Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A New Vision for Singapore

Economic growth is not the only measure of a successful society. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Singapore has made great economic strides over the 50 years since independence. With a GDP per capita of $55,000, the island state is, by this measure at least, the most prosperous country in the world. Yet rather than being proud of their country’s achievement, measures of social harmony and happiness indicate that Singaporeans are far from pleased with the status quo.


Looking behind the numbers, it seems that Singapore’s economic success has wrought havoc on less measurable, but no less important, aspects of life: Freedom, compassion and equality. It is the degradation of these values that has contributed significantly to Singaporeans’ disenchantment with the current system.


Even before the Reagan-Thatcher era of neoliberal economics, Singapore adopted a market-driven approach in which even value systems and social life were commodified. When the government wanted fewer births in the 1970s, it paid women to undergo tubal ligation. When it changed its mind and wanted more births, it gave tax incentives to couples to have more babies. When it wanted the children to demonstrate strong character, it rewarded their desirable traits with cash.


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Singapore rebuts Chee Soon Juan’s WSJ op-ed, says he was ‘dishonest’
The Government has responded to opposition politician Chee Soon Juan’s critique of various facets of the Singapore system, published in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, saying that he had rehashed “old arguments without a sense of reality”

The Singapore Democratic Party chief had argued that “market values guided by an authoritarian system trump moral ones guided by a democratic process” in Singapore and that the country needed a “bold new vision”.

But in a letter to the WSJ on Tuesday (Dec 2), Singapore’s Consulate-General Jacky Foo said that while the Singapore model is “not perfect”, it is “dishonest” of Dr Chee to claim that it has failed or that the Government has done nothing.

Dr Chee’s issue with the higher income inequality in Singapore is a similar situation many other countries face, he wrote. But the low-income in Singapore “have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens”, he added, citing how families earning S$1,000 a month can afford to own a two-room apartment. Real wages of the bottom income quintile have also grown by 10 per cent in the past decade, he said.

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Singapore responds to 'dishonest' commentary by Chee Soon Juan in WSJ
Hong Kong-based consulate-general Jacky Foo said in a letter to the WSJ on Tuesday that while Singapore's model "is not perfect... it is dishonest of Mr Chee Soon Juan (pictured) to claim that it has failed, or that we have done nothing". -- PHOTO: ST FILE

The Government has responded to a commentary in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, saying he has been "dishonest" to claim that Singapore's system is a failure or that the state has not acted to tackle issues like income inequality.

Even as the income gap in Singapore has risen, low-income citizens have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, and their wages have been growing over the last 10 years, Singapore's Consul-General in Hong Kong Jacky Foo said in a letter to the WSJ on Tuesday.

Mr Foo added that while Singapore's model "is not perfect... it is dishonest of Mr Chee to claim that it has failed, or that we have done nothing".

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Singapore’s consulate-general to Hong Kong responds to Chee Soon Juan’s Nov 28 article

He takes issue with income inequality in Singapore. Indeed it has increased, as it has in many other countries. But in Singapore, the low-income have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens. Families earning just 1,000 Singapore dollars ($800) a month can afford to own a two-room apartment. Indeed, 80% of households in the bottom income quintile own their homes, with an average of more than S$200,000 net housing equity. Their wages have also grown by 10% (in real terms) in the past decade, unlike the stagnation often seen elsewhere. There is no parallel in other countries. Our model is not perfect, but it is dishonest of Mr. Chee to claim that it has failed, or that we have done nothing.In his op-ed last week (“A New Vision for Singapore,” Nov. 28), Chee Soon Juan rehashes old arguments without a sense of reality.

Mr. Chee criticizes government-linked companies. His charges are absurd. GLCs include highly successful, internationally renowned companies, such as Keppel, SembCorp and Singapore Airlines . They provide good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, but they make up just 10% of the economy. Privately owned small and medium-sized enterprises employ seven in 10 Singaporeans and enjoy the bulk of government support.

But Mr. Chee is not interested in facts. He is out to make a political case and trim his sails to the wind. When he writes in The Wall Street Journal, he attacks GLCs, but when he writes for the Huffington Post, he attacks free-trade agreements, in particular the U.S.-Singapore FTA.

Mr. Chee claims Singapore lacks a democracy. The reality is that elections in Singapore are free and fair. Every time Mr. Chee and his party have contested, Singaporeans have rejected them. He might do better to take the interest of Singaporeans to heart, rather than pander to the editorial tastes of the Western media.

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HK CONSULATE-GENERAL OF S'PORE FOO: DR CHEE IS DISHONEST AND WITHOUT A SENSE OF REALITY
Hong Kong Consulate-General of Singapore Jacky Foo has harshly criticised Singapore Democratic Party Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan for a piece that Mr Chee had written in The Wall Street Journal last week

"Chee Soon Juan rehashes old arguments without a sense of reality," Mr Foo snapped at Mr Chee. Mr Foo said that Mr Chee "takes issue with income inequality in Singapore" but Mr Foo claimed that income inequality has also "increased ... in many other countries". Mr Foo also made other bold claims.
"But in Singapore, the low-income have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens.
Mr Foo also repeated Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's and National Development Minister Khaw's claims: "Families earning just 1,000 Singapore dollars (US$800) a month can afford to own a two-room apartment.
"Indeed, 80% of households in the bottom income quintile own their homes, with an average of more than S$200,000 net housing equity.
"Their wages have also grown by 10% (in real terms) in the past decade, unlike the stagnation often seen elsewhere.
"There is no parallel in other countries," he said.
related: CHEE SOON JUAN IN WSJ: A NEW VISION FOR SINGAPORE

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WEAK ARGUMENTS FROM SINGAPORE’S CONSULATE-GENERAL TO HK

I’m not siding with Dr. Chee Soon Juan nor am I an anti-PAP ranter & raver. I’m just a realist, pragmatist & honest enough to rebut about the reply article from Jacky Foo.
But in Singapore, the low-income have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens.’
Not tertiary education, Jack! (…foreigners have better access), not catastrophic type healthcare treatments for cancer, stroke, transplants, etc, Jack. The new BTO flat prices aren’t exactly cheap for non-mature areas, Jack! Built quality also suspect.
’Families earning just 1,000 Singapore dollars ($800) a month can afford to own a two-room apartment.’
A play on words, Jack! You don’t really ‘own’ a HDB flat, you can only lease. $1k/mth income cannot really pay off a 2-room flat over time. The probability of default is very high, Jack.
’Indeed, 80% of households in the bottom income quintile own their homes, with an average of more than S$200,000 net housing equity.’
Historical basis, Jack! Based on old HDB pricing era, not the current HDB pricing! $200k net housing equity is meaningless when confronted with CPF retirement minimum sum pledge – you can’t sell & buy a new flat, mate. Sounds great but reality, sucks!

related:
Straits Times Is Still Very Annoying
HK Consulate-General of S'pore: Dr Chee is Dishonest and Without a Sense of Reality
Pro-PAP Site Mothership.sg Thinks Singaporeans are Stupid
Consulate-General of Singapore rebuts Dr Chee Soon Juan's WSJ article
Consul-general of SG in Hong Kong: S'poreans still have high trust in the PAP govt
Lessons From Hong Kong
Chee: I offered the WSJ piece to Straits Times First

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Who is right? Chee Soon Juan or Jacky Foo?

An open letter to the Wall Street Journal last week in response to Singapore’s  Consulate-General in Hong Kong’s, Jacky Foo’s,  predictable response  to Chee Soon Juan’s Op-Ed  for WSJ “A New Vision for Singapore” dated 27 November 2014.

Dear Sir, Mr Foo says Mr Chee is not interested in facts and accuses him of being dishonest. It is Mr Foo who is not interested in facts and is dishonest. He tries to pull the wool over your readers’ eyes by pretending that Singapore is a democracy and that elections are free and fair. It is ironic that he writes from Hong Kong where the students well understand that holding elections has nothing to do with democracy. Free and fair elections require a number of conditions including a free media, an independent Elections Commission, the Government not using state resources to bribe or intimidate voters nor being able to harass and bar political opponents through defamation suits or fake charges.

Mr Chee may not have won an election but he has been prevented from standing since 2001 after being made a bankrupt. My father, J B Jeyaretnam, won election to Parliament in 1981 but was deprived of his seat in 1986 after what the UK Privy Council described as “a grievous miscarriage of justice.” Again in 2001 just before an election JBJ was removed from Parliament and prevented from standing before he passed away in 2008, this time after being bankrupted by defamation suits.

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SDP’s Chee Soon Juan uses the Wall Street Journal to poke the government

Many Singaporeans probably did not know that Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Chee Soon Juan wrote a commentary in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last weekend.

This is because many of us do not subscribe to WSJ and the commentary is behind the WSJ pay wall.

But the commentary has now piqued the interest of some Singaporeans, thanks to the Singapore Consulate-General’s feisty remarks about Chee. Below are the pick of the lot:

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Chee Soon Juan writes in Wall Street Journal
Chee Soon Juan writes in Wall Street Journal:

"The danger is that we become blinded by the things we want and ignore the things we really need.

Ultimately a nation’s success is not measured by the size of its GDP but by the number of minds it unfetters, the number of young lives it gives hope to and the number of poor it empowers. It is this kind of wealth, the kind that really matters, that Singapore must accumulate.

Now more than ever, we need a genuine conversation about Singapore’s future. Indeed, we need a bold new vision for the country."

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Pro-PAP mothership.sg thinks S’poreans are stupid
Dr Chee with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1998

Dr Chee Soon Juan wrote a co-op piece in The Wall Street Journal on 27 November 2014 titled ‘A New Vision for Singapore‘. He repeated his call for PAP to conduct free & fair elections and release the press from government control to allow true debates by Singaporeans at this crucial juncture in Singapore’s history.

Dr Chee is the secretary-general of Singapore Democratic Party which espouses liberalism principles and he has not deviated from those principles – he did a hunger strike in 1993 to protest his unfair dismissal from NUS; in 2002, he spoke up openly in Speakers’ Corner on behalf of Muslim parents who wanted their daughters to wear religious head wear to school; the same year, he staged a rally near the Istana to raise awareness of the plight of workers; in 2006, he organised a march at Speakers corner to protest the rising income gap of Singaporeans.

He got into trouble with the law each time for his act of civil disobedience. He was bankrupted in 2006 when he was unable to pay damages after he lost a defamation suit to former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

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Dr Chee Soon Juan Vision for a New Singapore

Let buy it!
"The danger is that we become blinded by the things we want and ignore the things we really need. Ultimately a nation’s success is not measured by the size of its GDP but by the number of minds it unfetters, the number of young lives it gives hope to and the number of poor it empowers. It is this kind of wealth, the kind that really matters, that Singapore must accumulate. Now more than ever, we need a genuine conversation about Singapore’s future. Indeed, we need a bold new vision for the country."
Give him a chance for a new vision as our old vision is nearing the run out date.

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S’pore rebuts Chee Soon Juan’s WSJ op-ed, says he was ‘dishonest’

The Government has responded to Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan’s critique of various facets of the Singapore system, published in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week, saying that he had rehashed “old arguments without a sense of reality”.

The Singapore Democratic Party chief had argued that “market values guided by an authoritarian system trump moral ones guided by a democratic process” in Singapore and that the country needed a “bold new vision”. But in a letter to the WSJ yesterday (Dec 2), Singapore’s Consulate-General Jacky Foo said that while the Singapore model is “not perfect”, it is “dishonest” of Dr Chee to claim that it has failed or that the Government has done nothing.

Dr Chee’s issue with the higher income inequality in Singapore is a similar situation many other countries face, he wrote. But the low-income in Singapore “have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens”, he added, citing how families earning S$1,000 a month can afford to own a two-room apartment. Real wages of the bottom income quintile have also grown by 10 per cent in the past decade, he said.

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Lessons From Hong Kong

Singapore's Consul-General Jacky Foo Hong Kong did not object to that paragraph in the Wall Street Journal commentary of 27 November 2014 ("A New Vision for Singapore"). He was rankled by some other observations, and had to put in his 2 cents' worth. But you have to wonder about his mental state when he regurgitates stuff like these:

  • "in Singapore, the low-income have access to high-quality education, health care and public housing, like other citizens"
  • "Families earning just 1,000 Singapore dollars ($800) a month can afford to own a two-room apartment"
  • "Their wages have also grown by 10% (in real terms) in the past decade"
  • "The reality is that elections in Singapore are free and fair"

You know the guy is obviously oblivious that many have sold their public housing flats to finance an overseas education because places in local universities were given up to "scholars" from PRC, that $1,000 a month can service flat ownership is a myth that has been debunked ad infinitum, his real wage growth statistic is off by at least a factor of 10 and, to quote his political master's voice, "there is no such thing as fair play in politics". Foo's mindless ramble reminds one of Michael Palmer's first utterances when he was helicoptered into parliament at too tender an age: "Before I joined the grassroots organisation, I never knew there were poor people in developed countries". If Foo is just as wet behind the years, we hope he stays away from ardent worshippers bearing tempting mangoes.

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Mr Jacky, stop pandering to your political paymaster

Contrary to what Mr Foo says, Dr Chee’s arguments are rooted in a sense of reality that Singaporeans are slowly but surely coming to grips with despite our 150th ranked state controlled press.

Singapore’s inequality hasn’t merely increased; Singapore has always been one of three most unequal societies amongst First World economies over the past 30 years alongside Hong Kong and USA. Which First World nation doesn’t have high quality education for the low income? Universal education is taken for granted not only amongst rich nations, but amongst many poor countries too.

Whether Singapore offers high quality health care to the low income is questionable. The high cost of healthcare in Singapore has driven the low income to commit suicide to avoid incurring hefty hospital bills that they cannot afford to pay (‘Unwilling to burden family, 95-year old samsui woman commits suicide‘).

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LHL says opp no vision, so CSJ tweets him

PM Lee Hsien Loong said in his PAP60 speech that the opposition have not articulated a vision for Singapore. So Chee Soon Juan tweeted him this message.

In the meantime, some of the newspapers wanted SDP’s comments about Mr Lee’s remarks regarding the next general elections. This is the SDP’s response:
  • PM Lee Hsien Loong said in his speech that the opposition have not articulated a vision for Singapore. This is untrue. The SDP published Dare To Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore in 1994.
  • Dr Chee had also recently described a new vision for Singapore in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal. Mr Lee ignores these and claims that the opposition has not articulated one.
  • But more than just a vision, the SDP has laid out concrete and comprehensive alternative policies in key areas such as housing, healthcare, population, the Malay community, education, Ministerial salaries, and (soon-to-be launched) the economy. The SDP’s campaign for the next GE will focus on these alternative policies.
  • As announced we will be holding our GE2015 Campaign Kick-Off on 10 Jan and stepping up our effort in preparation for the elections which many expect will be held next year.
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Rebutting Burhan Gafoor

As for Mr Burhan’s 8-page article, a member of the public, Ng Kok Lim, has provided a detailed point-by-point rebuttal of the article, based on historical findings.


[Read the articles here:  – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.]

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