A lot has been said about what the first generation leaders, apart from LKY, like Toh Chin Chye,Goh Keng Swee and S Rajaratnam have done and achieved for Singapore.
Yes, these men, and may I include Ong Teng Cheong, had indeed contributed and sacrificed a lot for Singapore and her people. They deserve to be respected by Singaporeans, including me.
But what is less mentioned is the global and international environment that Singapore was in during the 1960s, 70s and the 80s. That was the Cold War era. When the Soviet Union or USSR still existed. When China was under Mao Zedong and was isolated and closed from the rest of the world. In Mao’s time, China’s diplomatic ties was only with Albania. This was the time when there were the disasters of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, costing millions and millions of Chinese lives. China under Deng Xiaoping only opened its doors to the world in 1978, two years after the death of Mao. In addition, across the straits, there was also the standoff between Mainland Communist China and Taiwan under the Chiangs.
That was also the era when the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall stood in Europe. Eastern Europe, with the possible exception of the former Yugoslavia, was cut off from the ‘free’ world and the global economic system.
In South East Asia, Vietnam was suffering from the turmoil of first, the Independence war against the French and second, the Vietnam War and the Communist takeover of the country in 1975. Laos and Cambodia also went under Communist control. Cambodia suffered heavily under the rule of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot and had to endure a long civil war before a peace treaty was signed in 1992 and UN sponsored elections held in 1993.
Myanmar, or Burma it was then known, was isolated and cut off from the rest of the world under General Ne Win.
Domestically, before the British colonial authorities’ complete withdrawal in 1971, they had already put in place a very efficient working administrative system for LKY and the PAP to take over. PAP’s job of governing Singapore was made even easier by the fact Suharto had just eased out Sukarno from power in Indonesia and ended the Confrontation with Singapore and Malaysia. The PAP, despite differences with some UMNO leaders, also had more or less cordial relations with the Barisan Nasional regime in Malaysia over the decades.
All these domestic and international factors made Singapore become a very safe and stable place for international investors and multinational corporations to park their funds, set up factories and regional/continental branches and offices. These helped to generate many employment opportunities for local Singapore citizens. Many were thus able to earn sufficient income to support their families and pay for their children’s education. As the prices for HDB flats weren’t so inflated as they are now today, many were also able to buy a decent 3 or 4 room flat for themselves and their families back then.
Today,the international environment is vastly different from what it was in the period 1960-91. Nowadays we see the emerging BRIC economies – Brazil, China, India and Russia, challenging the global economic, financial and trading system long dominated by the West. We also see an enlarged European Union (EU) comprising of emerging Eastern European economies such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is now the next target in the EU’s integration list.
The world also saw South Africa, the continent’s strongest economy, returning to the international community after the dismantling of the Apartheid system in the early 90s.
Closer to home, Vietnam and Laos began opening their doors to the global economy since the late 80s. With the civil war already over, Cambodia is also trying to regain peace and stability and get into the global economic, financial and trading system to develop its own economy.
Suddenly in over 20 years, Singapore is beginning to face increasing global economic and trade competitors. The problem is how Singapore and the PAP has handled the pressure of increased international competition. Instead of trying to emphasize more on technical innovation, creativity and the spirit of entrepreneurship as in other first-world economies, the PAP Regime has resorted to a rather lazy, quick-fix and easy way out – importing massive foreign labour, mostly from neighbouring Asian countries, in order to boost the GDP.
The PAP has also resorted to importing several billionaires from the around the world in order to maintain Singapore’s artificially high per capita income / GDP. In many sense, Singapore doesn’t seem to be a genuine first-world, civilised and democratic society and advanced economy like Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Lietchenstein, San Marino and Andorra.
Isn’t it any wonder then why Singapore is known as the country which has a third world standard of living and at the same time having a Swiss cost of living? These days, its only the President, the Prime Minister and his Ministers and MPs, their families, friends and business cronies who are enjoying a first world standard of living while living in their own ivory towers.
This reminds me of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – the two former Soviet republics.
Singapore is obviously a pesudo-first world nation adopting a third world economic model and political system. With an ever widening gap between the rich and poor, Singapore seems headed to become the next Mexico or Colombia.
Indonesia's decision to name a navy ship KRI Usman Harun, in honour of two Indonesian marines who bombed a Singapore building in 1965, has drawn ire from Singaporeans. A Cabinet minister says the lesson is that Singaporeans must never forget history, while a defence blogger says the ship is not welcome in Singapore.
By Tan Chuan-Jin 8th February 2014
NEXT week, we remember the fall of Singapore on Feb 15, 1942, by commemorating Total Defence Day.
It is a reminder that we do not take our peace for granted. And that we must ourselves defend our own home because no one else will. When we failed then, the consequences were tragic.
To this day, it is unclear how many perished during the occupation of Singapore. We all know of the cruelty and atrocities committed by the Japanese.
My grandfather was rounded up to be executed. It must have been part of the Sook Ching. But he was released at the last moment because a "local" Japanese knew him.
My father, who was only a boy then, to this day remembers the horrors of seeing dismembered bodies due to the bombings.
Over the years, there have been other threats. A date that has been recently thrust back into our consciousness is March 10, 1965.
On that day, Indonesian marines Harun Said and Osman Mohamed Ali planted and detonated a bomb at MacDonald House, killing three Singaporeans and injuring 33.
This was part of the Konfrontasi (Confrontation), when President Sukarno sought to undermine the formation of Malaysia by stirring racial tension as well as targeting key installations and fomenting fear via an indiscriminate bombing campaign.
I have known of this event since I was young because my father worked in Metal Box, and his office was in MacDonald House.
He told me that he hardly ever took medical leave, but happened to be off that day.
When he heard the news over the radio, he was shaken but hugely relieved as the bomb had gone off in an area where he could have been at.
While these seemed like fascinating stories when growing up, as I got older, I began to realise that we should never let these things happen to us again.
As Dr Toh Chin Chye, then Deputy Premier, said: "This incident should make us realise that our own survival must depend on our determination and resolve to protect our own independence."
The two Indonesians were caught, tried and executed.
Their hanging on Oct 17, 1968, sparked off an attack on the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta by a mob. They then attacked our consul's residence and the homes of two other Singaporean diplomats. They also burnt our Singapore flag.
In 1973, then PM Lee Kuan Yew visited the graves of the two marines. It was a gesture of reconciliation that brought closure and allowed both countries to forge a close relationship.
Over the many years of interaction, I myself have found many friends in the Indonesian military and have also worked closely with them while providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief in Aceh, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
Remarkably, the Indonesian navy is now naming one of its ships KRI Usman Harun in honour of the two marines.
When Ms Elizabeth Suzie Choo, 36, died, six young children no longer had a mother.
Mr and Mrs Goh lost their only child when Ms Juliet Goh, 23, died in the blast.
Mr Mohammed Yasin Kesit, 45, did not awake from his coma and left behind a widow and eight children.
Many more Singaporean lives have been permanently scarred.
It is one thing to remember your heroes from your wars of independence or those who have built your nation.
But it is another thing altogether when you celebrate those who had acted in a brutal and cowardly manner. There is nothing heroic about killing innocent civilians.
Our neighbours have insisted that it is their right to name their ships as they see fit. That may well be so. But it is also our right to state categorically that this very act reflects callousness and disrespect.
As neighbours and friends, we can and should forgive.
But by the naming of this ship, the message is clear. We should also never forget.
The writer is Acting Manpower Minister. This is reprinted from a post on his Facebook page.
Let others have their heroes — 21 Feb 2014 "We should never have re-opened this matter. In May 1973, six years after hanging the two men whom we refused to recognise as prisoners of war, Lee Kuan Yew was made to lay flowers at the graves of Harun and Usman. Astute observers would have read this act of contrition as the price Singapore had to pay to normalise relations with Indonesia post-Konfrontasi. By bringing this up again, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong not only looks thin-skinned, but risks being made to make another trip to visit the graves on his next official visit to Indonesia."
Goh Keng Swee, who helped to build the island republic, dies
The death on May 14 of Goh Keng Swee is a reminder that of the original group behind the formation of the PAP and the independence movement in Singapore, only Lee Kuan Yew and Toh Chin Chye now survive and only Lee himself is still heard from. The death is a reminder that Lee Kuan Yew did not build Singapore by himself.
Gone are the likes of Lim Chin Siong, Devan Nair, Ong Eng Guan, S. Rajaratnam, all of whom played critical roles in the early years of the PAP and most as ministers in the 60s and 70s.
Of the group, only Goh was regarded as the intellectual equal, if not superior, to Lee. But as a civil servant before he became a politician, he had neither the skill nor the taste for Lee's brand of ruthless street politics. So it was his skills as an administrator and clear-headed thinker about economic development that he was to prove his worth forging new institutions and policies. Meanwhile, Lee kept command of the centre of power and the PAP.
Goh's work was the bedrock of the industrialization force-fed by a government facing the consequences of the withdrawal of Britain's military garrison, once a key part of the Singapore economy, and the rapid growth in the workforce due to a post 1945 surge in the birth rate.
Goh also played a key role as Defense minister in the creation of the Singapore Armed Forces and later still as education minister and deputy prime minister prior to the elevation of the then young Goh Chok Tong to that post in 1985. Although he remained on various boards and committees,
Goh was almost invisible for the past 25 years of his life so for most Singaporeans under 45 years of age his accomplishments are little known. Even less is known about his relationship with Lee, a man of very different character from the discreet, reserved Goh. Nor has Goh – as far as is known – written memoirs which would give his version of events between 1950 and 1980, the formative years of modern Singapore.
The Lee Kuan Yew version as related in his two volume biography may be factually accurate but obviously others, Singaporean and Malaysian, saw things from very different perspectives. But Lee still rules, the others are almost all gone.
Devan Nair became president before being publicly disgraced by Lee and exiled in 1985. He died in 2005. Toh Chin Chye, the same age as Lee and first chairman of the PAP left the cabinet in 1981 and after several years as a disgruntled backbencher retired from politics altogether in 1988.
Lim Chin Siong, the Chinese-educated workers' leader who founded the PAP with Lee, was detained as an alleged Communist (an allegation for which there was no evidence, according to British intelligence) from 1964 to 1969 before being forced to renounce politics. He was in exile in London for 10 years returning to Singapore 1979 and dying in 1996. One Eng Guan, another fiery Chinese-educated politician and mayor of Singapore, whom Lee only just beat in a party committee vote to become prime minister in 1959, formed another party after clashing with Lee and left politics in 1964 .
Those who stayed with Lee all through included Rajaratnam, who died in 2006, and important but lesser figures such as Lim Kim San, the force behind the Housing Development Board, who died in 2006, Hon Sui Sen, first head of the Economic Development Board and then Finance Minister who died in 1983, and Ong Pang Boon who was forced into retirement in 1984 at the early age of 55 .
As time as passed and these names have slipped into the dim distance the continued dominance of the Lee family in Singapore politics has tended to obscure the roles of other pioneers. In politics as in war, history is written by the victors. But as Stalin's ghost will have learned, history can also be re-written. So expect some future revision of Singapore history to make more mention of the above names.
What happens when an industry refuses to change with the times?
By Stanley Lim 19 January 2015
I started today like I always would – with my weekly dose of business publication The Edge Singapore along with my morning coffee.
But I nearly choked on my coffee while reading one of the articles on this week’s The Edge Singapore.
The article in question was an interview with the President of the Society of Remisiers (Singapore). The choke-inducing content was about his reasons for why trading volumes in the local stock market have been weakening for the past few years: MediaCorp’s decision to cease the Teletext service for updates on stock prices.
The Teletext..? What is that you might ask?
I remember playing with the Teletext service on my television set when I was 10 (I’m now 28 by the way), pretending to check stock prices and flight details the way my dad did. Thinking about the Teletext service brings back memories of a younger me (a much younger me) watching cartoons on Video Home System (VHS) tapes and listening to music on cassette tapes.
The President of the Society of Remisiers’ comments on the Teletext service caused me to be taken aback because it is akin to a VHS seller blaming his weakening sales on manufacturers’ decisions to stop producing the videocassette recorder (VCR).
For me, it’s a classic example of an industry which refuses to change with the times. Sadly, this situation is not unique to the brokerage industry in Singapore. There are many companies in Singapore which are operating in industries that are at the crossroads of transformation and obsolescence.
Here are a few of such companies and how they’re coping with the changes.
The business of snail mail
In Singapore’s mail industry, Singapore Post Limited (SGX: S08) has a strong monopoly position.
In theory, Singapore Post is in a great business as it does not have competition and would thus possess strong pricing power. But, the mail industry is facing obsolescence as snail mail is being steadily replaced by the faster, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly email.
Singpost seems to recognize the changing tides as it has been busy trying to transform itself. The company’s management team has been active in pushing the company toward the growing societal trend of e-commerce and the related-logistical services.
As the demand for snail mail cools, the demand for e-commerce and its related-logistical services is growing (accelerating, even). Till date, Singapore Post seems to be doing a fine job in its transformation, having even attracted the attention of China’s e-commerce juggernaut, Alibaba Group. Alibaba had invested in SingPost last year, gaining a minority but substantial stake in the company.
The dying newspaper business
The current situation that Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SGX: T39) finds itself in is almost identical to that of Singpost.
Operating as the leader in a controlled industry (newspaper publishing) with strong pricing power, Singapore Press Holdings is also seeing the survival of its industry being threatened by the rise of the Internet and online news sources.
But to give credit where credit’s due, Singapore Press Holdings has also been actively trying to transform its business to remain relevant in consumers’ eyes.
The company has invested in multiple businesses using the web as a platform and has set-up online versions for many of its newspapers. Some, such as The Business Times, have even successfully launched online subscription models.
But make no mistake – Singapore Press Holdings is involved with a tough fight as it is going against the trend of news readers switching from national news sources to international news sources.
Media companies would require a license to officially print their publications in Singapore, and that has restricted competition against Singapore Press Holdings.
But when it comes to the web, such restrictions are not in play and Singapore Press Holdings would need to compete freely with other international news sites and blogs for the attention of readers. It is a much tougher fight to be in (as compared to the paradigm shift that Singapore Post is currently navigating) and there’s much for Singapore Press Holdings to prove.
I do hope the comment made by the President of the Society of Remisiers (Singapore) is not a reflection of the general view that is held by most remisers in Singapore. This is especially important given that Singapore is nowhere near the forefront of the brokerage industry internationally.
A look at how brokerages in the U.S. have transformed their businesses would give remisers here a glimpse of what the future is like.
To quote Andrew Grove, former chief executive of Intel Corporation, “Only the paranoid survive.” I urge investors to understand this point. Also, I hope companies which are operating in businesses facing obsolescence can start changing before they’re well and truly left behind by the times.
To win back the market share lost to the foreign offshore brokerage firms; the local ones need to revise the current brokerage fee structure. For a daytrader to make a profit of 2-bid on any mid-cap stocks based on brokerage fees @ 0.12% + other charges per order via a CCT account, the reward will be much more attractive if the brokerage fees is lowered to directly compete with those who charge @ S$15 nett per trade size.
An example of a swing-trade on UE (Long, cash a/c):
Technological disruption strikes again. Hard to beat the convenience of online music stores, where you can buy exactly and only the songs you want instead of whole albums. Not to mention many ways one can stream or download music for free. Reminds me of the time when Borders at Orchard and Page One at Harbor Front closed their outlets (Kino soon?). Sad perhaps, but welcome to the world.
With the recent release of the Population Blueprint for 6.9M population for Singapore, I couldn’t help but to shed tears for the young children of Singapore. All of you will have a tough life ahead of you. Most probably you will be working very hard for a job that pays you a good salary for your living, competing with many many “foreign talents” who does not mind getting a lower salary than you.
You may have to ask for “loans” from your parents to buy your first HDB flat which by then would cost million$, only if your parents have some “spare cash” to loan it to you. What if your parents are also struggling due to their CPF monies being held by the Government? You would have to hang on to your job like a slave come what may because you just have to service those installments for your expensive HDB flat and that COE inflated car.
These scenarios are very real for the children born during this period. What hardships your parents are now experiencing is a result of what their parents (ie. your grandparents) have voted for in the past. Only parents can put a stop to these frightening scenarios of your future. Let them not repeat what your grandparents had done to them.
For those “blind” Singaporeans who classified these scenarios as “whining” because we have failed to keep up with the economic progress of Singapore, then let me assure you that one day your pain and cries for help would only be heard by yourself. When you see your own child, whom you have raised from just a small baby to now an adult; struggling to make ends meet with their lives …..then only maybe your “blindness” will be washed away by the despair and hate you would have developed for the PAP Government at that time but wouldn’t that be a bit too late?