The commentary Facebook page Critical Spectator (CS) is back up and running again after it was removed by Facebook just before last month’s general election for violating the platform’s policies.
On 8 July, a Facebook spokesman said that the company has taken action against several pages and accounts in Singapore for policy violation. He said, “This is based on the violating behaviour of these accounts and pages and not based on the content they posted.”
Just a day before Facebook removed Critical Spectator, The Online Citizen (TOC)’s chief editor Terry Xu had filed a police report against the page over foreign interference in the election. The page is run by a Polish national named Michael Petraeus.
In his report, Mr Xu cited the Parliamentary Election Act which forbids persons who are not citizens of Singapore from taking part in election activity. There was also an ELD advisory urging people to lodge a police report should they detect anything that could be “indicative of foreign interference in the GE”.
During the election campaign period, Mr Petraeus had made three election-related posts on 5, 6, and 7 July. The first commented on the issue of GST—which was a prominent issue during the campaign—while the other two were in relation to Workers’ Party’s (WP) candidate, now-MP of Sengkang GRC Raeesah Khan.
Now, however, elections are done and CS is back in business. What’s more, Temasek CEO Ho Ching shared a post on Tuesday (4 Aug) from CS about Worker’s Party MP Jamus Lim to her own Facebook page.
Specifically, the Facebook post by CS talked about a paper that Mr Lim had referenced when talking about Singapore’s productivity and local wages. The paper was written by American economist Paul Krugman who was described as an “econo-comical figure” in the post.
The lengthy post remarked on Mr Krugman’s career and past predictions, saying that “Krugman has a penchant for making grandiose statements that turn out to be completely inaccurate just a little while later.”
He added later, “Over the years one of the surest bets was to bet against whatever Krugman says.”
Specifically, CS took a stance against the measure relied on by Mr Krugman and Mr Lim to measure local productivity—the Total Factor Productivity.
It wrote, “You see, both Krugman and Jamus Lim reference a measure known as Total Factor Productivity. It’s basically a tool aiming to dissect the impact of increased input of labor (i.e. people) and capital (machinery etc.) and discover the underlying growth in productivity of the nation (e.g. due to greater knowledge).”
“On this basis Krugman claimed that Asian economic growth is a myth and, today, Jamus Lim claims that Singaporean productivity growth hovers around zero. Worst of all, he also claims that whatever growth in productivity did happen it was not reflected in Singaporean salaries over the past decade.”
The page goes on to claim that this is “patently untrue”, adding that median incomes in Singapore have grown by 33 per cent in real terms while the GDP per capita has increased by 66 per cent.
It then asked and answered the question of why there is a huge gap between the government’s assessment and that of Mr Lim and Mr Krugman.
“I’m sorry to have to say it again but it lies in detachment from reality – so often exhibited by academic economists,” it said.
Later, the post goes on to say, “Measuring the underlying Total Factor Productivity is inherently flawed because it’s very difficult to estimate the true capital stock in the economy.”
The page went on to say that it is “worrying” that Mr Krugman’s methods, opinions and observations are picked up and used by “people who have ambitions to influence Singapore’s course.”
Addressing Mr Lim specifically, the post said: “As I mentioned before, the problem with someone like Jamus Lim is that he’s not a frothing populist but a sophisticated academic who knows how to pick often obscure economic data points or tools to support his otherwise flawed, shaky political proposals.”
“Seeing them built on a ludicrous, 25 year old judgment that Singapore’s economic growth under LKY resembled that of Stalinist USSR is really rather concerning.”
It’s worth nothing that even before it was removed by Facebook, CS consistently featured opinions and commentaries by Mr Petraeus that were pro-establishment and opposition-bashing.