EDB’s refusal to disclose lost UNSW money is an outrage

The Economic Development Board (EDB) has stated that it will not reveal how much money it has lost over the closure of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) campus in Singapore.

In case it has forgotten, its funds come from the toil and sweat of Singaporeans, not money it has privately earned. Its refusal to make a full and public disclosure of the money lost is outrageous and unacceptable.

Moreover, that a multi-million dollar project can fail so spectacularly and in so short a time signals incompetence and an appalling lack of foresight at the highest levels. But will there be an inquiry into what went wrong and who the responsible decision-makers are? Given the PAP system, hell will freeze over first.

With the plastering over of past government failures – including the embarrassing Suzhou Industrial Park debacle, the careless acquisition of Shin Corp by Temasek bordering on the criminal, and the endorsement of the NKF by ministers despite the corruptness of Mr T T Durai and company just to name a few scandals – why should anyone expect anything different over the present UNSW crash?

Yet, Singaporeans must not accept the status quo. A people who are fearful or indifferent to public affairs encourage corruption and abuse by the State. It is hugely important for citizens to not only be aware of what our Government is doing, but also to register our voices of displeasure. The clearer and louder the better.

Apart from the lack of transparency from the EDB, there is also the question of the PAP’s strategy of trying to lure foreign academic brains to Singapore.

First there was Warwick University and the London School of Economics which turned down the EDB’s invitation to set up shop here. Then there was the controversy over British drug scientist Dr Simon Shorvon and his subsequent departure resulting in the loss of millions of investment dollars. And now the UNSW collapse.

All this wasted time and resources can be avoided if we concentrate on developing our very own Singaporean talent of which is not in short supply. The only thing that is holding back our institutions of higher learning is the refusal of the PAP to allow academic freedom in this country.

In the world of academia, minds need the freedom to clash, prod and play. Only then can a culture conducive to research develop. And only when research flourishes can our universities attain the stature and reputation we seek.

But the PAP system is anathema to the development of academia. Dictatorial systems that brook no dissent and research minds that thrive on questioning authority are sworn enemies.

The PAP tries to get around this problem by buying academic (and subservient) talent from overseas. Throwing money to entice academic “stars” while keeping an authoritarian lid on society is like trying to light a candle in a thunderstorm.

The continued PAP arm-lock on Singapore is hurting this country and the future of the people. The current UNSW mess is but a minor symptom of a much bigger disease that afflicts this country.

Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party