Thorstein Veblen’s Singapore?


August 16, 2013

Thorstein Veblen’s Singapore?

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Thorstein Veblen’s vision of a society run by “engineers” has been realized  in contemporary Singapore: a country increasingly ruled by economists, engineers, and other technocratic experts with First Class Honours undergraduate degrees, Oxbridge and Ivy League Masters degrees and PhDs. Whether this society truly fulfills his dreams and meets his expectations is a question worthy of debate.

by PHUA Kai Lit, PhD

Introduction

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857 – 1929) was an unorthodox American economist of Norwegian ancestry. He was an economist of the institutional school who made a distinction between “industry” (production for the satisfaction of human needs) and “business” (profit maximization through market manipulation, restriction of production and other similar practices). He hoped that “engineers” – a group dedicated to productivity and not profit maximization  – would seize power from the vested interests and run society for the good of all (Borus, 1995).

 Other intellectuals have also envisioned societies run by elites who are civic-minded and dedicated to the creation of the “good society” or to the improvement of societal welfare. Plato’s “philosopher kings” and H.G. Wells’ “Samurai” are useful examples.

 Interestingly enough, Singapore’s present political leaders are composed heavily of technocrats (economists, engineers and other technically-trained experts in contrast to the lawyers of the U.S. Congress). They are also some sort of  “philosopher kings” in the sense that they are almost invariably high academic achievers and come from the ranks of the “best and the brightest” (with each succeeding generation of leaders, the ruling elite has become even more and more technocratic).

Singapore’s first generation of political leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Toh Chin Chye and C.V. Devan Nair were initially followers of Fabian socialism – just like H.G. Wells (in this essay, Chinese names are listed in the East Asian manner, i.e., last names first). However, the ruling political party in Singapore, the People’s Action Party (PAP), gradually drifted away from Fabian socialism towards technocratic pragmatism and finally quit the Socialist International in 1976 as the effort of some of the other parties to get it expelled from the organization was gathering steam. Ironically, C.V. Devan Nair published a book called “Socialism That Works – The Singapore Way” in the same year! Today, there is no more talk of socialism and brotherhood/sisterhood among the leaders of the PAP – instead, there is continuous pressure on its people to compete with each other and excel.

Some American conservatives regard Singapore as an example of a “Capitalist Paradise”. The Guru of monetarism, Milton Friedman, was actually invited to speak in Singapore as an honored guest in the lecture series named after Lee Kuan Yew. Nothing can be further from Fabian welfare state socialism than Friedman’s brand of libertarianism and monetarism of course.

 “First Generation” Leaders

 Lee Kuan Yew: the first Prime Minister of independent Singapore and currently “Senior Minister” in the Singapore Government. He graduated in law from Cambridge University and the Middle Temple, London with highest honors. He helped to found the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and became Prime Minister when he was only 35 years old.

Goh Keng Swee: one of the prime architects of Singapore’s highly successful economic development programs, he received a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He has served as economic adviser to the post-Mao Government of the People’s Republic of China.

Toh Chin Chye: He served as Deputy Prime Minister under Lee Kuan Yew. A PhD holder in one of the biological sciences, he eventually became an internal critic of the People’s Action Party and its increasing authoritarianism.

S. Rajaratnam: Educated at King’s College, University of London, he became a journalist and the first Foreign Minister of Singapore.

 CV Devan Nair: He was an activist in the teachers’ trade union and built links between the PAP and the trade union movement. He fled into exile after his fallout with Lee Kuan Yew and is now a strong critic of the Singapore Government.

 “Second Generation Leaders”

 Goh Chok Tong: He graduated with First Class Honours in economics from the local university before completing a Masters degree in economics at Williams College. He managed the state-owned shipping company, Neptune Orient Lines, before being recruited into politics by the PAP. He was selected by his peers to take over as Prime Minister from Lee Kuan Yew although Lee had always made it known that Goh was not his first choice as a successor. He has been Prime Minister since late 1989.

BG (Brigadier-General) Lee Hsien Loong : The eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, he received First Class Honours in mathematics from Cambridge University. Subsequently, he earned a Masters degree in computer science from Cambridge University. He is one of the leading contenders to succeed the current Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong.

Tony Tan Keng Yam: He was a PhD science lecturer at the National University of Singapore and subsequently, Chairman of the local bank Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). He was recruited into politics by the PAP.

Richard Hu Hsu Tau: Dr Hu was a former Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (the central bank) who was recruited into politics and into the position of Minister of Finance by the PAP.

Ong Teng Cheong: Educated as an architect in Australia, he served as President of Singapore from 1993 to 1999 (a largely ceremonial position until the PAP enhanced the powers of the Presidency just before Ong contested for the position). Apparently, he was keen to run for a second term as President but did not gain the support of other top political leaders in the PAP. After leaving the position, he made known his unhappiness to the public and traded sharp exchanges with his erstwhile former political colleagues.

 Wong Kan Sen: A graduate of the local university, he also received a Masters degree from the London Business School. He worked as a teacher, civil servant and human resources manager with a leading multinational corporation before becoming a politician.

 “Third Generation Leaders”

 BG (Brigadier-General) George Yeo Yong Boon:– He received a degree in engineering with First Class Honours from Cambridge and an MBA from Harvard University with high honors. He is one of the more philosophically-minded of the PAP’s top leaders.

Lim Hng Kiang – Another top PAP leader with an honors degree in engineering from Cambridge University. He served as the top manager of the Housing and Development Board (HDB – Singapore’s highly successful public housing entity) before being recruited by the PAP.

Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean – An engineer by training, he studied at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Imperial College and Harvard University.

David Lim Tik En – One of the newer technocrats recruited by the PAP. He studied engineering at the University of Melbourne. He was the Chief Executive Officer of the Jurong Town Corporation before entering politics.

As with other things in Singapore, the process of leadership renewal has to be a thoroughly planned operation. (Then) Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his associates were entirely certain that the key objectives of state policy, and the broad strategies to achieve them, that they had devised and introduced were the only correct ones, the only ones suited to the realities of Singapore. Therefore, what was required was a second generation leadership that had the necessary technocratic-managerial skills and capabilities to be able to pursue those objectives and strategies effectively. They did not see any special need for new leaders who possessed political skills, who were “word spinners” in the words of S. Rajaratnam.

As Vasil indicates, the PAP has established a unique system of recruitment of its top political leaders and Ministers. Talented individuals are “spotted” and have to pass through a barrage of observations, interviews, attachment to a veteran MP and allegedly, even psychological tests before being offered safe parliamentary seats to contest (under the PAP banner) in General Elections. After winning these safe seats, they may be offered responsibility as junior ministers and if they pass this test, they would then be offered higher level positions with greater responsibilities. Individuals who fail to perform would be unceremoniously dropped back into political oblivion. This would effectively spell the end of their careers as would be politicians and ministers.

Singapore’s Achievements

 By conventional economic indicators, Singapore’s economic development program has been a great success. When the PAP first came to power in 1959, unemployment was a major problem. By the early 1970s, high rates of economic growth had led to the resolution of this problem. Today, there are many foreign workers in Singapore. These range from Filipino maids and Thai construction workers to Malaysian, Indian, Australian, Hong Kong, Japanese, European and American professionals and managers. A high percentage of service sector workers such as hotel employees in Singapore are Malaysian citizens.

Recently, an American was hired to run the government-owned Development Bank of Singapore. Economic growth rates have been consistently high and Singapore’s foreign exchange reserves are certainly impressive relative to the size of its population. Its per capita GNP is among the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. It is not uncommon to find Singaporean women working as professionals and holding high level managerial positions in both the government and the private sector.

 When Singapore was expelled (after only two years) from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, its economy was heavily dependent on the entreport (transshipment) trade through its excellent natural harbor. It was also heavily dependent on the economic effects of the British Naval Base in the northern part of the island. Today, it has managed to diversify its economy and has built up a thriving export-oriented electronics industry and a significant banking and finance industry.

Singapore’s economic growth is also reflected in its other socioeconomic indicators such as those pertaining to health, education, housing, and transport and communications. Its infant mortality rate is lower than that of the United States. The life expectancy of its citizens is comparable to those of the richest Western countries. There is universal literacy among its younger generation.

The public schools are excellent: it is not uncommon for parents from the neighboring Malaysian state of Johor to send their kids to study in Singaporean public schools – including the primary and secondary schools. The National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University are two of Asia’s leading universities. Singapore is also one of the most wired nations in the world.

Singapore’s housing program is one of its great success stories. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has been instrumental in relocating the population from the overcrowded and unhealthy slum housing of the colonial era to high rise apartment blocks in the many satellite townships scattered all over the island nation. Although some of the lower end HDB-built apartments may be small, all of them are built with flush toilets and piped water supply and this has contributed to the improvement in health indicators. The newer, high end HDB apartments in the township of Pasir Ris at the eastern tip of the island are of such high quality and design that they can almost pass for the condominiums built by private sector developers.

Singaporeans who live in HDB-built high rises (more than three quarters of the population) own their apartments and pay for them through usage of part of their CPF funds (the Central Provident Fund is Singapore’s compulsory, publicly-managed retirement scheme financed by payroll deductions and employer contributions into individual accounts). Only a small percentage of Singaporeans are so poor that they have to rent apartments from the HDB.

The transport and communications systems of Singapore are excellent. The road and light rail system (MRT or Mass Rapid Transit) and Changi International Airport are efficiently maintained and well run. Singapore’s port facilities are also well known for their efficiency. Road traffic volume is kept under control by a deliberate policy of making ownership of a car beyond the financial capability of the majority of Singaporeans.

All these undoubted successes are impressive when contrasted with the problems of the 1950s and early 1960s:

When Singapore achieved its Independence in the mid 1960s, there was political instability and ethnic tension. Unemployment was a serious problem. There was industrial unrest in an economy heavily dependent on entreport trade and the British Naval Base in the northern part of the island. There was even some doubt about whether Singapore could survive its expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia. Lee Kuan Yew wept bitter tears at a televised press conference as he broke the news of the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia to his people.

A great contrast with the Singapore of today indeed: “politically stable” under the dominance of the PAP, full employment, little labor unrest and relatively harmonious interethnic relations. The economy is diversified and becoming increasingly high tech and sophisticated. The Singapore bureaucracy is also famed for its efficiency and lack of corruption.

The Dark Side of Singapore

“When I see my leaders do what they have done, I feel like an outcast – that this is no longer my home – that it is PAPs (sic) home and that I am only their guest and have to play by THEIR rules or get out”.

Paul Sands (quoted in The General Elections are Over, 3  January, 1997)

The Government of Singapore is strongly authoritarian and paternalistic by Anglo-American standards. Although things have loosened up under Goh Chok Tong (e.g. male Singaporeans can now openly sport long hair whereas they could not do so when Lee Kuan Yew was the Prime Minister. During the Lee era, male foreign tourists were even required to get their locks shorn before they could enter the Republic), the regime continues to maintain tight control of its citizens. Resident foreigners who wrote critically on the Lees or the regime such as Christopher Lingle have had to flee from the country in haste when the authorities started investigating them. Singaporeans like C.V. Devan Nair (a former President), Francis Seow (a former Solicitor-General) and Tang Liang Hong (a former election candidate for the opposition Workers’ Party) have had to go into exile after falling foul of the Governments of Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Nevertheless, to be fair to the PAP government, “responsible” opposition politicians, i.e., those who manage not to antagonize the Government such as Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Kiang are tolerated in Parliament. Foreign newspapers and periodicals such as the International Herald Tribune, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Time, Asian Wall Street Journal, Asiaweek and the Economist have been either forced to eat humble pie and publish apologies to Lee Kuan Yew or the Government for allegedly publishing libel or have had the permitted circulation of their periodicals slashed to small numbers within the island Republic from time to time for “interference” with Singapore’s domestic politics (see Lingle, 1996). The PAP politicians have been accused by the opposition of continually devising ways to put the latter in positions of disadvantage: these range from old-style gerrymandering of electoral districts and restriction of access to the mass media, to the creation of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), multimillion dollar libel suits against certain opposition politicians and latterly, threats to withhold public spending in districts which elect opposition Members of Parliament. For opposition political candidates to contest in multi member GRCs during the election (in contrast to the traditional single member electoral districts), they have to come up with a team of between three to six candidates. The ethnic composition of the teams was even specified when GRCs were first introduced in 1988 (see Ooi, 1998). GRCs put the opposition parties at a significant disadvantage since most Singaporeans are reluctant to participate openly as candidates for opposition parties in the elections.

In the area of economics, although official statistics claim low rates of inflation, these are probably underestimated because certain goods are not included in the basket used to calculate the index of inflation. Singaporeans routinely complain about the high cost of car ownership and the high prices of private, landed property and privately-built condominiums. The counter-argument is that high housing prices in the private sector are not surprising because of scarcity of land in Singapore and also that HDB-built apartments continue to remain affordable for most citizens. The Government has recently identified the emerging problem of increasing income differentials between highly educated employees (including those who work for multinational corporations) and those who are lowly educated and possess low skills. This problem, however, is attributed to the globalisation of the economy and the “digital divide”. The use of Government powers to reduce income differentials through increased income redistribution is not favored as the PAP leaders believe that this would promote an undesirable “welfare mentality”.

In social matters, the Malays are the most disadvantaged of the major ethnic groups in Singapore. They are over-represented (in terms of their percentage composition of the total population) among the less well educated and lower paid and among “problem” sub-groups such as drug addicts and educational underachievers. The Malays are also subjected to de facto discrimination as a high percentage of job ads openly state ethnic preferences (as well as gender and age preferences) for the job being advertised. Unskilled foreign workers are another category of underprivileged residents of Singapore. Cases of abuse of maids (domestic workers) from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and so on are reported from time to time in the local mass media.

The education system of Singapore is openly (and proudly) elitist and there is considerable pressure on schoolchildren to excel in their studies. High achievers are rewarded well, e.g., as Presidential Scholars and Singapore Armed Forces Scholars and sent for further studies at top knotch universities overseas. These Scholars are likely to end up eventually in high level positions in the bureaucracy, Government-linked corporations (GLCs) or the armed forces. Thus, high achievers like Lee Hsien Loong and George Yeo were sent to places like Cambridge and Harvard for tertiary-level studies and served as high-ranking officers in the Singapore military before moving into politics.

One of Singapore’s most popular comic book characters is “Mr. Kiasu” – a personification of Kiasuism, i.e., a person who hates losing out to others (“kiasu” literally means “afraid to lose” in a local Chinese dialect), are overly competitive, highly envious of the success of others and eager to sabotage, backstab and undercut others so as to protect one’s position or chances for advancement. The motto of Mr Kiasu in Singaporean English is “Everything Also I Want”, i.e., “ I Want It All For Myself” (and perhaps even “And I’ll be Damned if Anyone Tries to Stop Me”).

Ask Singaporeans what the “5 Cs” are and they will tell you with a snicker that it refers to Cash, Car, Career, Credit Card and Condominium. My belief is that the rise of Kiasuism and materialism in Singapore is directed related to the Government’s constant exhortations to students to excel in academic studies, in its promotion of elitism, e.g., schools are regularly ranked – even secondary schools – and the list of rankings are published in the local newspapers), its strong emphasis on economic growth and constant reminders to Singaporeans of potential competition from neighboring countries and so on. The pressure on Singaporeans to excel is so great that significant numbers of Singaporeans (in relation to its population) emigrate every year.

Conclusion

I have discussed Singapore’s undoubted and widely-recognized economic success. I have also discussed its less well known “dark side”. Veblen’s “engineers” are indeed in firm control of the Singaporean polity. With each new generation of PAP politicians, Government ministers becomes even more and more technocratic in composition. Singapore functions like a well-oiled piece of sophisticated machinery. Perhaps this is why some Singaporeans feel like they are just like cogs in a highly efficient economic machine overseen by highly qualified and brilliant (and even arrogant) engineers.  The Veblenian “engineers” of Singapore have ensured that the basic needs of Singaporeans are being met. But this is at a price. The price is having to live under a hierarchical system and having to follow the directives handed down by the technocrat-politicians. Veblen’s “engineers” in Singapore, interestingly enough, have collaborated with multinational capital to mutual benefit in the building of a dynamic economic machine – a case of successful collaboration between national technocrats and international capitalists. Singapore’s economic growth depends on investment by multinational corporations and well-run Government-linked corporations (GLCs). Local capitalists are weaker and subordinate to the technocrat-politicians of the PAP.

Veblen also came up with the concept of  “conspicuous consumption”. This is very obvious in Singapore. Badges of “conspicuous consumption” are literally worn with pride in Singapore. These are the “branded goods” or “designer goods” with conspicuous labels especially favored by Singaporeans. Those who can afford to own cars prefer luxury models. In short, Veblen’s “engineers’ have taken over in Singapore and have created a dynamic, highly rational and efficient society. But they have also created a society which functions in ways that Veblen never envisioned. Indeed, contemporary Singapore can be better labeled as “Max Weber’s Singapore” rather than “Thorstein Veblen’s Singapore”, i.e., a society which emphasizes (overemphasizes?) instrumental rationality to the point where the “iron cage of rationality” is a real threat to the social and mental well-being of individual Singaporeans and resident foreigners.

K.L. Phua is a sociologist who teaches public health at the International Medical University in Malaysia. He has also lived and worked in Singapore as a manager for a number of years.

If you are interested in Singaporeana, check out Sintercom – Singapore Internet Community

 Bibliography

Asiaweek 2000 The Next Generation, August 1, 2000

Borus, D.H. 1995 Thorstein Veblen in Fox, R.W. and J.T. Kloppenberg eds. A Companion to American Thought Blackwell: Cambridge, Massachusetts pp. 702-703

Leifer, M. 1995 Dictionary of the Modern Politics of South-East Asia,London: Routledge

Lingle, C. 1996 Singapore’s Authoritarian Capitalism Barcelona: Edicions Sirocco and Fairfax: The Locke Institute

Ooi, C.S. 1998 Singapore in Sachsenroder, W. and U.E. Frings eds. Political Party Systems and Democratic Development in East and Southeast Asia Volume 1: Southeast Asia pp 343 – 402,Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Sands, P. 1997 in The General Elections are Over. Singaporeans Share Their Joy, Their Pain and Their Thoughts on the Results

http://sintercom.org/sef97/postelection.html

Selvan, T.S. 1990 Singapore: The Ultimate Island Melbourne: Freeway Books

Vasil, R. 1992 Governing Singapore Singapore: Mandarin

12 thoughts on “Thorstein Veblen’s Singapore?

  1. Thanks for the honour of having this (old) article
    of mine posted on this blog.
    It was written when Goh Chok Tong
    (of “Father, Son and Holy Goh” fame) was
    the PM of Singapore. 🙂

  2. What Singapore offers to the world is not nation for everyone to copy but rather a micro model perfectly measurable of what nation building is possible. Singapore proved that if you stick with the basics – mind-your own business, clean govt, measurable performance, no vague mushy sentiments, you get quite far acceptable to most people very quickly. LKY’s Singapore don’t tout to be a model for anyone. It does not even seek to stand tall among nations and influence others, perfectly comfortable if no one ever admire them or emulate them – it merely provide them with excuse that they don’t have to take responsibility for being a model.

    The truth is Singapore can’t offer most nation the model they want, just lessons they can use – maybe NOT even enough for everything they need. Singapore can’t offer utopia, its a nation that will always have something short, Singapore is not some people – significant number of people even its own citizen. Its bollderdash that Singapore can be a ideal or even good nation to all its citizen. It deem no nation can and Singapore even less probable so.

    Each nation must seek its own path as all adults must seek its own path eventually.. They can learn from Singapore, they don’t have to copy it nor should they even. But they can measure their failures against Singapore’s success and ask if that is what they want, whether acceptable. For other nations, its invaluable that their citizens can benchmark basic principles against their own leaders and ask if they are worthy of their citizen’s support. This is because what Singapore did is NO miracle, its simply basic, simply minding their business cold-heartedly, objectively..Its not humaning but most govt simply are INHUMAN for not performing the basic function of their responsibilities.

  3. Phua,
    Since when PAP has become extreme right wing. The most is it’s just like New Labour. I have been in singapore long enough to tell you that at present no other political party especially WP is capable enough to run Singapore. I believe singaporeans knew this. In fact, I tell them straightaway, throw away PAP…..Better start singing Negaraku.
    Singaporeans want their voices to be heard but yet wanna keep the good life. Yes, perhaps some commentators are right, Singaporeans indeed damn kiasu one. Though I am engineer & always believe in simple solution, running a country is no simple matter.
    I suggest you look at how Mugabe screwed Zimbabwe because the world wanted majority rule. Please watch this video by Ian Smith & read the book the Great Betrayal

    P.S : Send you later as the network a bit slow. In Malaysia, we should have changed because UMNO really sucks from the beginning. UMNO should not rule Malaysia at all. Malaysia should kick out UMNO just as Singapore kick out UMNO

  4. Dear looes74

    1. No, I did not say that Singapore has become “extreme right wing”.

    2. The video on the American Right Wing is just to get people thinking about the similarities with the UMNO Baru Right Wing.

    3. It’s PAP propaganda that they alone are capable of ruling Singapore. Plenty of capable people from the Singapore Democrats, NSP and yes, the WP too.

    4. Zimbabwe under Mugabe? Prior to his “land reform” and his driving out the white Zimbabwean farmers , Zimbabwe was not doing badly. But there were early signs of his ruthlessness, i.e. the use of the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to suppress the Ndebele people in Matabeleland and weaken his rival Joshua Nkomo. Also, a big change after he married the notorious young second wife Grace Mugabe.

    Rhodesia under Ian Smith was just a watered down version of apartheid
    South Africa. Listen to the “Chimurenga” music of Zimbabwean musician
    Thomas Mapfumo (now in exile from Mugabe’s kleptocratic Zimbabwe).

  5. Songs from the anti-apartheid liberation struggles of southern Africa

    Miriam Makeba “A Luta Continua” (The Struggle Continues) :

    Johnny Clegg and Savuka “Woman Be My Country”:

    Johnny Clegg and Savuka “Asimbonanga” :

    (with guest appearance by Nelson Mandela 🙂 )

  6. Johnny Clegg & Savuka

    “Woman Be My Country” lyrics

    Here we stand on the edge of the day
    Faces melting in the African rain
    So many seasons of silent war
    So many drowned before they reached the shore
    Nothing is clear to me any more
    In this sad and strange landscape

    Ive got no defense, Ive got no attack
    I cant leave, I cant stay and Ive got no way back
    Hard to deal with the way things have been
    I cant lie but the truth is so extreme

    Woman be my country, til my country can be mine
    Hide me deep inside your borders in these dark and troubled times
    Remember me my innocence before I drowned in the sea of lies
    Woman be my country, til my country can be mine

    Too many seasons of quiet rage
    Too many young people just wasted away
    Too many futures hanging in the balance
    So much owing nothing left to pay
    A lonely flag flutters in the breeze
    For the hardened hearts who still want to believe

    Am I the witness or am I the crime
    A victim of history or just a sign of the times
    Across my heart questions and shadows still fly
    But in the dead of the night I know where the answer lies

    Woman be my country, til my country can be mine
    I have no flag, I sing no anthem, I no longer carry an Armalite
    Bathe me in your sweet rivers, anoint me with your touch and your smile
    To your colors I give my allegiance, I lay it on the line

    Woman be my country, til my country can be mine
    I have no flag, I sing no anthem, I no longer carry an Armalite
    Bathe me in your sweet rivers, anoint me with your touch and your smile
    To your colors I give my allegiance, I lay it on the line

    Be my country
    (Oh, be my country tonight)
    Be my country

  7. Can we compare apples with oranges?
    No two nation’s constraints and resources are near the same.
    We can admire them and develop our own path while many envy our resources.
    One baby step at a time is good enough and the best baby step is to have a political will to rid off corruption and the rest will fall into place.

  8. In 1973, when I was a graduate student in Holland I met a lady, family name Winsemius, resident of Amsterdam, who claimed her father was an economic advisor to Lee Kuan Yew at that time. He traveled frequently to Singapore to meet LKY. Anybody heard of him?

  9. He was the Dutch Economist Dr Albert Winsemius, who advised the Singapore Government in mid 1960’s (after separation) the economic model it should pursue for industrialisation and economic development, which the government did. When it became successful he visited Singapore often as guest of LKY and his Ministers.

  10. Dr Phua,

    It’s PAP propaganda that they alone are capable of ruling Singapore. Plenty of capable people from the Singapore Democrats, NSP and yes, the WP too.’

    I am a citizen of your southern neighbour and subject of your blog entry.

    You have grossly overestimated the calibre of our opposition parties here. They may have apparently bright people but they have little experience and not organised with party members leaving the party for silly reasons. Like Vincent Wijaysingha for example to ‘campaign for homosexuality’ or the revolving door leadership of National Solidarity Party which the leadership brushes as ‘attempting to move away from personality politics’.

    The Worker’s Party are even more arrogant than the PAP! I was wondering if you have read the Secretary General of the Worker’s Party Low Thia Khiang’s responses to criticism against his policies in the Chinese papers! Hand waving about how detractors are trying to destroy the Worker’s Party (置工人党于死地)is no way to conduct a proper argument. They even have problems running a constituency which they decided push the blame on others or sweep it under the carpet! How can someone of your calibre say with a straight face that they are ‘capable’?

    You will notice that these parties say very little about foreign issues which I find disturbing. S’pura is a small island and how she conduct her foreign affairs is of paramount importance!

    I suggest looking beyond the websites made by a generation of middle class Singaporean ingrates who are developing a crutch mentality and a sense of bigotry due to many years of prosperity not dissimilar to some elements of UMNO. (Of which I must add, the Singapore Democrats are a fine example!)

    And I suggest that you listen to people who have actually lived in S’pura like looes74! I fail to understand why you hold the PAP in disdain despite their efforts to communicate policies and send their ministers to interact with the general population.I have met the Manpower Minister face to face in a discussion group with persons from the general public!

    Is PAP so low in your opinion that you want to see it kicked out of power? You need people like the PAP leaders to run your country!

    Soh from Tampines, Singapura.

  11. Dear Mr Soh

    Thank you for your (strong) opinions.
    I hear you.

    I lived and worked in Singapore for two years in the mid 1990s and had some
    experience with PAP ministerial arrogance.
    Perhaps the PAP ruling elite has changed for the better since then under
    the premiership of BG Lee Hsien Loong and because of its electoral setbacks in
    recent years.

    P.S. I do know one of the intellectuals working with the
    SDP. Perhaps I should mention that I have contributed in my
    small way to the SDP’s policy paper on healthcare reform 🙂

    And I do agree with you that if the PAP rules Malaysia, we would be much
    better off !

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