Singapore General Elections 2011: Lee Kuan Yew returned unopposed

April 27, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Lee Kuan Yew returned unopposed in Tanjung Pagar

(Reuters) – Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, was returned unopposed to parliament on Wednesday, but his long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) faces its toughest ever challenge at the polls from the city-state’s tiny opposition.

Eighty-two of the 87 seats in parliament will be contested in the general election on May 7, state media reported after nominations closed, the highest number ever. The only exception was the 5-seat constituency where Lee and four other PAP candidates were declared elected unopposed.

“I would have welcomed a contest,” said the frail-looking, 87-year-old Lee, dressed in trademark white shirt and trousers. “I assure you I will look after you for the next five years.”

Hundreds of PAP workers shouted and waved party flags as Lee, “minister mentor” in the cabinet, walked back slowly but unaided to his car after the nominations closed.

There is no suggestion the PAP could lose power. The party won 82 of the 84 seats in the last election, but faces criticism from voters over a surge in housing prices and the high cost of living, despite steering the economy out of recession in 2009 to last year’s record 14.5 percent growth.

Lee was prime minister from independence in 1965 until 1990, and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, is the current prime minister. The elder Lee is credited with the transformation of Singapore from a third-world, newly independent backwater into the shiny first-world financial centre it is today.

“Do not rock this foundation. Remember where Singapore came from and how difficult it was that we have got to where we are,” he said in a statement this week. “In the heat and dust of this election, do not risk your assets, property values, job opportunities. Make the right choice.”

Despite its stellar growth, opponents have criticised Singapore’s restrictions on political freedoms and on the press. The PAP’s near monopoly in previous elections has in part resulted from scores of walkovers in constituencies that the opposition did not contest.

This time the Workers’ Party, the largest of the clutch of opposition groups, has said it is aiming to win one multi-seat constituency, or five seats.It has put up its biggest stars — Chairwoman Sylvia Lim, sitting MP Low Thia Khiang and corporate lawyer Chen Show Mao — into the same constituency, which is likely to be the most keenly watched of all the contests.

There was some controversy over the walkover in Lee’s constituency. An opposition alliance filed nomination papers but election officials said they did not do so within the allotted time.

“It’s a feeble effort to show that they wanted to contest,” Lee said. “But everybody knows if you want to contest you go before 12 o’clock.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim and Walter Sim; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Upbeat on Thailand

April 27, 2011

Upbeat on Thailand

by W. Scott Thompson

THAILAND truly is a land of contradictions. Bangkok is by far the glitziest city in Southeast Asia and coming from the moon, one would surely consider it the capital of a very rich country. But on Monday at lunch in the Normandy Grill (coat and tie required) atop the best hotel in the world, the Oriental, some distinguished economists bemoaned the chances the kingdom had to equal Korea or at least Malaysia in per capita income.

Yet Thailand isn’t doing badly for all the trouble it has had. It recovered quickly from the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which arguable it caused, and its growth continues respectably, as it has almost every year since World War 2 — an argument for the inexorability of compounding — when leaders let the bankers keep the country on a steady course.

But the army is now at “maximum alert”. Thai soldiers were killed on the Cambodian border, a conflict that has dragged on for more than half a century. Thailand was too blithe about its prospects in submitting the question of a temple, sitting on the border, and for which its historical claims seemed just, to the International Court, for arbitration.

Cambodia pulled a fast one by hiring Dean Acheson, former American secretary of state, to represent it — who won for Phnom Penh. This is not one of the world’s irresolvable conflicts; but centuries of hostility make it a tough one. They are sparring over whether there should be mediation and some Indonesian-supplied peacekeepers. Cambodia says yes, Thailand says no. The real problem is that neither side wants to drop it. The consequence is the loss of vast tourist spending for both sides.

And there are almost daily deaths in the south, though it is claimed that many rebels have turned in their guns. This one was solvable, but as I’ve written here before, the exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra deliberately withdrew the intermediary presence of the Democrat Party, his competition, from its southern stronghold and ever since it’s been bloody.

Everyone here is howling about the “double standard” of the Culture Ministry — and the three girls arrested for stripping down a bit during the great water festival, Songkran.

Imagine! In Thailand of all places. Though this misses the point. The Thais think that “anything goes” if the doors are closed. Or rather, they don’t bother to think about it, if the doors are closed. But Thai culture demands propriety in public. The Thais are the greatest sticklers for public propriety, despite Patpong road and all that. Most farang just don’t get that.

So Thailand goes on its merry way; everyone in the capital is smiling, for one reason or the other. And I heard a very upbeat analysis, too.

A former and distinguished student of mine, who has held posts as finance and foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirithai, is optimistic. He’s also the first Thai statesman I’ve heard talking with sincerity about reconciliation, and he has believable plans for it.

Nor is he so frightened of the great transition that will come when the Crown Prince (left) assumes his royal duties. The royal duties themselves are time consuming, especially for one who has so many other “interests” to take up his time, especially abroad. His royal sisters each have a constituency to help fill the vacuum that will be left when the present king is here no longer.

Thaksin, in this narrative, being an astute businessman, can be persuaded to stay out of harm’s way — and the kingdom’s.

It’s of course essential that whatever government comes to power in the elections — with the blessing, of course, of the army and its powerful commander — tends to the needs of those who’ve worn red: more development funds for the poor areas especially in the northeast, better educational opportunities, the usual list. According to one columnist, the Red Shirt attitude is now to tell their “billionaire boss to please butt out, just give us your money, not your pearls of wisdom. Keep shut, will you?”

That should be good news for the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva,(below right) but he has, not surprisingly, proved disappointing. He loves the politics of his job, but he’s there on sufferance of the army, and unlike Surakiart, isn’t a heavyweight. His programmes for alleviating the acute economic problems in the kingdom just haven’t gained traction.

The kingdom has always had a genius for letting a heavyweight emerge when really needed; one thinks of General Chatichai Choonhavan, who guided Thailand through tumultuous years of rapid economic growth two decades ago. Everyone is wondering who the new heavyweight will be.

But elections there will be. Factions are manoeuvring in age-old style, and politicians are changing sides — one suspects for more reasons than small change.

The Thai are very prone to self-criticism. But for all that has happened here since the economic crisis, from the serious illness of the revered king, the domestic fracas between red and yellow shirts, to the bloody crises on two borders, Thailand isn’t doing all that bad.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve visited or lived here in the past 42 years, but as always, I’d invest heavily in the kingdom if I could.

The writer is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, the United States

Dilemma of “Dirty Hands”

April 27, 2011

Dani Rodick on Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi: Dilemma of “Dirty Hands”

Harvard, CAMBRIDGE – Not long ago, a Harvard colleague wrote to me that Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Libya’s dictator, would be in town and wanted to meet me. He is an interesting fellow, my colleague said, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); I would enjoy talking to him, and I might be able to help his thinking on economic matters.

The meeting, as it turned out, was a letdown. I was first briefed by a former Monitor Company employee, who gently intimated that I should not to expect too much. Saif himself held photocopies of pages from one of my books on which he had scribbled notes. He asked me several questions – about the role of international NGOs, as I recall – that seemed fairly distant from my areas of expertise. I don’t imagine he was much impressed by me; nor was I much taken by him. As the meeting ended, Saif invited me to Libya and I said – more out of politeness than anything else – that I would be happy to come.

Saif never followed up; nor did I. But if a real invitation had come, would I have traveled to Libya, spent time with him, and possibly met his father and his cronies? Would I have been tempted by arguments such as: “We are trying to develop our economy, and you can really help us with your knowledge?” In other words, would I have followed in the footsteps of several of my Harvard colleagues who traveled to Libya to exchange views with and advise its dictator – and were paid for their services?

These scholars have been pilloried in the media in recent weeks for supposedly having cozied up to Qaddafi. Sir Howard Davies chose to resign as Director of the LSE, which awarded Saif his doctorate (which some allege was plagiarized) and took money for the school from the Libyan regime.

There is a strong sentiment that academics and institutions that collaborated with such an odious regime – often with the encouragement of their governments, no doubt – suffered a grave lapse of judgment. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s murderous stance during the uprising has revealed his true colors, regardless of his more moderate posture in recent years. And Saif al-Islam’s recent support for his father suggests that he is not the liberal reformer many took him to be.

But it is much easier to reach such judgments with hindsight. Were the moral overtones of dealing with the Qaddafis so obvious before the Arab revolutions spread to Libya? Or to pose the question more broadly, is it so clear that advisers should always steer clear of dictatorial regimes?

Universities all over the world are falling over each other trying to deepen their engagement with China. Most academics would jump at the chance to have a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao. I haven’t heard much criticism of such contacts, which tend to be viewed as normal and unproblematic. And yet few would deny that China’s is a repressive regime that deals with its opponents harshly. Memories of Tiananmen are still fresh. Who is to say how the Chinese leadership would respond to a future pro-democracy uprising that threatened to undermine the regime?

Or what about a country like Ethiopia? I have had intensive economic-policy discussions with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa. I must confess to having enjoyed these talks more than most meetings I have in Washington, DC and other democratic capitals. I have no illusions about Meles’ commitment to democracy – or lack thereof. But I also believe that he is trying to develop his economy, and I offer policy advice because I believe it may benefit ordinary Ethiopians.

The conundrum that advisers to authoritarian regimes face is akin to a long-standing problem in moral philosophy known as the dilemma of “dirty hands.” A terrorist is holding several people hostage, and he asks you to deliver water and food to them. You may choose the moral high ground and say, “I will never deal with a terrorist.” But you will have passed up an opportunity to assist the hostages. Most moral philosophers would say that helping the hostages is the right thing to do in this instance, even if doing so also helps the terrorist.

But choosing an action for the greater good does not absolve us from moral culpability. Our hands do become dirty when we help a terrorist or a dictator. The philosopher Michael Walzer puts it well: “It is easy to get one’s hands dirty in politics.” He immediately adds, however, that this getting one’s hands dirty in this way is “often the right thing to do.”

In the end, an adviser to authoritarian leaders cannot escape the dilemma. Often, leaders seek the engagement only to legitimize their rule, in which case the foreign adviser should simply stay away. But when the adviser believes his work will benefit those whom the leader effectively holds hostage, he has a duty not to withhold advice.

Even then, he should be aware that there is a degree of moral complicity involved. If the adviser does not come out of the interaction feeling somewhat tainted and a bit guilty, he has probably not reflected enough about the nature of the relationship.April 12, 2011

Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

An Unforgettable Easter for the Brits

April 26, 2011

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton–April 29, 2011

The Real Royals Say ‘I Do’ and Britain in Jubiliant Mood

by Roger Cohen (April 21, 2011) @

LONDON — It has to be said that the British monarch and newspaper columnists are diametric opposites: in 59 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has never expressed a public opinion on anything.

No wonder she’s so popular. Even in an age when the royals are busy putting servers to work (Facebook and Twitter are their new domain), this head of state retains a strand of mystery from another age. Britain has no written constitution yet excels in constancy.

I resisted. I did. I ignored all the amblers in the parks saying, “What are you doing for the wedding?” I averted my eyes from the bunting along Regent Street, the stands outside Buckingham Palace, the commemorative china. I was not, whatever the pressure, going to write a column about the royal wedding.

It’s hard to say when I buckled. These are not things one likes, as a small-r republican, to talk about. Perhaps it was a businessman friend, after a conversation with colleagues in Bombay, telling me all India cares about is the wedding. Perhaps it was radiant Kate from Central Casting with the touch of whimsy in her hats. Or was it The Evening Standard’s screaming headline, “Kate to Say I Do Live on YouTube,” that tipped the balance?

There are some serious things to say about the union of Prince William, second in line to the throne, and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton — but they elude me. I will say this: At a time when Brits are learning to live without public libraries (not to mention jobs) as a result of budget cuts, they are enthused by this lavish ceremony that will see the daughter of millionaires (a commoner in local parlance) wed to the helicopter pilot who will one day head the sprawling enterprise royals call the Firm.

Bread and circuses, the Romans noted, are what people need. Circuses, it seems, are what they need most. No nation can script a feel-good moment, a global fantasy, quite like Britain, where class is the sediment of centuries. In the age of “Celebrity Apprentice,” the British royals are the time-honed pros.

There’s been a nod to straitened times. Kate will forsake a horse and carriage for a car. Prime Minister David Cameron, who flew the budget airline easyJet for a recent break in Spain — Michelle Obama, take note — was to wear a lounge suit in his ongoing campaign to prove he’s not what he is: an Eton-educated toff. That was before vociferous complaints led Downing Street to say he’d don tails.

America is entranced. As Hamish Bowles, who will cover the wedding for Vogue, told me, “There’s something mesmerizing to Americans about the idea of a society structured with this impenetrable citadel at the top.” A U.S. society whose self-defining myths include the myth of classlessness needs the spectacle of class at work.

So Kate, at some level, is a 29-year-old Cinderella, the commoner ushered into the citadel, the pretty girl who now has her own coat of arms (three acorns separated by gold and white chevrons.) She’s played her hand well. As Bowles noted, “There’s something of a kind of poised and manicured Upper East Side girl about her, with classic dress sense. A KM dress has iconicity: understated, pared-down, a dramatic solid color.” And then, of course, there’s the hat.

In fact, the Cinderella thing is wrong. She’s Marlborough-educated to his Eton-educated, a partner in a moneyed elite. They’re a modern couple: they met at college, broke up, and, as the dyspeptic father of the groom, Prince Charles, noted, “They’ve been practicing long enough.” He’s got a real job. He’s not found himself in the wrong company, like his Azerbaijan-attracted uncle Prince Andrew, or in the wrong inner-Fascist attire, like Prince Harry. In short, far from fairy tales, they seem grounded and real.

I think that’s what the Brits like — as well as the chance, with Easter and then the wedding, to take an 11-day break on just three days’ leave at multi-billion cost to the nation. In fact they like the couple so much they want to skip Charles (who may be in his 80’s before he gets the top job) and go straight to William. That won’t happen. On abdications the royal view is: been there, done that, didn’t like it.

Of course, King Edward VIII’s decision to quit has been much aired in the movie, “The King’s Speech.” And there, as a little girl, is the present queen! She’s met, as monarch, with every prime minister since Churchill — 12 of them. Another sharp contradistinction with columnists is she really knows what’s going on.

In truth, that’s what made me snap: her ever-presence. Just to remind myself of the British miracle, I strolled through Westminster Hall, its magnificent timber roof arching over the flag-stoned expanse that has seen coronation banquets from Richard I in 1189 to George IV in 1821, trials including that of Guy Fawkes, and Winston Churchill lying in state.

The genius of Britain is continuity, a very serious idea of which William and Kate now become part. It’s enough to make a republican dabble in monarchism.

Politics in Education

April 26, 2011

Education and Politics in Malaysia

by David C.E. Tneh

One can perceive that the word “politics” is, in fact, a very dirty word in Malaysia. Mention it and the look of disdain would be etched on most people’s faces. Mention it to your parents that you are interested to be a politician and I would guarantee that there would not be any family hugs and tears of happiness flowing nor would there be any joss sticks placed at the altar for thanksgiving.

The reality in Malaysia is that politics and politicians are very much frowned upon. But the irony is that the leader of our country has to be one or at least belong to a governing political party of affiliated with the ruling coalition. One cannot be in a position of power in the government without being involved in politics.

Politics in Public Administration

To be fair, there are plenty of civil servants who are not involved in this arena but try as one may, there are a lot of political lines being drawn in government departments, institutions, and government-linked corporations that one cannot appear to be apolitical at all. All civil servants receive their orders from the top, and the top ranked civil servants receive their orders from the respective ministries whose head/minister is always a politician.

In one way or another, the political aspiration from the ruling administration in the form of policies and guidelines will trickle down the hierarchy from federal level and implemented at state level. This is the norm in all countries worldwide and is part and parcel and by product of the age old parliamentary democracy system.

The only difference between us and other democracies is that ours seem to be so inhibited by race, religion, and the political divide between the government and the opposition.

A Victim of Politics: Teaching of Maths and Science

In the Malaysian education system, politics seem to play a dominant influence in shaping the education policies of the country. When it comes to structural policy implementation, the difference between Malaysia and other developed countries is that the needs and interest of the Malaysian politicians seems to be catered first, and the students, last. The case of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI) is a classic example of the interference of politics on education.

Educationist at large breathed a sigh of relief when a glimmer of hope was seen in the introduction of English in the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English in 2002 but the policy was scrapped in 2009 and both critical subjects will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia in 2012. What was alarming was that pressure from political extremist groups and language purists and NGO’s from both sides of the divide was successful in influencing the government in disbanding this policy. It is disheartening is that these groups seem to know more about language policies than educationists and reformists in the field.

And now we have the reversal of the outcome with the proposal that selected schools might be allowed to continue teaching the two subjects in English. Being on the back burner and sidelined since 1970 (National Language Act), Malaysia has lost almost a generation of competent speakers of the language. That aside, why the flip-flop on this issue now? And what about innocent students who have their minds and lives messed up with continual policy changes in education?

Retrospectively, the dismal performance of the National Front in the 2008 Malaysian general elections was also another reason for the government to bow to such demands from such pressure groups and as such only proves that the long dirty arm of politics is never far from a benevolent and esteemed knowledge institutions like schools and universities where students are given a holistic education that would ultimately make them into better individuals capable of making better choices (in the words of Jefferson) in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Creeping Discrimination

While political influence is rarely seen at primary education level, for obvious reasons, we see its creeping influence in secondary schools with history textbooks and their facts being manipulated, how certain religious societies/clubs are not encouraged to being formed, the removal of school crucifixes’, the discrimination of missionary schools in Malaysia from receiving federal funding for repairs, how school administrators used racist slurs/taunts on students, the politically-motivated idea of making History as a compulsory subject for students to pass, and now the issue of the “Interlok” novel and its content being debated due to its alleged derogatory portrayal of certain races in pre-independence Malaysia. And what the effects on students themselves, and how many times have we heard of how national unity/integration was so much better in the past(in schools) than the present?

Biro Tata Negara

Among civil servants, the Biro Tata Negara is another programme that is constantly being criticized for allegedly disseminating government propaganda among newly recruited civil servants in Malaysia. It is also worthy to note that school administrators, public university staff, and government department heads must attend this compulsory initiation course. At the tertiary level, especially in Malaysian public universities, things are more pronounced with local varsity elections turning into political battle grounds between the government and opposition. The latest fracas at two public universities is another example of how political influences flex their muscles on local campus grounds. What is perhaps needed is a healthier political maturity and culture among undergraduates which is essentially non-existent given the political scenario of our country and its system.

What is terribly ironic is that the education system in Malaysia was far better in the past than it is today in the 21st century. Remember the time when the SPM students were graded according to Grade One, Two and Three achievers? And the scoring system was A1, A2, C3, C4 till P8? And the SPM Bahasa Malaysia was a “killer paper”, and the glory days of English 1119 paper (which was graded in the UK!), and the STPM which consists of a minimum 5 subjects? And if an SPM student could achieve 6A’s, our local newspapers would take up the story? (Now we have students scoring between 17 to 20A’s! in the SPM!)

This is the dilemma that is affecting the public/government schooling system in Malaysia, what is good and workable is removed, and there have been too many policy changes in lower and upper secondary schooling system. As a result, the Malaysian education system has become very muddled and fragmented, and this could also be due to Malaysia having national and national type schools, a relic of the colonial era. Whilst Singapore has done away with national type schools, our then government’s decision to retain this legacy has very much to do with the politics of appeasement of ethnic community leaders from the days of pre-independence Malaya to the present predicament where Chinese school associations such as Dong Jiao Zong, political parties such as MIC, MCA, and culture, race, religion, and language-based NGO’s continue to be vocal and strive for communal education matters in the Malaysian education landscape.

On a personal note, I have chanced upon a Form Two Bahasa Malaysia workbook with an essay question that left me exasperated at the extent of politicking in Malaysia at the extent of its influence. Translated in English, the essay question sounds like this: “Recently a state in Malaysia has translated its major road signs into three languages. Write an essay on the weaknesses/drawbacks of such a move and its impact on national harmony.”

Politics and education matters do not mix, is more of a means to an end for politicians as well as political parties/NGO’s to be involved in it. Until Malaysians (including its politicians and people) are capable enough to be more politically mature, and until Malaysian politics move away from the politics of hate, race, religion, opposition versus government mentality, then Malaysia will be nowhere near its goal of being a developed country with progressive society that has in its core, a knowledge based productive workforce that is creative, critical, competent, and a civic-minded society with a moral and spiritual focus. After all, the whole purpose of education is to make us into educated and better individuals who eventually make better decisions in life that would benefit the individual, or society as a whole. From the looks of it, Malaysia still has a long way to go before any positive change could happen.

Nuclear Power merits NO role

April 26, 2011

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

W.B Yeats–The Second Coming (1933)

Nuclear Power merits NO role

by Roland Kupers@

COMMENT: Japan’s nuclear crisis, and the approaching 25th anniversary of the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, have incited heated new discussions about the desirability of nuclear power.

By awakening dormant fears, this debate threatens to halt what to many had seemed like a budding nuclear renaissance. The stealth-like nature of radiation taps into deep-seated human anxieties. But, however well founded those fears might be, they are probably the wrong reason to oppose nuclear energy.

There is an even stronger argument than safety alone for why a nuclear renaissance is neither likely nor necessary: cost.

The price of nuclear power has been escalating steadily for decades. Since 1970, the cost in constant dollars of new nuclear generating capacity has increased nine-fold, as additional safety features make plant designs more expensive. New innovations, such as pebble-bed reactors, promise to increase safety further, but will be vastly more costly to adopt.

In addition, we have lost economies of scale because we build so few nuclear power plants. As with fighter jets, adding features and building small quantities causes costs to skyrocket.

Globally, the median age of nuclear plants is now 27 years, so much of the learning from building the early plants has gone.

The exception is China, where a large-scale construction plan is showing evidence of lowering costs. But with the next generation of safer reactors, costs are rising fast. Xu Yuanhui of Chinergy, which is building two pebble-bed reactors, commented recently on the new design: “The safety is no question, but the economics are not so clear.”

The exact opposite is occurring with renewables. We are learning quickly, and costs are plummeting through the sheer volume of construction: 40,000 wind turbines over the past decade in Europe alone. And solar power will reach grid parity in sunny regions like South Africa, Greece, and Florida by 2015.

As the price of nuclear power steadily rises and that of renewables falls, inevitably the cost curves will cross. The only question is when – and it is likely to occur well within the decade that it will take for the next nuclear plant to come online in the industrialised world.

In other words, before we finish building the next nuclear plant, it will be an expensive and increasingly irrelevant relic of the 1950’s dream of ‘atoms for peace’.

That dream always contained the seeds of a nightmare. While the risk that nuclear power could fuel nuclear proliferation seems to have receded as a cause of public angst, by many accounts we have simply been lucky so far: the larger the nuclear economy becomes, the higher the chances of a mistake.

Even in the absence of proliferation risks, leaving dangerous trash for future generations is morally dubious. We would judge Alexander the Great differently if his conquests had left a toxic legacy that we were still living with today.

Renewable power system

Most advocates of nuclear energy now endorse solar and wind, but in the same breath claim that renewables alone simply are not a practicable solution for the necessary reduction of carbon emissions.

Every day brings another editorial arguing that nuclear energy is fundamental to a decarbonised power system. But is it really true that a renewable power system is impossible?

In 2010, the European Climate Foundation (ECF) published a much-noted report called ‘Roadmap 2050′, which modeled in great detail the cost and technical feasibility of various scenarios for a carbon-free power system in Europe by 2050.

It describes a scenario of 80 percent renewable power, complemented by a remnant of nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration. In a nutshell, the ECF’s conclusion is that a continent-wide renewable power system is both technically possible and economically affordable.

The much-maligned and very real intermittency of supplies of renewable power is addressed through additional back-up generation capacity and, crucially, a new direct-current supergrid that enables load balancing across the European continent. Still, if it is affordable and doable in the long term, what about in the shorter term?

The evidence of the link between carbon reduction, economic growth, and job creation is mounting. In the past six months, studies by the UN Environment Programme and Johns Hopkins University, as well as ‘A new growth path for Europe’ – a blueprint proposed by six leading European universities – all project the creation of millions of job before 2020. Notably, these are not just ‘Green Jobs'; they are ‘Green Growth jobs’ across all industrial and services sectors.

What we are witnessing is a watershed in the debate on greenhouse gas emissions. A low-carbon growth path requires neither coal nor new nuclear power.

The way forward is to pursue more ambitious and consistent climate and energy policies that drive the massive deployment of renewables; install new load-balancing electricity grids; and ensure large-scale adoption of energy-efficiency measures.

This agenda promises to boost investments, stimulate economic growth, and create jobs while increasing competitiveness and energy security. In both economic and ethical terms, nuclear power merits no role.

Roland Kupers is a visiting Fellow at Oxford University and a former executive at Royal Dutch Shell.

Angling to challenge Najib for the Top Job

April 26, 2011

Angling to Challenge Najib for the Top Job

Terence Netto’s COMMENT: UMNO may not do the task of internal reform well, like cutting down on the practice of money politics, but say what you like, it does do internal dissension well.

Just look at how party deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin affects to swim in his leader, Najib Razak‘s slipstream while writing his own personal agendas. Muhyiddin’s reaction to the call by the MCA for a boycott of UMNO-owned paper Utusan Malaysia over the latter’s proposition that Malays rally behind the ‘1Melayu, 1Bumi’ policy is a good illustration of the point.

Muhyiddin rapped MCA across the knuckles for calling for the boycott on grounds that sounded vaguely like he believed in freedom of the press and then sidestepped the question of whether he supported or disagreed with Utusan’s ‘1Melayu, 1Bumi’ rallying cry.

It was the clearest demonstration in his now delicate, two-year-old, trapeze act wherein he shows tepid support for policy initiatives of his party’s president while leaving himself enough wiggle room to hint he would chart a new course as skipper of the crew.

It is the manoeuvring of a deputy who is mulling a challenge for the top position: the controlled wriggling does not cause too big a ruckus in the party but it sports the unmistakable hallmarks of incipient mutiny.

One supposes there would be no prizes for discerning these signs of a revolt’s incubation in the folds of seemingly minor nuances of policy. After all, UMNO is a six-decade-old party that has weathered several chapters of internecine conflict.

Contestants long seasoned by the party’s intramural feuds would be skilled at the game of playing fast and loose with the pros and cons of still-fluid issues, the better to lever them to expedient advantage later when opportunity for getting up the greasy pole avails.

Once overlooked

Muhyiddin, survivor of the fallout from the Mahathir versus Musa Hitam internal feud of the mid-1980s and the ructions between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim of the late 1990s, is apparently putting to good use the experiential wisdom he gained from those episodes.

In both instances, he initially backed the loser, only to imperceptibly shift course and come out looking none the worse for the wear. In each case, it was a story of plucking survival from the jaws of defeat.

There was reason to believe that when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became prime minister in 2003, Muhyiddin had the better chance of being named his deputy but Mahathir’s pressure on Abdullah forced the latter’s reluctant selection of Najib for the position.

As things turned out, it was Muhyiddin’s criticism of Abdullah’s protracted timetable for departure from the UMNO presidency that hastened Abdullah’s exit from the post which comes with the premiership of the country.

That criticism was a calculated gamble by Muhyiddin. It paid off and now Muhyiddin is poised to take another gamble by challenging for the top post that will either result in his apotheosis or in his evisceration.

Sheer tenacity

It is one of the ironies of his career that if he makes the move to challenge, he may get the support of the very man – Mahathir – who was supposed to have stalled him before. If that support materialises, it would be one of the more vivid demonstrations of how someone with an outsider’s chance can re-insert himself into the reckoning given sheer tenacity.

Of course, the larger irony inherent in Muhyiddin’s projected rise would be that an UMNO bigwig from Johor is trying to reach the top on a platform that is strident rather than liberal.

From Onn Jaffar through to Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman through to Musa Hitam, contestants for top honours in UMNO had attempted to travel on liberal wings rather than on rabid ones. Muhyiddin would represent a break in this pattern.–