28 Aug 2006

The Class Compromise in Singapore

Having come across an article written in the Financial Times by John Burton it struck a cord with a research proposal I am currently mulling over regarding the nature of Singapore's regime. It also seemed to confirm the use of a particular indicator and its reflection on income inequality. The debate outlined below goes even further than the FT article. The question is whether or not the widening gap between the rich and poor coupled with other indicators shows a slide towards authoritarianism? Below is merely a selected extract of the proposal which is still an ongoing endeavour.

Kollmeyer (2003) asserts that, “if we equate democracy with a governing system that equitably mediates class conflict […]” we can measure changes in outcomes theoretically linked to effective democratic governance by using four macro-level social and political indicators; income inequality, voter participation rates, incarceration rates and union membership.

The number of households with monthly incomes in Singapore below S$3,000 increased to 42% in 1999 up from 40% in 1998. The difference in income inequality between the top quintile and the bottom quintile increased to 20 in 2000, resulting in an income inequality at a higher rate than that of the United States of America in 2000.

According to Kollmeyer (2003), Muller (1998) finds a positive correlation between rising levels of income inequality and the probability of an authoritarian takeover of a previously democratic regime.

The next indicator is 'voter participation rates' however in Singapore, voting is compulsory, thereby complicating the use of this indicator when trying to gauge the level of political participation.

The incarceration rate for Singapore in 2005 according to the International Centre for Prison studies was 350 per 100,000 based on a population of 4.3 million with a total number of 15,038. This figure is well below the rate of the USA which stands at 800 per 100,000 but more than double the rate in European countries. Kollmeyer seems to argue, using the indicators he provided, that the USA is undermining the class compromise and shifting towards authoritarianism.

The incarceration rate for Singapore, according to the source, does not include persons in Drug Rehabilitation Centres.

With reference to union density, Singapore ratified Convention No.98 but not convention No.87 of the International Labour Standards Commission. Convention 87 refers to freedom of association and protection of the Right to Organisation Conventions. No. 98 refers to the Right to organise for the purpose of collective bargaining. The level of union density in 1999 (Campbell, 1999 cited Serrano, 2005) was 20.0%. The biggest union in Singapore is the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) which “is a family of 63 trade unions with more than 470,000 members in support of the labour movement.” The NTUC chief has always been a Peoples Action Party member and a member of cabinet. Rendering the union density indicator redundant.

The two indicators that appear to be incompatible with providing an accurate account of the system of governance are ‘voter participation’ and ‘union density’, both engaged in measuring political involvement of the population.

Are Singaporeans politically involved, at what levels, are civil groups facilitated?

Prison Brief for Singapore, International Centre for Prison, Kings College London, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/rel/icps/worldbrief/continental_asia_records.php?code=110, Last visited 21.03.2006.

Kollmeyer C.J. (2003) ‘Globalisation, Class Compromise, and American Exceptionalism: Political Change in 16 Advanced Countries’, Critical Sociology, Vol. 29, (3), Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Muller, E. N. (1988) ‘Democracy, Economic Development and Income Inequality’, American Sociological Review 53 (1): pp. 50-68.

National Trade Union Congress, (Singapore) (2006), http://www.ntuc.org.sg/, Last viewed, 21/03.2006.

Serrano, M.R. (2005) Addressing Union Decline in The ASEAN in the Era of Globalisation: Some Strategies and Initiatives, University Extension Specialist II, U.P. School of Labor and Industrial Relations, Quezon City: Diliman.


Matilah_Singapura said...

Here we go with the ol Marxist "class warfare" argument once again, built on the (false) premise that "income equality" is somehow a "desirable" outcome, and that public policy should be created an implemented to achieve this "eqaulity".

It is not how much you earn. The important thing is what you can buy with your money. Can you lived on what you earn? Clearly, the so-called "low income" sector of the society can.

Look at another extreme example: supposing you are shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island, with a bag filled with $1million in cash. Your money is all but usesless (it can be used for tinder or toilet activities).

"Wealth" in society is produced. The "stuff" that is produced is "stuff" which people need in order to live. It is only by the division of labour and entrepreneul activity that "stuff" for human consumption gets produced. No other way. Nature may provide the fish in the sea and the iron ore in the ground, but it is only by purpose-directed human action that things in their state of nature become "useful" to human life.

>According to Kollmeyer (2003), Muller (1998) finds a positive correlation between rising levels of income inequality and the probability of an authoritarian takeover of a previously democratic regime.

I can correlate my moods with the phases of Jupiter's moons if I like. That doesn't mean that there is a causal relationship between these two elements.

The point they've missed is that market activity is still occuring — despite the use of emotional language like "authoritarian" and "previously democratic" (notice the mischievious underlying assumptions here) to lead the reader to believe otherwise.

Every state on this planet is "authoritarian", and political democracy is easily usurped and controlled even in the most "free" countries. People in "free" countries get mislead extremely successfully by their states on a LARGE scale — large enough to gather political supposrt for some LIE. e.g. where are these WMD's in Iraq — the reason for the war?

What varies between sovereign states is only the degree to which authoritarianism is ensconced (and therefore accepted) in a particular society. One indicator is to look is at the victimless crimes which are on the law books — that will give some idea of the amount of "authoritarianism" in a particular society.

Anonymous said...

Please read : "Selling immigration" by yawningbread - and i agree with alex's point of view.

antipathy said...

Poor. Not Poor.
No Market-Based Econ
No Command Based Econ

Matilah_Singapura said...

> No Market-Based Econ
No Command Based Econ

Then, what other kind of economy is there?

Whatever the system you propose, would I still be able to buy a nice sports car, expensive wine and gee-whiz gadgets? i.e. the "necessities" of life?

antipathy said...

the paradox of present economic thought is that it doesn't seem to allow systems that do not incorporate either command based or market based systems or part thereof.

I do not claim to have found some sort of great solution that will solve the worlds ills, and can scarcely hope that I shall be able to ever do, but I do believe that to solve scarcity problems, people must move away from this thinking that it must be one or the other (or part thereof).

Matilah_Singapura said...

Scarcity is impossible to solve. Human beings have to make choices (not just becasue they have free will), but also simply because they are mortal - which means time automatically becomes a scarce resource.

Human mortality is also the basis for value — which is subjective, uniuqe to each individual.

If we lived forever, we wouldn't need to "hurry up" and get things done, i.e. to achieve the ends we choose.

The "demand" nature of the free market comes from the fact that we humans are perenial consumers, and need to consume in order to live these wonderful modern and intricately complicated life-experiences we are so fortunate to have.

Try this inductive exercise: Start from the time you get up from bed: brush teeth, bath, go toilet, get dressed eat breakfast, get to work... and so on. Notice how much consumption of goods (clean water, electricity, toiletries, apparel, processed food, transport machinery, fuel for transport...) has occured... and not one single item was made by the human being doing the consuming. They were essentially made by total strangers.

Without the products to "make life easy and enjoyable" it is back to the stoneage.

Kill the economics and you kill humanity. A demand economy is a natural consequence of human nature in the spontaneous order.

antipathy said...

Scarcity is impossible to solve, only when one believes confidently that the entire basis of human life is based on competition, based on endless self-centered wants and demands. When one desires nothing the problem of scarcity is resolved.

Of course if you really want to be materialist about it, technological improvements can solve the problems of scarcity for needs, e.g. we can feed everyone, clothe everyone, make sure everyone has access to clean water, a shelter over their head. We do have the resources for that. What is the problem is overconsumption, the generation of want that outpaces the growth of technological advances to cater to these wants

The oft quoted statistic is that 16% of the world's population consumes 80% of the resources.

Actually, from what little I recall from economics is that scarcity is based on the presumption that human beings have "unlimited wants", and the world has "limited resources". I deny the axiom of unlimited wants, and say that all these wants only stem from the innate need of human beings to seek happiness. Happiness is an extremely vague concept which does not have a reasoned formula. I can only say that some people are happy without having fulfilled their "unlimited wants". This is inductive and proves that if one person can enjoy this "happiness" without unlimited wants fulfilled, it follows that by proper education or some other revelation, others can too.

I do however understand how bizarre it is to hear someone reject something as fundamental as unlimited wants thus confounding the entire basis of economics, and its purpose thereof, and i might be extremely naive to believe that people can achieve their life-wants without wanting more, but its just an opinion.

Matilah_Singapura said...

How are you going to solve the scarcity problem of Ferraris (they are very rare), Belugian caviar, and 2 carat diamonds.

Now don't tell me you haven't noticed that some people need these scarce goods to be "happy".

lee hsien tau said...

yellow ribbon fantasy - a PAP mind and money game

No, I wasn't beaten up in police lock-up. In fact I was eating french-fries whilst under interrogation. Senior investigating officer Kho Poh Koon bought me two hamburger set meals to coax me into pleading guilty.

But I was attacked in the dungeon under the Subordinate Court by one of Wong Kan Seng's goons. So what if I was wearing a pair of panties. Underwear is underwear. It's just a piece of cloth. That's no reason for an officer to grope.

Worse was yet to come from the goon. Later, on the pretext of strip-searching, he brought an over-sized truncheon into the cell I was in. Without provocation, he pushed me against the wall and shoved the truncheon at my ass-hole before retreating.

I lodged an immediate protest. It attracted a woman sergeant who then referred it to the officer in charge of the dungeon. When I was led up to the Court above, every goon in sight started removing his name tag. So never be under the illusion that, whilst the PAP regime is in power, it is innocent until proven guilty. Rather the opposite is true. So what if I broke a couple of car windscreens. They belonged to my cousins. Not some big fuck in the government.

Of course when I was finally freed by Wong Kan Seng's goons some 6 months later, I immediately lodged a complaint which went all the way to an identification line-up where I fingered the culprit. But the magistrate told me it was up to me to prosecute him, and that the attorney general's office may even back-up the goon in defense.

I have noticed ever since, that whenever I got involved with the goons, I received the kind of special glance reserved for well-known adversaries of the Lee Kuan Yew's regime, inclusive of whilst going through the border checkpoint. And I'm not involved in politics.

ST Forum 28 August 2006
By Lee Li Yng (Ms)

After I read about the delivery man who will be denied entry to the Conrad Centennial Hotel when the International Monetary Fund meeting starts next month ("Singapore delivery man told he can't enter IMF meeting area"; The New Paper, Aug 16), I have a similar experience to share.

My brother, who is in his late teens, works for a transport company on weekends. One Sunday, he was on assignment at the Istana with a couple of colleagues. Upon arrival, three of them were denied entry.

One 17-year-old had received a warning as a result of an ice-cream theft at the tender age of 12.

An 18-year-old spent time in a boys' home for getting into fights during his younger days. And my brother has a date with the courts over a fight.

This brings to mind the Yellow Ribbon campaign, an initiative by the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders group.

To quote from http://www.yellowribbon.org.sg: "Care Network needs to join hands with the community and other government organizations to create a stable social platform on which reformed offenders and their families can start life afresh.

"The 'key' needed to release them from this second social prison lies with family, friends, employers and the community. Let's give them the key."

The greater irony is that my dear brother, who surely is innocent of his crime until proven guilty, has not even been sentenced yet.

I can imagine what older ex-convicts face in society, given this sorry state of affairs.

Of course, there are sprinklings of success stories. But the painful truth is that plenty still struggle to find gainful employment, and the more desperate ones turn back to crime. Is it any wonder at all?

It pains me to see one of my kin treated like this.

I write in the hope of raising the community's awareness of such irony - not to demand justice just for my brother but for all who may have committed some offence in a moment of folly and have genuinely repented.

How else can we "help unlock the second prison" for ex-convicts?

lee hsien tau said...

tax disguised as conservancy charge

ST Forum 28 August 2006
By Sarimah Itnin (Mdm)

I have lived in Sengkang since 2000. I have to make calls to Ang Mo Kio Town Council on corridor lighting issues, lift issues, garbage and bulky items left unattended for days and so on.

My question is: Whose responsibility is this? Residents? Then why do we pay conservancy charges?

Recently, my corridor lights were out for a week. When I called the town council, I had to wait 10 minutes listening to a voice recorder before my call was answered.

Then I had to explain to a woman officer, who then transferred me to the maintenance side.

I had to repeat what I said again, but the officer was unable to answer when I asked her who is responsible for this.

Then I was transferred to another officer - Madam Wee, who said there is a "checker". Obviously, this "checker" is not checking.

I then asked to speak to someone in authority, but Madam Wee said her name is Gladys but she was out of office.

I left my contact details but till today, there has been no call. It was only in the last few days that the lights were fixed.

My questions: Does a simple question need to be repeated to three officers?

And what service do we residents receive in return for the monthly conservancy charges?

Summons to an accused person

Dated this 4th day of July, 2006 (funny it wasn't stuck on the door until more than 2 weeks later)

Case ID: SC-019929-06
Charge No: TC-007025-2006

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) Section 158-160


You, KOH CHONG KIANG (NRIC No S1471858C), the lessee of Apartment Block 536 Upper Cross Street #11-245 Singapore 050536, are charged that you have failed to pay the outstanding conservancy and service charges for the months of December 2003 to September 2005 (actually, Dec 2003 to date) of $529.00 (actually, the number seemed to have gone up and down) due and owing to the Town Council of Jalan Besar within 14 days from the date of service on you of a written demand dated 10 March 2006 and that you have thereby committed an offence under Section 39(7) of the Town Councils Act (Cap 329A) and punishable under the said Section thereof.

You are hereby required to appear on the 3rd day of August, 2006 at 6.00pm in person before the Subordinate Court No. CT 26N at Singapore and you are hereby warned that if you shall, without just excuse, neglect or refuse to appear on the said date, a Warrant may be issued to compel your attendance.

1) There's not enough balance in my CPF to service the mortgage.
2) The utilities bill has been outstanding for more than 8 months.
3) Not taking into account other non-recoverable debt owing to Singtel, Starhub and M1.
4) Telling the MP Loh Meng See in 3 visits but seeing his face only once, just before the election (so I was surprised to learn that somebody was privileged to sock MP Seng Hang Thong in the face) but not getting the message through, only to find him no longer an MP after the election.
5) Is it an offence to be poor and jobless?
6) Isn't it an extremely sick policy to be importing foreigners by the thousands when locals cannot secure a livelihood, and then persecuting them for not being able to secure a livelihood? And making slavery out of its citizens for needing to live in a HDB pigeon hole?
7) Isn't a tax that does not distinguish ability to pay, thus robbing the poor to enrich the rich, just cause for a citizen's revolt?

And I shall lead the way. The case is going to trail. PTC 27 September 2006, 2.00pm, Subordinate Court 14. Any advice or financial assistance would be appreciated. And I shall be needing a place to stay.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Jesus seems to have stopped smoking.

Constant smoking hurts the lungs, just as constant drinking hurts the liver.

Anonymous said...

when is this blog gona be renamed Matilah_Singablodypura !!

Matilah_Singapura said...


Anonymous said...

Meaning that you have a sick talent (which you doubtlessly enjoy flaunting in all its worthless dimensions) for sensationalizing and polluting all worthy discussions just like the countless and tasteless signature images that represents your thinking, and which you unequivocally identify with.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Why... thankyou. forgive me, I'm not used to getting such flattering and appreciative comments... Gosh, I'm blushing...

Anonymous said...

Sure, you are welcome. I did not know you are actually capable of feeling embarrassment?