At the present Parliament sitting, the Today newspaper reported that there was an “overwhelming sentiment” from MPs that we needed to focus more on our local small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and less on the multinational companies (MNCs). They have just woken up and, for that matter, are more than a decade late. (See here)
These views are not borne so much from enlightenment as they are a reaction to altered circumstances resulting from the current global economic meltdown.
At the heart of the crisis is the crippling of the economies of the United States and Europe from where the bulk of our multinational investments come. Without the continued inflow of capital and expertise from Western corporations our economy becomes a damp squib.
But how did we allow our economy to come to this stage in the first place? The simple answer is that the MPs have been extraordinarily efficient in engaging in groupthink.
All of them have meekly toed the line and couldn’t see the dangers of and hawking our economy to the cheapest bidder.
Now that these MNCs no longer have the wherewithal to continue investing in Singapore, the MPs are suddenly asking for our economy to be less dependent on the multinationals. What choice have we got?
Even if we wanted to return to the pre-crisis years and cling on to MNCs, we can’t because these corporations are facing economic uncertainty themselves. US President Barack Obama is even pushing for legislation to lure American MNCs back to the US.
The situation we find ourselves is unfortunately reminiscent of the colourful description of PAP MP Ms Lee Bee Wah: You don’t start looking for a toilet only when nature beckons. In other words, the MPs lack foresight.
For the record
In contrast, way before it became fashionable to question Singapore’s dependence on MNCs the Singapore Democrats have been urging a rethink of this economic approach.
In 1994, Dr Chee Soon Juan had already cautioned against such an addiction to foreign multinationals in his book Dare To Change:
Have we become overly reliant on MNCs and foreign capital? If so, is it wise for us to continue being so dependent?…For the long-term well-being of its economy, Singapore must pay more attention to its private sector. To achieve this, the Government begin by re-channeling some of the low-tax incentives given to the MNCs to the local private sector.
This was repeated in Your Future, My Faith, Our Freedom in 2001:
If Singapore is going to assist local private companies in becoming more competitive, it must wean itself away from dependence on MNCs…The argument for scaling back Singapore’s dependence on MNCs is strong.
The latest was in A Nation Cheated:
Singapore’s over-reliance on MNCs has created an economy that finds it extremely hard to develop onto the next stage. SMEs have found it very difficult to survive, let alone flourish, in such an environment.
Were the MPs asleep all these years? Are these people paid to only react to problems when they arise by which time the problem often becomes ingrained and intractable?
If we had dealt with this problem years ago when the SDP first brought it up, might we not have been able to avert the current predicament in which our economy finds itself? At the very least, could we not have taken steps to minimise the effects on our economy when foreign investments retreat?
As it is, our Parliamentarians are now frantically trying to shut the proverbial barn door after the horses have bolted.
If this can happen, what about the other problems that the Singapore Democrats have identified?
The price we pay for stifling the opposition
Two important issues arise from this unfortunate scenario. The first is that it is never wise to stifle dissent as alternative ideas often come from opposing views that are relevant, even crucial, to the well-being of the country.
In any democracy, the SDP’s views would have been highlighted in the media. Economists, businesspeople, and consumers would have been able to weigh in on the issue which would then enter into public debate.
Second, the Singapore Democrats have often been accused of focusing on human rights and not proposing viable alternative policies. Does this episode not show once and for all the untruth of such an allegation?
At the very least, should not the media now give credit where credit is due and tell the people that, one, SDP is a constructive party and, two, that we have anticipated a problem that the Government is only now recognising?
Such information would be tremendously important for the electorate to know because vision, competence and the ability to anticipate problems are qualities that voters look for when choosing political parties during elections.
But we all know that the newspaper will not report favourably about the SDP. There is a reason why the PAP conrols the media.
This is the tragedy of an authoritarian system. Valid and important views are not heard as opposition parties are villified and shut out of the political process. As a consequence, society is the worse for it.
This is where our readers come in. Because the media’s agenda is to continue to censor the views of the Singapore Democrats, we ask our supporters to help us spread the truth by distributing this article to your family and friends.