Friday, 29 September 2023

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MDA guidelines contradict long term economic growth

By Ghui

Singapore as a whole is obsessed with economic success. Indeed, it is the very foundation of our nation and the backbone of the PAP’s political power.  Virtually all official communication top down from National Day addresses to Labour Day speeches to election campaigns, laud and celebrate Singapore’s economic prowess.

The latest example of this emphasis on the much-heralded economic growth is at the DBS Asia Leadership Dialogue where PM Lee said that Singapore “must get its politics right in order for its economy to do well”. He also said that “investment in overall infrastructure ensures a good business environment where things work, and policies to give less successful Singaporeans a leg-up are important too”. This statement in line with the government’s continued focus on the economy would imply that in the government’s view, a favourable business environment would benefit Singaporeans collectively. I have no quarrel with this vision, however, how does this marry up with the new MDA guidelines in relation to online news websites?

A group of five multi-national Internet giants have expressed their collective concern over the recent Media Development Authority (MDA) individual class-licensing regime for news websites. Called the Asian Internet Coalition (AIC), the group — consisting of eBay, Facebook, Google, Salesforce and Yahoo! has stated that it “strongly believes in the potential of Internet-enabled communications to benefit society, the economy and citizens.” The AIC went on to say that the new MDA guidelines could unintentionally hamper Singapore’s ability to continue to drive innovation, develop key industries in the technology space and attract investment in this key sector.

If Singapore has to get its politics right to ensure economic prosperity, surely then the government should rethink its restrictive and vague new Internet regulations?

The Internet has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives and will continue to be a part of humanity’s future. This has filtered into nearly every business in existence. Business development and an open and free world wide web therefore go hand in hand. How then can the government aspire to greater business expansion while attempting to limit the use of the Internet in the same vein?

I can understand the need for some restraint when it comes to controversial issues such as race or religion but I believe we have sufficient legislation, already in place to deal with such matters. A further level of Internet regulations is not only superfluous but gives the unwitting impression that the government is trying to suppress any criticism of it on the Internet. Such unnecessary control breeds fear and limits creativity, a hallmark of business enterprise.

Since PM Lee clearly believes in the importance of business initiative, I would strongly hope that he reconsiders the new raft of media reforms. I believe that they contradict Singapore’s vision of long-term economic affluence.

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