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Artificial Dynamism?

By Ned Stark

"It's not possible for us to be hermetically sealed and to close out to the world, and this is just a jewel box by itself because our people travel, millions of people come to Singapore, and even if you don't travel, you're on the Internet, everything is available so we have to grow up in this environment, and we have to open our doors and windows, and if a few flies come in, well so be it, we'll swat them."

- PM Lee Hsien Loong , "Singapore's future bright if growth hits 3-5% yearly"

Singapore embarking on the pathway to be a dynamic international city is a sound one, as I have said somewhere in the depths of the past, such a solution is the only tenable one in the long run since there is no way Singapore can continue to compete with China and India just by relying on workers, no matter how skilled or unskilled they may be. However, as the saying goes, saying is one thing, doing is another.

It appears that despite the progress Singapore has made in the economic frontier, the progress in the socio-political frontier still leaves much to be desired as can be seen from the fact that the Straits Times still continues to be a mouthpiece of the ruling party, the fact that Mr Brown got whacked and low blowed, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s talk where he essentially goes, "my way or your sis becomes a maid" among other things.

It seems that while the PAP believes that a dynamic city is the way for Singapore to go, they have purely deigned to make cosmetic changes; for example the Speaker's Corner, the wooing of foreigners to add "diversity" to the society, the introduction of Crazy Horse and the IRs, so on so forth.

The above are similar by virtue of the fact that they are initiated by the PAP government. The "dynamism" is artificial more than it is spontaneous. At the end of the day the "chaos" in society will be the "chaos" that either they approve of or the "chaos" that they engineer. In a sense is this not similiar to the past where engineering society was the norm?

While one can argue that it doesnt matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches the mice, the fact of the matter is artificial dynamism has a rather poor track record.

The Speaker's Corner (click picture on right) remains rather empty and Crazy Horse has gone back to France. Meanwhile we have the MDA coming after Singapore's own talents such as Martyn See (see picture below)and the fella who created that book with Aaron Kwok, among other things. There are also the veiled threats against the netizens and the labelling of dissenters as ingrates, dummkopfs with no sense of proportion, etc etc. Thus it appears that while they are pushing for a dynamic cosmopolitan society, they have no tolerance for those who do not toe the line. This is rather contradictory.

While there are those who will throw the report card in this one's face, declaring that Singapore has a high GDP, largest reserves, so on so forth, this one will also throw another report card, of kingdoms and dynasties long gone, the Qin Dynasty, the Byzantine Empire , Imperial China, among others.

The examples of these show that overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of one or a few men will and has resulted in disastrous consequences for the nation/state/ kingdom as a whole.

It could be as short as 20+ years (Qin) or it could be 300+ years (Byzantine Empire) but one cannot deny the fact that there is merit in the idea of an alternative elite as espoused by ex-Head of the civil service, Ngiam Tong Dow. As Mr Ngiam put it,

"..we should open up politically and allow talent to be spread throughout our society so that an alternative leadership can emerge. So far, the People's Action Party's tactic is to put all the scholars into the civil service because it believes the way to retain political power forever is to have a monopoly on talent. But in my view, that's a very short term view. It is the law of nature that all things must atrophy. Unless SM (Lee Kuan Yew) allows serious political challenges to emerge from the alternative elite out there, the incumbent elite will just coast along. At the first sign of a grassroots revolt, they will probably collapse just like the incumbent Progressive Party to the left-wing PAP onslaught in the late 1950s. I think our leaders have to accept that Singapore is larger than the PAP."

- Ngiam Tong Dow, "S'pore bigger than PAP"

** With regards to the oft mentioned point that Singapore has no natural resources but its people, there is one point which few have discussed. Namely, Singapore's location as a gateway, which was one of the reasons why Raffles decided to set up shop here, and the fact that Singapore is not subject to any natural disasters, thus adding to a certain level of safety in the country. For example a business man who sets up shop in Singapore does not need to worry about earthquakes and typhoons and tsunamis.

Read also Ned's earlier article titled "Thoughts on Singapore" and Gerald Giam’s “Alternative elite needed for S’pore’s survival"