Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Did EDB give too much to lure UNSW here? or "Ang Mo Tuah Liap"

Hi Friends,

The article below from represents what I think is a balanced view of the whole UNSW saga.

It seems to many that UNSW had been allowed to come and go as it pleases without a thought for responsibility of its actions.

It apparently decided that it had a good deal going and after signing some MOU’s amidst great fanfare embarked on UNSW Asia.

However, just as quickly, it decided to pull the plug after a new Vice-Chancellor had come on board.

Just like that. No different from going to the store and then changing one’s mind and returning home.

But the fallout is much more complex than that. Unlike flip-flopping about going to the store, there are real people who are hurt by UNSW's change of heart.

Who does UNSW think it is? What kind of institution makes major decisions over a 30 second period ( as mentioned in some news reports) and then at the whims and fancy of some head honcho, just decides to pack up and go as if nothing had happened?

And what kind of institution is EDB to allow UNSW to treat us like dirt?

Before signing on the dotted line, does EDB not have legal teams to pore over the minutiae in the MOU’s/contracts to ensure that this exact situation does not arise? So is someone from EDB going to take responsibility for this fiasco? I do not expect any official to commit Hara-kiri like the Japanese, but an apology would be nice.

Otherwise, what are we telling the whole world about Singapore?- that we will stoop as low as we need to get your business? Have we joined the world’s oldest profession- Whoring?

Is it still “ Ang moh tuah liap” Hokkien for “The white man’s is bigger”?

Suddenly, I feel very inadequate as a Singaporean.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

The faculty of accountability ( 30th May 07)
By Siew Kum Hong- I just found out that the article is by Siew ( no wonder it is SO GOOD!) 31.5.07

Anger, disbelief, fear, shock and tears. Those were just some of the reactions to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Asia's announcement that it was giving up after just one term.

Even as UNSW, the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Ministry of Education (MOE) and other educational institutions (including the three local universities) continue to try to help UNSW students deal with the aftermath, there are other issues that merit debate on a more macro level.

The first concerns the accountability of government agencies.

The MOE had reportedly played an important role in attracting UNSW to Singapore in the first place. Furthermore, all private schools must register with the MOE.

Yet, when students and parents wanted to meet with the latter after UNSW's decision, the MOE's response was that UNSW had ultimate responsibility.

As for the EDB, it had sealed the deal with UNSW and had invested heavily in the project. Yet, it has declined to reveal the losses resulting from UNSW's pullout.

While disclosing the figures could affect the EDB's bargaining position in future negotiations with other universities, the fact remains that this is taxpayers' money. The Financial Times has reported the amount to be as high as $80 million.

The EDB has also not provided information on how the deal was structured. What sort of guarantees and commitments were extracted from UNSW? How could UNSW simply quit after just one term, when construction work on the new campus was already underway, apparently without having to pay compensation?

Did we give away too much to lure UNSW here?

The onus is on the EDB to explain what had happened and give an indication of our losses, while not compromising its ability to negotiate future deals.

Its continued silence does not sit well with Singaporeans, particularly in light of the Public Accounts Committee's recent findings of significant lapses in the EDB's internal controls and governance.

Singaporeans expect greater accountability from ministers and civil servants, given the recent public service pay hike. The handling of this case may not have met the enhanced standards expected by the public.

A more fundamental question concerns the Singapore model, which relies heavily on foreign investments to drive the economy. UNSW's departure demonstrates the risks inherent in playing this game, especially in an increasingly globalised world where competitors are everywhere and funds come and go easily.

Investors are understandably fickle, coming to seek returns and leaving if there are none. As with UNSW and other multinational corporations, when they pull out, Singaporeans have to pick up the pieces, whether they be lost jobs, missed opportunities or dashed dreams.

This could come without warning, such as when there is a management change and hardnosed businessmen such as UNSW vice-chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer disagree with the previous decisions made.

So long as we persist with this economic model, the risk will remain. I am not saying we should abandon this model — it has served us well in the past, and it could continue to work for the future.

But we have to be aware of the inherent risks, make sure our eyes are open to what could happen if things go wrong, and do our best to mitigate the risks.

Just as foreign investments have a multiplier effect on the economy, the negative repercussions of capital outflows will similarly be amplified.

And that brings us back to the EDB's role in attracting investments. Yes, capital should be able to flow in and out of Singapore freely, and we cannot stop an investor from leaving.

But surely it is not too much to ask that where public funds are spent to entice foreign investments, we also extract some assurances and commitments to stay in Singapore. This not only minimises the wastage of taxpayers' money, but also mitigates the risk of lives being disrupted by premature departures.

Ultimately, our model of foreign investments requires us to keep foreign investors happy, to ensure that the business case presented is realistic and justifiable, and to ensure a long-term binding commitment.

But, at the same time, we must not lose sight of the need to grow indigenous players who can compete internationally while retaining local roots.

Otherwise, we will always remain hostage to the whims of foreign investors.
- /so


Dr Oz bloke said...

This UNSW deal not working out is something that can happen in life. And it happened.

Is this something good that happened to Singapore? No.

I'm not so upset about EDB not revealing whatever, and MOE not talking to whoever.

But I am more upset with the nonchalant way the Minister of Education, EDB and MOE waves away this "minor" setback as a small blip of some sort that will not affect Singapore's "big" plans to be an education hub. "We're still on track" and all that talk.

Who are they kidding? This would have made the news around the region.

Trust me Mr Tharman, that when a student sees an ad regarding some "new" university setting up in Singapore and calling for students (local and foreign) to enrol, they will stop to think about it very carefully.

If MOE and EDB do not show in the next few weeks how serious they are about ensuring students do not get hurt by such events, they can be sure that less students would want to take the risk with Singapore.

Make no mistake. This is a stain on Singapore's reputation no matter how you want to wave it away.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi droz,
Those guys are so cocky cos the money they lose are not theirs but Ours!
And they continue to get million dollar salaries!
Yes, they must show that we view this escapade very seriously and that we are upset and will do our utmost to ensure this does not happen again!
Instead of overbearing arrogance.

Anonymous said...

I think the worst is we never know how much we (EDB/taxpayer) spent on the UNSW - how much cash was spent on the piling works at Changi now? Or were they merely tax breaks, and not really cash outlay. Again with the EDB fiasco, the obvious lack of transparency here is just so jarring - for a first world government....

Anonymous said...

And the man said this:

"We are unable to give details of the support package offered to UNSW, for confidentiality reasons."

Well, it is so corporate. Kena shot in the ass, just said it lah, no need to spin the confidentiality shit. But, then they are world class hor, cannot admit mistakes even though if it is right in front of you.

aliendoc said...

I think it's quite a typical response from the almighty gahmen. Must save face no matter what. But I wonder if heads will roll quietly in either the EDB or MOE.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doctor,

Are you insane? Did any of our "SUPER" Talent Ministers or Temasek CEO apologize for the poor decision made in her investment in Shin Corp, Suzhou Industrial Park, Micropolice? The answer is NONE.

Don't waste your time asking for the IMPOSSIBLE. This will never happen in Singapore.

"If the top part of the tree is bend, you can forget about getting the bottem straight."

In Singapore, only poor peasants make mistake but not SUPER Talents.

Our cost of living will shoot up to cover the bloody hole created by our Super Talents in our Government.

Let's move on...

Anonymous said...

Your Hokkien comment about "ang mohs" represents an insidious type of racist remark, as if the skin color of the majority of Australians had something to do with UNSW's behaviour. How dare you. His having white skin had nothing to do with his decision, and if that Australian had been a Chinese-Australian, he may have reached the same decision.

Less sophisticated people will read comments like yours, and then see Caucasians walking on the streets of Singapore as the source of their problems. Like what happened in Zimbabwe, I fear the day when locals might start attacking foreigners on the streets because of the color of their skin or blaming them for their problems. While I think you just wanted to make some smart remark and didn't mean it as racist, I found it insulting.

In short, "ang mohs" are not responsible. Australians are (and Singaporean civil servants moreso). There is a big difference between being white and being Australian, and it is disappointing that you don't distinguish between the two. You're no different from machete-wielding Zimbabwean thugs beating elderly white farmers to death for being white in a former colony. Maybe we should just kick out all the "ang mohs" from Singapore too, confiscate all their condos and accounts, and see if any famine results here too.

Anonymous said...

UNSW acted responsibly towards its 40,000 students and 5,000 staff in Australia by not putting them at risk with such a large financial commitment; it acted responsibly by making a clear and quick decision and by immediately offering UNSW Asia students places at UNSW Sydney plus support for air fares and accommodation for the duration of their studies. It is ridiculous to suggest that the decision to invest in UNSW Asia was made in 30 seconds, and to suggest that reversing the decision was done on a whim - such wild claims can have no basis in fact or logic and do not promote harmony or resolution: as a doctor you should know better.

Anonymous said...

Huang, you are right, Singaporean need to biotech to genetical grow bigger dick so that gov here do not dick us.

EDB is merely doing what other gahmen ministers are doing. Give bullshit when they are not even practice their profession. For example, transport minister doesn't even take public transport and yet can talk big on issue pertaining to it.

And now, EDB ppl are not students encountered this before, and therefore can talk big and do nothing.

Rubbish and Crap is the highlight of our next election.
Guess what happen to recent finding of so called auditing to EDB ?

If history is repeated, nothing will happened because LKY covered it up for fear of public uproar and spoilt superficial gov image. Probably, the auditor general must have been transferred into other department after this discovery ! I won't be surprised because this is cronies's tactic.

Life as usual for gahmen, but we the public paid for their heavy fucking mistake.

But we also have to share the blame for been the fucking gutless chicken who can also watch chicken around me, and that includes me been slaugthtered by LKY and his cronies.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 3.22:

Thanks for your comments: My alternate title should more appropriately have been “Non-Singaporean Tuah Liap”- but it will be a mouthful. Somehow our gahmen are making desperate one-sided deals that are short-changing ourselves.

Yes, choosing a “catchy” title is no excuse for being racially insensitive- for that I apologise for any “less sophisticated” people reading my post.

I am against any form of racism be it in Singapore, Australia and esply in Zimbabwe. I know why Mugabe should be kicked out of Zim cos his racist policies have cause it to go into a tail-spin with inflation of 2000 % ( or some figure like that).
I am not even against Australians ( white or not)- just against those who make quick decisions either side of contracts without having regard of consequences and who are allowed to walk away almost like nothing happened ( because we had let them behave like that).

I suppose I should behave like most Singaporeans – ie thinking that Old Man knows best/ we should just take things lying down/ be afraid to speak up for fear of being branded “racist” or xenophobe etc

Anyway, thanks.

Everyone ( whites or blacks or humans of any hue are welcome to Singapore) and I will show you why I love this place despite what's happening but expect everyone to be treated the same- as human beings.


nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 6.07:

Don’t assume all doctors are smart or logical but I take your drift.

I know it is not logical to suggest that decisions were made hastily much less in 30 secs but how does one explain this:

Mega-million dollar decisions were made and within 3 months of students stepping into the temporary premise, a new guy who just took office pulled the plug!

I cannot fathom the logic- either:

1.the previous honcho was less than through in the due diligence process ( which I presume must have been done)

2.There was sudden change in the demand which was totally unforseen( eg a 9/11 scenario)

3. That Sg suddenly imposed unreasonable conditions not forseen

4.That the new honcho just have different ideas. Period.

Tell me, which was it- or just tell me what I have missed.

So is someone gonna fall on their swords?


Anonymous said...

Issue of UNSW Asia showing responsibility to students, see here:

Anonymous said...

EDB has grown to be a monster that have given power to do what it want. It just beyond control, while using media and ST to make us think otherwise.

46 years never get audit ?? What a fish, it has been rotten beyond hope. Money come and go as much as those ppl borrow money in EDB as loan come and go too !

Fancy giving excuse as information confidential to shred off responsiblity and accountability just like HoJinx does.

Would I been surprised ?
None at all.

If Old-man and his closed knits can do this and get away, his cronies will just do the same. A reflection of LKY.

Crows of same blackness flocked together !

Huang, we won't be able to find any answer at all, because as usual, the old man want us to MOVE ON.

Anonymous said...

Dr Huang,

wrong lah. Ang moh not "tua liap".

Our Ministers' peanuts are more tua liap.

I think in time, Singaporeans will get used to such hiccups as we hub along.

After all, we must take things in the right proportion. This blip is insignificant compared to a 4 trillion economy.

I am eagerly waiting for the IR blip, the F1 blip and who knows, an ultimate blip that will end all blips :)

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 6.28/10.35:
I presume you are one and the same.
Yes,The culture of accountability is not here. I respect the Japanese Cabinet Minister who, due to remorse, committed suicide whilst being investigated for some corrupt practices.
Like I said, I don't expect such drastic actions, but a more forthright attitude would be welcomed to give some assurance that this is not just a recurring nightmare.

Now we just have to leave it to NMP's like Siew Kum Hong to drag the truth out from EDB.

anon 9.30am:
I presume you must be related to UNSW or maybe related to Prof Hilmer himself.
I appreciate that some things are being done to placate the affected & alleviate suffering.
It is a moot point but this wouldn’t have been necessary if UNSW had not pulled the plug.
I am sure famous case studies like New Coke market failure and how Johnson & Johnson dealt with the aftermath of the Tylenol poisoning episode showed all of us how to behave in a damage control situation.

Those students are victims, overwhelm them with “goodies” so that UNSW would come out of this smelling of roses. How many students are there?- 143 plus foundation students and UNSW seems tardy and reluctant to assist them unreservedly. Why split hairs about non-Singaporeans and Singaporeans? Think about the goodwill gained if they get more than they asked for! Anyway it is a once off and UNSW is unlikely to do any silly things like this in Prof's lifetime right?

I do not have anything to do with the students nor have any axe to grind with UNSW / Prof Hilmer, so all the best to UNSW and the victims of this fiasco.

nofearSingapore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

100 Singaporean students are affected. I guess the PAP govt is willing to sacrifice them in the name of "confidentiality clause" and the big picture that "everything is on track".

scb said...

Commit suicide to atone for mistakes is too extreme but not having the gut to be responsible to explain, apologize and be answerable is definitely not befitting of leadership!

Anonymous said...

EDB, the gahmen, they all say what what lor!
The signs are already at our doorstep:
$$ out from our pocket.
$$ into their pockets.
One hiccup$ after another. When will they ever even say: "Hmm, let's check ourselves n maybe give some form of accountability to those we'r supposed to be leading - the citizens.."
Sengkapolians NOT stupid la! :P

guojun said...

Hello, Dr. Huang,

It seems to me that you are very right about the whoring part. It's just a politically incorrect way of saying 'attracting foreign talent, MNCs, educational institutions without caring what happens to the locals.'

I do find the way EDB has handled the whole thing very very problematic. All the secrecy and everything, and with the Gahmen's tight control of the media, none of our protests will reach public ears.

Lastly, it's unusual that while news has spread, there's nothing in the States Times. Damage control? Maybe. I guess it does reflect what Singapore Inc. is really about - a corporation, a conglomerate of money-making machines.

As long as we, the people, prefer to remain dumb and paralysed despite being able to see and hear, then there will be not much change in the near future yet.

I know i sound more extreme than normal. But do we want to see this happen again? Remember, it's OUR money.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans forgets easily so it is fine to fail some projects here and there. As long the media do not print our performance in these 5 years come elections,everything will be fine.We will collect back the money by increasing present taxes or raise new taxes.Don't worry.

OZsnafu said...

Anon (3:22 AM):
Maybe we should just kick out all the "ang mohs" from Singapore too, confiscate all their condos and accounts, and see if any famine results here too.

What famine? Oh no, in fact, a little bit of weaning off the swaggering angmohs who still think their shit don't stink, might be the medicine we need.

If modern History has anything to teach us, it's that angmohs have an affinity to be pathologically pernicious backstabbers. The Brits literally wrote the book on the "divide-and-conquer" strategem, playing native populations against each other. Makes what the Navajo Indians once said seem so prophetic. "The white man speaks with fork-tongue". It's not. It's merely a symptom of failing to learn from history.

Too bad, that zero-sum colonial, pro-west romanticist mentality still afflicts my S.E. Asian bretherens.

This all-out reverence to all things west, has been part-and-parcel of the typical Singaporean mindset. So, you'll understand the extreme angst when these once starry-eyed worshippers wake up from the stupor of unreciprocated & misplaced loyalty.

nofearSingapore said...


Anon 2.26:
I am not against Ang Moh’s- just against worship of them and like you said, “ all-out reverence to all things west”.

I don’t think Asians need any tutoring about back-stabbing- we are quite capable to doing it without any help. Yes but I get your point.

Guojun: Yes EDB is sitting on a power-keg and the longer they keep silent on the “$80m”, the louder will the bang when it blows up in their face. Don’t the Civil Service Academy have a module called “ Accountability to the people 101?”

Anonymous said...

How much taxpayer's money did EDB squandered for this investment??

Surely, heads must roll. EDB refusal to disclose the investment amount maybe due to the fact the amount is large. Its quite a scandal.

The Minister of Education should explain or resign for this blunder. This is another "Suzhou Industrial Park".

Did UNSW make a quick buck?

The students interviewed seem to suggest a lack of research,foresight and planning that result in today's debacle.

Why are we paying extra-ordinary civil service pay for such massive blunder and performance?

Failures are fine but not to this degree.

I hope a high level committee make up of MPs from PAP, WP and SDA will investigate the causes and get some answers from EDB. There must not be any cover up. EDB must be grilled by Parliament.

In US, any direct involvement by high government officials on any scandal will be grilled by Senate in public. They could CIA Director, Generals, Cabinet Secretaries. We should have that.

After just one semester is really ridiculous. More than meets the eye.

Ozsf said...


Our backstabbing "penchant" is really just the greedy, self-hating attribute typical of modern chinese. Truth is - if we were half as cunning, xenophobic and bloodthirsty as the angmohs were during medieval times, everyone in the world now would be Chinese!

Now don't get me started about "angmoh worship" when the angmoh privileges in S.E. Asia even in the so-called "authoritarian" singapore is a frigging defining quality - you know, the national past-time called "Aryan-ass kissing". Now, that's one social activity all races in Singapore can agree on. So successful have we been that every angmoh paedophile knows there are essentially 2 kinds of laws in S.E. Asia. That's why S.E. Asia remains the favourite haunt for you-know-what.

Remember charming white drug-trafficker Julia Bohl? Not only did she escape the "mandatory" death sentence for commercial quantity drug-trafficking, she got out of our prison doing less years than for burglary. Then, there is this angmoh mass murderer who avoided the "mandatory" death sentence despite having viciously killed 2 Singaporeans and trying to dispose of their corpses. Our wise government decided to spare his life so that he could agree to be "extradited" to Singapore to serve a couple of years of prison. Now's that a discount if I have ever seen one. What benevolence.

The list goes on and through the years, I have collected a huge staggering number of examples highlighting the longstanding epidemic of disproportional leniency towards Westerner-perpetuated crimes in Singapore.

Conversely, if you're a non-white in places like Australia, half the time, you'll be guilty by skin-colour alone and once convicted, the punishment is mostly disproportionally punitive.

So, at hindsight, the "indignance" over the UNSW "fiasco" is mere overreaction. Just suck it up and clean up the excesses and foibles of the "master" race. That's our role, really. Like the good old sell-outporean chambermaids that we are. Continuing a time-trusted tradition from where our parents and grandparents left off. No need to get excited.