An interviewee in the video Singapore: The New Hub for the Rich, Mr Antoine Casey, talked about Singapore and the newly built casinos as a draw for the super-rich around the world. He enthused: “I would never have believed that we would have two massive casinos here when I first arrived ten years ago but here we are, sitting on the roof of one now.” (1:40)
Just who is the “we” that Mr Casey is referring to? It sounds a lot like Mr Casey may be referring to himself as a Singaporean.
You need a Flash Player enabled browser to view this YouTube video Mr Casey arrived in Singapore 10 years ago and now sits atop a sprawling casino complex, enjoying the most splendid glitter that money can buy. Good for him.
What he, perhaps, doesn’t realise is that Singaporeans have had little say in whether we wanted the casinos to be built in the first place. Are such projects the way to go for our economy? What are we doing to battle the money-laundering hub that we have become? Is the social impact of gambling and, together with it all the other vices, worth all the gold that is brought in?
There was no debate. Singaporeans did not have a say.
Now we have folks like Mr Casey making it sound as if we are all enjoying the wisdom of the PAP’s strategy of turning Singapore into a playground for the rich, and that somehow we are all in this together.
Reality check: We are not. If the money were to dry up, those who are here just for the bucks would make their way to the airport faster than you can yell “sell!” Let’s be absolutely honest, how many of our foreigner friends will sink their roots here, that is, give up their citizenship of their country of birth, and fight for this island come hell or highwater? How many will subject their sons to National Service to defend this country?
There is no doubt that we need foreign talent. In an age when people, and along with them their skills, are so mobile it would be silly for any society not to welcome talent into our economic midst. But it is not just talent the PAP wants to attract. It is money, in whatever shape or form. But didn’t someone once say that all that glitters is not gold?
This is what the Singapore Democrats are concerned about: That the PAP is dragging Singapore down the wrong path by attracting foreigners to Singapore who have one thing and only one thing in mind – to make money and live the high life here. Damn the consequences for the locals.
The F1 Grand Prix that the video highlights is a manifestation of this syndrome. The race is a sport in which Singaporeans show little interest. We don’t even have participants in the race, for goodness sake.
And yet much expense and fanfare is given to stage the event. How do the people benefit? Shops in the Marina Bay area are hard hit, some reporting that business was down by as much as 70 percent. Those in nearby Chinatown also saw a dive in takings of about 60 percent. The road closures and inconvenience to motorists are another bane to Singaporeans.
In fact the cost-benefit outcome is so questionable that the Government is unsure about hosting the race beyond 2012.
But again do we have a say in whether our country should host such an event?
Open up or else
Even as many Singaporeans struggle to keep their heads above water, other governments are pressing ours to open up our economy even more and give more jobs to their citizens. The Economic Times recently ran a frightening report that
India has asked Singapore to open up more services to allow a greater number of Indian professionals access the island…A comprehensive bilateral trade agreement between the two countries is being reviewed. “We want to take advantage of the second review to get more in services and are exploring all possibilities,” a commerce department official told ET. (emphasis added)
Besides requesting Singapore to take deeper commitments in medical, health-related and education services, India needs to ask for expanding the existing list of 127 occupations by which professionals are allowed entry into Singapore, pointed out Amit Mitra, secretary general, Ficci. “The additional list has to include chefs, physiotherapists, nurses, school teachers, nutritionists, professionals in entertainment and hospitality sectors,” he said.
Whether the PAP eventually agrees to such demands is not a matter Singaporeans have a say in. With the climate of fear, control of the media, and an election system that guarantees all but the PAP’s victory, the people are at the mercy of this Government.
And let’s not forget that Government has said it wants to raise the population to from our current 5 million to 6.5 million, mainly with foreigners.
But these questions are furthest from the minds of our foreigner friends. Some even defend and support the authoritarian system. Why? Because they stand to make money from it.
But where these people come to make money and play, it is where we bring up our children and where our future is inextricably bound. Unlike them we cannot simply pack up and leave when things turn sour. This is our home.
To be sure, the problem is notwith the foreign expatriates. It is with the PAP Government. Having no idea of how to bring our economy forward, it now has to resort to turn Singapore into a tax haven and a hub for vice.