This article was published before the general elections in 2001. It warned of the dire circumstances Singaporeans would face if the PAP maintained its autocratic control of the country. It called for Singaporeans to rally around democracy. Was it in vain? Is it now too late?
If Singaporeans think that this recession is like the ones before and that all we need to do to see economic recovery again is to just follow the PAP’s directions, you are in for a nasty shock.
What is disturbing is that the PAP doesn’t even admit that the economy has gone horribly wrong.
What went wrong?
The first recession in Singapore occurred in 1974. Another one took place in 1985. The third was in 1997. These downturns came in approximately ten-year cycles.
The recession this year is thus somewhat out of the ordinary coming so shortly after the Asian crisis. Worse, Singapore is the first country in Asia to go into a recession in the aftermath of the 1997 crisis.
How did the economy turn out so wrong in such a short time? More important, is Singapore’s economic fundamentals as sound as the PAP makes it out to be?
To answer these questions, we must first look at the structure of the economy. The country started off as a haven for foreign investments by giving thousands of multi-national companies (MNCs) lavish tax incentives to set up shop here. This was not a bad strategy as the economy needed a kick-start in the 1960s.
But instead of letting the people gradually take the lead in driving the economy, the PAP started to grab all the businesses for itself through government-linked companies (GLCs), knowing that by controlling the economy, it would also control the political system.
While this may have been good for the PAP, it did untold damage to Singapore’s economy. And because the party dominated the country so completely, the entrepreneurial spirit among Singaporeans took a beating so much so that while Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea became Asia’s engineering powerhouses, and Hong Kong the financial capital of Asia, Singapore remained dependent on foreign investors.
As for the GLCs, most of them are under-performing and cannot compete at the international level.
Workers end up paying
And so with an economy addicted to foreign capital, Singapore has become an economic cripple, abjectly at the mercy of MNCs.
Investors are constantly looking for cheaper and cheaper labour and resources in order to maximise their profits, and they are finding them in places like Malaysia and Thailand.
Cheaper labour means lower workers’ wages. Thus in order to compete with our neighbours, the PAP has had to suppress wages in Singapore. It does this by cutting the workers’ CPF and bringing in so-called foreign talent.
The problem is that the high cost of living makes it extremely difficult for Singaporeans to eke out a decent living. All this means that workers are continually penalised for the PAP’s own selfish interests in preserving its hold on power.
Singaporeans are hoping that the U.S. economy will turn around in the next few months and bail out our economy. Even if the economy in the U.S. picks up, Singaporeans are going to be under the same pressure to take wage cuts for the reasons explained above.
The people must realise that gone are the days when we saw double-digit growth figures and took home 3-month bonus pay packets. Singapores economy has come to a stage that without political liberalisation, economic growth is going to be harder to come by.
Other troubles on the way
And as if the economic woes were not enough, Singaporeans find themselves paying for such high HDB prices that they have little left for their retirement. This is a direct consequence on the PAPs HDB-CPF policy.
Singaporeans have been lulled, from the years of propaganda through a controlled media, into thinking that PAP has all the answers and that there is nothing to worry about. They have never been more wrong.
If things are not changed soon, the point will come when we will one day wake up and find ourselves in more trouble than we could have ever imagined.
Wake up from your slumber, Singapore. Things are are not well at all. Be worried. Be very worried.