Category Archives: Singapore

Singapore in Good Hands, the Lee Family Feud Notwithstanding

It is easy for the public to wade into polemics and politics even when something is essentially a family spat. When what is at stake is an attack on the system, it goes beyond a family affair.

Voicing an opinion in this era of social engagement is unstoppable. Let me start, with a comment rooted in frivolity, by dipping myself into the unexpected burst of sensitive charges in Singapore that has set international tongues wagging.

China may have abandoned its one-child policy, but I think families in Singapore, and elsewhere, must consider giving it weightage. It may sound feather-brained, yet, at least it will save families from having to lock horns in public over trivialities that destroy unity, harmony and peace.

The family spat that has put Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an unenviable spot goes to show that without brothers and sisters to contend with, issues will find easy resolution. No egos to get bruised or animosities to become toxic!

No to Monuments

Late Lee had willed that the house he lived in must be demolished after his death, firmly opposed as he was to monuments and memorials. His place will be firmly etched in the annals of history as a powerful, scholarly and visionary leader who was instrumental in the phenomenal economic success of Singapore.

The incident only goes to show that no matter how educated, affluent and civilised you are, family tussles can come to a boil, with sophistication and maturity in reactions seriously compromised.

LKY2

Preparing to Leave Singapore

Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the Prime Minister’s younger brother, has generally been soft and gentle, keeping a low profile despite the powerful positions he has held and seldom seeking attention, going by what I have read about him in the past.

I find it shocking that he was preparing to leave Singapore over his differences with the Prime Minister and over fears that state organs may be used against him and his family. That appears to be too far-fetched an apprehension.

Notwithstanding the family feud that has spilled into the open, my faith in the Singapore leadership remains firm. The country has been and is in good hands. No crystal ball gazing can help one determine how it will be in the future.

Singapore’s Best Bet

There have been many governmental policies that have not resonated well with me. I have consistently blogged against the relentless focus on boosting the country’s population and globalisation at the expense of locals in terms of education and employment. There is no wavering on that even now.

Mr Lee and his ministerial team, however, are Singapore’s best bet amid the challenges all around – the most significant one being the terror threat within and outside the country which is at the highest ever with the recent arrest of an ISIS sympathiser.

Shelley, Ozymandias and LKY

An avid reader, the late leader himself, though, may have viewed history as ephemeral. The statement from Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling (brother and neurosurgeon sister of PM Lee respectively) referred to the late leader as having pointed to PB Shelley’s memorable sonnet, Ozymandias, to explain his desire to have the Oxley Road house demolished.

Oh, what a masterly piece of poetic genius Ozymandias is! I am reproducing the last few lines of the poem here.

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The scuffle within Singapore’s preeminent family has indeed taken me back to my days as a student of Literature

Although not all has been well among the siblings, with tension simmering since the March 2015 death of Lee Kuan Yew, I did not think it will come to this pass. The Western media are certain to play up the feud, flashing their favourite themes of a lack of free speech in Singapore.

Revulsion for Abuse of History

I have a personal revulsion for any use of the past to float a stream of thought in defence or derision of the present. History, to me, is not a lesson for us to learn from. History is for knowledge acquisition, not a weapon for the world to use against a transformative way of life.

A past that has been full of evil cannot be taken to mean it will fester and manifest itself in the present. Just as any goodness and virtues of the past need not necessarily be carried over to the present. Today’s Greece is a far cry from ancient Greece.

However, heritage getting reduced to rubble will not find favour with me.

As for the dispute around the Oxley Road house of Late Lee, I may like to see it preserved but it is for the family to address.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore

Asia Brimming with People, Staring at Losing Jobs to Machines

Singapore Must Look at Trimming Population, Economy is Not Everything!

While the world has seen volleys after volleys the last few years on how machines will take away jobs from humans I am not certain the warning signals have been heeded to by establishments in Asia – a region that has the distinction of being the biggest contributor to the global population mess.

Stealing technologies and aping the developed West in everything except population control, Asia and the Islamic world have differentiated themselves from the visionaries in one area of life – that of the procreation variety.

For the logical mind, the alarming mass of human resources in Asia amid an emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI)-centric employment landscape is a matter of serious concern. 

Region of Opportunity?

Businesses, however, see Asia as a region of opportunity as they have more than four billion people to sell their ware to.

The affluent West is reaching a saturation point in terms of business potential, with the population paling to insignificance when weighed against Asia which is bursting at its seams.

Nonetheless, Asia, which should be the most worried, appears least perturbed primarily because it views the population boom as a boon as multinational companies will focus more on the region. That could keep the region’s economy buzzing even as an acceleration in people losing jobs is on the horizon.

Overpopulation

Unemployment Creeping up in Singapore

This is precisely what Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was talking about in his May Day address, as reported in the local media. His message was simple: “Singapore’s economy is picking up and may do better than it did last year. However, unemployment is also creeping up

The implication, even a direct inference, is that the Government exchequer can be expected to expand while its constituents take a hit.

Economy in Transition? Or a Maturing Economy?

Mr Lee’s reference to an economy in transition is appropriate as the world is bracing up for major workforce disruptions, enabled by AI-based technological advancements even as billions of smart devices are bursting on the scene in an era of the Internet of Things. An era where people face the threat of having to jostle with the likes of robots and drones for jobs!

Where clarity evaporates is when Mr Lee says “As the economy matures, I expect that to creep up.”

in my opinion, Singapore is a part of the developed world and, therefore, already a mature economy. I don’t see any reason why maturity in the economy is not in place. So, actions are needed to change the course of the economy, with priority on jobs for locals and not on affluence of the establishment.

It may be a matter of fact that other developed countries have unemployment rates of 5 per cent or higher but that is not going to be of any comfort to those losing jobs. Particularly if job losses are due to easy access to foreign personnel.

Asia accounts for 60% of the world’s population, which is set to hit eight billion soon. China and Asia alone account for about 40% of the global population. China recently even abandoned its one-child policy as the idea of more people translates to more opportunities for businesses.

Singapore Must Trim Population

I do realise foreigners in Singapore are finding it hard to get permanent residence. If they are lending value to the economy I will welcome the granting of PR to them. But I see too much mediocrity from across the shores. As I had pointed out in my earlier posts, even foreign diploma holders are landing jobs here when locals with degrees find it a struggle.

Singapore must look at ways to trim the population early without doing all it can to boost it and make living in the country difficult for residents. If a country is made up of 40% foreigners that is a sorry state of affairs when even in countries that are hundreds of times bigger it stands at just around 20% – for instance, in the U.S.

There have been reports about Singapore continuing with its tradition of land reclamation to accommodate more people. That amid the threat of global warming, melting glaciers and rising sea levels gobbling up land!

SkillsFuture

SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” Initiatives

Initiatives such as SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” are laudable, given that upskilling and lifelong learning are essential amid the fluidity all around. Still, they appear to me as mere exercises in escapism.

Business that fail to tap outsourcing or technologies or show an unwillingness to train locals to overcome any gaps in skills can be allowed to scoot. They will be disadvantaged more than Singaporeans as at least they will get back the high quality of life, beyond lucre, they were used to.

If protectionism, in terms of trade and jobs, is in the interest of the industrialised West, it is their prerogative and the rest of the world seeking alms from them only amounts to looking for the easy way out, demonstrating a sign of weakness.

The answer lies in Singapore looking at the interest of its people first, even if that meant turning protectionist.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Robots Stealing Jobs, Singapore, Singapore job scene

Finally, Amos Yee is Free to Spread Message of Anarchist Communism

U.S. Grants 18-year-old Lawbreaker Asylum

So, finally, precocious Singaporean blogger Amos Yee (18) will be able to spread his message of “anarchist communism and ending private property and wage labor.”

Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead” was among the posts the juvenile delinquent released when Singapore’s founding father (91) passed away on 23 March 2015. 

Amos Yee was then 16 and had been regularly attacking Christianity and Islam in his posts using unprintable four-letter words. To him, both Lee and Jesus Christ were “malicious but deceive others into thinking they are both compassionate and kind.”

amos-yee-1He was largely ignored by the Singapore government, treating him with kid gloves, but was arrested following his post on Lee Kuan Yew’s death. 

After all, there had to be an end to incessant, immature rant against both Islam and Christianity in his own interest as he could have easily become the target of physical attacks in a world that was becoming communally sensitive.

But to the U.S. Immigration Judge who granted Amos Yee asylum yesterday the law-breaker was politically persecuted in Singapore. That shows how intellectually impoverished the liberals and the judiciary in the U.S. are.

Why NO Absolute Freedom for Snowden, Assange, Fischer and More?

If the U.S. is a country that stands by absolute freedom, why is Edward Snowden on the run, now taking refuge in Russia. Why did it hound the greatest ever chess player, late Bobby Fischer, so much that he gave up his American citizenship and settled down in Iceland after hopping from one country to another?

Even whistleblower Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is under house arrest, taking shelter in the Ecuador Embassy in London.

And just what are the travel bans? Aren’t they actions infringing on not that of individual freedom but that of entire nations?

Singapore is not a country to be rattled by publicity-seeking 15-year-olds. As I had argued in a recent post, the fact that Yee was able to escape from Singapore and land in the U.S. is a clear pointer that he was not on the country’s watchlist

I am a regular blogger with my posts often being critical of politicians, parties and countries. I have argued against some of Singapore’s policies as well, but never with any personal or any other agenda. I merely wear the hat of a critic and seek to advance my thoughts with reason, logic and a sense of responsibility.

I do not think Singapore will crack down on objective criticism. 

But the U.S. loves duds, there are millions of them the world over, Uncle Sam. Go get them!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Amos Yee, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore

Travel Ban, Hate Crimes and Cautions for Singapore

US President Donald Trump is expected to sign tomorrow a revised Executive Order restricting with travel restrictions that will affect those from some countries. This is based on a CNN report available here.

The Appeals Court had last month ruled against the travel ban that was also opposed by top American companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Adobe, Uber, LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter, Airbnb, eBay and Levi Strauss.

A few companies such as Cisco Systems, IBM and HP were not part of an Amicus Brief that more than 125 companies had signed opposing the bans. They were perhaps saving their time and resources for a battle against any curbs on H1B visas that are also on Mr Trump’s radar.

foreigners-benefit-singapore

Common Themes

The Amicus Brief had made a spirited defence of immigrants with messaging that reminds me of the rhetoric that Singapore often comes up with on the foreign mediocrity that the country imports in the name of talent. Here is a sample:

  • Immigrants do not take jobs away from U.S. citizens—they create them.
  • Immigrants fuel the growth of the economy.
  • When immigrants enter the labour force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives.

To me, immigration should not be confined to its economic impact on a country. It is about an excessive influx affecting the quality of life. 

Moreover, hate crimes are becoming routine in the U.S. because of the unrestricted liberalism in the country. They affect Americans and residents of all races. It is easy to blame it on bigotry, but naïve to ignore the provocations.

Singapore must exercise caution and avoid actions that will land the country in social trouble. Singaporeans must not let their guard down and allow their interests to be compromised – be they in terms of jobs or places in universities.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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    Filed under Hate Crimes, Singapore, Trump

    Raising of Re-Employment Age is No Big Deal

    Only One Decision Will Address the Issue: Cutting Down Import of Foreign “Talent” / Mediocrity

    So, Singapore has raised the re-employment age of eligible Singaporeans to 67 from the current 65. While this has become law and is a welcome move I don’t think it is any big deal for two reasons:

    1. This law will be difficult to enforce in a country that is more friendly to businesses than its constituents. Also, the key word is “eligible” and employers can trot out any number of excuses that the government will lap up.
    2. Young graduates are still finding it difficult to get entry-level jobs.

    The one action that will have been meaningful is to cut down all import of foreign workforce by at least 75%. The employers will then automatically be obliged to hire local talent. Resisting it will only mean that they are unwilling to provide suitable training to the locals or they simply want cheap labour. Both are unacceptable!

    And all hell will not break loose! If they are unable to bring local resources to fill their job requirements they should go the virtual hiring route and rely on a remote workforce.

    As I had argued in several of my posts earlier, businesses that are not ready to wake up to the new dynamic don’t deserve to exist. They can pack up and set up shop wherever they like. 

    Singapore will still not be the loser. Lower populations will ensure a better quality of life for Singaporeans and jobs for all without the overpopulation mess we are in currently.

    G Joslin Vethakumar

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    Filed under Jobs and Places, Singapore

    My Wishlist: Less Globalisation, More Localisation

    The economy is not everything, particularly so if globalisation leaves local populations in the lurch.

    From Brexit to Trump and more to come (Germany, France, the Netherlands, etc.), globalisation is proving to be the farce it is.

    Mediocrity, Terror and Crime

    A borderless world is welcome only if you are prepared to bring in mediocrity while being open to the risk of terrorism and imported crime from rapes to murders.

    Locals in each of the advanced countries have begun looking for jobs elsewhere as:

    • their countries are being flooded with personnel from the Third World merely because businesses want cheap workforce
    • they are losing their identity in their own land and peace has ground to a halt because of the refugee influx

    The Labour Crunch Claptrap in Singapore

    And in countries such as Singapore the locals are being led to believe that there is a labour crunch when they themselves are going without jobs.

    Singapore is already filled with more people than it can take, with foreign mediocrity accounting for a significant chunk of the population. The casualty is the high quality of life that Singaporeans used to enjoy not too long ago.

    But then they are a complacent, nervous bunch worried about having to stare at bankruptcy because of any resistance.

    24438dab-4704-4660-b4a1-c51281a6b2e7_gardens-by-the-bay

    Citizenry-First Strategy Paramount

    The state of the economy is not everything, but a citizenry-first strategy is paramount. To restore the high quality of life of the past, Singapore must start to trim its population by at least 10%. I hope to see that happen in 2017.

    I came up with my 2016 wish-list at the start of this year. I had then argued that Singapore has to look at ways to reinvigorate its citizens with an inward orientation.

    year_of_the_rooster

    I have not seen any of my yearnings from that list fructify, so I am linking this post to my January 1, 2016 Wishlist for Singapore.

    Let me also link to another of my posts from January 2016, where I talked about jobs for every Singaporean must be a matter of right.

    I hope the Singapore Government learns from the globalisation lessons the world came to grips with in 2016, including in the most open of all countries (the U.S.) and does not take its citizens for a ride.

    I really wish I will not have to repeat the wishlist at the start of 2018!

    G Joslin Vethakumar

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    Filed under New Year, Singapore

    What “Personal” Friendship do PMs Modi and Lee Have?

    I am glad ties between Singapore and India are getting stronger. The Indian media, based on what I see on TV channels and read on news apps, have pushed to the backburner the visit of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to India.

    But I am amused by the statement of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “I deeply value your personal friendship, and your leadership in taking our bilateral relationship forward.” Mr Modi was referring to Mr Lee, whom he called a friend of India.

    What personal friendship is he talking about? Did they go to school together? Worked together? Or have the two really hit it off? Perhaps it was just a friendly gesture to a visiting PM!

    I cannot, however, ignore Mr Modi’s habit of boasting about “personal” friendships he has with world leaders, including with US President Barack Obama.

    http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/pm-lee-modi-hail-deepening-bilateral-ties

    G Joslin Vethakumar

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    Filed under News and politics, Singapore