Saturday, September 01, 2007

Singapore-City of im-Possibilities

Hi Friends,

I think I survived my Managerial Finance exams today. I am going to put my CAPM (Capital Asset Pricing Model); Harry Markowitz's Portfolio Theory; MM (Modigliani & Miller) Capital Structure Theory and the other interesting stuff behind me.

Instead, I am going to return to the other Harry and the other MM’s sphere of influence- ie Singapore.

From the letters to the forum page below, it seems that Professor Ho Peng Kee had been less than convincing in his assertion as to why Singaporean political activists cannot be trusted to organize a peaceful and routine recreational event.

It still puzzles me why in every other aspect of Singapore life, we can be so forward-thinking and be at the cutting edge- except in politics.

We can be first-world in education and healthcare; be the first mover in city-planning experiments like the ERP ( Electronic Road Pricing ) schemes etc.

But in politics, we are decidedly third-world. Third-world mentality when the only two opposition-led wards of Hougang and Potong Pasir are deprived of nation's financial resources to upgrade their estates. Third-world mentality when the government uses its enormous powers to curtail the growth of full and unfettered political freedoms.

Do not get me wrong! Even third-world countries with more draconian governments are liveable – I do not need to name them. You know which countries I am alluding to- the new Asian economic super-power; the nation that humiliated USA in IndoChina etc. So, even if Singapore remains as politically-conservative ; most Singaporeans will still vote for the party; and foreigners will still love and praise the Lee’s; and the economy will still chug along.

But… it would not be right. It would not be good in the long run.

So friends, do you think our leaders will ever shed their third-world small-mindedness anytime soon? Until then, Singapore remains a City of possibilities-Not!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

1 Sept 07 Straits Times Forum page
1. Govt's call for greater civic role has clear limits
I REFER to the reports on the parliamentary sitting on Aug 27. The responses of both Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew and Senior Minister of State (Law and Home Affairs) Ho Peng Kee suggest that the Government's calls for greater diversity and inclusiveness stop short of allowing genuine political debate and contestation.
Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui's reply to questions on why the Ministry of Education (MOE) rejected playwright Alfian Sa'at as a relief teacher was disappointing. While he may have been right to say that Parliament is not the right forum to discuss the personnel issues of any one individual, for him to suggest that Mr Alfian 'engage MOE directly' is inappropriate.
Anyone who has followed the online discussion on this knows that MOE has consistently refused to give Mr Alfian the real reason for its decision.
Unlike most developed democracies, Singapore does not have a Freedom to Information Act that requires a government to provide information to individuals who seek it unless doing so is against the public interest.
In the absence of such a legal requirement, our governance system is dependent on individuals and institutions making decisions that can stand up to public scrutiny.
Without external checks on the Government, the virtues of integrity, transparency and objectivity have to be imposed from within and practised by all public officers. If not, what assurance do we have that officials do not make arbitrary decisions, or decisions that serve only narrow party interests rather than the public good?
Associate Professor Ho's reply on why the Workers' Party was not given a permit to hold an outdoor event also stretched the incredulity of thinking Singaporeans.
Even if we gave Prof Ho the benefit of doubt and assumed the worst of Singaporeans - that open-door political events increase the risks of conflict - one must seriously question whether the strategy of avoiding conflict might not stunt society's maturation.
Both responses by the ministers show that the Government's call for greater civic engagement and participation has clear limits.
While the Government subscribes to economic openness and liberalism, its distrust of and discomfort with real political contest means that it will try to keep Singapore politically conservative.
Low Tzer Kai

30 August 2007 ST forum
2. Outdoor political events should be allowed
I REFER to the article, 'Outdoor events by political parties banned' (ST, Aug 28).
Political causes require visibility, and no place is more appropriate than the public square, which exists primarily for political purposes. In the years leading to Singapore's independence, outdoor rallies were de rigueur. Even today, we have accepted the need for political parties to hold election rallies in outdoor venues.
The answer that outdoor political events have a 'greater potential for breach of the peace, public disorder and unruly behaviour' needs to be justified. Outdoor activities organised along racial or religious affiliation are allowed, even though they have a more tumultuous past.
Assuming that Singaporeans are willing to risk prosecution or even their lives for political causes is an overestimation of Singaporeans' passion for political affairs.
The ban on outdoor political activities is a contributing cause of political apathy. With appropriate policing, there is no reason why political events should not take place outdoors.
The question then is how to balance political participation of the population against possible risks to the public peace.
Michael Tang Yong'An


George said...

The govt under LHL is already starting to consolidate its power even more. This is quite apparent in the recent parliament sitting where WP's Sylvia Lim pointed out the coming law on security agencies which would include govt permission before an agency may take on survillence jobs involving govt high official, MPs and similar others AND their family members! That in effect is in SL's words creating a 'firewall' around them. It is a bare face bad joke that only the govt has the temerity to legislate as law.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to forecast the effect this will have on agencies and their potential clients, even when the latter has genuine and legitimate reasons to want to do this. It's like asking permission from a servant to spy on his master. And we are only too aware of the outcome of such requests when lodged with the govt body concerned - it would invariably be turned down exactly like the recent requests by the WP for two outdoor activities. Except that it could be worse for the security agency and his client for one can imagine how the govt dept (namely the police) would react to it.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi George,
I do not like it when the govt so cavalierly dismiss any query from its opponents. Sylvia has valid concerns and it is just downright childish and rude to counter-accuse Sylvia of insinuating that the system is less than transparent ( or something to the effect).
The system must not be just honest but also be seen to be honest.

George said...

It is a well known and despicable tactic of rogue govt MPs and office bearer which is when you cannot attack the logic of a questioner, you attack and assasinate his/her character.

Poor Sylvia Lim has been at the receiving end once too often already. only recently, in like rude and crude tone Jayakumar, had also dismissed another good question from her when he was unable to give any convincing respond.

I think such not only unparliamentary, but also ungentlemanly conduct by senior govt ministers must stop. It's disgraceful to see this happening in parliament and there ISN'T EVEN ONE GOOD MAN/WOMAN from the ruling party with the moral courage who would stand up for her on the side of universal fairness and justice, ostensibly because partisan politics and party discipling demands this!

What we have witnessed, is it any better than gangland thuggish behaviour in the backlanes and waysides of some sleazy redlight areas.

One good outcome is that it can only serve to harden our resolve to bring them to their knees.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi George,

It is not just rogue politicians who resort to Ad Hominem arguments. It is a common tactic used by one and all in many different situations.

When someone is unable to address the substance of any argument or produce evidence against the claim,it is often that the character of the opponent gets attacked hoping that listeners will accept the fallacy that since the argument comes from a flawed character, it cannot be credible.

There is nothing new under the sun. Haven’t we seen and heard such fallacies throughout the history of our young nation?

It just proves that our politicians are no better than any other man on the street notwithstanding their million-dollar salaries!