Friday, 1 November 2013

Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?

Singapore remains a sampan, but an upgraded 2.0 version: PM Lee

PM Lee speaking to the Singapore media at the Shangri-La hotel before departing Paris for Warsaw, 30 Oct, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Singapore is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenseless as it used to be, it must continue to work hard to improve, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday.

Hence, he did not agree with a description that Singapore today is akin to a "cruise ship".

Speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his official visit to France, he said "my eyes popped out" when he read a commentary in The Straits Times using that metaphor.



Sink the old sampan, S'pore now a cruise ship



The mentality of using the sampan as a red flag against complacency, or to justify the status quo, still surfaces. But it belongs to an earlier era - and should stay there. The downside is too costly. It risks becoming deeply embedded small worldviews and small-mindedness, cramping national self-confidence and ambition.

Instead, Singaporeans should keep enhancing the cruise ship, and grow the line to set sail, with all hands on deck, for more frontier destinations and global aspirations for the country and for every citizen.

But first, the top item on today's cruise programme is to sink the old sampan and the outdated ideas that came with it - once and for all.

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From Cruise Ship To Sampan



Koh Buck Song's choice of a metaphor was pretty neat. The cruise ship is just a floating version of Hotel Singapura, where foreigners are perennially welcomed to enjoy themselves on short stays while the locals struggle to maintain the vessel ship shape for the long haul. Heck, young men are mandated to sacrifice two best years of their lives to bear arms and defend the premises so the high rollers can live it up at the casinos, F-1 races and what not.

One reason Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong got his knickers in a twist over the commentary ("Sink the old sampan, S'pore now a cruise ship", ST 28 Oct 2013) could be the reference to the inequality of life that has come about. You can book a table for fine dining, or join the buffet line - we're talking hawker center, food court or restaurant here. The elites have $10 XO sauce chye tow kuay, the minions have $3 two meat and one vegetable fare. Moreover, like the voyage aboard the Titanic, when survival is at stake, first class passengers have priority over the cattle class.  The analogy of limited life-boats brings to mind there's no shortage of Sentosa Cove type developments, while public housing is always in short supply.

Then there's the rude reminder that "cruising is a well-oiled business with precise planning and untiring hard work behind the scene." The fact that trains break down with embarrassing frequency, roofs collapse at shopping malls and floods continue to disrupt daily living confirm that the people who are supposed to keep the system well-oiled are not as hard working, or as bright, as the first generation political leaders. It all makes sense only if they pay themselves sampan wages.


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Sampan Politics Sampan Economics
[PM Lee calls for a new Sampan Project 2.0 to remind Singaporeans of our venerability. It is just a continuation of his Right Politics Right Economics.  Unfortunately, his sampan technology fails to see the reality of social media. As a result, it is difficult for the PAP to get the field study right. ]  
Another sampan is another summer insect to the winter ice. An insect will never have the chance to experience the winter cold in his short summer life.

Project Sampan is just another failed field study that will cost the PAP dearly, on top the workable but less value generated machine of lab study.

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The Inauthentic Sampan

What is it about a recent comment by PM Lee, relating Singapore to a ‘Sampan 2.0’, that makes it so baffling, and frustrating?

Could it be the poor analogy. Nobody really thinks Singapore as a primitive ‘Sampan’ anymore, with its kind of diversified economy.

Or could it be that suggestion that the boat has been upgraded to ‘2.0’, keeping it the same while changing all its features?

Or could it simply be the unrealistic characterization that everyone is on the same boat?

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We are no cruise ship



I agree completely with the PM on this one. We are no cruise ship. I am not sure we are Sampan 2.0. There are other possible metaphors but they are all small crafts. Perhaps we have an outboard motor too. The lack of a consensus metaphor is perhaps why we have so much discussion and arguments too.


When I read Koh Buck Song article on Monday, I was just aghast. I kept looking for the crew especially the waiters and cleaners. Yes, I was thinking of people in the lowly paid jobs that are not even getting a living wage. To me Mr. Koh was just out of touch.

Sure glad his article made the PM's eyes popped out and came out with his rejoinder.

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Whatever floats your boat…

So, we’re not a cruise ship, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but an upgraded sampan… which is what actually? Anyway, we’re an island, so using maritime metaphors is not terribly original. But so what, if it’s apt? We’re all in the same boat – never mind what kind.

Singapore is a…

YangtzeSampan

Sampan: Rickety and leaky. Sometimes people fall overboard and have to be saved by a fishing net. A hole-y one which keeps having to be repaired.


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From sampan to cruise ship to sampan

Koh Buck Song said Singapore is like a cruise ship. Hsien Loong corrected him by saying that we are in an upgraded sampan. Now who is right or whose version is the reality? Buck Song explained that in a cruise ship, the elite would be partying in the top deck while the masses would be rowing the ship at the bottom deck, with oars. All in the same boat.

Hsien Loong was more self deprecating, and with a great sense of humility. We are all in the same boat, in an upgraded sampan. This is like saying we are living life the same way, having the same gruel and sleeping on the same wooden planks. And we move ahead together or sink together, in the same sampan. No one is partying in the top deck

This is a good political statement, saying the right thing for the people to hear. No one will be left behind. We even scooped up foreigners in the high seas to sail with us. We accommodate them and we don’t mind the squeeze, together in the same sampan. We can hug everyone while yo-yoing in the high seas, foreigners, locals all same same



PM LEE: SINGAPORE IS LIKE A SAMPAN 2.0



During his trip to France, PM Lee said to reporters that Singapore should see itself as an “upgraded Sampan”.

He was referring to a newspaper article which had suggested that Singapore abandon the old metaphor of Singapore being a sampan and instead that Singapore should see itself as a “cruise ship”.

Referring to this newspaper article, PM Lee exclaimed that his "eyes popped out" when he read it. He warned that seeing Singapore as a cruise ship would give the impression that you are on holiday and people will expect that things will go well and that everything will be done for them.


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Singapore not a cruise ship, but a sampan 2.0


This is my sampan, this is my land, this is my future, this is my life

In Koh Buck Song’s piece (Sink the Old Sampan, 30 Oct 2013), he explains the ‘small cruise ship’ comparison in terms of on board recreational facilities (Zouk, casinos), efficient services, cosmopolitan population, an endless variety of activities to cater to every need and bizarrely, for ‘lifelong learning’, which makes sense if you’re the type who spends half a day in the ship library rather than go out there and play bingo with aunties.

I for one would rather be stuck in a tub with a ladle for a paddle than go on a cruise. Luxury liners also happen to be heavy polluters, hosts to cheesy cabaret shows where entertainers drag you into a ridiculous conga line, and you can’t stroll the boardwalk in peace without bumping into sweaty fat passengers wearing skimpy trunks that leave little to the imagination carrying a sloppy club sandwich in one hand and a dripping Cornetto in the other.

Maybe PM’s eyes wouldn’t ‘pop out’ so much if Koh Buck Song had compared us to one particular cruise ship known for something other than 24 hour dining or casinos; The Love Boat.

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Of Swiss and sampans



Wow! When I saw my Facebook newsfeed exploding with pictures of sampans, I was wondering what on earth could have sparked off these series of memes.

As it turned out, our Supreme Leeder has put his foot into his mouth yet again (see previous examples here and here)! Comparing Singapore to a sampan! Clearly, he has forgotten his predecessor's promise to give Singaporeans a "Swiss standard of living", never mind that most of Singapore has never been to Switzerland - the promise is thus effectively so vague that he must have thought himself capable of getting away with not making good on it.

I remember a similar 'promise' (more of an exhortation, in hindsight) made by my Mum back in my formative years. Study hard, become a doctor, earn lots of money and have a good life.



Sampan 2.0

Sampan

Dear Captain, when your father cast off from Kuala Lumpur, and you threw overboard the white man burden, you told us to row, for our lives depended on it. Not to look back, should the salt in the air steal our tongues and dissolve our freedom. To trust, that this is the course, that you will lead us home.

Now we want to talk to our crewmates on this boat, but winds of progress howl too loud. We want to write poems on the floorboards but they have to remain clean. We want to shimmy up the mast and dream to the horizon, to be fine, and not be fined. But you say we must sail the straits time and again.

Lay down sand, expand our islands, lose the shape of history and reclaim new stories. You give us an education fit to drive the sampan forward, teach us songs to sing, tell us that cruise ships are dangerous, that we have no right to expect buffets and tennis courts and  life jackets.

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OPINION: Cruise Ship To Sampan


Singapore Notes, 31 Oct 2013

Koh Buck Song's choice of a metaphor was pretty neat. The cruise ship is just a floating version of Hotel Singapura, where foreigners are perennially welcomed to enjoy themselves on short stays while the locals struggle to maintain the vessel ship shape for the long haul. Heck, young men are mandated to sacrifice two best years of their lives to bear arms and defend the premises so the high rollers can live it up at the casinos, F-1 races and what not.

One reason Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong got his knickers in a twist over the commentary ("Sink the old sampan, S'pore now a cruise ship", ST 28 Oct 2013) could be the reference to the inequality of life that has come about. You can book a table for fine dining, or join the buffet line - we're talking hawker center, food court or restaurant here. The elites have $10 XO sauce chye tow kuay, the minions have $3 two meat and one vegetable fare. Full story

Related:
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Singapore remains a 'sampan', but an upgraded one: Hsien Loong

Singapore will be in trouble if it thinks it has arrived and can afford to relax, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated on Wednesday.

The country is small, and while it is no longer as poor and defenceless as it used to be, it must continue to be on its toes and work hard to improve.

Speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his official visit to France, he said "my eyes popped out" when he read a commentary in The Straits Times likening Singapore today to a cruise ship.

read more

Dayung Sampan
– Blogging for Myself: We are no cruise ship
– Singapore Notes: From Cruise Ship To Sampan
– My Singapore News: From sampan to cruise ship to sampan
– Everything Also Complain: Singapore not a cruise ship, but a sampan 2.0
– Neurotic Ramblings of a Singaporean Couple: Of Swiss and sampans
– Marc Nair: Sampan 2.0
– Breakfast Network: Whatever floats your boat


read more

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