5 Feb 2005

Yes, I know I (Steven) no longer live in Singapore. So please don't feel compelled to tell me. The following is provided by the ThinkCentre, and right here is a little link to take you to the full article. If you enjoy living in 'lah-lah' land please look away now.

I live in a country where the state makes its arguments too simple.

Such as: the PAP = the country.

Such as: democracy = protests = violence = disorder = national disaster.

Such as: human rights = confusing Western concept that our people don't need to learn very much about.

Such as: history = one man's story.

Such as: Chia Thye Poh = opposition = Marxist = dangerous = 32 years of imprisonment = non-existence in the authorised history.

I live in a country with a population that is constantly hit by men in white with invisible and visible sticks. I live in a country where it is hard to expect people to value anything more than protecting themselves from these big sticks, or getting their own stick and white uniform.


56 comments:

dON Lee said...

Hey Steven, hows life? this is don here, your ex-student? Glad to see you've been "browned" thats how i found you~ Anyway, don't think too much about these guys, fart in a spacesuit i say...

Anonymous said...

But what do you care? You live in Edinburgh now!

pea said...

PAP = a country ever heard of Chiam See Tong?

The thing with Marxism and democracy is confusing. On one hand you're leftist, on the other you're advocating a system meant for the right. What are we supposed to draw from that?

So the Govt is supposed to tolerate communist uprising even though the system is clearly not economically viable? If you wanna change the system, do not use old ideas which failed. You don't need brains to come to that conclusion.

In any case what makes you think that democracy is the supreme form of governance? Sure everyone supposedly gets to cast their precious vote and have the liberty to say what they want but hey, isn't the access to different forms of media restricted only to the rich? What makes you think that by opening the floodgates of information, democracy strives to create equality of all races here in Singapore? Information overload is taxing and confusing, it takes more than the outcry for democracy to figure that out.

I have seen how democratic societies failed, one brilliant example is the US. But of course, we can follow suit and go ahead to air our views and perpetuate racism. They can definitely tolerate racism simply because they are huge; but just think in Singapore's shoes.

Next, we are not that stupid to perceive human rights as a Western entity; we perceive instead your freedoms as entirely unique to you, while we rest snugly on our Asian values. How can you ever say that we think human rights is strange when I don't find it peculiar to think all human beings have a right eat, drink and make merry? This shows your foolish assumption of equating human rights with liberty.

We value equality more than liberty in Singapore. And I have a strange feeling you are going to equate the 2 even though I've just provided a chunk of information. With liberty there can NEVER be equality.

Unless you get reliable sources, I cannot understand why you call yourself an esteemed blogger trying to publish alternative views of Singapore. At least I know our mainstream papers do not make these fundamental mistakes though I agree they are biased in their viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

"Such as: human rights = confusing Western concept that our people don't need to learn very much about. "


I do understand the western concept of human rights. But I don't think you're making an effort to recognise the viewpoints of others. You never have, and that's why there are so many detractors. I'm sure you're great as a teacher, someone who believes so strongly in justice and equality is probably a good person. But it's the tone you take when talking about us that rankles us.

I think if I went to England and took up a job there, and started up a site criticising everything using your tone, without agreeing that SOME of the opposing views have merit, my site would be hacked by some punk.

akikonomu said...

I live in a country whose national anthem means "Forward, Singapore!", and the ruling party's motto is incremental change.

http://www.xanga.com/akikonomu

Anonymous said...

"PAP = a country ever heard of Chiam See Tong?"

Go read about the electorial history of Singapore, and please, not from HIS Singapore Story. Why were people like Lim Chin Siong, JBJ, TLH, Francis Seow, etc, purged so ruthlessly and unfairly from the system? Do you really believe they are communists, communalists, tax evaders, etc? Why are people like LTK and CST in parliament for so long? Have it ever occurred to you that they pose no threat to the ruling party while at the same time giving the false semblence of debate? Perhaps they are purposely tolerated? Do you really think that LTK and CST are consequential in policy formulation? Do you think that they don't know the rules of the game?


"The thing with Marxism and democracy is confusing. On one hand you're leftist, on the other you're advocating a system meant for the right. What are we supposed to draw from that?

So the Govt is supposed to tolerate communist uprising even though the system is clearly not economically viable? If you wanna change the system, do not use old ideas which failed. You don't need brains to come to that conclusion."

It is with 20-20 hindsight that you proclaim the absurdity of communism. In the days of the Cold War, no one could convincingly prove the superiority of one system over another. At one point, the productivity of the Soviets eclipsed the US. You seem to insinuate that communism was a no-brainer dumb choice. In saying that, you are condemning the intellect of millions of Chinese, Soviets, Cubans, etc. Poverty was the lure of communism? That's only part of the reason. How much do you actually know about Socialism? How much do you know about Marx? Have you read, studied and understood Capital by Marx? The propansity of Singaporeans to label communism or Marxism as evil simply amazes me. You may want to know that Socialism is still in existence in parts of Europe, sometimes working well, sometimes working not-too-well.


"In any case what makes you think that democracy is the supreme form of governance? Sure everyone supposedly gets to cast their precious vote and have the liberty to say what they want but hey, isn't the access to different forms of media restricted only to the rich?"

Not true. Obviously you havent lived overseas or is not well-read enough.

"What makes you think that by opening the floodgates of information, democracy strives to create equality of all races here in Singapore?"

It may or may not create equality. But it'll surely foster better understanding. Are you one of those who think that Singapore is NOT racist?

"Information overload is taxing and confusing, it takes more than the outcry for democracy to figure that out."

So you prefer to live in ignorance? Or you think that the populace of a country should receive only filtered information?

"I have seen how democratic societies failed, one brilliant example is the US. But of course, we can follow suit and go ahead to air our views and perpetuate racism. They can definitely tolerate racism simply because they are huge; but just think in Singapore's shoes."

The US democracy failed??? Sure, it isn't perfect. Some, including myself, see the election of the Bush administration as a weakness of the system. But it failed? That is news to me. And since when does airing views constitute the perpetuation of racism? If you are suggesting that this happens in the US, you are a frog in the well.

"Next, we are not that stupid to perceive human rights as a Western entity; we perceive instead your freedoms as entirely unique to you, while we rest snugly on our Asian values. How can you ever say that we think human rights is strange when I don't find it peculiar to think all human beings have a right eat, drink and make merry? This shows your foolish assumption of equating human rights with liberty."

What are Asian values? Who are Asians?

"We value equality more than liberty in Singapore. And I have a strange feeling you are going to equate the 2 even though I've just provided a chunk of information. With liberty there can NEVER be equality."

As a Singaporean, I never know that equality as valued in Singapore. You would be more accurate to say that Singapore values elitism and pragmatism.

"Unless you get reliable sources, I cannot understand why you call yourself an esteemed blogger trying to publish alternative views of Singapore. At least I know our mainstream papers do not make these fundamental mistakes though I agree they are biased in their viewpoints."

Are you saying that the Straits Times does NOT make fundamental mistakes? You have a long way to go.

While Jamie Han gave me a glipse of hope on the younger generation in Singapore, you have made me retreat back to my jaundiced pessimism again.

Mock Turtle said...

Liberty and equality are actually deeply intertwined. Singaporeans are fond of saying that freedoms are 'airy fairy things without substance'. Wrong. If you have well-protected rights you can get them enforced right away, you know with much more predictability what they entail. You get a domain of certainty and autonomy which is yours and yours allow.

With a more collective approach? You get an ever-shifting goalpost, with your "best interests" defined by others who are in power(who, of course, never have their own agendas!)

The independent judiciary guided by a principled rule of law is a crucial bulwark of equality.

The Legal Janitor said...

pea:

I think you have some growing up to do.

Agagooga said...

Ah, Qianxi's article. I wonder what has happened to her recently, though. She seems to have disappeared since 2002.

"I live in a country where the state makes its arguments too simple."
Most politicians anywhere make simple arguments. This of course does not excuse those in Singapore. So it behooves us to examine said arguments for their merits and complexities (which is one thing this site tries to do)

"Such as: the PAP = the country."
The equation of the party to the state to the nation is a big issue, yes. I think it's inevitable in one-party states.

"Such as: democracy = protests = violence = disorder = national disaster."
How about autocracy = repression = stagnation = atrophy = national disaster? But I think, to be fair, that the PAP is easing its grip. We no longer have such incidents as the 1987 Marxist 'Conspiracy'. It remains to be seen if the 100 Flowers will be cut down in their blooming.



"In any case what makes you think that democracy is the supreme form of governance? Sure everyone supposedly gets to cast their precious vote and have the liberty to say what they want but hey, isn't the access to different forms of media restricted only to the rich?"
I find the "democracy is imperfect. therefore we must eschew democracy and embrace autocracy/'guided' democracy" argument puzzling. "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." - Winston Churchill

"I have seen how democratic societies failed, one brilliant example is the US."
I would be interested to know your definition of "failure". We could say Singapore has failed too.

"Next, we are not that stupid to perceive human rights as a Western entity; we perceive instead your freedoms as entirely unique to you, while we rest snugly on our Asian values. How can you ever say that we think human rights is strange when I don't find it peculiar to think all human beings have a right eat, drink and make merry? This shows your foolish assumption of equating human rights with liberty."
If you follow Maslow's hierarchy of needs, people desire to satisfy basic needs first. Food, shelter, clothing etc. Once those are satisfied, they demand more - man does not live by bread alone. Liberty is one of the higher order of human rights. And if you think there's such a thing as "Asian" Values, I must say that you are hopelessly naive.

"We value equality more than liberty in Singapore."
If you think Singapore is a very equal society, you must be hopelessly naive. In any case, the two are not inversely linked. In fact I would argue that equality and liberty go more hand in hand and in opposition.

"At least I know our mainstream papers do not make these fundamental mistakes though I agree they are biased in their viewpoints."
You must be kidding. Try reading a ST op-ed by Andy Ho someday.

Anonymous said...

thanks for "provoking"

from a singaporean




brandonchen.com/ming

Bunnybear said...

You can find the author of that piece at
http://tengqianxi.diaryland.com/

Yup, this essay has been out for a long long time. I'm really surprised it took Think Centre so long to get a hold of it.

True Flight said...

I was much amused by this paragraph:

"Next, we are not that stupid to perceive human rights as a Western entity; we perceive instead your freedoms as entirely unique to you, while we rest snugly on our Asian values."

... it goes to show that silly PAP propaganda about "Asian values" has worked.

Yet when I think of major Asian groups such as, say, the Indonesians, the Japanese, the Indians, the Thais etc, I wonder what is meant by "Asian values". It's rather difficult to single out any particular value which is obviously common to all, and yet not shared by non-Asians.

"Asian values" is a misnomer. The idea should be renamed as "Values Which the PAP would Like Singaporeans to Have, and To Believe Are Asian".

Anonymous said...

The term "Asian values" is as much a misnomer as the term "Western values". For example, in Asia I've never encountered so much institutionalised prostitution in my life! .. and I'm thinking of the KTV joints where the hostesses are openly available for paid sex. And all the Asian married men go merrily tripping off to these places, with their wives at home, and are screwing all these 20 years old China girls behind their wives backs! Great ASIAN values!!

Now I don't give this example to be moralistic. I like pretty young girls (even perhaps paid ones) as much as the next man. I'm no prude. But to have such a widespread embedded aspect of the popular culture on the one hand, and to go about blathering about 'values' the next is just hypocrisy to me. Asians can and are as morally corrupt, if not more so, than Westerners.

pea said...

Not true that I commented on hindsight that communism is bound to fail as a system. I am basing my arguments on the Hobbesian philosophy that men are essentially selfish in nature. I am a self-proclaimed Marxist and I am pretty sure such a "lala-land" system will never be socially, economically or culturally viable simply because it is utopian.

I concede I still have some growing up to do, but I am no way brain-washed by the Govt. I admit values seldom differ, but Asian values to me comprises of Confucianism and basically our collectivistic culture. I am not saying we should never engage in Western liberalization nor the likes of it, I'm merely saying some things that work for Westerners do not work for us. Therefore the outcry for democracy needs some serious thinking. Don't believe me? Go read up.

By the way, the term "human rights" used so interchangeably with "liberty" frustrates me.

Basically my previous comment was to refute the basic assumptions the author of that post made. If you guys choose to nitpick, I have nothing to say. Just don't forget the comfort we are living in now.

pea said...

I am hopelessly naive. But I didn't say there isn't racism or inequality now that our govt's doing all these stuff. There can never be a perfect way of governance, the best we can do is strive towards it.

And by the way I applaud Jamie's courage but felt he was downright stupid to approach MM Lee this way. I mentioned it before and I'm going to say it again.

Intelligence without humility is nothing.

I welcome you guys to criticize me, for everyone's learning from each other. But if the basic respect for me isn't there, it's highly likely I'm going to dismiss your arguments.

The Legal Janitor said...

pea:

No one is forgetting the comfort we live in.

The problem with you, pea, is that you're guilty of the very thing that you accuse Steve of. Just as he is uncritically criticising anything and everything the Government stands for, you are uncritically criticising anything and everything he says.

The point is this. There are many voices out here. Steve is only one of them. Just as he sounds somewhat rabid at times, he also makes some salient and important points at others. You have to criticise the issues on a point by point basis. You extract the good arguments, and you rebut the bad ones.

The same thing applies to you. Some points you make are good. Some are not. Rather than wholesale rejecting everything that Steve says, you could learn alot from what he writes, especially from the mistakes that he makes. Learn the good arguments that he makes, where your learning is insufficient. And learn to rebut his arguments where they are weak, so that you can bolster your stand.

If you reject everything he says just because you don't agree with him, you stand to lose out on so many things. Especialy if you don't agree with him. After all, how do you overcome an opposing idea if you don't understand what it means?

pea said...

Ya I understand, I'll learn from both sides of the argument. I do understand some of his salient points and trust me I didn't start out trying to be like him. Thanks anyway :D

Anonymous said...

Intelligence without humility is nothing?

LKY has never displayed much humility (or humanity for that matter) througout his political career.

pea said...

That's what I think can? And that's the philosophy I'm going to follow can? If I'm ever intelligent I'm not going to be arrogant can?

Anonymous said...

That the communist system was unviable was only apparent AFTER the collapse of the Soviet Union. And no one predicted that.

The Legal Janitor said...

Anonymous at 638:

Thats not true. Economists from the Austrian school had predicted the demise of central planning long before the Soviet Union even existed.

akikonomu said...

Ah, but the Austrian school had never heard of Temasek and the GIC.

Singapore proves that central planning can succeed.

pea said...

good one, lol.

soci said...

works for who? It certainly works for the MP's, PM, with their super-sized salaries.

The Legal Janitor said...

akikonomu:

but that depends on your definition of success, doesn't it?

never forget, success is also a function of time.

40 years is but a tiny mote in the stream of history.

Beach-yi said...

Ah but this an issue only for the academics to discuss for decades later. It seems quite mind bloggling to say that one is a self-proclaimed Marxist when one already judged it to be utopian and unpractical...somewhat contradictory to me...believing in 'failed' ideas.

I just saw the broadcast of the forum, seriously I didn't think the Jamie Han was rude. If anything, the MM sounded provocative before Jamie made his "thank you for your time" part.

The Legal Janitor said...

Steve:

Super-sized salaries are a function of ANY state, regardless of which. The only difference is HOW the politicians obtain their riches.

ProfessorBainbridge.com - Senate Stock TradingAt the very least, I can say that Singaporean politicians are more transparent in their methods.

The only way to prevent politicians from unjust enrichment, is to reduce the size of the state itself. That is the libertarian position.

Where do you stand?

soci said...

Before I briefly answer your question I would like to draw your attention to what I mean by super-sized. Yes all ministers in all governments have larger than average salaries when compared with the average Joe, living in that country. SO how do the Singaporean Govt salaries compare with others.

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

Thats what I mean by super-sized.

My opinion on the State would be to follow the Swedish (socialist) model. But with Singapore the problem is that you cannot remove those who are currently in power. There is no system of accountability in place.

The Legal Janitor said...

Steve:

No, that's not what I'm talking about.

Read the blog post I've linked in my previous comment. Bainbridge references the Wall Street Journal as well.

What I'm concerned with is not the official going rate for politicians. I'm more concerned with what goes on under the table.

The swedes pay 54% of tax off their incomes. Ever wonder where all that money goes to?

As I've said, self-enrichment is the function of any state. The only sure way to prevent unjust enrichment is to reduce the size of the state itself.

soci said...

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/1458

Have a look at this link to see the 'legitmate' links between the PAP and GLC's etc...

soci said...

The Interests of People Closely Connected To The government

1) Relatives of senior government leaders
That the government seems reluctant to withdraw from enterprise could be complicated by its potential effect on the interests of people closely connected to the government. DPM Lee and his father Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew are at the helm of GIC, possibly Singapore’s largest GLC in terms of assets. DPM Lee’s wife, brother, and a few other relatives are also holding key positions in GLCs. While the situation is presumably a coincidental outcome of free market meritocracy, it could be a source of constrain as DPM Lee considers how to revive private enterprise in Singapore. The following table illustrates the situation:

Family Members Relationship To DPM Lee Present GLC Post
Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Deputy Chairman of GIC
Mdm Ho Ching Wife Chairman of Chartered Semiconductor, ST Engineering, ST Capital, StarHub, Deputy Chairman of Singapore Technologies, and Director of Temasek Holdings and SembCorp Industries (Singapore Technologies unit)
Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew Father Chairman of GIC
Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Yang Brother Chief Executive of SingTel Group and SESAMi Inc (SingTel unit), and Director of Singapore Technologies Industrial Corporation and National Computer Systems (SingTel unit)
Colonel (Dr) Kwa Soon Bee Uncle (Mother’s Brother) Managing Director of Jurong Bird Park, Chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Director of Keppel Land
Mr Edmund Lee Cousin (Father’s Brother’s Son) Chief Executive of DBS Vickers (DBS and Singapore Technologies unit)
Mr Kwa Chong Seng Cousin (Mother’s Brother’s Son) Deputy Chairman of Temasek Holdings (Ministry of Finance unit)
Mr Ho Sing Brother-In-Law (Wife’s Brother) Vice President of Singapore Precision Industries 2000 (Singapore Technologies unit) and Director of Advanced Materials Technologies (Singapore Technologies unit)
Mrs Lee Suet Fern Sister-In-Law (Brother’s Wife) Director of SembCorp Logistics
Ms Lim Suet Boey Sister-In-Law’s Sister (Brother’s Wife’s Sister) Senior Vice President of SembCorp Utilities

In addition to the above list of DPM Lee’s relatives, there’s also Dr Lim Suet Wun, his sister-in-law’s brother, who is Chief Executive of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The “restructured” hospital remains a government department. But as one of Singapore’s largest hospital, it competes with the private sector in providing health care services. DPM Lee and his father are not remunerated for their leadership of GIC. However, several of their relatives are senior managers of GLCs, who are receiving not only salaries and bonuses but also stocks and stock options in the companies. For example, DPM Lee’s wife Mdm Ho Ching owned 60,000 Chartered Semiconductor shares, 240,000 Chartered Semiconductor share options, 35,000 ST Assembly shares, 100,000 SembCorp Industries share options, and 50,000 Singapore Food Industries shares, among other interests in GLCs as of year-end 2000. And DPM Lee’s brother Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Yang owned 2,120,000 SingTel share options as of March 2001.

2) Former senior government officials

Though not an explicit policy, it has become an institution of sorts that senior government officials in Singapore move on to hold key posts in GLCs after their service in government. Former ministers in the PAP government are at least close political allies of Deputy Prime Minister Lee and his father, while former senior civil servants are trusted appointees of the government. The following table lists a number of such people:

to continue go here..

www.sing-a-pore.blogspot.com

soci said...

Maybe they are more open about it in Singapore, because they know no one can challange them. The media is a joke, and Lingle argues that the judicary is lacking in autonomy.

Thieves? I am not sure I would go as far as that. In Capitalism, making money, no matter how, never had anything to do with morality.

See this article if you are interested.
http://singabloodypore.blogspot.com/2004/11/winner-takes-all-in-singapore.html

The Legal Janitor said...

Steve:

Again, that's not the point. Granted, I agree with you that the lack of checks against executive power makes it such that there is no one to challenge the increase in ministerial wages.

But that does not answer my question, which is the same phenomena happens in countries where there ARE supposed to be checks and balances.

So the question is, how does the existence of 'independent media' make any substantive difference? Do you not acknowledge that the function of ANY state is to increase its own power, regardless of what system is used?

Again, let me remind you, the tax rate in Sweden is 54% at the top bracket. I cannot see how is that just or fair. Keep in mind, I'm not saying that Singapore is any better than Sweden. But what I AM saying is that abuse of state power is a natural extension of the state.

If there is no substantive difference in the way politicians acquire and obtain wealth between Singapore, Sweden and the USA, then what is the real point of advocating change?

Surely change must have an objective? What is the objective then?

ivan said...

very fasinating debate. Perhaps i could just add some nuggets of (mis)information.

Liberty and Equality come hand in hand.
i disagree, liberty in the form of inalienable human rights are the very antithesis of equality. As we all know, human rights are seldom absolute (steve you should know that very very well as the House of Lords have said this repeatedly) and are often relative.
for arguments sake, lets just say everybody has a right to food.
Does this place a positive duty on the state or only a negative duty?
Positive duty: State has to provide food for everybody.
Negative duty: State has to ensure nobody is deprived of food.
Both entails legal rights for the citizens.
By imposing a positive duty, it would most definately be overwhelming of any state to handle. By imposing a negative duty, while it seems feasible, would actually result in the poor suing the rich for wasting food.
Lets broaden this to the international scene, a negative right imposed on countries would result in poorer countries having an action against the affluent countries. Europe (incluing the UK), USA, would all be guilty of depriving the food supply of another country.

Such a duty does exist, Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). Fortunately, it doesn't result in legal rights due to its vagueness, as well as the very nature of Public international law, that to make it legally enforecable would make it redunandant (but this isn't the debate)

Steve: perhaps more evidence of the vagueness of "inalienable human rights" would the recent House of Lords declaration that the anti-terrorist legislation is "unconstitutional" (no such thing in the UK, they don't have a written constitution) ie. against it's EU and ECHR obligations asw el as the Human Rights Act 1998. While the public at large celebrated it as a victory for human rights, the academic world mourned the decision.

I've always thought of Human rights as a clear cut issue, till i had a chat with Prof Collin Warbrick http://www.dur.ac.uk/Law/HRC/cw.html
issues i've brought up are issues he challenged my perspective with. The irony of human rights are that the more right you have, the more right others lose. It is eventually a zero sum game, balance is the way forward not absolutes.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the issue of salaries is an irrelevant one. The people in power do have the ability to lead this country and their enterprises. I believe the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If a country has a Gov which does have links with GLCs, and yet the government more than gives back to its people, it means they are not sucking the coffers dry, but making it grow. If a country has a Gov with a supposedly completely democratic system, (India, US, England, Philippines for eg), yet there are a lot of rich people with lots of links and a lot of poor folk, then its proof that this system needs to be checked. Possibly someone should be thrown out, even if he was voted in democratically.

What you're promoting is altruism, where people lead for the sake of doing good, and not for monetary interest at all. I am all for that, except that it doesn't exist. The PAP is one of the few governments that actually delivers what it promises. And people can see that, so despite their grouses, they vote them in.

Democracy does NOT ensure that ministers do not get super-fat salaries. Corruption can exist even in democratic systems, and as I said the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the richness of the upperclass in the abovementioned countries as compared to the lower classes is just nauseating. I think instead of pushing your views onto us, you should go there and tell these politicins there that they are giving democracy a bad name. Why, in times of need, did some countries need to depend on an "undemocratic" country like s'pore? By rights we should be unable to help because our ministers get paid "superfat salaries".

I also read that the Royal Family in Britain is worth billions... where does the money come from? Not only British tax-payers, but the colonies which the British robbed in the past. If u advocate justice you would advocate some form of real justice, which is to right the human rights wrongdoings of the west, and not tell us we have no human rights when every Singaporean today speaks to the caucasians as equals and not as colonial servants.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to add that many of these ministers are top scholars from primary school to university. I think you should instead compare the ministers' pay to CEO's in the private sector rather than talk about ministers from other countries. I am told that a lady setter on an accounting body in US earns US800,000 per year. (She's worth every penny, said my US uni tutor).

The ministers we have aren't just idealists who thought they'd run for politics for the fun of it, and blunder their way through. Some are people who were earning a lot in the private sector before entering the PAP. I think in return for their salaries (who's to say whether they couldn't have been earning one million as surgeons), they have done a pretty good job.

I notice you've listed Micheal Moore on your blog. Have you watched Fahrenheit 911? Interesting you find no problem between Bush and his Saudi links.

The Legal Janitor said...

ivan:

I disagree with you on one point.

Liberty and equality of outcomes might be mutually exclusive, but liberty is absolutely essential to the equality of opportunity.

I don't think any sane person would advocate equality of outcomes nowadays, not since the Soviet experiment failed, along with the untold human suffering that it caused.

True Flight said...

To be fair to the PAP, they have greatly, and wisely, reduced their "Asian values" rhetoric over the years.

At one point, "Asian values" was a phrase that tripped off the tongues of PAP ministers & MPs like an automatic, programmed slogan. Nowadays, they largely seem to have stopped. Perhaps too many people tell them things like:

"But the world's largest democracy is an Asian country - India!";

"But Taiwan has very vigorous parliamentary debates, and a very active opposition, and Taiwan is Asian, isn't it?"

"But workers' strikes ARE allowed in Korea, in fact strikes happen there all the time, and Korea is an Asian country, isn't it?"

"But Indonesia is one of the world's largest Asian countries by population, and there's nothing very Confucian in its culture."

"But the freedom of expression is so rampant and unlimited in the Philippines, and the Philippines is your fellow ASEAN member, is it not?"

So I guess the PAP ministers started feeling silly about it after a while.

More importantly, it's pretty difficult to spout the "The West Is Evil, The East is Good" nonsense, while at the same time trying desperately to attract foreign talent from countries like the US, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

For example, would Steve McDermott have come to Singapore in the first place ...

... if all he knew about Singapore at that time is that its leaders were always saying, "The West is evil! Decadent! Immoral! No family values!" etc.

;)

Agagooga said...

"Asian values to me comprises of Confucianism and basically our collectivistic culture"
Is that not sufficient to show that Asian Values are really just Confucian Values? Confucian Values aren't even the only Chinese Values.

What's wrong with using "liberty" and "human rights" interchangeably? If you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you'll find that they are synonymous. No one has a "right" to be fed, clothed and sheltered, but everyone has a "right" not to be persecuted.

Large state enterprises and central planning are not synonymous.

People tend to assume that Great Men can be rude, while Young People cannot. Hold both to the same standards, I say.

shianux: You suggest that less highly paid officials in other countries get kickbacks. What sort? And how much?

"The irony of human rights are that the more right you have, the more right others lose. It is eventually a zero sum game, balance is the way forward not absolutes." - The sort of human rights we usually talk about do not result in others losing.

Anonymous said...

Agagooga, it's a well-known fact that ministers in other countries receive kickbacks and are corrupt. Ask anyone. Why does a country with rich natural resources need to sell off islands to survive (Philippines) Ask anyone from India, S.Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand if their governments are corrupt.You'll get a resounding YES!! Go look at the Sultan's palaces in Malaysia and the poor rice farmers.

U dismiss the EGOIN theory which states that Government is a main driver of other factors. What is the explanation for all of the abovementioned countries having such gaping wealth disparities? Yes, there are great riches, but lots of exploited people.

"How much?" The thing about kickbacks is that no one is going to declare the amount of kickbacks they receive on a tax form. At least for our minister's "superfat" salaries, you know what the amount is.

You and Steve are conspicuously skirting the issues of how democracy is being made a mockery of in many countries today.

Anonymous said...

In my first sentence, I meant the other countries which have been mentioned, not all other countries.

True Flight said...

Of course not. You couldn't possibly have meant countries such as Denmark, Finland & Sweden. Which are even less corrupt than Singapore, even though their their ministers earn a pittance compared to our beloved PAP leaders.

ivan said...

agagooga:
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
have read it, but did not find any such examples. I'm probably wrong (eyes are watery, trying hard to catch up with work), could you please cut-paste the examples? Please note if it is found in the preamble, i doubt you could use it as an example, preambles to public international covenants are often vague and wordly annoyingly broadly.

Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not the only human rights covenant, nor the most binding, it is actually less binding than the EU's declaration on human rights and some might argue the European Covention on Human Rights. Therefore i cannot accept your point that "No one has a "right" to be fed, clothed and sheltered" for i have just showed in my earlier post that there is an international covenant for the "right to food"

You say that the type of freedom we talk about do not result in others losing? What sort of rights are we talking about now? the right to free speech? if so, i do believe there are possible clashes with the right to peaceful enjoyment of private life; right to religion; right from persecution. Why so? Check out the speech act theory, in particular Catherine MacKinnon's speech/act theory. at risk of being overzealous in proving a pt, i urge you to critically consider the validity of anti-racism legislation, with special note to the UK's anti-blasphemy legislation (it relates only to the christian faith).

Han:
i conceed that point, though i would still believe absolute and unfettered liberty will result in a less equal distribution of opportunities.

GK:
Have you asked any of the youths of denmark, finland of what they think of their country? I have, though it statistically counts for nothing (3 of them), my impression that the youths are equally disillusioned with their system, high taxes, low productivity, high welfarism, low incentives. A startling point they made to me was, "i have no idea who to vote for, they champion the same lines, fearing that an unpopular policy we need, will lose votes" Stop comapring sg to other countries for the sake of it, it has no purpose. Every country has it's own set of problems and it own set of solutions needed. We are unique, what we can do is strive to achieve the positives the others have, taking into account our country's differences.
There is little value saying they have free speech in the US, welfarism in Germany, low taxes in the British Virgin Islands, nude camps in Australia, and roti channai in Malaysia.

Steve:
As i've mentioned in MB, you probably have reason for 'targetting' sg? If you were disillusioned with it, you wouldn't have cared less. Perhaps you'd like to share the underlying motive for this website. To be honest, i have find you site a good source to materials offering views -ve to sg. However, it lacks a certain credibility to it due to you refusal to back you stand up, chosing only to cite AP, Reuters etc. What strike me most, is that i've barely heard criticsms of your own country. Is it too good to be true? Perhaps Scotland is, but England leaves much to be desired ;) If you country is not flawed, do you care so much more for Sg that you are committed to uncovering the wool from our eyes, instead of doing so from you own countrymen?

True Flight said...

I don't think my comparison is spurious.

You mentioned that in other countries, government leaders officially draw much lower salaries, but enjoy bribes and kickbacks.

I am giving you specific examples to counter that - Finland, Denmark, Sweden etc, and if you like, you can add New Zealand and Switzerland to that list:

all of these countries are ranked to be less corrupt, or approximately as corrupt, as Singapore, yet their leaders are paid much less than our Singapore leaders.

Thus it is clearly wrong to say that if leaders are not well-paid, they would become corrupt. I have already given examples to dispel that myth.

Personally, I thought it was a day of great shame when LKY stood up in Parliament to announce that ministers' salaries would be raised, and that the raise was justified on the anti-corruption count.

Can you imagine yourself going to work and telling your boss:

"Look, if you do not raise my pay, it is likely that I will become corrupt. I may steal your office stationery and plunder the office safe and take bribes from your suppliers. So you should raise my pay."

The Legal Janitor said...
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The Legal Janitor said...

GK:


Here's my problem with you.


I am giving you specific examples to counter that - Finland, Denmark, Sweden etc, and if you like, you can add New Zealand and Switzerland to that list:Ok, you've given me info which you claim to support your position of a possibility of low wages and low corruption. On the other hand, I've given you evidence that supports my claim that low wages correlate with high corruption.


Let us be fair then, and assume that both your evidence and mine have an equal propensity of occurence. What is the main issue then?


The main problem, is that you are not happy with ministers earning more money than other people, correct? Unless you can come up with a better argument against ministers having higher wages other than simple jealousy or 'other countries don't pay their civil servants this much', I'm not inclined to take you seriously. This is a rubbish argument. Your logic is tantamount to saying 'other people do this so we must do this too'.


all of these countries are ranked to be less corrupt, or approximately as corrupt, as Singapore, yet their leaders are paid much less than our Singapore leaders.Secondly, your arguments have a real problem with coherence and consistency. On one hand, there are cries of impropriety and nepotism in Singapore, which more or less amounts to corruption. And yet, Singapore is ranked to be one of the least corrupt in the very same rankings that you claim to support your argument that those countries are not corrupt.


You can only come to either one of two mutually exclusive conclusions here. If the countries on your list have low corruption, it must logically follow that the Singapore government is the LEAST corrupt, in accordance to the rankings that you refer to. If you take this stand, you must then retract all accusations that there is nepotism and corruption in Singapore.


If you take the position that the Singapore government IS corrupt, then it must also logically follow that the rankings are bullshit. If you take this line of argument, you must then also concede that the governments on your list are at least as 'corrupt' as the Singapore government.Which is your line of reasoning? If you pick the first conclusion, your claims are still readily demolished by arguments at the bottom of this comment.


If you pick the second conclusion, you have not proven that it is possible to have low wages and low corruption, you have merely shown that high wages, at least to the extent that they are high in Singapore, are insufficient to curb corruption. That still leaves the question of why the corruption exists. In the absence of an alternative explanation from you, would the point of low wages be the most plausible explanation?Thus it is clearly wrong to say that if leaders are not well-paid, they would become corrupt. I have already given examples to dispel that myth.Again, that is faulty logic. If you wish to take the empirical approach, giving 5 countries out of a grand total of all countries in the world is very poor sampling. You have merely established possibility, not probability. You are saying it is possible to be poorly paid, and yet possibly uncorrupt. But you have not shown that in ALL circumstances, it is probable to be poorly paid and remain uncorrupt.Do you wish to take your chances with mere possiblity? Utopia under communism was a possibility too. But how probable is it?

True Flight said...

You would fail a Philosophy 101 module in logical reasoning.

I have demonstrated that you don't necessarily have to pay extremely high salaries in order to have clean leaders.

Which part of the above statement do you disagree with?

The Legal Janitor said...

GK:

Your so-called demonstrations relies on assumptions which are untenable. See the first half of my argument.

True Flight said...

Oh and btw, I have never alleged that our government is corrupt. At least, not corrupt, in the technical sense of a crime under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Apart of course from the rather notable examples of ex-Minister of National Development Teh Cheang Wan, and ex-Minister of State Wee Toon Boon.

The Legal Janitor said...

I have demonstrated that you don't necessarily have to pay extremely high salaries in order to have clean leaders.Furthermore, is that saying the same thing as 'you never have to pay high salaries in order to have clean leaders'?

The Legal Janitor said...

GK:

Lest it be mistaken that I support high salaries for our ministers, let me state my position on this matter.

My belief, is that it is the natural function of any state to entrench its own power, and seek self-enrichment.

That is the essence of why I disagree with you. The countries you list lay a heavy tax burden on their citizens (Sweden, 54%/GDP), and to me, that is no different to corruption.

Rather than obsessing over ministerial salaries, the real objective should be to shrink the size of the state itself. That is why I explicitly reject the Scandinavian model.

Furthermore, I think the comparison of salaries of politicians across different countries is a straw man. Salaries for public servants should always be calculated according to the opportunity costs of those who you wish to hire. I am pretty certain that opportunity costs differ for politicians from different countries. Hence that comparison is quite meaningless.

True Flight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
True Flight said...

I checked your profile. You seem to be a law student. If you're at NUS, you would have access to Lawnet.

I suggest you just dig up the parliamentary debates on what ex-NMP Walter Woon had to say, when ministerial salary increases were discussed in Parliament around 1997(?).

Walter Woon put it best. I think he covered all the arguments quite succinctly, persuasively and comprehensively. For what it was worth.

I say "for what it was worth" because when the ruling party holds 78 or 79 seats out of 81 seats in Parliament, well ... who cares what some clever NMP said, no matter how intelligent or insightful his views may be.

Shiaunx, use your common sense. Our PAP ministers' salaries are not the 25th highest, out of the 150+(?) countries in the world. They're not at the 20th position. They're not at the 14th position, they're not at no. 8, they're not at number three.

They draw the world's HIGHEST salaries for government leaders.

I think the onus should be on them to provide a convincing explanation why such salaries are justified!

Yet strangely, your basic premise seems to be that it is the MOST logical & natural thing that they deserve such salaries - and that if anyone doubts that, the onus should instead be on HIM to prove some absolute statement to the contrary: "A person who gets a low salary will NEVER be corrupt".

Come, come.

Also, I really don't understand your point about income tax. "If tax rates are low, ministers should be paid world-class salaries"?? - what is the connection, except that our ministers would be able to pay less tax on their monstrously high salaries?

True Flight said...

And some things you say really perplex me. For example, you said:

"Furthermore, is that saying the same thing as 'you never have to pay high salaries in order to have clean leaders'?"

What is your point?? That we MUST pay our PAP leaders very, very high salaries, otherwise they will DEFINITELY become corrupt??

Now I really wonder whether it is you or me, who has less faith in the moral integrity of our leaders.

The Legal Janitor said...

GK:

haha, you've got my point exactly!

lee hsien tau said...

"Ah, but the Austrian school had never heard of Temasek and the GIC.

Singapore proves that central planning can succeed."



Darned if I let this get pass me .... Nicholas Leeson was deemed hugely successful until the debris was uncovered in his hitherto undeclared 88888 account. His employer then lost its bearings.

Nick's punishment was packed with so much vitriol (especially since he managed to jump ship all the way to Germany) that I believe he wasn't allowed to work at Changi (at least I never as much as saw a shadow of him the four months I plodded the squirrel cages on my way to pretend to chia-seow-yoh - the only advantage of chia-seow-yoh is you get to leave the cell twice a day - if you're not allowed to work - but that is also the bane of chia-seow-yoh - they don't fix the time of when they yank you to the dispensary - so I requested to stop - but they counter-offered to pump the shit into me - so I had to relent or else I cannot pretend to be taking it when I'm spitting it out - if you are following me? whew!)

The Central Bank of Malaysia treasury operation lost a lot of money in forex speculation.

The report on how Barings lost control of Nick's local unit is yaada yaada yaada - no different from what I can see of the management situation at Temasek and the GIC.

Central planning succeed? Without checks and balances? The code of corporate governance is 'best practice' ie. not enforced by law. Recommendation is for the chairman and CEO to be two separate persons. We already know how that worked out at NKF when it wasn't even father, son and daughter-in-law (I was tempted to say 'holy ghost').

Temasek and the GIC succeed? Or an accident waiting to happen?

Imelda's gallery of underwear and shoes was uncovered only after a US helicopter plucked her and her husband out of a must-evac situation. Same with the fall of the Berlin wall - not Berlin itself, I understand, but Romania and its Securitate or was it Hungary? If Lenin was alive, he would be tempted to scratch his balls! (but I didn't tell him to do this and that ... and so on) Central planning is a recipe for disaster. LKY only has two hands, two feet, ten toes and eleven fingers.

I'm not saying that central planning won't work per se. The Soviets dominated the olympics yaada yaada yaada, the MIG25 Foxbat was a marvel in engineering considering the technology they were working with, and their TV sets used components which would make you wonder if their astronauts ever come back. Then there is the AK45 which is a marvel in simplisticity that it could be reproduced by Afghan kids in their backyards.

But LKY doesn't have the elixir of youth, and it isn't just his eleventh finger that has grown senile! Central planning has wrapped within itself the recipe for disaster. Karl Marx didn't think that far ahead. Which doesn't mean that blatant capitalism doesn't. Even science fiction explore such socio-economic-political issues in a subtle way ... which, by the way, brings forth an interesting observation; except for "Animal Farm", I haven't come across one on central planning as a 'futuristic' model, if you exclude spy-fiction.

Blatant capitalism works by a minority ie. elite benefiting from the majority ie. poor. The pool of serfs working to enrich the elite has to be renewed constantly - you can only squeeze so much blood out of one serf - hence the emphasis on foreign talent. That was what led Marx to invent socialism and collectivism in the first place. There was a flaw in capitalism - winner takes all - has wrapped within itself its own recipe for disaster. Marx was attending to that flaw.

There are only three political models available; monarchist (rule by decree), neo-monarchist (fascist, communist, proletarian, military junta, feudal-fief-overlordism, talebanist etc) and democractist. Only in the democratic model does the voting process acts as a pressure relief valve so avoiding a bloodbath. Central planning, socialism and capitalism are socio-economic models; do not confuse them with political models. In the democratic model, rule by descent becomes a fluke because of the voting process. Even in the communist model, rule by descent happens only by design. The question is what Chia Thye Poh spent 32 years being locked up for.

Politicians must be identified by their political agenda; their socio-economic agenda being subserviant to their political agenda. When Sun Yat Sen envisaged modernist China, I believe he never had a firm political model in mind, and so had his revolution hijacked. Mark Twain said: The east is east, the west is west, and never the twain shalt meet. Just as Leftist and Rightist cannot bedfellows make, or risk the twain becoming monarchist or neo-monarchist. It's imperative for politicians to be chosen by their political agenda because their economic agenda is always twisted to serve their political agenda once they gain power.

Take Haiti (former Caribbean French colony) for example. Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier ruled by fear. He found it so enjoyable, he generously passed it on to his son, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc). Haitians finally rallied behind a change-agent called Jean-Bertrand Aristeed. Did Haitians rally behind Aristeed because they agreed with his political agenda? Or was it by necessity? Roughly two decades on, Aristeed himself had to be plucked out by a US helicopter in a must-evac situation.

I am no sociology academic or thinker. But it appears to me that coup-de-tats has a higher propensity to occur on island-states, and it appears to bear no relationship to whether the islands are resource rich. The problem could lie in their lack of variety in political representation or their relative low risk from neighbourly intervention. The problem could also be exacerbated by the rooting out of political non-conformist foreign talent such as Ryan Goh?