Singapore Armchair Critic

A blog about politics and policies in Singapore and beyond

Tag: Singapore

Government Acknowledges Wealth Disparity in Singapore

Cherry-picking among the basket of 160 goods and services used in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) 2014 survey, finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam argues that the survey, which ranks Singapore as the world’s most expensive city, does not measure cost of living for an “ordinary local.”

Ahhh I see, Minister. Thank you for enlightening us “ordinary” Singaporeans, who not only have plebeian tastes and neither consume imported cheese, filet mignon nor don “Burberry-type raincoats,” but also lack the intelligence to understand that Singapore’s rocketing cost of living as measured by EIU does not affect us commoners.

The government spin reminds me of the infamous episode in which a Minister was questioned in parliament about the adequacy of social handouts and his idea of “subsistence living.” He snapped at his fellow PAP member of parliament: “How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” Continue reading…

China’s “National Education”: Lessons for Singapore

Warning: If your eyes automatically well up with tears each time you sing or hear your national anthem, then this post is not for you.

This week I was supposed to blog about the prospects of democratization in Malaysia and Singapore but I felt compelled to write this post after seeing the photograph below. It is an excerpt of a teaching guide and the highlighted parts translate as:

“Questions to prompt students to share their experience in singing and hearing the national anthem: When you hear the national anthem, does it bring to mind the Motherland? Does it remind you that you are a Chinese national? . . . Does it not evoke your sense of national pride and move you to tears? . .  .

Note: Should the teacher find that the student does not display strong emotions of patriotism/nationalism, do not criticize him. Accept his behavior but ask the student to reflect upon himself.” (emphasis mine) Continue reading…

Malaysia and Singapore: Winds of Change? (I)

Of late the going-ons in Malaysia have stirred up some excitement in Singapore. I am talking about the series of reforms Prime Minister Najib Razak rolled out recently. Last week, Najib announced that the Sedition Act will be repealed and replaced with the National Harmony Act; in April, the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) was replaced with a new legislation – the Security Offences (Special Measures) 2012 Act (SOSMA); a minimum wage policy was also introduced ahead of May Day; earlier, Najib also annulled a law that required newspaper owners to renew their printing licenses annually and amended other laws that curb public assembly and student participation in political activities.

The abolishment of the ISA, in particular, resonated with liberal-minded Singaporeans. The Online Citizen re-published a 1991 report which cited the then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying Singapore “will seriously consider abolishing the Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so.” And with Malaysia joining Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, China and Hong Kong with the introduction of a wage floor, Singapore has become the odd-one-out in the region (yes, even Myanmar is drafting a minimum wage bill).

Singaporeans seem to presume that our government will be pressured to implement political reforms in the footsteps of our neighbor. But will it really? Continue reading…

Hong Kong vs Singapore: Who’s Getting Ahead?

The relationship between Singapore and Hong Kong is one of rivalry. In the economic sense, I mean. We vie to be Asia’s financial hub, compete to be a haven for investors and rich migrants among others. But one realm in which Singapore never aspired to beat its rival is that of civil liberties – freedom of speech, protest rights and others. Singapore ranked 135th in the 2011 press freedom index, way behind Hong Kong which is in 54th place. Till this day, there is only one designated spot for public speeches and gathering in Singapore. The vibrant media, freedom of speech and protest cultures Hongkongers enjoy have always filled me with envy.

But recent developments in Hong Kong have been rather disturbing, and all-too-familiar to what we experience here in Singapore. Continue reading…

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