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The Irony that is this Country May 23, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

The Mainstream Media of Singapore has always been trumpeting one catch line or another by the government. Recently the hub word has been bandied about regulary; Singapore wants to be an Education Hub, a Biomedical Hub, a Medical Hub, a Cosmopolitan Hub, a Hub for the arts, legal hub, arbitration hub, commercial hub and so on so forth. Basically if one followed the emergence of the word “hub” in the government lingo that it is highly likely that one can get the idea that Singapore basically wants to be the “hub” of almost anything as far as is practically possible.

 Of course as a trite saying goes, saying is one thing and doing another. In a quest to become more vibrant the government brought in the Crazy Horse, which has since gone back to France due to restrictions in Singapore. Then there was this issue about the direction Singapore is currently taking in the area of biomedical research; which saw the “Clash of Titans” between Philp Yeo and Lee Wei Ling, and of course one must not forget the lively Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park. Previously, the University of Warwick also refused to set up shop in Singapore, citing “academic freedom” as the hinge factor. And now the University of New South Wales has decided to close down their branch in Singapore.

Therefore it appears that the goal of becoming a, for lack of a better word, “multi-hub”, have taken a beating, (Even CNA seems to think so, stating that “The episode is clearly damaging to Singapore’s aim to be a global schoolhouse.”) In fact it appears that government initiatives have often for some reason either experienced diminishing returns or resulted in some kind of loss.

However all is not yet loss for Singapore. While Singapore at present has “inquisitors” going around championing the discrimination of fellow human beings and people casting aspersions on other countries around the world, there are positive developments, independent from authority, which do have the potential to reap returns to Singapore; as long as the authorities do not decide to do an “Operation Coldstore”.

Just recently, Lee Kin Mun, better known as “Mr Brown” (though not to some people are MICA) was featured in the World Business Magazine as one of Asia’s top 20 progressives. As one commentor noted, he was the only Singaporean featured and he is not even a minister!

Besides that, Singapore also has its own art talents in the form of Leslie Kee, who’s book was banned because it contained some pictures revealing some strands of pubic hair and Martyn See, who has made films which have been banned because it tells history in a way that is displeasing to the powers that be. And not to mention the fact that Singapore has a rather dynamic blogosphere, though it is currently undergoing a slow period having seen the departure of certain prominent bloggers.

Unfortunately herein lies the irony. Notwithstanding the potential contributions which people like Lee Kin Mun, Leslie Kee and Martyn See can provide,  by virtue of the fact that they do not conform to the National Scripture (that Singapore is an Asian Society with the “mysterious” Asian values which only GP students bother to define), thus are they hampered by the powers that be. The irony is that these people probably can or have done more for the arts scene than the authorities’ clumsy attempts to do so, but yet because they are seen to be “deviants” they are often treated as such. Even the blogosphere, which can probably do what only David Marshall managed to do in the 1950s 1960s, namely to get the common man to start thinking outside of the rice bowl, has been subject to ridicule and vague threats; at one time the blogosphere was likened to insurgents!

In essence, as long as the government persists in “artificial dynamism” then Singapore’s dreams of being a multi hub will be just that, a dream. The sad thing is that the factors which, given a conducive environment, can help Singapore transform dreams to reality, are often either given an environment which is detrimental at best or suppressive at worst. What an irony!



1. kevin.l - May 24, 2007

That’s the keyword isn’t it? “Artificial”. Really, the government needs to “Get Real”

2. Elosha - May 24, 2007

Just look at our “multi-modal world-class transport system” vs. Hong Kong’s truly multi-modal system. What transport hub are we talking about compared to cities like the fragrant harbour?

Artificiality is Singapore. The veneer of efficiency and effectiveness in chasing the dollar. Everything else is subsumed into this culture of materialism and greed.

3. Another Reader - May 24, 2007

Dear Ned Stark,

May I point you to another area that Mr Lee Kin Mun is also mentioned. He is noted in Amnesty International Report 2007, as shown below.


There you are, we are indeed in the “world class” news. We are always “good for something”. Tell Mr Lee (no, not LKM) that he is not as famous as LKM.

4. kevin.l - May 24, 2007

Another news article on CNA caught my eye. “Minister’s call to give Singapore a buzz”. Now they talk about Singapore as brand. What’s up with this really? Does Singapore really need to be a brand or run like a company to get anywhere globally? Is it really necessary? People feel detached as it is already, do we really want to make this country more “artificial” than it already is?

5. celluloidrealitys - May 24, 2007

It’s a corporation masquerading as a brand. That’s what you get when you have economists and technocrats running a nation, because they are not all that bright to understand that not everything is about dollars and cents.

We’ve got to put them back into the agencies where they belong, crunching numbers when told to do so, and not creating an artificial construct for their numbers to look swell.

6. kevin.l - May 24, 2007

Or in some cases, make their numbers swell looking. 😛

7. guojun - May 24, 2007

Well, that’s always been it what. Singapore is soulless because everything is counted in numbers. We are just statistics aren’t we? And because it’s worked for them so far, (i.e. the statistics are good), they’re not going to see the need for change – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, remember?

It’s very clear that Singaporean is a corporation masquerading behind the face of a country. Best part is when you see the Gahmen wanting our money and work but not our problems – remember, most of our problems are actually our fault, or so they want us to think.

So is there anything real about Singapore? WE are real. The face of Singapore, however, is a porcelain one. One day, this face will begin to crack. The question now is WHEN.

8. Ned Stark - May 24, 2007

Actually another exercise in Irony was the much hyped IMF meeting last year. Despite doing all they could to raise Singapore’s international standing, they ended up making Singapore look like a paranoid state which equates civil society protests to terrorism.Unfortunately I was afraid of rambling and did not raise that point.

9. Funny link about hub - May 24, 2007

I like the idea of reshaping the island to look like a hub instead. Maybe this is a better idea (very funny): http://singaporedonkey.wordpress.com/2007/03/10/singapore-reshaped-into-circular-island-so-it-looks-more-like-a-hub/

10. Ned Stark - May 24, 2007

Singapore Donkey is a nice site. One of my favourites is the part about a law prof hitting Mr Lee with a bible and Chee Soon Juan going to be crucified.

To all commentors,
Thank you for your comments. It is heartening to know that there are concerned netizens out there.

11. neutral bystander - May 24, 2007

i think it’s not artificial dynamism. but rather controlled dynamism.

it would seem to be more apt.

12. Ned Stark - May 24, 2007

Then the question comes in; can dynamism be controlled? Because it appears that dynamism is something to be fostered but not something a person has direct control over.

13. kevin.l - May 25, 2007

Controlled dynamism? Sounds paradoxical to me. However I would like to think that govt. has been throwing in some parameters (this hub, that hub) in the hope that in the mixing of variables (people, mnc’s, FT’s) would yield a favorable outcome (higher GDP, greater economic growth, etc).

Think of it as a lava lamp. You got the wax dancing around in paraffin all within the confines of the glass bottle. Hoping it will turn out some pretty shapes. 😛

14. K.L. Sim - May 25, 2007

It is high time for Singapore to stop harpping about ‘hubs’. The only hub you need is the ‘libido hub’ so that you don’t need to import ‘foreign talents’ as you put it. Foreign talents will only drain your resources and you could be back to square one when they leave. Too many ‘best in the world’ have been claimed but have not been backed up with products. Possibly the one that ‘pay people for not to be corrupted ‘ is the first in the world. What does it imply? Probably, these people are capable of being corrupted. So why claim Singapore is incorruptable? Is it rhetoric or fact?

15. punter - May 25, 2007

Why no mention of gambling hub? Too politically sensitive ah?

16. guojun - May 25, 2007

Singapore is incorruptible is rhetoric AND fact…Fact for us, because once we are corrupted we hong kan already. Rhetoric because i think corruption includes the ability to raise your salaries from time to time…

17. scb - May 27, 2007

Singapore is a Sin Galore and a hub for everything; gamblings, sex, spa, massage, any vice and there is no need to advertise, just move around the tiny Island and one sees all!

18. K.L. Sim - May 28, 2007


Accept your opinion, but I do not agree that increasing one’s salary is corruption. Attribute the increase as an inducement for incorruptibility is doing a disservice to those receiving it. ‘Incorruptibility’ is a quality of one’s integrity. With no one commenting on it, put a doubt in my mind whether the ‘Singaporeans’ Integrity’ could be bought and sold.

19. guojun - May 29, 2007

Well, it’s not that no one wants to comment on it. It’s just that no one dares, because the salary debate runs the very strong risk of someone up there pretending to see the ‘nepotism’ argument and slapping you with a defamation suit.

Singaporean Integrity is not a commodity because it never existed – right now, if someone gave me a large sum of money to pay off my bond and do PhD research, i would very strongly consider it. Similarly, people go overseas to work because the pay is better. And all these people are called ‘quitters’.

The Singaporean Integrity is a construct enforced by rules. It’s not a concept in society. It would do well for most of us to perceive and see this, and not assume it as a given.

20. RE Clarifications on University Admission « Winter Is Coming - July 18, 2007

[…] is rather sad if the above is true, I guess it could be added under one of my old posts entitled The Irony that is this Country, where foreigners get to enjoy the country while locals get to sacrifice career time and the prime […]

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