuality

26 Nov 2004

Singapore's Jeyaretnam says career in politics likely over

The Star online

SINGAPORE (AP) - Veteran opposition figure Joshua "J.B.'' Jeyaretnam said Friday his political career is likely over after an appeal's court in Singapore ruled he is bankrupt, a decision that bars him from parliament.

"I have not received the justice that I had a right to expect from the court,'' he told The Associated Press.

Jeyaretnam - a thorn in the flesh of the long-ruling People's Action Party - has for years been embroiled in a thicket of libel and defamation lawsuits, many brought by PAP stalwarts.

The former head of the Workers' Party was declared bankrupt in January 2001 after missing a single payment from a 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$290,000; euro220,000) libel lawsuit filed by PAP members.

Singapore law bars people declared bankrupt from standing for elected office.

Earlier this year, Jeyaretnam twice tried and failed to get the city-state's lower courts to set aside the bankruptcy ruling.

The moves were opposed by many of his creditors, including former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Jeyaretnam said Friday he can't run for office again unless "someone gives me the money to pay off the entire sum.''

The PAP was founded by Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore's founding father and Jeyaretnam's longtime political foe.

It has won every election in the city-state since independence in 1965.

Jeyaretnam won a hotly disputed by-election in 1981 as the only opposition member in parliament. - AP

If Jeyaretnam goes it further undermines the PAP's claims that there is a place for opposition parties in Singapore. Surely the grossly overpaid ministers could band together and pay off this debt. If they don't then they have simply undermined any credible claim to being democratic, by the over zealous use of the independent judiciary system in Singapore.

Well done ministers, in the eyes of democracy watchers around the world you have just shot yourself in the foot.

25 Nov 2004

Singapore's leading opposition figure loses appeal

The Star online

SINGAPORE (AP) - Singapore's leading opposition figure has lost an appeal to be discharged from bankruptcy, a court ruled Thursday, effectively disqualifying him as a candidate in the next general election.

The Court of Appeal's judgment is the latest legal setback for Joshua 'J.B.' Jeyaretnam, 79, who for many years has been embroiled in a thicket of libel and defamation lawsuits, many brought by stalwarts of the long-ruling People's Action Party, or PAP.

Under Singapore law bankrupt individuals are not allowed to stand for Parliament.

Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt in January 2001 after missing a single payment from a 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$290,000; euro220,000) libel lawsuit filed by PAP members.

He still owes a portion of the court-awarded damages.

Earlier this year, Jeyaretnam twice tried and failed to get the city-state's lower courts to set aside his bankruptcy.

The moves were opposed by many of his creditors, including former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who now holds the title of senior minister.

Jeyaretnam argued in those cases and his appeal that his creditors were opposing his discharge for political reasons, to keep him from running for elected office.

Thursday's judgment - written by Justice Chao Hick Tin - said the appeal judges could not fault the earlier judge's decision.

"There is no basis for us to overturn the decision of the court below. The judge has not erred,'' said the judgment, a copy of which was faxed to The Associated Press.

The Court of Appeal agreed it was "premature'' to discharge Jeyaretnam's bankruptcy status, in part as his assets had not yet been fully determined.

In particular there remained a dispute over Jeyaretnam's possible ownership of a property in neighboring Malaysia worth an estimated S$328,000 (US$190,000; euro145,000), the judgment said.

Singapore's top PAP members have a long history of suing their political opponents for libel and defamation.

They argue that the lawsuits are the best way of protecting their reputations.

Jeyaretnam's loss of the appeal, which was dismissed with legal costs, comes amid recurrent talk in Singapore that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong could soon call snap elections.

Lee, who took the reins from Goh in August, is the elder son of modern Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee the elder and Jeyaretnam are long-time political foes and regularly clashed in Parliament in the 1980s.

Jeyaretnam rocked Singapore's staid political scene in 1981 by winning a hotly disputed by-election.

At that time, he was the only opposition member in Parliament. - AP

24 Nov 2004

...abuse of state resources...

Just out of curiousity, is the printed press in Singapore mentioning what is occurring in the Ukraine at the moment? Are the journalists drawing any parallels with a small country in South-East Asia?

The abuse of state resources sounds familiar.

Observers denounce Ukraine election

Staff and agencies
Monday November 22, 2004

Foreign observers said today that Ukraine's presidential elections, which have been marred by allegations of intimidation and voter fraud, did not meet international standards.

The joint mission representing the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and Nato said its officials observed abuse of state resources in favour of the pro-Russian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych.

The same group of observers denounced the election's first round, which took place on October 31, and said authorities had failed to fix the flaws.

Bruce George, the official in charge of the monitoring operation, said: "With an even heavier heart than three weeks ago, I have to repeat the message from the first round; this election did not meet a considerable number of international standards for democratic elections.

"The deficiencies have not been addressed. The abuse of state resources in favour of the prime minister continued, as well as an overwhelming media bias in his favour," he said.

With almost all the results counted after the polls closed late yesterday, official figures showed Mr Yanukovych held a narrow lead over pro-western opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

Exit polls, however, showed the challenger ahead, prompting claims from Mr Yushchenko and his supporters that the government had falsified the results.

Tens of thousands of Yushchenko supporters brought the city centre to a halt, pitching tents in the middle of Khreshchatyk, Kiev's tree-lined main thoroughfare.

Mr Yushchenko addressed the crowd, saying he had no confidence in officials conducting the count. Supporters braved sub-zero temperatures in orange scarves, sweaters and headbands - the colour of his campaign. Banners with the candidate's portrait hung from buildings and a bridge.

"Remain where you are," he told the 50,000-strong gathering in Independence Square. "From all parts of Ukraine, on carts, cars, planes and trains tens of thousands of people are on their way here. Our action is only beginning."

He called for cancellation of results in districts of eastern Ukraine, Mr Yanukovich's stronghold, where he said turnout had exceeded the number of voters on lists. He also demanded an emergency session of parliament.

The rival candidates presented Ukraine with a stark choice for its future, 13 years after independence from Soviet rule. The prime minister seeks closer ties with Moscow, while the challenger calls for gradual integration with the rest of Europe.

In a bitter campaign, Mr Yanukovich accused the challenger of causing Ukraine's current problems during his earlier stint as prime minister and Mr Yushchenko fought back by branding the prime minister unfit for office because of convictions for theft and assault in his youth.

23 Nov 2004

Don't expect to practice the journalism of fairness and forthrightness

Letter from Singapore, printed in full

Published by PranayGupte.com on 2004-11-19

Not so long ago, an important member of India's federal cabinet took me aside and asked why was it that Singaporeans were racist. I was floored by the question, which the official asked in all earnestness. In his long career dealing with ethnicities and communities all over the world, he said, he had never quite encountered the sheer arrogance and hubris demonstrated by Singaporeans.

"They think that they know it all," he said, noting the absurdity of a nation of four million people taking on a country of 1.2 billion people. "Even a minor Singaporean official will talk down to someone as senior as me."

I don't know if I fully agree with the cabinet official. Singapore and India, in fact, have been working hard at building stronger political and economic relations: they are about to sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which covers not only trade but also investment and services. The Indian government hopes that Singapore, which has US$1.3 billion invested in Indian technology and telecommunications companies, will bring in an additional US$2.5 billion to help build India's languishing infrastructure next year. Singapore, in fact, is the biggest Asian investor in India, and third only to Mauritius and the United States. Singapore - whose GDP of US$100 billion is less than a sixth of India's - expects to attract more Indian hi-tech professionals, and also hopes that India will use it as an offshore center for financial transactions.

Unlike my friend, the Indian cabinet official, I don't believe that this is a racist society. Indeed, I have been overwhelmed by the good will and graciousness of everyday Singaporeans. It's easy to make friends here, and people have been uniformly and extraordinarily kind to me. In fact, I have been genuinely touched by the gestures of sweetness and thoughtfulness from everyday Singaporeans.

But this is certainly a "rules-driven society" - in the words of my friend Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean of Indian descent who was his country's Permanent Representative at the United Nations and is now Dean of the new Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy here in Singapore.

Ironically, it was my article about the new School - named in honor of Singapore founding father - that may have precipitated my involuntary departure from The Straits Times on November 16.

But before I come to a fuller examination of the episode, let me say a word or two about the paper, which will be 160 years old next year. It's a beautifully designed paper, with 90 percent of a typical day's edition of 200 pages consisting of ads. I was hired in March 2004 as its global-affairs columnist. I wrote columns under my own byline three or four times a week; I also wrote at least one or two longish analytical features and profiles each week. And I wrote unsigned editorials (which are called leaders here, in the British fashion) mainly on developing countries, international finance, global politics, India, and the Middle East - subjects that I've long covered in a journalistic career spanning four decades.

The Straits Times has no competition in Singapore. It's owned wholly by a company called Singapore Press Holdings, whose stock is sold publicly but whose affairs are closely monitored by the government of prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore's founding father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The paper is run by editors with virtually no background in journalism. For example, my direct editor was Ms Chua Lee Hoong, a woman in her mid 30s. She was an intelligence officer. Other key editors are drawn from Singapore's bureaucracies and state security services. They all retain connections to the state's intelligence services, which track everyone and everything.

At the newspaper, I was struck by the total absence of conversation or banter in the huge newsroom. Having spent two decades at the New York Times, including my student days in the United States, and having run my own newspaper subsequently, The Earth Times - not to mention my 18-year tenure as a columnist at Newsweek International, plus 16 years at Forbes as a contributing editor - I was accustomed to the spirited atmosphere of news rooms, not to mention disagreements and disputes.

I believe that what precipitated my termination from the paper on the morning of Tuesday, November 16, was my refusal to include in the article about the LKY School some falsehoods about Mr. Mahbubani that two editors suggested that I should insert. They both claimed that Mr. Mahbubani has had problems with the nation's security services and that he was viewed as a radical when he was a student at what was then the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore).

There was no way that I could independently confirm such suggestions. Moreover, I believe they were false. Mr. Mahbubani may have been a student activist in his writings for the university newspaper - but since then has distinguished himself for nearly four decades as Singapore's emissary in various places. The fact that he was named head of the LKY School is testimony to the high regard in which he is universally held. (His first book, "Can Asians Think?" was a best-seller in Asia and Europe, and also did pretty well in the United States. His next book will be published in the spring by Public Affairs in New York.)

It would have been simply inappropriate to include unsubstantiated stuff about Mr. Mahbubani's alleged radicalism during his student days. And it's highly unlikely that he would have risen as high as he has, had he been really considered a national security risk. My own feeling is that among some of the intelligence and bureaucratic types who run the Straits Times, there isn't universal good will toward the LKY School or its dean.

Like newsrooms everywhere, the newsroom of the Straits Times has its share of jealousies, resentments and fiefdoms.

It is also a poorly run organization. For example, my editor, Ms Lee, killed a substantial quote that I obtained from Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, on the grounds that he was "distracting." When I wrote an e-mail note to Arthur, whom I've known for a long time, to explain why his generously given quote to me was not used, here's what I received from Mr. Cheong Yip Seng, the editor-in-chief of the Straits Times:

we do not do this on this paper, namely apologise to a newsmaker whose quote we did not use. if i were the newsmaker, i would think poorly of the paper. if the nyt uses every quote of a noteworthy newsmaker, they will need to double the pages they use daily.

----- Forwarded by Cheong Yip Seng/SPH on 14/11/2004 06:37 PM -----

Needless to day, Mr. Cheong missed my point entirely. Arthur Sulzberger had made a special effort to communicate with me from 13,000 miles away to give me a long personal statement about the New York Times and its directions. I used the quote in a column on the media, but, of course, it was edited out. I felt that in view of my own long tenure at the Times, and my friendship with Arthur, I owed him an explanation, at the very least. It was common courtesy on my part, not brown-nosing to Arthur, who doesn't take to kindly to obsequiousness anyway.

Ms Chua, my editor, also killed two other exclusive interviews I'd obtained in recent days, mainly through my access to important people gained over four decades in international journalism. She said that what was said by Dr. Supachai Panichpakadi, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations - and the author of a recent best-seller - was "boring."

In fact, both were timely interviews. Dr. Supachai spoke about ending textile quotas which, starting in December, will give developing nations unprecedented access to the markets of industrialized nations. And Mr. Peterson spoke about the troubling U.S. deficits, and how both Republicans and Democrats have been irresponsible about dealing with the current-account deficit that's expected to balloon past US$600 billion this year.

Ms Chua further recommended that I should turn to a white colleague in the news room for lessons on how to ask questions. Since I didn't come to the Straits Times to be re-educated in journalism - after a pretty distinguished career of my own - I felt that her advice was inappropriate. She was, of course, well within her rights to kill any story she wanted, but people like Dr. Supachai and Mr. Peterson aren't usually accessible to inconsequential newspapers such as the Straits Times.

Be that as it may, I thought that the editor - who was trained as an intelligence officer, not as a journalist - was way out of line in recommending that, at age 56, I take lessons in journalism from a white man at the paper. Among the things that I was hired for, incidentally, was mentoring young people at the Straits Times.

Now some people I know in Singapore regard Ms Chua's behaviour as racism. I do not. But another episode in the news room last week certainly suggested racism to me. A Chinese colleague of mine - a fellow columnist named Mr. Andy Ho - had changed the thrust of my column on Diwali, which happens to be a national holiday here. While his technical editing was superb - and I told him that - what appeared in the paper subsequently simply wasn't my voice.

When I approached Mr. Ho about this, he waved me away in our newsroom like one would a persistent beggar. Perhaps he did not realise the significance of that gesture when directed at a Hindu-born person like me, however secular I may be in my sensibilities.

But he repeated his gesture in a manner that was so dismissive that I then addressed him by the only appropriate response, a barnyard epithet. I was struck, not by his gesture alone - I've seen worse during a career in journalism spanning four decades - but by the expression on his face. It left no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he would qualify for what my friend, the Indian cabinet official, would most certainly call a racist.

"Racist" is a hot-button word, never to be employed lightly. As an Indian-born, US-educated journalist, I have never been exposed to racial discrimination. Quite the contrary. America - supposedly still a land of great racial divides - has been generous to me, truly a land of monumental opportunities.

But here's another anecdote concerning a Singaporean that was certainly sobering to me when it happened.

Some time ago, a recruiter from a venerable Singaporean institution looked me up in New York, my home since I was in my early twenties. I was being offered a job, but at a salary far less than a white gentleman I knew with considerably less experience. Why was that?

"Because you are an Indian," the woman recruiter said.

"I'm an American," I replied.

"It doesn't matter what your nationality is," she said. "You are a person of Indian origin, and that's how our compensation is structured."

Needless to say, it was an offer that I had no problems refusing.

Years later, when I finally arrived in Singapore - which was some months ago - I was quite astonished to see how many non-Singaporean Indians in professional positions were serving with coolie-like servility that they would never display back at home. What was going on here?

"You have to play by the rules," one Indian-born colleague said. "You cannot shake the boat too much. In fact, you dare not shake it at all. The money is good here, so I can swallow an insult or two."

The behaviour of Ms Chua, the editor, may be simply the kind of office politics that people holding power engage in every now and then. But it's also part of a broader attitude that I detect among many Singaporeans in journalism's top echelons here - that no one else's record or accomplishment or opinion counts but theirs. Any divergence of view is immediately regarded as subversive dissent.

This is an important point because if Singaporeans are going to be perceived as filled with hubris and an unbending my-way-or-highway attitude, it is going to be increasingly difficult for this country to attract the talent it needs to sustain its economic ambitions. In fact, young Singaporean professionals are emigrating to Australia and Europe in record numbers because they feel stifled here.

For example, I would be very curious to see how many top-notch Indian professionals in technology and the sciences actually wind up in Singapore once the ambitious Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is signed this month by Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Manmohan Singh of India.

Why am I sceptical that there isn't exactly going to be an exodus from India to Singapore? Precisely because of what that Indian cabinet minister told me. Singapore can attract all the cheap coolie labour it might want, but the word has gotten around in the Indian professional community that this isn't the place to come for personal and cultural fulfilment.

One Indian sociologist put it very succinctly, if harshly: "Yes, Singapore will get all the white trash it wants. Yes, it will get all the brown trash it wants. Anything's better than living in villages without electricity. But it's going to have problems getting the brown sahibs it needs."

Without those brown sahibs, Singapore will lose out to its neighbours in the great globalisation game. Already, its consumer prices and cost-of-living are driving potential talent to places like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi aren't such bad places to live and work in either, especially if you are in the technology sector.

Singapore, in short, is facing severe competition, and it's falling behind already. Does that mean by calibrating its culture to be more welcoming to outsiders is the answer? It's one answer, certainly. Does that mean Singaporeans should tolerate dilution of high professional standards? Certainly not. But why would any self-respecting professional coming to work here want to compromise his own standards?

And so back to that question: Are Singaporeans racist? Well, of course some of them are, just as surely some Americans are, and Australians and Argentineans and, dare I say, even Indians.

But Singapore lives in a unique goldfish bowl, and its own standards of economic excellence require its citizens to be more sensitive and magnanimous when it comes to dealing with outsiders. After all, Singapore has created a pretty well-functioning secular society for itself - even though one might argue that, in the cultural scheme of things, Tamils and Malays play second sitar to the Chinese.

This is such a beautiful place with such beautiful and giving people. It's hard not to be a well-wisher. But the Straits Times as a model of dynamic, open-minded journalism? It will happen on the day that it starts to snow here on the equator.
So what am I going to do next? A book or two to complete. Plenty of museums to visit in Singapore. Certainly scores of great food joints. Nice people to spend time with, as long as I avoid the paper's editors, of course.

Would I still recommend Singapore as a place to visit? Yes, I would, most definitely. And as a place to stay? Yes, I would, most certainly. But don't expect to practice the journalism of fairness and forthrightness. This simply isn't the place for that. At least, not as long as nail-pullers are running the news room. I got out before they pulled out my nails. But it still hurts.

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

22 Nov 2004

Singapore's Founder Attacks 'Rough, Dumbed-Down Britain'

From the Scotsman.

Reading the following while eating my morning cereal I actully laughed so hard that my breakfast fell on the floor. Is the M&M saying that Singapore is everything Britain is not? Elitist...Cultivated...Well-mannered...

Wonderful insight into the mind of a great statesman. Very much aligned with conservative, upper-class, Prince Charles types.

Singapore's Founder Attacks 'Rough, Dumbed-Down Britain'

Singapore’s founding father says today British society has become “rougher” over the past half century, and the country’s politicians and media now denigrate excellence.

“Their media and politicians are anti-elitist, denigrating excellence, wanting to dumb other people and institutions down to the lowest common denominator, to avoid anyone being inferior,” Lee Kuan Yew said, according to a report in The Straits Times.

Lee, one of Asia’s most respected elder statesmen, was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the city-state’s long-ruling People’s Action Party.

In his address, which was reprinted in the newspaper, Lee named several societies he said he knew well that had changed over the party’s lifetime. He listed former colonial power Britain, Japan and China.

“The people of Britain of the 1940s where I was a student were a cultivated people, polite and well-mannered,” Lee said.

“Now the texture of British society is rougher. Courtesy is less evident. Everyone demands his right to a higher place in society, and a bigger piece of the economic pie.”

Lee, who has the title minister mentor, said British politicians were no longer polite but instead shouted at each other in parliament. Social and sexual mores were “no longer prim and proper”, he added.

Lee said Britain’s top universities – Oxford, Cambridge and London – were under pressure to accept students from state schools. This left students from privately-funded schools at a “disadvantage”.

Under Lee’s stern leadership Singapore was transformed from an unexceptional Asian port city in the 1950s into one of the richest countries in the region today.

21 Nov 2004

Singapore's gay sex prohibition slammed

(Agencies)China Daily
Updated: 2004-11-21 16:44

A group that promotes AIDS awareness blasted a Singapore law that prohibits gay sex, saying it impedes efforts to educate homosexuals about the dangers of HIV transmission through unsafe sex.

Stuart Koe, head of the Fridae Asian gay and lesbian network, also rejected recent criticism by Singapore's minister of state for health, Balaji Sadasivan, who said the advocacy group Action for AIDS was "not doing enough" to fight the spread of the disease.

"Since gay sex is illegal, how then can any agency or organization in Singapore promote safe sex among men ... without being complicit in abetting illegal activity?" a statement on Fridae's Web site said Sunday.

Singapore, a country of 4 million people, bans gay sex, defining it as "an act of gross indecency" punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however.

Koe accused the government of neglecting the threat to gay men by failing to target them in its AIDS awareness campaign.

"Singapore's public health service has systematically ignored and left (gay men) out of all its public health messages," Koe said.

Health ministry officials said they could not respond immediately when contacted Sunday.

Officials have said previously that the campaign against AIDS does not promote condom use to fight the disease out of respect for Singaporeans who hold conservative views about sex.

AIDS activists in Singapore have urged authorities to curb what they say is an "alarming" rise in the number of gay men infected with HIV on the island.

HIV infections among homosexual men in Singapore rose from 12 cases reported in 2000 to 40 cases in 2003, according to health ministry statistics. In the first 10 months of 2004, 77 new HIV cases were reported among homosexual men.

19 Nov 2004

The litmus tests of a more open society


Friday, November 19, 2004

Some call them the MIW (Men In White). Writer Catherine Lim
prefers the term "shirtsleeves Government".

The litmus tests of a more open society
Derrick A Paulo

Some call them the MIW (Men In White). Writer Catherine Lim (picture) prefers the term "shirtsleeves Government".
But she is not referring to the People's Action Party's sartorial style.
Dr Lim has been providing the occasional insight into the party's political style ever since her controversial exposition 10 years ago of theaffective divide between the PAP and the people.
On Wednesday night, in a talk held by the National University of Singapore Society on her dual role of writer and political commentator, she gave her latest take on the new political leadership.
Amid positive comments came the observation that some things do not change.
"This Government is totally amoral and not ideological, for purely pragmatic reasons because it is time-wasting," she said.
"A problem presents itself, they roll up their shirtsleeves and they set to work and they go about it until the problem is solved.
"But one thing that still exasperates me is this: They somehow have this unshakeable sense of their infallibility and superiority.
"All the changes and so on that they make, I feel, cannot touch at the core. They are not ready for that."
Addressing a small room of about 40 people, she likened the political situation to a series of concentric circles.
The Government would be "very accepting" of more peripheral, non-political, day-to-day issues, for example, better welfare for foreign domestic workers, she believed.
"It actually gives a sense of openness: The Government is listening. But, really, it is on these issues that don't touch them at all," she said.
But, closer to the centre, the leaders might be more uptight about style, although she thinks they are now more prepared for criticism of Government policies.
At the centre, she listed several political "no-nos" such as allegations of nepotism and questioning the judiciary's independence.
In giving this appraisal, she also suggested three scenarios as litmus tests of whether the Government was willing to "back up its promise of opening up".
Firstly, "if they allow demonstrations. This is part and parcel of any society. But it is absolutely prohibited. I don't even mean demonstrating against the Government. Groups could want to show their disapproval
of some international policy, Iraq prisoners, Abu Ghraib and so on," she explained.
Secondly, if the Government tolerated political cartoons, which Dr Lim also described as part and parcel of "democratic life in any country".
"Third and this will be the greatest: If somebody sues the Government and wins. I think Singaporeans will sit up and say: 'Ooh'," she said animatedly.
However, she expressed her doubts that any of these would occur in the near future. But she will be watching closely the next elections for a more realistic sign of political progress.
"If they repeat what they did at previous elections, I think I will be nettled and rattled ... not giving the Opposition enough time, coming in with their hardball politics, making use of the media and the institutions — this sort of thing annoys me," she said agitatedly.
Here, she expects more openness and less threats, simply because she believes the Government is in a very secure position.
In the post-911 and post-Sars world, the "climate" will be conducive for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to pursue the economic imperative of jobs and stability, which is what Singaporeans really want, she said.
However, due to the changing times and changing world and with a more sophisticated citizenry, she is confident that PM Lee will not go about it in the "knuckle-duster" or "lecturing and hectoring" manners of the past.
"I am quite happy to see what is happening except that I sometimes think: 'Will you please stop your policy of incrementalism'. This Government is so cautious, they do things in small steps," she said.

This article is part of a on-line forum discussion thread.You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to: http://forums.delphiforums.com/sammyboymod/messages/?msg=60067.4

17 Nov 2004

Singapore slams media watchdog for low ranking in press freedom

Singapore slams media watchdog for low ranking in press freedom
Everythings FINE Here

SINGAPORE (AP) - Singapore on Wednesday slammed a media watchdog for ranking the island in the same league as authoritarian North Korea and Myanmar in press freedom, saying outsiders shouldn't equate freedom with criticizing the government.

Tightly controlled Singapore placed 147th in the annual index put out by Reporters Without Borders - by far the lowest ranking of any developed country in the annual ranking - and just one notch above Iraq and 18 above Myanmar.

Others countries in the bottom two-dozen included Libya at 154, Zimbabwe at 157 and China at 162.

North Korea was ranked worst at 167; Cuba was 166.

Information Minister Lee Boon Yang said the index imposes a standard that fails to take into account "special circumstances" in Singapore, where he said journalists contribute to the nation's development and are not necessarily adversarial.

Lee said the Reporters Without Borders index "is based largely on a different media model which favours the advocacy and adversarial role of the press."

"We have a different media model in Singapore," Lee said in a written comments distributed by the government.

"This model has evolved out of our special circumstances and has enabled our media to contribute to nation building," he said, adding the government simply "did not agree" with the organisation's rankings, which were released late last month.

Lee said Singapore's media "has to be sensitive to our national interests. The city-state's leaders have repeatedly said it would not change to cater to a more "Western" set of media values.

All aspects of Singapore's media face strict censorship, while home TV satellite units remain off-limits.

Arts performances and plays remain under constant watch and topics deemed too sensitive, such as race and religion, remain taboo and out-of-bounds for discussion.

Foreign news organizations like The International Herald Tribune, the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Asian Wall Street Journal also have paid large fines or had their circulation restricted from lawsuits brought on by ruling party stalwarts.

In September, the Economist magazine paid Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and his son Lee Hsien Loong, the current prime minister, 390,000 Singapore dollars (US$237,800; euro183,332) for a reference in an article to the younger Lee's wife, who heads Temasek.

The magazine had alleged that Lee's wife, Ho Ching, was not appointed on merit. The magazine subsequently apologised. - AP

Surely the ministers in North Korea, Libya, Zimbabwe, China, Cuba and the other authoriatarian states could cite exactly the same rebuttal as Information Minister Lee Boon Yang, an argument that would render evaluation by any independent body redundant. Or are you going to tell me that every reporter who isn't Singaporean is a "Westerner". Exactly what are these "special circumstances"? Size, ethnic and religious diversity, proximity, a state monopoly of national media. Is the good minister arguing that Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba and China are also simply responding to "special circumstances".

How about a unique "special circumstance" called authoritarian, despotic, nepotistic rulers, anti-democratic ...

Singapore's bedfellows, really do throw Singaporean journalism into the spotlight. And that is shameful for such an economically developed society. What are those in power trying to hide? Is it that ugly underneath the veil of economic success?

Singapore Will Not Promote Condoms To Fight AIDS

Medical News
17 Nov 2004

Singapore will not sponsor a "publicity blitz" to promote condom use in order to prevent HIV transmission "out of respect" for residents who hold "conservative views" on sexual behavior, a senior health minister said on Sunday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/14).

Balaji Sadasivan, senior minister of state for the country's Ministry of Health, said that an "in-your-face" approach is not the best option to educate people about condom use and HIV/AIDS in the country, Singapore's Straits Times reports (Quek, Straits Times, 11/14).

Sadasivan last week announced that Singapore is facing an alarming AIDS epidemic and that if efforts to fight the disease are not implemented, the number of HIV cases in the country would reach more than 15,000 by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/12).

"Sexual behavior is a private thing, it's something people don't want to talk about. It's not discussed in polite society," Sadasivan said (Straits Times, 11/14).

He added, "To educate people, you don't have to be offensive" (Channel News Asia, 11/13).

However, Sadasivan did not rule out a public campaign promoting sexual abstinence and proper condom use, the Khaleej Times reports (Khaleej Times, 11/14).

Action For AIDS criticized the government for not publicly promoting condoms despite the success of such campaigns in Thailand and Cambodia, the Straits Times reports.

"We need a massive campaign to let people know that it is all right to use condoms. We need to de-link condom use from promiscuity," AFA Vice President Brenton Wong said (Khalik, Straits Times, 11/13).

Action for AIDS Dispute

Sadasivan last week criticized AFA for not taking a tougher approach to HIV/AIDS education in the country and for using "misleading information" about HIV/AIDS on its Web site, according to the Straits Times (Straits Times, 11/14).

Wong defended the group, saying, "Over the last 16 years, AFA has tried to address the multitude of issues surrounding AIDS as comprehensively as possible" (Khaleej Times, 11/14).

Wong said that AFA had been limited by a lack of resources, adding, "We're all not doing a good enough job in tackling the AIDS problem in Singapore." Wong said that AFA would "welcome more partners and the chance to sit and talk to the health ministry on expanding our role." The statement on AFA's Web site -- which says, "Not everyone who has sex contact with an infected person will get infected" -- could "actually make things worse by promoting unsafe sex," Sadasivan said last week (Straits Times, 11/13).

AFA said that although the statement was supported by medical and scientific research, the group will review the wording because of Sadasivan's concern (Straits Times, 11/14).

Government Subsidies

Wong recommended that the government provide subsidies for antiretroviral medications to reduce the cost burden of proper treatment for HIV-positive people, according to the Straits Times.

Wong added that subsidies also could help with HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, as many people refuse to undergo HIV testing because they cannot afford treatment, the Straits Times reports.

"People will be more ready to step forward to get screened if they can get help," Wong said (Straits Times, 11/13).

However, Sadasivan said that HIV/AIDS is not a "privileged disease" and that HIV-positive patients are entitled to the same subsidies as patients with other diseases. "There is no reason why an AIDS patient should be more special than a heart or kidney patient," he said, adding, "We treat all equally" (Khaleej Times, 11/14).

Lack of Experts

There are only 11 infectious disease specialists in Singapore, which doctors say is "not enough" to adequately address the growing HIV/AIDS problem in the country, the Straits Times reports.

More money, research and expertise is needed to tackle threats from HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases that are "becoming rampant," Dr. Leo Yee Sin, the clinical director of the country's Communicable Disease Center, said. Sadasivan last week called for the country's CDC to become more involved in HIV/AIDS prevention to tackle the epidemic, but Leo said that the agency does not have the "expertise to do the job right now," according to the Straits Times (Basu, Straits Times, 11/15).

Infectious disease public health has been a "neglected field" for years, Leo said, adding that the center needs "many more" specialists to continue its work, Agence France-Presse reports.

In order to step up prevention efforts, the center also would have to review its current strategy, which focuses only on treatment (Agence France-Presse, 11/14).

"Treatment has been our forte. What we've been trained for is patient care and that will remain our focus," Leo said. To expand into prevention and "draw up and implement strategies," the group would need additional resources and would not focus only on HIV/AIDS, Leo said, according to the Straits Times (Straits Times, 11/15).


16 Nov 2004

Celebrate Human Rights Day!

The following was copied and pasted from the Think Centre.

As much as I would love to attend, I am unable to. Not out of fear but financial contraints and living in the UK makes it a little difficult. But I want to offer as much support as possible.

So LHL promised a more open society, so please take up the opportunity to attend.


This December 11th, we have the honour and privilege of NOT applying for a license for indoor meetings. Will you come and occupy the free-space or will you ignore the call to step forward? We invite you to join in the celebration of our human rights and dignity!
Citizenship Education: Curriculum on Constitutional rights to promote human rights and human development.

Date: Saturday 11 December 2004
Time: Start: 3.00 pm
End : 5.30 pm
Venue: Oxford Hotel
218 Queens Street, Singapore 188549

This December 11th, we have the honour and privilege of NOT applying for a license for indoor meetings. Thanks to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's initiative to overcome unnecessary redtapes and saving our headaches. We appreciate and welcome the initiatives to open-up civil society space. What about you? Will you come and occupy the free-space or will you ignore the call to step forward? OVERCOMING FEAR! is a challenge for citizens, residents and friends. We invite you to join in celebratings the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fundamental Liberties in the Republic of Singapore's Constitution.

Our human rights and dignity are ours as humans not privileges. Its the role of governments to promote, protect and fulfil our rights. Governments are elected but do NOT have the power to give or take-away our human rights and dignity.

"Human rights are the foundation of human existence ... Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent ... Human rights are what make us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity ... It is the universality of human rights that gives them their strength. It endows them with the power to cross any border, climb any wall, defy any force." Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 1997

This Dec 10, International Human Rights Day, are you ready to speak up?

Human Rights Day Forum
The Human Rights Day Forum will focus on Citizenship Education and Constitutional Rights. This International Human Rights Day, Think Centre calls for Citizenship education to be formalised in the curriculum. Citizenship education in primary, secondary,junior college and university should become a priority for Singaporeans to become more respectful and treat each other as equal. Citizenship education should be incorporated to promote active citizen participation that is in line with globalization and respect for human rights.

The conference will highlight the latest trends, emerging issues, best practices and key decisions shaping the future of Human Rights Singapore.

2004 marks the 56th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR].

Information on the Speakers and Nominee for the Think Centre's Human Rights Award will be release soon.

Think Centre's Human Rights Award

In Southeast Asian countries, there are men, women and children whose human rights are denied. In Singapore, individuals face discrimination, the censure of their colleagues, harassment, and isolation. Many fear the challenge to stand up and speak - to participate and contribute to Singapore's human development. Refusing to venture beyond our comfort zone.

There are also individuals and organizations who are moved to act and work to advance the cause of human rights and human development. Think Centre's Human Rights Award seeks to identify and honour these indivudals and organizations that strive to promote haman rights and human development.

Come! Celebrate Human Rights Day!

All participants including the media are welcome to the Human Rights Day's Celebration.


Think Centre

I will be ABLE/UNABLE to attend the Forum on International Human Rights Day, 11th December 2004, at 3 pm at the Oxford Hotel.

Theme: Citizenship Education: Curriculum on Constitutional rights to promote human rights and human development.



Contact No:

Please complete the Reply Form and return to Think Centre by fax: 6425 0709 or by Email thinkcentre@hotmail.com

15 Nov 2004

Banished Booth

Anonymous said...
On a related note, see this other (pre latest AIDS scare) Yawning Bread article 'The banished booth':


14 Nov 2004

Let's beat AIDS, without talking about sex

November 2004
© Yawning Bread

Let's beat AIDS, without talking about sex

The junior minister for Health said we're not doing enough to stop the spread of HIV. He said "clear messaging" is needed to get results. "Alarm would be more appropriate." (See the article Minister warns of AIDS epidemic)

The junior minister for Health said an "in-your-face approach" was not the right way to alarm people. "Sexual behaviour... is something people don't want to talk about, it's not discussed in polite society." Thus we must remain prissy. We must find a way to alarm people without being impolite; we must send clear messages about AIDS without raising the subject of sex.


But the direct approach, with condoms marching down the street, has worked in Thailand and Cambodia. To that, the minister's response was that we "need to recognise there were conservative people here." Does he think there are no conservative people in our neighbouring countries?

In his speech on 10 November, the minister cited Randy Shiltz' book, "And the band played on" about how, in the 1980s, people tried to ignore the growing threat and carry on in denial. What does he think he is suggesting now?

I mentioned in another article, Gambling on the Singapore model, that one of the weaknesses of Singapore in coping with change is our tendency to "concede at least part of the way to the conservatives."

"But in these times, when we need to make dramatic changes of course to cope with a rapidly changing external environment, the inability to shake off our conservatism, our unwillingness to challenge archaic tenets, holds us back."

* * * * *

But why can't we just stick to talking about abstinence? That will please the conservatives and beat AIDS. Very simply, because it is unrealistic.

People are not going to give up sex, anymore than you can expect people to stop craving sugary food, or making rude gestures when they are annoyed. These are deep instincts.

The other problem with talking about abstinence is that it invariably pulls in the word "promiscuity". Even if the state-sponsored messages don't use the word, you can bet your last dollar the religious groups will. They cannot resist riding the bandwagon to promote their idea of morality. So each time the secular government says. "abstain", the ride-along accusation "You're a promiscuous sinner!" rings in people's ears.

Let's understand something about psychology: you cannot convince people to do what you ask if at the same time they sense they are being condemned.

The other thing about promiscuity as a risk factor in HIV transmission, is that it assumes all sex is insertive sex. This is more or less true with heterosex, but it isn't so with homosex. Frottage and mutual masturbation figure prominently in homosexual practices. As someone on SiGNeL pointed out, you can have a hundred men in a night, but if mutual masturbation is all you do, you've hardly been reckless. But the guy who has unprotected sex with a pretty sex worker just once a year - he is the reckless one.

So what then happens is that the "abstinence" message, based on a heterosexual equivalence between sex and insertive sex, is also seen as unnecessarily wide-ranging for gay people. It IS possible to have gay sex without protection, with next to no risk, for gay men, and certainly for gay women. Lesbians are considered to be one of the lowest risk groups.

So here's another thing about psychology: when people see that your message over-reaches reality, they see your message as alarmist, and perhaps as something driven by another agenda - homophobia, sexophobia, religious crusading, perhaps. Your message is then discounted.

* * * * *

If we want to be effective, we have no choice but to get to the point. We have to talk frankly and in detail about the various kinds of sex, the risk each kind entails, and when protection is necessary. We have to make the idea of wearing a condom as un-titillating as wearing a baseball cap. People must stop being squeamish about asking for one, buying one, handling one, wearing one. We have to talk about the danger without being conservative. We have to talk about the danger without appeasing or giving a free ride to the conservatives.

© Yawning Bread

Singapore will not promote condom use publicly to fight AIDS: report

Sun Nov 14, 2:03 AM ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Despite facing an "alarming AIDS (news - web sites) epidemic," Singapore will not go on a publicity blitz to promote condom use out of respect for residents who hold conservative views on sexual behaviour, a minister said.

"To educate people you don't have to be offensive," Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan was quoted as saying on the website of Channel NewsAsia, a Singapore-based regional broadcaster.

"We must recognise there are conservative people in Singapore and there's no need to say the only way to educate people is to try do it in an in-your-face approach," Balaji said late Saturday.

Balaji warned in an address to medics last week that the number of new AIDS cases in Singapore was doubling every three to four years.

Figures from the World Health Organisation showed an estimated 4,000 Singaporeans had HIV (news - web sites), the virus that leads to AIDS, he said. There are about three million Singaporeans living in the city-state and another 1.3 million foreigners.

"If we do not act, by 2010 we may have more than 15,000 HIV persons in Singapore," Balaji said.

"We are facing an alarming AIDS epidemic in Singapore," he said.

He said gay men's unsafe sexual practices were the biggest cause of concern amid the alarming rise in HIV/AIDS infection cases.

Some one should inform the Minister that we don't actually want the condom, "In his face", we want it "On his penis."

Where is the evidence that Singaporeans are conservative? Get the minister to cite empirical evidence, say, 'Attitudes on Family in Singapore' or the "Flight from Marriage in South and South East Asia."

13 Nov 2004

Super Tax for Super Rich?

Those of you who dis-like criticism without a solution can now argue against the following possible solution.

Before you read I have decided to prempt a few possible counter arguments.

Calling for a demand to super tax the super rich, 'Envy', seems to be built on a very individualistic, rational choice argument. That human beings are only motivated by instrumental rationality, or greed and self-promotion. A society that refuses to acknowledge action based on 'social' values seems to encourage the interpretation of human action by rational choice motivation. Claiming that we are all motivated by 'greed' seems to de-humanise, or remove our other emotional motivations and render them ineffectual.

The other counter argument is that the wealth will trickle down from the top. An arguement that Margaret Thatcher used in the 1980's. The 1980's, a decade of giving, loving and caring for our fellow human beings.

The bigger issue is how do you get those with the super wealth to agree to a super tax? After all they have a very strong influence on the political situation and in Singapore's case, the politicians are the super rich. [Oops!]

Story from BBC NEWS:

Call for tax on the super rich

The government should consider raising the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent, the former head of policy at the [British] Prime Minister's Office has said.

Geoff Mulgan, who was in charge of the policy directorate at Number 10 until earlier this year, told the BBC's Panorama programme that the top earners in the country seem to be getting more influential.

He said the government should be worried about this rise of a super-rich, elite class in Britain - and suggested that a 50 per cent top income tax rate might help combat the problem.

Mr Mulgan's comments came in a Panorama documentary - "Winner Take All Britain" - which will explore the rise of a high earning elite in Britain. The programme is due to be broadcast this Sunday at 10:15pm.

The top one per cent of earners in the UK currently account for 13 per cent of earnings, more than double the figure when Mrs Thatcher came to power.

There are now more than 475,000 people in Britain who earn more than £200,000 a year.


"It's a very short-sighted approach to tax people with money"
DeAnne Julius, economist

It is figures like these, and the influence that the high earners may have on both politics and the spending habits of the public, that worries Mr Mulgan,

He said: "The top one per cent of the population seem to be getting richer and richer."

"They also seem to be becoming more and more powerful in politics and probably also more influential in our culture."

"We're also seeing people lower down the scale trying to keep up with the spending and lifestyle patterns of the very rich and finding they can't do that and therefore getting deeper and deeper into debt."

Mr Mulgan, now Director of the Institute of Community Studies, believes that the rise of the cult of celebrity has protected the super rich from a backlash over their wealth.

He said: "In the past where there's been a big surge in the power and wealth of the very rich, people have become envious, they've turned to politics or often sometimes it's turned to rioting."

"What's surprising about the last 10 or 20 years is that hasn't really happened and I think part of the reason maybe the rise of a celebrity culture."

Short sighted

Mr Mulgan said that action may have to be taken to curb the growing gap between the super rich and everybody else.

He said: "It's actually proved easier to improve the lot of the relatively poor groups in societies than it has been to reign in the runaway super elites.

"There are things which can be done, whether a 50 per cent rate or a 60 per cent is the key I think is a matter for debate."

But DeAnne Julius, who used to sit on the Bank of England's interest rate setting Monetary Policy Committee, told the Panorama team that raising taxes would be a bad idea.

She said: "The particular success of the high-earning one per cent is something that in many cases we should be pleased about."

"It's a very short-sighted approach to tax people with money, to tax them heavily because these are also usually the most mobile people.

"The question really then is does the winner take too much, and I think that's really a question of envy. Envy is a very destructive emotion. Individually, personally, but also for a society."

Panorama: Winner takes all Britain will be broadcast on Sunday, November 7, on BBC One at 22:15 GMT.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/07 04:14:12 GMT

Winner Takes all in Singapore

The issue is one that is not merely located in Singapore and was recently discussed by a BBC show called Panorama, which airs on the BBC World in Singapore. However you can get links to it at the following site.

I have also provided a link to statistics published in June 2002, which shows that the gap between rich and poor is increasing as Singapore rapidly becomes a "Winner Takes All Society". The gap has continued to widen after the economic crisis.

published article below is from sg-review.
10 Nov 2004
Leong Sze Hian

Rich-poor divide is widening

I REFER to the report, "Poor getting poorer in Hong Kong" (Streats, Nov 4), and former permanent secretary Ngiam Tong Dow's recent remarks in the media about the greatest danger being elitism and complacency.

Lawmakers are said to be urging the Government to do more to close a widening wealth gap.

Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and poor in Singapore seems to be widening.

The number of people in Singapore considered affluent has jumped by a quarter from five years ago, despite recession and job losses, according to a study by London-based business intelligence and consultancy firm Datamonitor.

According to the latest Ministry of Manpower labour market report, the percentage of workers still looking for a job six months after being laid off was 66.7 per cent for those with secondary education and below, and only 10 per cent for those with post-secondary education.

According to a study by Mr Mukhopadhaya Pundarik at the National University of Singapore, income inequality increased in Singapore during the Asian economic crisis.

The average household income of the bottom decile decreased by 48.4 per cent, while the overall decrease was only 2.7 per cent.

The unemployment rate for this bottom 10 per cent increased from 28.2 per cent in 1998 to 44 per cent in 1999 - an increase of about 56 per cent compared to 42 per cent for the total labour force.

The latest inflation data for Singapore shows that the rise in consumer prices for the lowest 20 per cent income group was more than seven times that of the top 20 per cent income group.

Regarding tax incentives, I understand that more than a third of the working population does not earn enough to pay income tax. A tax policy that progressively gives more rewards to the richest and hits the poorest may lead to even greater income inequality.

Eighty-three countries are ranked above Singapore in the United Nations Human Development Index Report's Income Inequality measure.

According to the Singapore Census of Population 2000, the ratio of average income for the top 20 per cent to the lowest 20 per cent increased from 11.4 in 1990 to 20.9 in 2000.

Perhaps we need to give more emphasis to reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.

- Leong Sze Hian

11 Nov 2004

Singapore elderly told to toil longer for less


Before you read the following article I would like to remind you of the salary of the Ministers in Singapore:

1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a year

2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400
Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil
Servants: US$262,438

4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
Treasurer: US$102,682

5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077

Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

By Sebastien Berger, South East Asia Correspondent
(Filed: 10/11/2004)

Older people should work longer for less money, Singapore's ageing population has been told.

The official retirement age in the city-state is 62, but Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father, said he was working on a scheme to allow workers to remain in employment. However, because their strength and energy would be less, the pay would be lower.

Mr Lee, 81, still sits in the cabinet, with the title of minister mentor, and retains huge influence in the government, which is headed by his son, Lee Hsien Loong.

"I've been lucky," he said. "My father lived to 90-plus and I don't abuse my body unnecessarily. So if I had to retire at 62, it's a dead loss."

Singapore's birth rate is at an all-time low. On current trends, the number of over-65s will quadruple by 2030, threatening the economy.

Mr Lee pointed out that medical costs, which must be met by individuals or through insurance, rise with age and working for longer would allow people to build up more savings.
End of Article.

Mr Lee says "I've been lucky,", yeah right! That's one way of saying it.

10 Nov 2004

A Pain in the Neck , by Grace Chow

A Pain in the Neck

by Grace Chow
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
ISBN: 90-808996-1-5


‘A Pain in the Neck’ is a humorous, ironic, autobiographical story about a young, well-educated Chinese girl who desperately plots an escape from Singapore, and finds love and happiness in Europe. The moment that she finally has the world at her feet, however, she is struck down by an incurable disease that only occurs in one in a million people. This book invites the reader into the grungy world of Singapore politics and the intricate dreams of a girl growing up in a family she detests for their sheer mediocrity. It is written in a unique style that combines story-telling with essay. Each chapter has a different theme, but this eye-opening journey remains led by the constant, strong voice of the author’s narration. It pursues the poetry of life with Schopenhauer, Descartes, and The Smiths as chorus; it does philosophy to a soundtrack of pop music.

(Book Review)

Reading this book made me look back on my own experiences of popular music, philosophy and Singapore. At first I had never imagined that all three could be combined. Perhaps my failing was due to the lack of a final ingredient, an incurable disease.

The author Grace Chow begins her story with a theme that resonates with many of our own sense of needing to escape, to get out.

When I first stumbled upon the PAP's planned housing, I realised that I would have felt suffocated and atomised in Singapore. I thought that my initial response was that of an outsider, now I realise that others feel the same. The HDB complexes are practical solutions, but some of us desire more than, 'practical solutions'.

"A Pain in the Neck", contains many views on how Singapore is governed, and who it is governed by. Written in many styles, serious, insightful and I actually laughed out loud on a few occasions. Peppered with despair on the darkest of days, but there is a dogged determination within its pages to express life and to live it to the full according to her individual will and capabilities.

Grace Chow combines many elements in this autobiography; Singapore; escape, love, philosophy, religion, popular music, travel, illness, memories, hope and despair.

The somewhat simplistic stereotype of the average Singaporean is that of un-questioning, consensual, and materialistic. Grace has laid the stereotype to rest.

I await another book from Grace Chow. Write faster Grace.

8 Nov 2004

No real evidence that all these groups are connected

Singapore Windows

Agence France Presse
November 7, 2004

SINGAPORE, which sees itself as a target for terrorists, will install more closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in crowded areas to forestall any attacks, the Sunday Times reported.

There is no specific threat but Singapore, which the government has repeatedly warned is on the terrorists' hit list, cannot afford to take any chances, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng was quoted as saying.

"We know we're a target," Wong told local media on Saturday. "When will it happen, should it happen, we don't know.

"But we cannot take chances. We cannot afford to be complacent and wait for it to happen before we start to look at all the measures," he said.

Last year, the government installed 30 surveillance cameras at a cost of S$2 (US$1.2 million) in three spots popular with residents and tourists.

Wong said the CCTV cameras were the "eyes and ears on the ground" and demonstrated Singapore's resolve to protect itself from terrorists.

"We're making Singapore a difficult target, a hard target, so that people are aware that we're always watchful, always vigilant," Wong said.

The plans to install more cameras in public areas are part of measures that Singapore has taken most recently to beef up security.

On Friday, the government said security guards would patrol every school and up to 12 CCTV cameras would be installed on the premises within the next few months to prevent a tragedy similar to the Beslan hostage crisis in Russia.

Last week, Singapore police began deploying more armed officers to patrol commercial, entertainment and residential areas.

The government has repeatedly warned that Singapore was a target of attacks because of its support to the US-led war against terror and it has rounded up alleged members of Jemaah Islamiyah, said to be the Southeast Asian affiliate of the Al-Qaeda network.
Security has been stepped up at foreign embassies, government buildings, international schools and transport and industrial facilities since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Bill Durodie, director of the international centre for security analysis at King's College London, says: "The reality [of the al-Qaida threat to the west] has been essentially a one-off. There has been one incident in the developed world since 9/11 [the Madrid bombings]. There's no real evidence that all these groups are connected." Crispin Black, a senior government intelligence analyst until 2002, is more cautious but admits the terrorist threat presented by politicians and the media is "out of date and too one-dimensional. We think there is a bit of a gulf between the terrorists' ambition and their ability to pull it off."

The Guardian

7 Nov 2004

ISA and the Economic Dimension

Recasting the Internal Security Act in the New Security Environment

by Damien Cheong

The economic dimensions of the ‘War on Terrorism’ have also provided an opportunity for the ISA to be promoted indirectly. Singapore’s unequivocal support for the US in the old and new security environments coupled with her role in preventing the JI attack on American interests, were seemingly ‘rewarded’ with the signing of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). As US Congressmen Pete Sessions notes:

6 Nov 2004

The Power of Nightmares

The threat of the evil-doers is now being used to invade schools and remove civil liberties from Singaporeans. Cameras in lecture halls, sounds like someone is frightened of what may be said in those rooms. The threat from 'terrorism' is the fear of an idea. When will the cameras be removed? Is there a timeline for installation and 'removal'?

Who will protect Singaporeans from their so called protectors?

The press became accustomed to publishing scare stories and not retracting them; politicians became accustomed to responding to supposed threats rather than questioning them; the public became accustomed to the idea that some sort of apocalypse might be just around the corner. "Insecurity is the key driving concept of our times," says Durodie. "Politicians have packaged themselves as risk managers. There is also a demand from below for protection." The real reason for this insecurity, he argues, is the decay of the 20th century's political belief systems and social structures: people have been left "disconnected" and "fearful".
The making of the terror myth

Yes, what occurred in Beslan was terrible, does the government have any evidence that such an attack was being planned, or is their argument going to be that it 'might' happen. The making of choices based on the idea of 'worst possible' scenario tends to hand control to those with the most frightening nightmares. Rule by fear has replaced the promise of hope.

"Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful."

Climate of Fear

Singapore's tertiary institutions beef up security measures
Date : 06 November 2004 2131 hrs (SST)

SINGAPORE : With sprawling campuses and tens of thousands of students, security is serious business at Singapore's tertiary institutions.

They they have round-the-clock security patrols, emergency hotlines and even security checks for visitors.

At the National University of Singapore, some 80 guards comb the 146 hectare campus in patrol cars and motorcycles.

Emergency phones are easily available to the university's 32,000 students, and security cameras are also installed campus-wide.

Guards keep watch over the entire campus with the help of security cameras that are strategically placed in areas of high student concentration, like walkways around canteens, student hostels and lecture theatres.

Mr Sharif M. Khan, Security Officer at NUS, said: "We have provided safety tips to our incoming students and we provide shrill alarms for staff and students."

Over at Singapore Polytechnic, visitors even have to pass through security checkpoints before entering the campus.

And with over 20 security guards and some 80 cameras, the polytechnic spends over half a million dollars on security each year.

Mr Sam Chan, Estates and Development at the Singapore Polytechnic, said: "We have almost 14,000 students and almost 7,000 visitors coming in each day, so it is very very critical...full height turnstiles, vehicle barriers, vehicle licence plate recognition systems, visitor registration systems and all this will be in place by March next year."

And Singapore's 351 schools will soon be joining their tertiary counterparts when they have their own closed circuit TV cameras and guards over the next few months. - CNA

Singapore opposition leader loses appeal

Sat 6 November, 2004 06:57

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's opposition leader, Chee Soon Juan, has lost a bid to protect himself from bankruptcy as the court dismissed his appeal to reconvene an earlier hearing scheduled to reassess libel damages he has to pay, the Straits Times reports.

In ruling against the application, the court said Chee, leader of Singapore's Democratic Party, had failed to provide valid reasons justifying his absence from court.

The failure of the appeal means Chee is likely to be bankrupted and would not be able to contest in the next general election to be held by 2007, should he be unable to pay the $500,000 (269,000 pounds) that Goh and Lee are seeking.

"The onus was on him to satisfy me that there were good reasons he truly couldn't come for the hearing," said Justice Kan Ting Chiu in his ruling.

"And I don't find him to have discharged his onus."

Chee, a controversial opposition figure who lost a defamation suit brought by Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and former prime minister Goh Chok Tong, had failed to turn up at the Sept 6 hearing which was set to review damages sought by the two Singapore leaders.

Chee had said he missed the hearing because he was away on a fellowship in the United States from February 11 to September 14. But during cross-examination, Chee admitted that his fellowship was actually from March to July.

"We are dealing with somebody who has lost the ability to tell the truth. Everything is twisted, distorted, glossed over, misinterpreted," said Davinder Singh, a senior counsel acting for Goh and Lee.

The outspoken Chee was sued by Goh and Lee for calling into question their handling of an alleged $17 billion loan to former Indonesian president Suharto during the 2001 elections campaign.

The PAP, first under Lee Kuan Yew and now under his son, Lee Hsien Loong, has kept a lock on parliament since independence in 1965. It won 82 of 84 seats in November 2001 elections and has never lost more than four seats in any election.

Critics such as Amnesty International have charged that defamation lawsuits brought by Singapore leaders are designed to cripple the opposition and stifle democratic debate.

But Singapore leaders have rebutted and said such actions are necessary to safeguard their reputation.

Blogs and International Relations

Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell have written a well-reasoned piece in Foreign Affairs about the intersection of grassroots media and international affairs. Summary:

Every day, millions of online diarists, or bloggers, share their opinions with a global audience. Drawing upon the content of the international media and the World Wide Web, they weave together an elaborate network with agenda-setting power on issues ranging from human rights in China to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the landscape for journalists and policymakers alike.


An article in the Review section of the Guardian today argues that political blogs are few and far between in the UK because they have a very vocal local media. In America, political blogs seem to be in fashion and are growing in influence. So what is the situation in Singapore? Political blogs are few and far between in the Lion City. How can this be understood?

After reading Bauman's,(pp.226-227) "Society Under Seige", one particular section seemed to shed some light on Singapore.

The presence of a despot is usually taken for granted as a ncessary arrangment to build and maintain order and stability. The question of how to enlighten the despot also arose. In order to know that the despot had become enlightened a situation would have to arise wherein the despot would only use his power in very few, extremely rare circumstances. More to the poiint the number of these extremely rare circumstances that would require the despot to react, are also reduced to a minimum by the subjects. So there would be few occasions calling for the despot to react in a 'non-elightened ' manner.

Bringing about such a situation would require the joint effort of despotic ruler and subjects. So such a situation would be created when the subjects were unlikely to make moves provoking the use of the despots powers.

So the despot and subjects are in a social contract of sorts. Bankrupting political opponents, use of the Internal Security Act are examples of the despots powers used on rare occasions. It may also explain the lack of political blogs about Singapore and the PAP.

But the thing that really got my attention was that Bauman was writing about a model of 'Feudal Society'.

Email from L

I received the following email, and feel it deserves to be published on-line. I have removed the email address.

Hello Hicky/Steve -

Keep blogging ! Oasis of sanity and all that. I have to say that the brownnosing on part of LHL didn't really surprise me. It is, as you've mentioned, the whole dynastic thing and the opportunity to justify the ISD; but it's also a couple of other things that have made me increasingly heartsick for a long time. I'll list them below (I won't post on the blog comments because Blogger is down and it's far too long anyway):

1. in SG one is conditioned to believe that might is right. Thus CSJ is behaving "like a gangster" by following the GCT (?) entourage and hectoring them, but LKY can mutter about brass knuckles for his opponents and still look like an elder statesman and not Tony Soprano.(You see this on the micro-level - school, society - as well, what with an alarming and totally disproportionate number of bullies and sycophants.)

2. Corollary to #1: nobody likes a loser (especially in SG). It doesn't matter even if the winner is an old meanie who will punch you in the nose if and whenever he feels like it; what matters is that you don't catch any loser cooties (as it were).

3. W plays essentially the same game that the PAP does. Win over the working-class and petite bourgeoisie with "values" and "rule of law", get them to vote against their own interests and estrange them from the progressives by tarring the latter as corrupt Westernised liberals who want to take their "values" away from them. Essentially: W's pseudo-Christianity = LKY's pseudo-Confucianism; W's family values = LKY's Asian values. (I note too in passing that one of the local papers - can't remember which one - seems to have started running syndicated columns by well-known US fundie rightist James "Focus on the Family" Dobson. It's been a source of grim amusement for me to speculate as to when - if ever - the rabid heritage conservatives (who have obviously never heard of Niemöller) will figure out that, while agreeing with them on gays and feminists and liberals in general, the evangelical fundies are not people who would take too kindly to certain traditional Asian practices such as, oh, ancestor worship, say. Of course, pointing that out to aforementioned heritage conservatives would probably entail flirting with a couple of OB markers.) Also, "liberal" is now as dirty a word in the US as it is and has been for a long time in Singapore. (In Singapore they append "westernised"; that's all there is to it.) It's the perfect wedge issue; as a progressive bred in the HDB heartland, I can sympathise with the man in the street on a whole host of economic issues but can't quite find it in me to reach out to people who seem to be unduly
fond of screaming about how oppressed they are by liberals - I mean, you know, it's no longer legal to smack the little woman around because she didn't chill the beer in time, just imagine ! Not to mention all the uppity bitches out there busy exporting their wombs -misappropriating what by rights should be State Property - the very nerve of it ! O tempora, o mores !

(The incredible virulence of the major SG forums never fails to make me livid. I've stopped dropping by the forums in question because they make social Darwinism more of a temptation than I think is healthy for me.)

4. Let's not underestimate the covert racism in SG. I suspect a good-sized part of the bunch who scream on a regular basis about Western racism (not that it doesn't exist, but ...) are really just appalled that THEY too should be lumped in with the REAL "dark-skinned people". (Note too the popularity of the Bell Curve book in SG when it was first released.) There is no way in hell LKY and his ilk are going to side with a people "darker" than their own, especially when this is the opportunity of a lifetime to brownnose their way into the country club and, hopefully, smack M'sia and Indonesia over the head with their shiny new membership card.

5. Let's also not rule out plain stupidity on the part of the Anointed One (Singapore edition). These are after all the same people who think that WalMart "shares its prosperity" with its workers, oops, no, its "associates" - and that said associates obviously just looooove their employer because they participate in (uh, compulsory) pep rallies every morning (vide Tony Tan in the ST, 27/8/03). I'm not entirely convinced that they know the difference between PR and
reality - or for that matter between ideology and reality. (See also under: Suzhou débâcle.)


5 Nov 2004

Get your tongue outta his arse..

I apololgize to those of you who are upset by the word 'fuck' as opposed to 100,000 innocent Iraqi deaths. However... BROWN NOSER... well that's another MATTER.

The majority of the world is asking what the hell just happened to America. My opinion is that globalisation and terrorism have frightened the majority of voters in the US. The rest of the world, Singapore included, has lived under the shadow of external threats and gobalisation for some time. September 11th, was a terrifying event by all means. But there have been many such losses of loved ones. The loss of lives and the global significance is still beyond our mental grasp. But the world beyond American shores has lived within that sense of 'instant doom' for the last century.

Fear is the current 'slave ideology', fear of what the future may hold. With Adam Smith's invisible hand, politicians promised a bright promised land. That dream is dead. Today's politicans promise to protect us from evil demons that hide in the mist of the future. "Or just beyond the second link". But the world of demons and spirits is the world of feudalism.

Feudalism was a time dominated by family ties and authoritarian rulers. No wonder the Son of God is so quick to show his happiness.

Yes I know the Son of God has to deal with 'whomever' is the current American president, but the Son of God was pretty damn quick off the mark on this one. Was it necessary, who else has made such a proclamation? Does the Son of God feel a close affinity to another family accused of nepotism?

Yes, isn't Singapore great, lets see if we can find a few 'out of bounds' topics, especially for ang moh, and receive THE letter from the MDA asking me to register.

p.s. What is the latest news on the Singaporean troops serving in Iraq?

p.p.s. Are those who were arrested under the ISA, for the alleged planned attack on American troops still there? I know some where released, but what ever happened to 'innocent till proven guilty?' Yes I know the British introduced the ISA... so don't bother.

p.p.p.s. ....hhhmmm

3 Nov 2004

More 'nameless' bloggers airing political views

Nov 3, 2004
More 'nameless' bloggers airing political views
Online diaries sprouting - one even has strategies for opposition
By Sue-Ann Chia

AN INTERNET-SAVVY generation of younger Singaporeans, who have their opinions and are willing to share them on the Web, has spawned a new trend here of political blogging - online diaries expressing political views.

They include the likes of 'Xeno Boy', a Singaporean studying political science in Britain, who started his blog two months ago. He has written four essays so far, including one on political strategies for the opposition to mobilise younger voters.

He is not the first. A handful had started penning their views online earlier. An Internet search threw up blogs such as 'Policestate' and 'Vox Leo'. Political watchers and bloggers expect more to sprout up.

Poet and writer Alfian Sa'at, 27, whose pet topics include freedom of expression and Malay rights, said this is because more Singaporeans are becoming 'cynical and disenchanted with the unapologetically partisan political analysis in the local media'.

Editors of The Void Deck, a local political website which started to feature political blogs recently, said the ease of setting up blogs and the appeal of going online contributed to more alternative views being aired in cyberspace.

But Nanyang Technological University communication and information lecturer Randolph Kluver disagreed that more blogs will flourish.

'I just don't see much of a future for them until regulatory policies are relaxed somewhat, or until some sort of event occurs in which a blog can provide information the media cannot,' he said.

A Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesman said Internet content providers engaging in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political and religious issues relating to Singapore must register with the authority.

These include all political party websites and sites like Sintercom, an online magazine and forum on politics and current affairs. Individual sites and blogs need register only if the MDA asks them to do so.

A blog is an individual's collection of commentaries and is frequently updated.

Local blogs have been around for at least two years, with the bulk being personal musings or teenage angst. But some have moved to focus on socio-political commentary.

One popular blog is Mr Brown, who pokes fun at policies in addition to providing updates on his family. Other lesser-known blogs include 'Acidflask', by a Singaporean graduate student in the United States who discusses science and the fallacy of meritocracy.

Then there are 'Molly Meek' and 'Jeff! Lim', whose blogs are filled with sarcastic barbs against the Government and reflections on everyday life. Others have names like 'PAP!PAP!' but carry disclaimers that they are not political sites.

Blogs can have a major impact - like in the US where sites like those of Time magazine essayist Andrew Sullivan or University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds have been influential in shaping public opinion.

Most bloggers who talk about Singapore politics hide behind the cloak of anonymity, like 'Xeno Boy' who does not list an e-mail address.

One who revealed his identity recently was Irishman Steven McDermott, 33, who is behind 'Singabloodypore'.

'There is a perception that getting involved in politics will get you into trouble,' he said, adding that he revealed himself only after he left Singapore last month.

Blogger 'Vox Leo' would only say he is a Singaporean in his mid-20s studying history in a Missouri university. He started his blog in July because 'too often, there is only one source of information for Singaporeans'.

Still, their reach is limited as Web traffic to individual blogs tends to be low given the vastness of cyberspace and the millions of other websites vying for attention.

But the so-named Lee Kin Mun of Mr Brown's blog believes it is no longer possible to ignore online views. 'I think the Government knows that, and has become more transparent as a result. If it does not address the facts directly, the online discussions will decide (on issues) for it,' he said.