19 Sep 2006

"Singapore? Isn't that part of China?"

The article below sums up this recent mess created by the authorities in Singapore. Trying to attract the worlds talent while at the same time having world headlines read as the one below does highlight the flaw in the so called 'pragmatic approach'.

The pragmatic approach to decision making is founded on a simple idea that you use the option which works best at that particular time or rather decisions are to be made without reference to a core set of 'political values' or grand plans.

'Singapore Works' is a phrase that encapsulates that notion. The 'old' politics of 'left and right' no longer hold sway over those in power, the rhetoric of Confucianism has been abandoned, 'Asian values' is a term that has gone by the way. Today Singapore is placed at the mercy of globalisation as every other nation is. Globalisation is referred to as an 'invisible hand' that alters the fortunes of men and women on a global scale. When the Singapore economy performs badly - simply place the blame on globalisation. When the Singapore economy does well - accredit the praise by remarking that the Singaporean government has opened its doors to the invisible hand.

To argue that multi national corporations and the financial markets determine the fortunes of the people of Singapore is tantamount to blasphemy. Blasphemy because we all live in societies that have supposedly turned their backs on the old ideologies of politics. Today we are said to live in a pragmatic world that is without ideology.

A greater number of those who had wished to protest on the streets of Singapore are not anti-capitalist or communist/Marxist. They are aware of the reality of the situation we find ourselves in - we need capitalism to continue for our own survival. All they were trying to ask for was that their voices be heard when they call for a 'kinder - softer capitalism'. A capitalism that factors in human beings and the environment into their decisions. One that encourages corporate responsibility.

To argue that we now live in a world of 'pragmatic' decision makers unencumbered by 'values' whether they be universal or local, is merely an uncovering of the dominant hegemony of our time. The image of boats rising with the tide of 'globalisation' as if it were another force of nature creates the image that there is no alternative. This is the lie.

The leaders of Singapore are without vision. They make decisions on an ad hoc basis which on this particular occasion has created the fiasco that is the IMF/WB meeting. They, as politicians, are without affect on the global stage and reduced to micro-managing the lives of their electorate. All they have left is the politics of behavioural management. Their success in the politics of behavioural management has been well illustrated by the clamping down of peaceful protest. Not that many tried to take part on this occasion but that the population has no desire to protest at all. The people of Singapore have accepted their political behaviour manipulation without question.

When Lee junior came to power a few years ago he talked of a marvelous future for Singapore - an open society. With individuals making their voices heard without fear of suppression. The cameras of the world will show a picture of the passive Singaporean when a better image would have been a dynamic, risk-taking society that was progressing and changing, involved in decisions that would effect their own futures and the futures of millions of others.

Often people have been known to ask - "Singapore? Isn't that part of China?" This mistake isn't based on geographic location alone.

Singapore seems to be walking a very fine tight rope. On one side we have the danger of collapsing into the arms of the US and on the other China. When you have a US statesman of Wolfowitz's stature commenting on how 'authoritarian' the decisions are it seems to indicate a wobble towards the Chinese model of the 'open society'. And we all know just how 'open' that is.

Singapore activist ban "authoritarian": Wolfowitz
Fri Sep 15, 2006 2:16am ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Friday called Singapore's restrictions on the entry of activists for the World Bank/IMF meetings "authoritarian".

But he said the World Bank and IMF did not plan to postpone their annual gathering, which is being hosted by the Southeast Asian city-state this month.

"Enormous damage has been done and a lot of that damage is done to Singapore and self-inflicted. This could have been an opportunity for them to showcase to the world their development process," Wolfowitz said in response to questions from civil society organizations at a town hall meeting in Singapore.

"I would argue whether it has to be as authoritarian as it has been and I would certainly argue that at the stage of success they have reached, they would do much better for themselves with a more visionary approach to the process."

He added that the bar on entry into Singapore for some activists "is a violation of the understanding that we had drawn up" with Singapore.

The city-state has put 27 civil rights activists on a blacklist for entry to the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, and some would-be participants to the meetings have been deported.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

so 3 years ago, if Wolfowitz was president of World Bank already, he will never ever approve of Singapore to host the meetings. then again, 3 years ago, he was out whoring for the Iraq war. so much credibility there i see.

san serif said...

brilliant. 4 million smiles to welcome 16 000 delegates that will relegate us to china and a big bad Wolf to put all the blame on Singapore. Well done Singapore, well done!

Anonymous said...

We are already worse than China, at least they are allowed to protest and demonstrate over there.

Anonymous said...

ah... but blogspot is banned in China

lee hsien tau said...

If Singapore wasn't part of China, it sure is now.

How do we measure it? When murder victims get to be predominently PRC women, we ARE PART of CHINA.

But wait a minute, weren't we planning to be the 51st state of the union? Blame it on the US economy.

Matilah_Singapura said...

> we need capitalism to continue for our own survival. All they were trying to ask for was that their voices be heard when they call for a 'kinder - softer capitalism'. A capitalism that factors in human beings and the environment into their decisions. One that encourages corporate responsibility.

Such vague ideas, definitely not rooted in the natural laws of the universe. I of course refer to natural economic law...not the shit they generally teach in schools and universities. Natural law is not man-made — it is a result of how thngs really are.

Market (driven) capitalism is demand driven — by the insatiable wants, desires and needs of the Sovereign Consumers.

i.e. "The Customer is KING".

If you want to get rid of crony capitalism — which is really popular in many states — especially Asian states, then strive for seperation of STATE and COMMERCE.

Just as seperation of church and state is a good thing, seperation of politics from the market is an EXCELLENT thing.

The idea of course is laissez faire capitalism: based on unlimited individual and private property rights and the unlimited ability to contract — voluntarily.

The kind of capitalism you seem to be proposing is NOT voluntary.

I don't know what dream world you are living in, but no one except the consumers themselves can "moderate" capitalism into a "kinder, softer" system. Capitalism, as I claimed, is DEMAND driven.

Customers want "bang for their buck" — i.e. VALUE. And there's the old saying: ""Capitalism HATES a PROFIT.".

As soon as there is a "profit opportunity", you get competition. If the potential for profits are HUGE, you get swash-buckling competition. In the end it the customer who "wins". The entrepreneurs take HUGE RISKS by trying to "speculate" on what customers wants, needs and desires are. If the entrepreneurs are WRONG, they lose money.

That is the reason RISK is priced into the return on investments. There is no such thing as a "risk free investment" — regardless of what those spammers tell you in their mass "stock tip" emails. ;-)

Many people don't realise this, but the market is a spontaneous order. Any attempt by humans to impose "order" on the market results in untold externalities — wild swings in prices, inflation and deflation, recessions, depressions, shortages, over-production, environmental destruction, social dislocation, misallocation of resources (malinvestments) political corruption like nepotism (see local examples), crony capitalism (Thaksin, Mahathir, Marcos, Soeharto et al), merchantilsim (GLCs), cartels and monopolies.

The funny thing is almost every control and regulation imposed on the market is done so in the guise of imposing "fairness, equality and market order".

Bullshit. What happens is that the absolute-power statists get a free-kick. Ask any Small Medium Enterprise (SME) owner in S'pore for his/her opinion on Temasek, the GIC, or the huge GLCs who dominate nearly every sector in the S'pore economy.

A privateer often has to bet his house and risk his family's future to go into business for himself. The fat-cat which manages a GLC/Temasek/GIC gets to use taxpayer money — an inexhaustible, veritable MINT of money.

I support the full privatisation of everything (all roads, waterways, rivers, natural resources, land, parks, buildings...everything) within the geographical territory know as "Singapore" — but only if it is done by free individuals. For e.g. the residents of Toa Payoh can get together and fully privatise their town, and thus OWN IT. People living along Braddel Road can privatise and own Braddel Road... that sort of thing.

But I do not support the so-called "privatisation" by the state because they erect barriers to entry and make up their own arbitrary laws, regulations which favour the few "kang tows" in cosy relationships with the state apparatus (or part of the state apparatus itself).

The Country Belongs to its FREE people, not to the state. Therefore I support the idea of a FULLY PRIVATISED ISLAND, not owned by a "special group of elite statists" by owned by the people themselves.

sporescores said...


"When you have a US statesman of Wolfowitz's stature commenting on how 'authoritarian' the decisions are it seems to indicate a wobble towards the Chinese model of the 'open society'."

When you have a site like yours giving credence to a statement just because it came from a US statesman like Wolfowitz (I don't know what stature you are talking about but it seems like just rank and seniority rather than actual weight when you quote someone like Wolfowitz), all indications are that your site is a nonsensical one devoted to blindly criticising Singapore and its govt in any way you can. Even KTM's is more sensible than this.