Trump and Thinking Dirty


July 12, 2018

Trump and Thinking Dirty

by Mike Minehan

 

The best show in town these days is the President Trump Circus. Full of tantrums, tirades and a trashy sort of political reality TV show.

But maybe the worst thing about this is that it’s encouraging others to do the same. Or even worse.

This was the idea behind a recent aticle in Politico magazine about Democrats being encouraged to think dirty because there are ‘no longer any unwritten rules in American politics’.

Image result for Brett Kavanaugh

 

The trigger for this is Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court of the USA. This nomination comes after Republicans blocked President Obama’s nomination of the Chief US Circuit Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy that existed in the last six months of Obama’s office. The Republicans then rushed Justice Gorsuch into this position as soon as Trump became President, and now Trump is getting another early pick after the resignation of Justice Kennedy.

Concern amongst Democrats is that the Supreme Court, with a majority of Republican nominees, will now swing towards conservative decisions that will support pro-life (anti-abortion), the gun-rights lobby and, dare we mention it, will refuse to support a subpoena of President Trump or follow through an impeachement process. There’s also the question of whether or not Trump can pardon himself and whether he is above the law.

Trump’s voting base, Christian Evangelicals and the white working classes in the ‘Rust Belt’ are now, no doubt, a-hollerin’ and a-hootin’ their delight.

Although America’s late night talk show hosts are also having their say:

But back to this thing about thinking dirty.

According to the Politico article, Democrats should now fight fire with fire. Amongst the suggestions:

Grant statehood to D.C., break California in seven, with the goal of adding 16 Democrats to the Senate, expand the Supreme Court and the federal courts, packing them with liberal judges, and, grant citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants, creating a host of new Democratic-leaning voters.

This last one is because “Republicans have always feared that immigration would change the character of American society. Democrats should reward them with their very worst nightmare.”

Wow. The Democrats will probably gain control of Congress after the coming mid-term elections. Will they be able to restrain themselves?

Don’t Kiss the Hand that Beats You


July 12, 2018

Don’t Kiss the Hand that Beats You

by Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

Image result for fadiah nadwa fikri oxford

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri@Oxford

https://malaysiamuda.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/jangan-engkau-cium-tangan-yang-memukulmu/

“To be free does not and cannot mean to only be free from the visible concrete prison walls in our midst. Freedom must mean that we are collectively free from invisible walls that have long been erected to rob us of our dignity. To be free is to persistently and collectively stand up against and resist institutional dehumanization in all its forms.”–Fadiah Nadwa Fikri

Jangan Engkau Cium Tangan yang Memukulmu

 

Artikel versi Bahasa Melayu boleh didapati di sini.

Upon his release from prison, former Opposition Leader and Prime Minister in waiting Anwar Ibrahim shared his thoughts on his winding political journey and went on to say something that was exceptionally profound – that the value of freedom was the lesson he learned from prison life. Three years flew by. A man’s liberty was taken away and shackled to prison walls. To spectators of this political episode, Anwar’s incarceration felt like a long absence.

In his absence, ordinary Malaysians continued to deal with their everyday struggles amidst the mundane and intolerable suffocating reality. Some struggled to navigate and make sense of the meaning of freedom, having been forced to live in a bigger prison surrounded by impenetrable walls invisible to many.

When May 9 happened, the country went into immense shock. To witness the fall of an authoritarian government which had been clinging on to power for 61 years was not an impossibility. It is undeniable that the change of government enabled, among others, the release of the former Opposition Leader. The picture of Anwar, swarmed by a sea of journalists, held tightly in his family’s arms, finally free from imprisonment was a sight to behold. The celebration continued late in the night, where thousands of supporters assembled at Padang Timur to listen to his freedom speech.

While the majority of Malaysians were still immersed in the indescribable euphoria, trying to wrap their minds around the change and what it meant for the country, the internal power struggle among the political elite started to rear its ugly head. Realizing how fragile the transition was, some started to question the drama that was unveiling before the nation. There were voices who were quick to tell critics to bite their tongues and have faith in people occupying positions of power.

The terrain on which this internal power struggle was taking place was clearly off limits to ordinary people – including the very people who elected those who are now at the helm of the government. This is the harsh reality associated with representative democracy – a reality we rarely talk about and examine, in which political participation is mainly confined to the ballot box whose final outcome would subsequently be handed over to the ruling elite. In defence of this reality, people are often told to wait another five years if they wish to change the government. Who has the luxury to wait another five years? This question must not be left unanswered.

Image result for anwar ibrahim and the sultan of johor

Any attempt to break the fortress built around this existing system in order to democratize the space for people to assert their political existence is often met with harsh criticism and rebuke. As a result, the power to shape the future and direction of the country remains in the hands of the privileged few, thus further alienating the voices of the many, in particular the marginalized. Genuine democracy which seeks to place people at its heart therefore remains out of reach.

The unending internal power struggle reached a whole new level when the picture of Anwar, bending down, kissing the hand of the Sultan of Johor emerged on the internet. Given the Prime Minister’s strained relationship with the monarchy, there are no prizes for guessing why the Prime Minister in waiting did what he did. What is disquieting about the act captured in the picture is the indefensible feudal culture it’s embodying and the catastrophic consequences it’s transmitting.

It bears reminding that to most of the rest of the world, monarchy was rendered obsolete a long time ago. History has shown that the absurdities on which the institution was built can no longer be tolerated, defended, and justified. To situate a class of people above others by virtue of their aristocratic birth could not be more revolting a notion – a notion that stands in contradiction to the concept of freedom and human dignity.

As people constantly rise to reclaim the meaning of freedom and human dignity in a world that is plagued with institutional dehumanization, this indefensible notion of subjugation raises a number of questions which demand answers. Why do people who bleed red just like everyone whom unconditional submission is forced upon deserve such privilege? Why do people who perpetually live off the backs of those who are struggling to survive and live a dignified life deserve god-like treatment and adoration? Why are people who are unilaterally endowed with immense power and wealth extracted from people they subjugate immune from accountability?

The answers to these questions lead us to one inevitable conclusion: not only is the monarchy anti-democratic, it is also a direct assault on our very dignity which is inherent to our existence as human beings. While proponents of this feudal relic would argue that the monarchy as it exists today is nothing but a neutral constitutional adornment, the fact however demonstrates the contrary. One must look beyond what is written in the Constitution in order to understand the politics this institution practices, whose interest it truly represents, and whose side it is on.

Image result for The Crown Prince of Johor

One month before the recent general elections, the Johor Crown Prince, popularly known as TMJ, unreservedly told the whole nation not to bring down the government – the government which had been ruling the country with an iron fist for 61 years. The Crown Prince’s act of uttering these words shortly before the elections, while many people were engulfed in simmering anger, struggling to escape the oppressive situations they had been subjected to for so long, was indeed a calculated move.

The act was clearly executed out of fear of the unknown – fear of losing the privilege and power accorded to the monarchy by the oppressive government who was complicit in subjugating the people, should a change of government become a reality. This particular event which is in no way an anomaly is proof that the institution has never been neutral. It’s as clear as day that the side of the people is the side it has never been on.

As for believers of this archaic institution who contend that it is a symbol of unity, standing on the side of the oppressor while many are denied the right to good life in a country that is structured by domination, inequality, and exploitation only speaks of one kind of unity: unity in oppression.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and The Sultan of Selangor

To be free does not and cannot mean to only be free from the visible concrete prison walls in our midst. Freedom must mean that we are collectively free from invisible walls that have long been erected to rob us of our dignity. To be free is to persistently and collectively stand up against and resist institutional dehumanization in all its forms. As Judith Butler puts it:

“Indeed, if resistance is to bring about a new way of life, a more livable life that opposes the differential distribution of precarity, then acts of resistance will say no to one way of life at the same time that they say yes to another. For this purpose, we must reconsider for our times the performative consequences of concerted action in the Arendtian sense. Yet, in my view, the concerted action that characterizes resistance is sometimes found in the verbal speech act or the heroic fight, but it is also found in those bodily gestures of refusal, silence, movement, refusing to move, that characterize those movements that enact democratic principles of equality and economic principles of interdependency in the very action by which they call for a new way of life more radically democratic and more substantially interdependent.”

 

 

 

Economic Pragmatism and Regional Economic Integration: The Case of Cambodia


July 12, 2018

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Economic Pragmatism and Regional Economic Integration: The Case of Cambodia

by Chheang Vannarith

Chheang Vannarith, Visiting Fellow, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, explains that “International economic cooperation and regional integration are key principles of Cambodia’s foreign policy.”

Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 429

Cambodia’s foreign policy strategy has been chiefly shaped and driven by “economic pragmatism,” meaning the alignment of foreign policy with economic development interests. The Cambodian government’s two main approaches to regional economic integration are (1) transforming the international environment into a source of national development and (2) diversifying strategic partnerships based on the calculation of economic interests. International economic cooperation and regional integration are key principles of Cambodia’s foreign policy, which emphasizes shared development and win-win cooperation.

As a less developed country in the region, Cambodia has a strong interest in promoting and realizing a more inclusive, fair, and just process of regional community-building that narrows the development gap and implements people-centered regional cooperation. Linking regional integration with national economic policies is critical to sustaining dynamic economic development.  Key tasks include improving regulatory harmonization and harnessing and synergizing various regional integration initiatives.  It is particularly important to link ASEAN community blueprints with sub-regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program and Mekong-Lancang Mekong Cooperation (MLC).

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Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen–Father of Cambodia’s Socio-Economic Development

The Cambodian government perceives regional integration as a means to further advance its national development interests. ASEAN, GMS and MLC are the main gateways for Cambodia to reach out to the region and beyond. The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 aims to achieve five goals: (1) an integrated and cohesive economy; (2) a competitive, innovative and dynamic ASEAN; (3) enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; (4) a resilient, people-oriented, and people-centered ASEAN; and (5) a global ASEAN. GMS operates under the principles of non-interference, consultation and consensus, mutual interest and equality, win-win cooperation, shared development, and common destiny. GMS gives emphasis to practical or functional cooperation, aiming at achieving concrete results in poverty reduction. MLC promotes regional connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, trade and investment facilitation, customs and quality inspection, financial cooperation, water resource management, agriculture, forestry, environmental protection, and poverty reduction.

In the Rectangular Strategy Phase III, issued in 2013, a five-year strategic development plan, the Cambodian government set out a vision that states, “by the end of the first half of the 21st century, Cambodia is to reclaim full ownership of its own destiny, while becoming a real partner in regional and global affairs.” It further states that Cambodia is now “actively integrating itself into the regional and global architecture, and playing a dynamic role in all regional and global affairs on equal footing and with equal rights as other nations.”

The Cambodian government stresses several key benefits of regional integration, including regional peace and stability, the development of both hard and soft infrastructure, energy and digital connectivity, free and effective movement of trade and investment, human capital development, the expansion of regional production bases and networks, and stronger regional cooperation and coordination in agricultural development. Strengthening regional cooperation — especially in the Mekong region in rice production and trade facilitation — would contribute to improving farmers’ standard of living. Creating an association of rice-exporting countries will strengthen the global position of the Mekong countries.

Although there have been remarkable achievements over the last two decades in forging regional cooperation, integration, and connectivity, there are several challenges that Cambodia needs to overcome. Those challenges include socio-economic inequality within the country and the region, weak institutions and governance, and the lack of national capacity in implementing regional projects. Income disparity within the regions and localities contributes to political instability, trans-boundary crimes, illegal labor migration, and human trafficking.

Institution-building based on good governance remains a key challenge to the effective implementation of regional policies. The national capacity of each member country of the GMS in transforming and integrating its regional development agenda into a national development action plan is limited. The lack of resources in realizing regional development projects requires more investment and participation from the private sector.

Local government plays a significant role in regional cooperation and integration. Recognizing the role of local government in socio-economic development, in 2008 the government adopted two Organic Laws and established a National Committee for the Democratic Development of Subnational Administrations. These measures are aimed at decentralizing power and creating a sub-national governance system. Delegating power and resources to local governments at the commune, district and provincial levels not only contributes to national development but also connects governments with neighboring countries, especially in the border areas.  For instance, the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle was formed in 2002 to link 13 border provinces of the three countries.

A major challenge is that both the central government and local governments in Cambodia lack sufficient institutional capacity and resources to effectively implement the country’s regional cooperation and integration agenda which includes the budget infrastructure connectivity projects. It is therefore necessary to forge a closer partnership between the public and private sectors, especially in infrastructure development and connectivity.  Decentralization, delegating more authority to local governments, can facilitate public-private partnerships and stimulate national public administrative reform. Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance crafted a policy paper on public-private partnership for public investment project management, 2016-2020, which aims to “create an enabling environment for promoting the participation of the private sector and financial institutions in public investments.”

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

To enhance Cambodia’s competitiveness, and thereby to improve the depth and quality of its participation in regional economic integration, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the GMS Business Summit in Hanoi in March 2018 that it was necessary to strengthen efforts in regional economic integration and connectivity through prioritized areas of finance, economy, e-commerce and cross-border trade.

The seize the opportunities arising from fourth industrial revolution and digital integration in ASEAN the Cambodian government is focusing on four pillars.  According to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the 2018 Cambodia Outlook Conference in Phnom Penh, these are:

(1) Developing a skilled workforce by emphasizing education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and technical and vocational training, supporting linkages between education and enterprises, and creating a national accreditation system.

(2) Promoting a research and development network, a high-quality physical infrastructure, and a public-private partnership mechanism to support the establishment of research and development, the facilitation of information sharing and technology transfer, and the penetration of foreign markets.

(3) Further strengthening institutional, policy and regulatory frameworks by bolstering the implementation of intellectual property law, related regulations, and other regulatory frameworks in order to encourage and support entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and sell their technology products and services.

(4) Inspiring public participation in the science and technology sector, promoting public awareness of the importance of STEM, and nurturing the talents of its population.

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Young and Better Educated Cambodians

As a small and open economy, Cambodia has taken a proactive approach in promoting regional integration based on the principle of win-win cooperation.  The government has taken measures to diversify the sources of growth by investing in knowledge-based economy and strengthen public-private partnerships. However, the lack of institutional capacity at both national and local levels remains a key constraint.

What are our Malaysian values,Dr. Mahathir?


July 11, 2018

What are our Malaysian values,Dr. Mahathir?

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for political islam in ‘new malaysia’

What happened to his Bangsa Malaysia? It became Bangsat Malaysia. Let us get real and ask ourselves whether Mahathir 2.0 a reformer that we make him out to be.

COMMENT | Is Pakatan Harapan(Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in particular) deliberately insulting our intelligence, and lying to us, about a foreigner, who condones the hatred of non-Muslims, and who has been given Malaysian Permanent Residency (PR), and allowed to remain in the country?

This is not fair! Malaysian children born out of wedlock, the Orang Asli who delay the registration of the births of their children, and children born to illiterate estate dwelling Malaysians, are all deemed stateless.

For many, GE14 was a declaration of our desire to be ruled by common sense and the rule of law. Determined to postpone criticism until the 100-day mark has been difficult, especially with the development of disturbing trends.

How can the women in Harapan sit still when, in 21st Century Malaysia, child marriages still occur? The 11-year-old who was married to a 41-year-old man is not the first to create headlines.

Image result for Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah Anwar

Would Harapan MPs condemn their own children to a similar fate? Will they stop hiding behind the Muslim man’s assertion that it is his right to marry an underage child and have four wives, even though he can barely afford to feed himself?

Malaysians did not vote Harapan for our MPs to allow JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) to keep its bloated budget and continue its divisive work. Malaysia must stop exporting extremism. Perhaps, Muslim Harapan MPs need reminding that they can be kicked out of office, in GE-15.

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Malaysia will put you in jail: Don’t waste our time, just plea bargain and go to jail

When in the history of Malaysian justice has a criminal been allowed to barter his bail? When has a criminal been able to manipulate the language used in the High Courts? The disgraced former Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak appears to be calling the shots from behind the scenes. Why?

Malaysia is perhaps the only nation where many of its citizens are afraid of their own nationality. At the height of Najib’s 1MDB scandal, many Malaysians, when overseas, were ashamed to admit they were Malaysian, as Najib represented corruption and a complete lack of moral fibre.

At home, we seldom talk about Malaysian values. We only refer to Malay, Chinese or Indian values, many of which are common to all the cultures, like family ties and filial piety.

Rebuilding Malaysia is about giving people hope

It took a lot of courage for many Malaysians, to take a leap in the dark and vote for Harapan in GE-14, thus ending 61 years of oppression.

Phase I in rebuilding Malaysia, was about giving people hope. That was the easy part. Phase II, which is currently experiencing a multitude of teething problems, is re-establishing Malaysian values. It is long term work.

In Phase I, we ejected Najib and UMNO-Baru from Putrajaya. It was about giving people control of their own destiny because change is possible, if we acknowledge that the first step towards change is always the most difficult.

In Phase II, we need to forge a Malaysian identity, and for that we need to re-establish Malaysian values; the values that have been eroded by 61 years of corruption and criminality.

We should try to live by Malaysian values in our daily lives. We have a common aspiration and we should derive our Malaysian values from the various aspects of our rich multi-cultural heritage.

If we were to ask the average Malay about his definition of Malaysian values, he would probably refer to Arabic, Islamic values.

For the Malays, religion can be a stumbling block to the forging of a common Malaysian identity. We have become more Arabicised and adopted Arabic phrases and clothing, because we confuse the adoption of Arab culture with being a better Muslim. We crave to be the perfect Muslim and become worse humans because of this. Our interpretation of the religion, has corrupted our morals. Don’t blame the religion.

Today’s Malay is blinded by materialism and the promotion of the self. Can he remember the core values of his grandparents’ generation? The community spirit, the engagement and interaction with people of other cultures, are largely missing. What happened to having a bit of fun, like dancing the joget at a wedding, attending a rock concert, or performing a ballet, and not feeling guilty about it?

Many Muslims have been so cowed by JAKIM, that they are afraid to speak out against it, even though they hate the organisation; just as they were afraid to speak out against UMNO-Baru, which they also hated, because they knew it was oppressing them.

Under UMNO-Baru, the Malays were force-fed a diet of quasi-superiority and bumiputeraism. They looked down on non-Malays, even though this group thrived and became successful by a combination of thrift, true grit, hard work, struggle and sacrifice.

In many parts of the world, including Malaysia, the young have been exposed to Western lifestyles. This has eroded our own core Asian values, like personal sacrifice, and family ties.

Two of the five “Singaporean values” are “putting the nation before community, and society above self” as well as making the “family as the basic unit of society”.

“Japanese values” are steeped in family, work, thinking of others, doing one’s best, and social interactions.

“English values” are incorporated in democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs.

The forging of Malaysian values does not diminish our individual cultural values. On the contrary, Malaysian values should help bring down barriers and forge closer ties with the other communities.

In the spirit of the new Malaysia, let us re-establish our Malaysian values. Those values are familiar to all those who grew up before the 1980s.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

‘New Malaysia’ makes Singapore look outdated


July 10, 2018

‘New Malaysia’ makes Singapore look outdated

by Dr.Bridget Welsh

https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/New-Malaysia-makes-Singapore-look-outdated

Mahathir’s triumph exposes shortcomings of city-state’s one-party rule

Over two months after Mahathir Mohamad’s election in Malaysia, the political reverberations for Singapore show no signs of fading.

The new Malaysian Prime Minister’s reviews of the key water-supply deal with Singapore and of the planned costly high-speed rail link from Kuala Lumpur to the city-state are only visible signs of a different — and more charged — Singapore-Malaysia relationship.

The key problem for Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party (PAP) is that developments north of the Johor-Singapore Causeway have exposed vulnerabilities at home. The PAP has become the longest-governing incumbent party in Southeast Asia, and it no longer has undemocratic immediate neighbors. Mahathir’s Pakatan victory mirrors the PAP’s worst fear: its own possible defeat.

Worse yet, some of the factors that contributed to the loss of Barisan Nasional (National Front) are also present in Singapore. The first is the challenge of leadership renewal. Over the past three years, the PAP has been locked in a battle over who should succeed Lee, 66, as prime minister, with the fourth generation (4G) leaders on display.

Among the leading contenders are Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Trade and Industry and former army chief, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, former Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Ong Ye Kung, the Minister of Education and Second Defense Minister.

The problem is that these leaders are 4G without the connectivity. They are in a highly elitist party, largely unable to relate to ordinary Singaporeans. 4G leaders also suffer from the same issue that haunted the National Front, namely they are embedded in the system. Emerging from within the party and government, particularly the military, they are from the system and are seen to be for the system. The intertwining of the PAP and the bureaucratic state has created singular agendas and resulted in a distancing from the electorate and its needs.

For the first two decades of Singapore’s existence after independence in 1959, PAP secured all the seats in the legislative assembly. Since 1984, opposition politicians have won seats despite what the government’s critics describe as the sustained political harassment of opponents and the repression of public protests, combined with the alleged manipulation of electoral boundaries.

In the last election in 2015, PAP secured 83 out of 89 seats with 70% of the vote. Since that resounding victory, more conservative forces within the party have gained ground. Despite their popularity, reform-minded leaders such as Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Tan Chuan-Jin have been pushed aside in favor of conservative alternatives. At the same time, Singapore’s system has moved in a more authoritarian direction, with curbs on social media and attacks on civil society activists.

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Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Prime Minister Lee, the son of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, is making the same mistake Najib did after the 2013 polls. He is depriving the system of a necessary valve for dissent, and moving the country away from needed reforms. He has failed to recognize that greater openness and policy reforms were integral parts of the PAP’s 2015 victory. The dominant mode has been to attack the Worker’s Party, its leaders and other opposition figures. These moves do not show confidence in a more open and mature political system — or even in the PAP itself.

At the same time, rather than being an asset to his party, Lee is becoming more of a liability. This is the same trajectory that occurred for Najib. Questions have been raised about Lee’s leadership from the very public “Oxleygate” row with his siblings over their father’s home to the managing of Temasek, the republic’s sovereign wealth fund, by his wife Ho Ching.

Singapore’s handling of scandal over 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the Malaysian state-run investment fund which saw millions of dollars siphoned out on Najib’s watch, will be in the more immediate bilateral spotlight; assessments will be made as to whether Singapore responded effectively to the alleged malfeasance and whether in fact Singapore’s purchase of 1MDB bonds strengthened the fund.

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Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Mahathir’s readiness to deal with 1MDB signals a willingness not only to clean up the system but to begin much-needed economic reform. Singaporeans will see obvious parallels with their own country’s economic policies.

Singapore’s gross domestic product growth is expected to reach 3% this year, which is a significant drop from a decade ago. Importantly, much of this growth is being driven by public spending (as occurred in Malaysia under Najib), notably on infrastructure. New jobs are not being created in Singapore at the same high rate as in the past. Even more constraining, PAP continues to rely on immigration as a driver of growth, failing to move on from using a combination of low-cost labor and imported foreign talent to expand the economy. Population pressures remain real for ordinary Singaporeans, who continue to feel displaced. They are disappointed with the PAP’s tenacious grasp on old and unpopular models for growth.

The pendulum of discontent has swung against the PAP. The government opted to increase water prices by 30% in 2017, and this year indicated it will raise the goods and services tax (GST) from 7% to 9%. The electricity tariff has risen by 16.8% to date this year alone. The cost of living remains high; Singapore has topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of most expensive cities to live in for five years running. High costs are compounded by persistent inequalities that are increasingly entrenched. The Gini coefficient is at 0.46, but income gaps are deeply felt. Many locals feel they are being impoverished on account of foreigners. The social reform measures introduced for the “pioneer generation” (people born before 1950), and increased handouts before the 2015 polls, are being seen as inadequate to address the current social needs of disadvantaged communities.

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Changes in Malaysia have reduced Singapore’s regional comparative advantage. It is not just about greater democracy and changes in governance next door but also the attention “New Malaysia” draws to how Singapore has remained locked in the past, moving away from embracing an alternative future.–Bridget Welsh

By comparison, Malaysia has removed the unpopular GST, and reform pressures for addressing contracting social mobility and inequality are substantial. Malaysia is now seen as a potential role model in areas of governance. For example, greater transparency and attention to inclusivity are evident in the multi-ethnicity of new government appointees. Singapore’s 2017 Malay-only presidency contest in contrast sent a signal of exclusion and an embrace of race-based politics. This is being compounded by the fact that Malaysia is being seen as bucking regional authoritarian trends, promising substantive political reforms and the removal of many of the draconian laws that Singapore has on its books.

Changes in Malaysia have reduced Singapore’s regional comparative advantage. It is not just about greater democracy and changes in governance next door but also the attention “New Malaysia” draws to how Singapore has remained locked in the past, moving away from embracing an alternative future.

Bridget Welsh is associate professor of political science at John Cabot University, Rome