Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Year of Re-think, from Riot to Rentier Economy

Inside or outside Singapore, even it is an isolated case as claimed by the government, the Little India riot is a piece of international news.   It presented the other side of Singapore to the international audiences, that a stable country can also have violence.

So, we need to rethink the possible reasons for the Riot, beyond the official version.  Besides riot, the whole of 2013 is a year of re-thinking, re-consideration, re-assessment and re-evaluation of our past, present and future. The PAP is re-thinking and re-introducing democratic socialist.  Why?  It is because our very successful model is mainly based on the rentier economy and rentier capitalism.  So, the PAP is re-examining its glory past and tries to re-fine the model.  Will it work?  It is too early to tell.

Rentier economy

Rentier economy usually refers to oil rich producing countries but it can also refer to countries that have certain characteristics of a rentier state.

There are four characteristics that would determine whether or not a state could be identified as rentier#1: 
1. if rent situations predominate
2. if the economy relies on a substantial external rent – and therefore does not require a strong domestic productive sector
3. if only a small proportion of the working population is actually involved in the generation of the rent
4. and, perhaps most importantly, which the state’s government is the principal recipient of the external rent.[2]

How well does Singapore fit into the above characteristics?

1.   Yes. For example our location, our big government business, our special designed election system, etc.
2.   Yes. For example, our trade is many times our GDP, the tourists arrival is more than the local population, etc.
3.   Yes. For example, the emphasis on scholars and foreign talents and now even the casinos are only open for foreigners etc.
4.   Yes. For example, the CPF monies, official reserves, GIC and Temasek Holdings etc.  

Rental incomes

If we have the characteristics of a rentier economy, then where are the rental incomes?

These rental incomes can come from COE and ERP; work permits; casino licences; Singapore Pool; sale of state lands; the difference between CPF interest rate and investment returns of GIC/Temasek;  in elections through media control and boundary design; etc.

Singapore has no natural resources, but using administration measures, the PAP government can achieve the level of rentier economy for its own consumption.   

Besides the state having renting income, in a personal capacity, individuals can also enjoy profit above normal level.  One very clear example is the highly paid ministers.  Administration decision can be taken without public consultation to award ministers salaries above international standard. 

One of the reasons that rich becomes richer in Singapore is due to rentier economy. For example you can see them in property investment, in personal tax rates, or not to forget there is no capital gain (e.g. shares) and real estate duty.  

The unique rentier structure in Singapore can also benefit some individuals who dare to take risk.  For example, false marriage, false IC or lending of IC, illegal application of HDB flats, illegal subletting, etc.

With the rentier income in national and individual level, we now recall 10 events in 2013 that are related to this.  You can see from these events that how the PAP re-thinks and re-evaluate its position in a rentier economy.

The Top 10 Re-thinks in 2013

The ten 2013 things for thought for Singapore are as follows:

1 Punggol by-election: Why did voters reject the PAP? Are they happy with the current distribution under our rentier state?

2 Population: Why did the first ever large scale legalized peaceful protect in Singapore taking place in Hong Lim Park? Are they happy with the population distribution under rentier economic model?

3 Social media: Is ‘Free My Internet’ movement necessary? How do things change in the new media era? Can a rentier state continue to control the media?

4 Housing: Is getting a HDB flat first before marriage a new trend? Will the new housing policy make a fairer distribution of state estates?

5 Democratic socialism: Is this a re-think of the PAP? Is this a clear signal to move away from the rentier practices?

6 llo llo: How important are maids in Singapore society and the problems of children growing up under this environment? Like Little India Riot, is there an urgent need to re-think the foreign workers policy in the new democratic socialist arrangement?

7 MedicalShield: This medical insurance is now compulsory for all Singaporeans. You can’t even opt out. Is this the result of our rentier economy after a review of the past mistakes?

8 Legal and court: There are some challenges (Hougang by-election, gay right, death penalty etc.) to the interpretation of our constitution. This, perhaps, is the most important of all the events.   How does the court maintain its position in a rentier state?  

9 AIM and town council management: Will the story continue to the next election? How do public view the government using its rentier power to score points or lose points?

10 Prime Minister: Do we need to re-think his performance during the year? Is his high salary, due to the rentier capitalism, matching his performance over the years?


For further reading:
Britain is recreating a rentier society fit for a baby royal

Thursday, 26 December 2013

争取社交媒体话语空间 行动党重提民主社会








社会契约 – 行动党如何诠释?




天命 - 行动党的天命在哪里?









Thursday, 19 December 2013

A Divided PAP under Democratic Socialism

Still remember in 1961, there was a split in the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the breakaway group founded Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front) #1, a party carrying the name of Socialist.  Since then, the socialist ideology and movements have already left the PAP.  This was also the reason that the PAP was forced to leave Socialist International in 1976. #1

[In 1976, however, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International after the Dutch Labour Party had proposed to expel the party,[17] accusing it of suppressing freedom of speech.]#1 
To be fair to the PAP, no political party in Singapore is a member of Socialist International, after a check in their webpage.  Historically, ‘socialist’ is a negative word in Singapore politics.  It is so close to the word ‘communist’.  Perhaps, this tells us why no Singapore political party wants to join Socialist International and carries the ‘socialism liability’.

However, in the Wikipedia, the PAP and WP are in the list of democratic socialist parties and organisations. But in term of political position, the PAP is centre-right and WP is centre-left.

If the PAP’s new resolution does not mention ‘democratic socialist’, many Singaporeans will not think of the link between socialism and the PAP. In particular, the PAP has always rejected the European-style of democratic socialism or social democracy – the so-called welfare state. 

Will socialism win votes for the PAP?

The word ‘socialist’ was a heavy name to the PAP. Two years after the split, in the 1963 election, its share of votes dropped to 46.9% from 54.1% in 1959.  Will history repeat itself? Will there be a split in the PAP after the re-focus of democratic socialism?

Considering 1961, the split costs the PAP votes to go down. So, in simple mathematics, the PAP will win more votes by re-introduction the term ‘socialist’.  This means they want to take back the breakaway votes. Is this so simple? Or, will it result to the opposite effect?  PAP members confuse and so they reject the ideology of democratic socialist.  They then leave the party to form a new conservative right wing party.

I wonder how many PAP members can associate themselves to the democratic socialist movements. After so many years of PAP education (see below), democratic socialism is really out of sight, ‘no free lunch’ is the only capitalist word we know.

[…most analysts of Singapore have discerned four major "ideologies" of the PAP: pragmatism, meritocracy, multiracialism, and Asian values or communitarianism.]#1 
[It has since considered itself a social democratic party, though in recent decades it has moved towards neoliberal and free-market economy reforms.] #1

A confused Democratic Socialism

PAP members are not the only ones confuse about the meaning of democratic socialism. Even among political scientists, there is no consensus. Wikipedia provides a brief explanation:   
[Democratic socialism is a name given to trends of socialism that emphasizes democratic principles as inalienable from their political project. Some forms of democratic socialism overlap with social democracy, while other forms reject social democratic reformism in its entirety.]
But it also adds the following: 
[Democratic socialism is difficult to define, and groups of political scientists have radically different definitions for the term.]

Will a confused definition of democratic socialism work for the PAP? As a consequence, the PAP can claim that they are everything, from left to right. They can be the Democratic as well as the Republican in the USA. They can also be the Conservative, Liberal as well as Labour Party in the UK. They can also be a combination of Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat in Malaysia.

In fact, this is what the PAP has been doing since 1959.  They can shift side as they like.  

Confused democratic socialism = discounted lunch?

A confused definition can also benefit the PAP as it can sometimes claim to be in the left side of politics when facing new popular demand and want to gain votes. However, when talking to investors, promoting business, creating jobs, they want to stand at the right side of the politics.

It is just like PAP MP Baey Yam Keng and his $3 lunch.  Some lunches have discounts, some have discounted drinks, some without. Only the PAP is capable to provide so many different pricing for a lunch.   

In the past 50 years, the PAP has shown its capability in shifting side from left to right, right to left, and now with the new resolution, it is offering a lunch package with some discounts to Singaporeans, but some of them, like Baey Yam Keng, may not even notice the special discount.  

It is now moving away from ‘expensive lunch’ to ‘discounted’ lunch as stated and claimed in the PAP resolution.  But still there is no ‘free lunch’.   


Sunday, 15 December 2013

2011政治震撼 2013社会震撼 下一次轮到行动党震撼


一下子,行动党怎么会如此钟情社会主义?有没有喝醉酒,是否有没有喝醉酒,我们不知道,但是,酒后失言,还是酒后吐真言倒是有的:外劳的犯罪比例比本国人来得低#2 这是真言但却也是政治失言。这个真言不是第一时间说的,而是事发多日后在日本说的。因此,应该不是酒后失言。之前,总理只能通过脸书,留下几句话。任何公司的总裁如果都能像总理这样管理公司,那该多好呀!


 【目前的转向并不是否定过去几十年的策略。】The shift now is not a repudiation of the strategies of the last few decades. #3

既然过去几十年的路线策略没有错,那到底是要改变还是不要改变? 那又何必转向呢?还是希望选民喝醉,行动党独醒,难怪禁酒是对,这样国人才不会喝醉,清醒冷静的投票。








在上一篇博文里,我把小印度事件形容为新加坡的911。它对我们的影响,不亚于911 对美国的冲击。因此,设立COI这样的调查委员会,只能脚痛医脚。













Thursday, 12 December 2013

Little India Riot: The 9/11 of Singapore?

Yes. I am talking about the impact, the shock and the aftermath. Certainly, I am not referring it to terrorist attack or religion issues.

After so many peaceful years, we suddenly have to face a (long existence) new reality – a product of our very successful economic model

The investigation should go beyond a Committee of Inquiry.  It should be a Commission Report like the 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT#1 in the United States. It cannot stay put at the technical level like the COI of SMRT bus strike.  It should touch on the cultural aspects, the humanity, and the sociology besides the psychology of mob and riot. It basically calls for a re-think of our cheap and low-cost labor driven economic model.

The 9/11 Report details the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.  Besides this, it has many chapters on the development and background information of the terrorist movements. It also highlights and covers a lot of background issues and problems inside the US government operations and co-ordinations. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security was created in the States (and Singapore also followed later by setting up a Co-coordinating Minister for National Security.)   

However, Little India Riot is not a terrorist attack.  It is our own problem and we have to solve it ourselves. There is no learning curve. Looking at the way the police conducts the search for more suspects island-wide and the ban of alcohol over the weekend in Little India, it looks more like Singapore is facing a national security issue. The call for clam and classified it as an isolated incident are another acknowledgments of the seriousness of the riot.

Learning from 9/11 Report

The COI on Little India riot really cannot do much as it has limited power to interview the top. The top leaders must also come under scrutiny for certain policy and strategy options that may lead to the unfortunate incident.  

In USA, the 9/11 Commission was empowered to interview everyone in America, including the President.  The Commission interviewed President, Vice-President, secretaries of state, defense and other departments, and many other senior government officials and military officers. If you look at the 9/11 Report, you will know what I mean.

However, as the PAP government has downplayed the riot and its impact. The COI will not be able to tell us the views of our senior political leaders and senior government officials including top Police officers.  So, I am afraid the COI only gives a partial story of the riot – the face fact of the so-called isolated incident.

Not to forget the 9/11 Report is a bi-partisan product.  You can’t blame the other side for any wrong doing or gain any political advantage. While in Singapore, the COI on riot will certainly produce different political implication because it is a PAP product.     

Old school thinking of inclusiveness

By setting up a COI for the Little India Riot is a continuation of old school thinking.  It shows the PAP still wants to solve problems within its own rank, within its own capability and ignored the public interest at large. It still believes it is the only party capable to solve all problems in Singapore.

In fact, the timing is right for the PAP as it has just shifted its focus (back) to “democratic socialism”.  Why doesn’t the PAP use this opportunity to tell Singaporeans and foreigners in an honest way how to move forward?  “Our new way forward: A call for action.” Yes, we want to see the action. An action goes beyond COI.
However, even the government is willing to set up a commission to investigate the riot, I am afraid Singapore alone has no expertise in language, culture and customs in coming out a report like the level of 9/11 Commission Report.   

We basically have very little knowledge on foreign workers and foreign maids.  We just treat them as cheap labor. So, how can we invest money in understanding them? We even want to isolate them and house them in an island.

After the 9/11 Report, there are more investment and funding in the USA for Arabic language and studies, Islamic study, terrorist study and even broadcasting in Arabic language.

Residence and non-residence

Different from many foreign countries, we have not considered foreign workers as residents. They are on work permits. They are not talents so they can’t be PRs.  
In the very first days when they enter into Singapore, they are already different.  We consider them as substitutable goods. When they become expensive, we source for cheaper alternatives. With this in mind, where is the belongingness?

If I may bring in another example, the rich-poor gap in Singapore is already a concern. The PAP’s new way of socialism is to tackle this problem. Only now, the PAP wants to take serious action to solve this lower income Singaporeans problem. So, where do they find time and mean to consider the problems of more than one million foreign workers in Singapore?

The best way is to isolate them.  But Singapore is so small, how can we isolate foreign workers in a humanity way?

Love and not hate

In his speech to the Congress after the 9/11, former President Bush asked:

[Americans are asking ``Why do they hate us?''] #2

Because of ‘hate’, Bush went on for more military built ups and wars.  Hate cannot solve the problem, we should ask: why don’t they love us? (As Singapore has given them opportunities to earn more income to support their families back home?)

I don’t think the COI on Little India Riot can suggest and convince the PAP government to come out with a Love strategy for foreign workers.    

This is why a more powerful, multi-party and national-wide Commission is needed.  But will the PAP listen?



Sunday, 8 December 2013

加油打气 替代声音需要更多支持鼓励




虽然,里根总统的支持南非种族隔离的外交政策被国会推翻,改为认可曼德拉的民权运动,但是,曼德拉的恐怖份子的身份仍然留在美国的政府的恐怖份子名单资料中,一直到2008 才被正式取消。想一想,五年前,曼德拉的恐怖份子身份才被取消,他已经从南非总统的位子上下来,也就是说他任南非总统时,在世界第一大国美国的正式政府资料中,他还是一个恐怖份子。因此,这个替代声音的路有多么困难,要正名面对的困难重重。90岁时恐怖身份才被取消,95岁才能安然过世。这段路,有多少人能顺利走完呢?更不用说,在80年代之前,他所面对的困难有多深多大,以及在牢里度过20多年的日子。







行动党已经号召新加坡人行动50多年了。行动党也已经领导新加坡迈向新程50多年了。借张志贤的一句话:What do you think? 你认为何如?行动50多年,新路50多年,行动党还有什么新点子?他还会有更多更新的新新行动和新新新程吗?这个答案就要由接下来的选举决定,选民接受还是不接受行动党的新行动和新新程。



当行动党人坐在加冷剧场,高论 “Our New Way Forward: A Call to Action.” 时,这些行动党人的号召行动以及他们所谓的迈向新程,是否是新加坡人所期待的? 他们如果容不下不同的声音,不同的意见,又如何把新加坡领导到另外一个高峰,走向另一条新路。





#2 Veto override[edit]

Reagan's veto was overridden by Congress (by the Senate 78 to 21, the House by 313 to 83) on October 2.[13]In the Senate vote, all 47 Democrats were joined by 31 Republicans to override the veto; 21 Republicans voted to sustain the President's veto. This override marked the first time in the twentieth century that a president had aforeign policy veto overridden.[2] Apartheid opponents in America and South Africa applauded the vote, while critics argued that it would be either ineffectual or lead to more violence



指区伟鹏博文藐视法庭 检署要求高庭批准申请拘禁令

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thinking Questions, Tuition Questions and the Owl Questions

(The thinking questions of PSLE exam are mostly likely ended up as tuition questions at tuition centres.  Perhaps, more specialised tutors are needed for this niche market. Who say the government is not enterprising?  It is indirectly growing the industry. However, after all the thinking, the owl still cannot find his way out, why?)

The PSLE exam is now shifting to test thinking skills and how much learning a candidate obtains.  Ironically, these thinking questions will become the challenging questions for the tuition centres.  Each will compete with each to come out with the best solutions to the thinking questions.

So, the Ministry of Education is giving tuition centres another marketing tool for promoting themselves.  Really, do we need a tough and high standard of thinking questions to distinguish students?

An owl question
May I ask this funny question? When the owl flied into the office of the Prime Minister the other day, what was this bird thinking or did the owl do a thinking calculation at all before entering the Istana?  Oh!  This becomes a difficult and challenging question.  Perhaps, with his mathematical minds, our PM can give an answer on why the owl flied into his office.

The owl might think too hard on the route to the PMO but unfortunately she was not able to calculate the exit route. So, is the owl thinking inside or outside the box? Most likely the owl was thinking inside the box as she finally needed assistance to fly out of the Istana.

Challenging thinking questions
According to the Education Minister, this year PSLE examination questions are to test students’ thinking skills.  There are challenging questions to test the learning of a candidate: 
[Some of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) questions this year were crafted differently to guide the students’ thinking, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed on Facebook today (Nov 22).
 “One small refinement we’ve made is to craft the more challenging exam questions in a way that lets our children show what they’ve learnt, while keeping the PSLE standard high,” wrote Mr Heng.] #1
What is the meaning of ‘keeping the PSLE standard high’?  If you want to score A*, you will have to solve these challenging exam questions.  Every school is a good school but not every school is equipped to solve the A* questions.  So, tuition centres come to the rescue.  

In fact, there are many young parents complaining about the difficult thinking questions of primary one or two. So, one can imagine how challenging are the PSLE questions? 

PSLE is a one-way thinking, just like the owl.
One-way thinking
I am afraid we are training students thinking only one side of the story, just like the flying owl thinking (inside the box) the one-way mission to the Istana.  After taking the one-way exam, the owl could not find a way out.

The owl must have proper education, not necessary taking challenging exam, about what is wrong or right at the first place.  It is wrong to enter a room without permission.  If you are a hacker or intruder, you will be arrested and charged in court. PSLE candidates should know about this before and after taking the exam.  Scoring A* is a one- way traffic and knowing the right and wrong is a two-way traffic.    

Still exam smart
Unfortunately, the schools focus too much on solving challenging questions.  The tuition centres and parents are also too busy preparing students for the exam. So, it ends up with students thinking inside the box – chasing the A*.  Once achieving A*, students go further into another exclusive narrow box in search of more A*.   

Primary school students should be free to think and have fun. Setting challenging questions to maintain high standard for PSLE is dividing ‘have’ and ‘haven’t’. No wonder some tuition teachers can become a millionaire who certainly can help the 'have' to solve the difficult exam questions. 
[Acknowledging that the school-leavers examination may sometimes be more pressurising than desired, he told parents to "find the right balance". He said: "We don’t want to have excessive pressure. Where there is, we have made adjustments, toned it down. But we must not compromise our strengths in developing our children and in preparing (them) for the world, which is going to be very competitive, and for (their) jobs, which will not be easy.”] #2
Preparing our students the high moral standard is far more important than solving the challenging exam questions.  The ‘right balance’ and ‘excess pressure’ that PM referred to is just solving the challenging questions and scoring between A* or A.  It has not solved the fundamental problem.