I have heard my friend Tan Sri Zainuddin Mydin say many times that he admires Mr Lee Kuan Yew for having built a very successful nation. 1. Singapore is an economic powerhouse. The wealthiest nation on the surface of the earth – in terms of per capita GDP.
2. I believe that Singapore is also on its way to becoming a powerhouse of culture and the arts. Because that is what happens once you are rich. When all your basics are well taken care of, you will have the time, the interest and most importantly the capacity to focus on the finer things in life.
3. I also think the Singaporeans are beginning to focus some energy on competitive sports. This is one area which did not interest Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He saw no benefit in competitive sports. (I recall reading it in one of his books). But that was his view.
4. My view is that Singapore’s greatest success is in creating a Singapore nation. Singaporeans seem to have a Singaporean identity. It is still a very Chinese centric society but you cannot avoid that – Chinese form 70% of the population.
5. But the average Singaporean does seem to share many commonalities. There is an ‘average’ Singaporean. I know that the Singaporean Chinese do not identify with Chinese from China or Taiwan. Singaporean Indians definitely do not identify with Indians from India. And Singaporean Malays actually look down on their cousins in Malaysia. And in Singapore even the mamaks are ultra kiasu. Malaysia does not seem to have Nos. 1 to 5 above. We had a ‘Malaysianness’ during the time of Dr Mahathir. But over the past 12 years this has been going down the hill. Here is a look at Singapore by some writers. My comments are in blue.
The city-state has a potentially vital role to play in the West’s engagement with Asia.
By Gabriele Giovannini and Emanuele Schibotto
February 19, 2015
When, on August 9, 1965, Singapore became a sovereign state following its expulsion from the Malaysian Federation it was, without any doubt, a poor country. Yet only four decades later, the former British colony boasted the second most competitive economy in the world and a per capita income higher than that of the U.S.OSTB : In the same four decades we almost kept up with Singapore. Then we made some suicidal mistakes. Do read on.
The financial guru Jim Rogers told the CNN in 2012: “I have moved – I have sold my house in New York. I have moved to Asia and my girls speak Mandarin, speak perfect Mandarin … I’m preparing them for the 21st century by knowing Asia and by speaking perfect Mandarin…It’s easier to get rich in Asia than it is in America now. The wind is in your face. The U.S. is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. The largest creditor nations in the world are China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. The assets are in Asia. You know who the debtors are and where they are. Look at Greece. Look at Spain. I mean, I don’t like saying this. You know, I’m an American, too. But facts are facts.”
But why Singapore and not, for instance, China? What role does the city-state play – and what role will it play – within the so-called Asian Century? What does the country represent for the West in coping with its decline in favor of an emerging East?Professor Kishore Mahbubani explains, “Singapore has been able to exercise regional influence by generating good ideas.For example, Singapore noticed that while there were strong Trans-Atlantic institutions like NATO and OSCE and strong Trans-Pacific institutions like APEC and EAS, there were no strong institutions linking Asia to Europe. This was clearly a missing link. This is why the former Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, proposed the idea of an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). I was then the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Singapore, and I made several trips to Europe to try and persuade Europe to adopt this idea. Fortunately, France was the first country to support this idea. Since then, ASEM has taken off. ASEM has also established the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) in Singapore.”
OSTB : Dr Mahathir took us in the same direction. Despite ‘Buy British Last’ we ended up trading more with Europe, US and UK than ever before. We opened up new areas of trade with China, Japan and Taiwan. Even Russia became a major business partner. Then after Dr Mahathir left in 2003 the morons ramped up the “pro camel herders” policy.They started courting Arabs who had nothing to offer. The Arabs had no science, no technology, not even proper civilised behaviour to offer us. (If you dont believe me about their lack of civilisation please catch the next flight to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt etc. Buy a one way ticket). As long as it was the Middle East (now expanded to Central Asia) the morons became excited. The ‘halal’ connection.
The GLCs began courting the Middle East, ‘halal’ tours opened up to the Middle East and Central Asia (To go and see what? Camels?)
Instead of getting closer to Japan, to China, to Europe, to the US, to Singapore where real progress was and is still being made, we surrendered our otak to the Middle East connection. Semua nak jadi Arab.
Now thousands of young students, almost all Malays, are studying in these Allah forsaken sh*t holes in the desert. Learning all types of stupid behaviour and foolish ideologies.
And all this while what did Singapore do? Singapore got closer to the real “Islamic countries” ie Europe, expanded trade and business with Japan, China, the US and the rest of the world.
What did we do? Well our young kids are now volunteering to “jihad” with the ISIS.
If the Police did not do such a good job of arresting all these confused kids, I think the whole state of Johor or Perak (figuratively speaking only ok, jangan marah) would have left the country for ‘jihad’ in the Middle East. Lagi senang ‘pendatang’ beli tanah dia. Semua orang dah tak ada dah.
The confused “majority” is now spinning the tale that that 14 year old girl was on her way to Egypt to get married !! Ya ke? Kursus kahwin camno?
Then after that what? Honeymoon under machine gun fire in Syria? Or honeymoon before suicide bombing mission in Iraq? This community is doomed.
From this line of thinking it emerges quite clearly how Singapore has a potential role that goes well beyond its material capabilities. Nonetheless, the very foundations of its political and social system are closely related to the necessity of being open to the outside world in order both to assure survival and to achieve development. In the view of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew, in fact, global interconnection, education (especially English proficiency), and a harmonious society were the three milestones on which a promising future could be built. The policies that were adopted began to show results from the early 1970s, enabling the country to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) from leading multinationals such as Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Hitachi and Siemens.
That was Lee Kuan Yew’s genius.
But wait a minute, until the early 1980s we also followed this policy entirely. Our education was also in English – no different from Singapore.
We had a more harmonius society – especially under Dr Mahathir.
We created the Multi Media Super Corridor – even ahead of Singapore.
We had strong economic growth of 8% to 9% year after year after year.
ALL the multinational corporations around the world either invested in Malaysia or did business here. They came here also because our workforce could meet their expectations and their requirements.
Well not anymore. We switched to 100% Malay medium in our schools, our education system went to the dogs, sekolah kebangsaan have become like sekolah agama, sekolah asrama penuh also became the same, religion crept into everything, our Muslim population has become overly sensitive about religion, our country is more polarised, the productivity of our high school graduates is below Bangladesh, Phillipines and Indonesia (because we have to import millions of Filipinos, Bangladeshis and Indonesians to take up entry level jobs in the economy).
We are producing high school graduates and university graduates who cannot perform in the real world. Dont believe me? Here is evidence. Here is Utusan Malaysia’s headlines for Tues 24 Feb 2015:
To all my Blog readers, you can please start panicking now. This is horrible news. This is not something to be proud about.
I say brader, ini tak ada kena mengena dengan sambutan daripada orang ramai untuk berkhidmat dengan Polis lah. The real fact is sekurang-kurangnya SATU JUTA MANUSIA dalam negara kita tak ada kerja. SATU JUTA MANUSIA sedang menganggur. SATU JUTA MANUSIA tidak ada pilihan lain untuk sara hidup. SATU JUTA manusia mencuba untuk memenuhi 10,000 jawatan kosong PDRM.This is a ratio of 100 : 1. Out of every 100 applicants, only one will get a job. The remaining 99 can become Mat Rempits.
This is disaster news. This is not good news.
Macam mana pula kalau ada jawatan kosong untuk Postman? Apakah 100,000 calon akan mohon 100 jawatan kosong ? Garenti semua (atau majoriti besar) bebudak Melayu.
They can only get jobs in the gomen sector and the GLC sector which is NOT the real economy.
The gomen sector and the GLC sector can only survive for as long as Petronas can pump oil and gas from the bottom of the sea. Free money from the oil and gas can sustain the gomen sector and the GLC sector.
Do you think SATU JUTA applicants will turn up for 10,000 job applications in Singapore?
Mahbubani underlines how this rapid growth couldn’t have taken place without the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew and S. Rajaratnam, whose focus hasn’t been merely on “economic development but also on human development. From day one, Singapore paid attention to the social needs of its people: from housing to health care, from education to the environment. As a result, not only did Singaporeans enjoy rapid economic development, they also enjoyed living in one of the world’s most liveable cities.”
OSTB : Well our human development has not hit rock bottom yet. It is still going down, down and down.
Our primary and secondary education system was among the best in the world. Our education system was exactly the same as Singapore. Then we screwed it up.
Some of you deaf, dumb and blind folks keep asking me : so what is your solution?
Here is my answer : Just go back to what we had before. Why did you try to fix something that was NOT broken? Why did you replace somethjing that was super par excellent with something else that is so Dunia Ketiga and third rate? Otak tang lutut ke?
Here is a secret folks. Do you know who really determines our education policies? There is a very small, very elite, very stupid but very rich cartel that really determines our education policies. It i$ the $chool text book publisher$. They only publi$h in Malay. The$e are the folk$ with a very very loud voice who can determine our education policie$.
And what is the result of changing our education policies over the past decades? Here it is : Sejuta calon mohon sertai PDRM. Elok lah tu. Padan muka.
According to Mahbubani, “Most leading minds in the West find it hard to accept this simple but painful historical fact: The last two centuries of Western domination of world history have been a major historical aberration. From the years 1 to 1820, the two largest economies of the world were those of China and India. It was only in the last 200 years that Europe and North America took off. If you look at the past 200 years of world history against the backdrop of the past 2,000 years of world history, the past 200 years have been a historical aberration. All historical aberrations come to a natural end. Therefore, the Asian century is irresistible and unstoppable.”
While in 2009 the (OECD) estimated that North America and Europe accounted for 54 percent of the global middle class, it forecasts that by 2020 this figure will plummet to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the share represented by the Asia-Pacific region will rise from 28 percent to 53 percent, underscoring how global wealth is shifting East.
A Vital Hub
In this perspective, if the continent as a whole is becoming richer and geopolitically ever more important, how does Singapore contribute? Located in the heart of ASEAN, one of the most stable and dynamic sub-regions of Asia, Singapore is a vital hub at the crossroads of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, providing a platform for transport, financial, trading, educational and medical services.OSTB : Well Malaysia is more “hearter” inside ASEAN than Singapore. If Singapore is a vital hub, then we should be the heart of the vital hub. But we are not. We are going backwards.
Apart from being blessed by geography, Singapore has built its success on a multilingual, multiethnic, highly skilled and educated society. All these factors are of great relevance in Mahbubani’s view to the country’s potential role within the Asian Century, which could resemble that of London in Europe or New York in America in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively.OSTB : Err…I say I think we also have Malays, Chinese, Indians, Dayaks and Kadazans. In fact we have more of them here than in Singapore. If this multicultutralism has enriched Singapore, how come it is not helping us much? The Singaporeans have leveraged on their multiculturalism to become rich. Kita pula, sampai bila nak bodoh sombong ? As time passes, we are becoming more ‘exclusive’ – tak nak kawan, tak nak bergaul, tak nak campur, tak nak bersama. Semua tak nak, tak mahu, tak perlu, tak payah dan tak boleh.
Moreover, Singapore, with its Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Western citizenship, represents a rich and diverse environment being concurrently the “most Westernized city in Asia, even compared to Tokyo, Seoul or Shanghai” and “the most Asian global city in the world, far more Asian than New York, London or Paris.”OSTB : Takpe. We are moving away from Westernisation. We are moving away from modernisation.
Instead we have created ‘Ayn Arabia’ in Bukit Bintang for the Arabs to donate their oil money to the Chinese girls (from China) as well as to the Filipino and Thai boys who populate Bukit Bintang. We have created a center for the Arabs to engage in cross cultural exchange. This is the Middle East connection that we have created.
And lets not forget the Nigerian black money scammers and the Iranian ecstasy pill smugglers who thrive very well in Malaysia.
As Mahbubani puts it, “[Singapore] is also geographically located within six hours of the major cities in China and India, the biggest powers in Asia. These features make Singapore the ideal crossroads between East and West, and the best choice for an Asian ‘capital’ in the coming Asian century. On balance, I am very optimistic for Singapore’s future because in the first fifty years, we have put together strong physical and human infrastructure that has enabled Singapore to become a key global city on our planet. As the Asian century unfolds, no other city can benefit as much from Asia’s growth as Singapore can. Hence, great times lie ahead for Singapore.”OSTB : Last time I looked at the map, Malaysia is more central than Singapore. So if Singapore can get rich from their geographical location, surely we can do better than Singapore. How? Do exactly what the Singaporeans have done.
At the regional level, even though Singapore can’t be defined as a “regional” power, nonetheless it has nonetheless achieved a high degree of influence.In 1965, the country’s GDP per capita was slightly above $500. Since then it has risen 107-fold and when calculated in purchasing power parity terms the figure today is $65,000, behind only Qatar in the world rankings. And in the last nine years alone, the figure has almost doubled.Moreover, the model offered by Singapore is not one based on economic growth alone, but also on human development. It is the only Asian country to be ranked among the top ten on the UN Human Development Index. As Mahbubani notes, the city-state has achieved these outcomes by applying “the seven pillars of Western wisdom namely: free market economics, science and technology, meritocracy, pragmatism, a culture of peace, the rule of law, and education.Now that other Asian countries are following Singapore in implementing these pillars of Western wisdom, it is not surprising that more and more Asian countries are succeeding.
OSTB : Affirmative action does not mean no meritocracy. Affirmative action can always be married with meritocracy. We have failed miserably in this area. Our planners have failed miserably to marry affirmative action with meritocracy. We have messed up free markets. Sampai bila nak guna AP Pak Tuan? Kalau tak ada AP, harga kereta impot boleh turun sekurang-kurangnya RM45,000. Proton pula kena potong harga, mungkin Proton Iriz kena jual dengan harga RM12,000. Boleh ke? Tin Milo juga. Not enough Science and technology is being used in peoples’ daily lives. We are not a scientific people yet. Masih percaya ustaz jin, ustaz hantu, ustaz bomoh, ustaz kelapa and all sorts of rubbish. Rule of law pun dah jadi macam kandang kerbau. Dia boleh buat suka hati. Siapa dia suka tak payah kena hudud. ‘Video itu besi’ dia kata.Siapa dia tak suka boleh kena Akta Hasutan lah, Penal Code lah. Ikut suka hati dia.
The guiding role of Singapore is visible in the Singapore-led industrial parks in China, such as Suzhou Industry Park and the Tianjin Eco City. It can be fairly said that the country won what former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously described as the “global skills race” and thanks to this commendable achievement, especially taking into consideration its starting point, now Singapore’s education system is, as Mahbubani says, “universally admired… Its maths textbooks are used in places as distant as California, South Africa, and the Netherlands. Singapore students have done well in PISA tests and the National University of Singapore (NUS) is now ranked as the top university in all of Asia.”OSTB : Bab Sains dan Matematik pula, dulu kita duduk tepi longkang. Sekarang kita dah hanyut dalam air longkang. In the international PISA Scores, Malaysia is falling down, down and down. Going down the drain. Here is my prediction : tak lama lagi we will ban the PISA Score people from coming to Malaysia. Or we will refuse to participate in the PISA Score ratings. Just wait and see.Baru kita boleh syiok sendiri. Baru kita boleh kekal sebagai Jaguh Kampong. Bolehlah kita compare diri kita dengan Basutoland, Bantustan and Lesotho. Compared to these countries (which do not exist anymore) Malaysia is still champion. Aiwa ! Aiwa !
Ataupun kita buat Halal Pisa Scores. Only for Islamic countries. Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mauritania, Chad, Boko Haramistan and places like that.
Moreover, the strategic centrality of Singapore in Asia in all probability will increase even further when the infrastructural interconnection of Southeast Asia with the rest of Asia becomes reality. It is difficult to overstate the relevance of the planned Kunming-Singapore railway project, which will constitute a crucial link between China and Southeast Asian countries. Mahbubani is clear on the advantages offered by this project, observing that, “It is expected to increase regional economic integration and increase China’s economic ties with Southeast Asia. Singapore would benefit enormously from the establishment of this railway. Firstly, the railway will provide a cheap and efficient way for Singapore to acquire resources. Meanwhile, other countries can use it to take better advantage of Singapore’s technical expertise and entrepôt status to earn more gains from trade. Secondly, the railway would enhance Singapore’s status as a logistics hub. Each year, the Port of Singapore has a throughput of more than 550 million tons of cargo. Much of it will continue to travel around the region on ships, but Singapore’s hub status will be further enhanced if some of the cargo can be distributed to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia by rail as well. This is why Singapore strongly supports this Singapore-Kunming link.”OSTB : Kalau kita sudah mati akal, tak tahu apa nak buat, just follow what China and Singapore will be doing. If the railway is going from Kunming to Singapore just make sure we build large capacity railway stations, inland ports, railway repair yards, inland container terminals, duty free export zones etc. Ikut saja. Tak payah pikir panjang. And equip our people with the skills, knowledge and training to be part of this process. Embrace the opportunities. Dont run away from the real world. Buat apa nak susah-susah pergi berjihad di Syria? Wasting your time. Belum tentu pun boleh masuk syurga. Silap haribulan, masuk neraka pun boleh.
In the coming decades Singapore is poised to take full advantage of one of its other intangible assets: its diplomatic skills and capacities. With the rivalry between the U.S. and China on the rise, Singapore has the potential to work as a broker and cultural facilitator between the two superpowers, a sort of “Asian Switzerland,” as Donato suggests. Donato argues, in fact, that the country could be defined as “less neutral than Switzerland in Europe, but more equidistant.”
OSTB : Bab ini Malaysia lagi hebat. Hamas terrorists are welcome here. Ikhwan terrorists are welcome here. ISIS can freely recruit here. The Jemaah Islamiyah leader lived here for 14 years as a PR. MORO rebel leaders are welcome here – including the fellow who planned that Lahad Datu attack in 2013. Thai separatists can find refuge here. Aceh rebels can find refuge here. All the world’s bad hats can be found here. We welcome them here. When we broker peace talks between the Moros, they kidnap our people pula. Then we have to pay ransom pula. That is how we conduct ourselves. Macam ini boleh jadi kaya ke?
Clearly, Singapore could be important for the West, especially during periods of economic turbulence. It is worth noting that the first free trade agreement negotiated by the European Union with an ASEAN country has been with Singapore. Now, with the world becoming ever more Asian-centred, the West should accept and accommodate this power shift. In doing so, it should look to Singapore as a potential partner and crucial facilitator – the country that will be at the heart of the Asian century.
OSTB : So Singapore will be at the heart of the Asian century. I believe they will. But where will Malaysia be? The PM has said that Malaysia should export his Shariah Index to the whole world. I have a suggestion – maybe the Prime Minister can take his Shariah Index and volunteer for that inaugural space mission to Mars that they are planning? You know – get a head start and export the Shariah Index to Mars. The mission does require Permanent Resident status though, on planet Mars.
Gabriele Giovannini is a PhD Candidate in IR at Northumbria University in Newcastle and was a Visiting Researcher at the ASEAN School of the Yunnan Finance and Economics University. Emanuele Schibotto has a PhD in Geopolitics from Marconi University in Rome. This article was first published in Longitude, the Italian monthly on world affairs.