Egypt’s Mubarak resigns

TWO weeks ago, when I first read the news of the protests in Egypt, I cynically remarked to my wife that the protests will carry on for a few days then fizzle out. How wrong I was–and how glad I am that I was wrong! Every nation has its generation of heroes, who often comprise of the younger generation–more energetic, more idealistic and less cynical of the possibility of change. I believe Singapore’s time for change will come soon.

TWO weeks ago, when I first read the news of the protests in Egypt, which followed the popular uprising and toppling of the government in Tunisia, I cynically remarked to my wife that the protests will carry on for a few days then fizzle out. Life in Egypt will then return to “normal” under the authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for the past 30 years.

How wrong I was–and how glad I am that I was wrong! Just over an hour ago, Mubarak’s resignation was announced on state television by his recently-appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman. Following that brief 30-second message, scenes of jubilation erupted on Tahrir (Liberation) Square in central Cairo. Al Jazeera reported of protesters dropping to their knees in prayer and then rising and chanting “God is great”. A 30-year old Egyptian Al Jazeera reporter dropped all pretences of impartiality and shared that all her life she had known no other leader but Mubarak, and described her feelings of elation at his departure. Even the state television station newscaster reportedly cracked a smile after reading out her report. CNN reported that demonstrations initiated over the Internet, on Facebook and Twitter, had resulted in the downfall of the Middle East’s strongest dictators.

This is a momentous occasion for not just Egypt but the entire Arab world. Indeed, the “people power” revolution in Egypt will be an inspiration for all freedom-loving people in oppressed nations around the world.

I visited Egypt about six years ago as part of a diplomatic delegation when I was working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From our meetings with academics, journalists and officials there, I got the distinct impression that this was not just a great ancient civilisation, but a nation brimming with suppressed intellect and potential. At the time I was there, the main opposition leader, Ayman Nour, had just been released from prison and there were minor street protests against the government led by the Kifiya (Enough) movement. In the six years that passed since, little seemed to have changed. Nour would later get convicted and jailed again, following a creditable run at the presidency in the elections that year.

Last week, I watched a BBC programme which interviewed some educated Egyptians at local cafes to ask them for their views on the protests. One middle aged woman remarked that the young people on Tahrir Square were doing what her generation always wanted to do but never dared to.

Indeed, every nation has its generation of heroes, who often comprise of the younger generation–more energetic, more idealistic and less cynical of the possibility of change. I believe Singapore’s time for change will come soon. For the past 50 years, we too have been under the authoritarian rule of a party that pays lip service to the ideals of democracy and political freedom. While we have not suffered from the same economic mismanagement that Egypt has, our level of political suppression exceeds that of Egypt in many ways. For example, even a one-man protest is disallowed under “public order” laws passed just last year. How will we ever see scenes of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators thronging the Padang?

Yet I remain hopeful in the sensibility of Singaporeans. While I do not wish to see mass protests bringing our economy to a standstill, I hope that this election year, Singaporeans from all walks of life and all generations will turn out in force at election rallies to declare their support for democracy and freedom from fear. I hope that my fellow citizens will take the time and effort to study the candidates and their track records carefully, and vote with their hearts and their heads, not out of fear or ignorance.

We can have our own “mini-revolution” this year by giving the ruling party a historically low popular vote (less than 60 per cent will do the trick) and breakthrough with one or more GRCs. This is a prospect that I am much less cynical about, than I was about the Egyptian revolution!

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

32 thoughts on “Egypt’s Mubarak resigns”

  1. Dear Gerald, I sincerely applaud your bravery in coming out to give the people a credible choice, and would have no hesitation voting for you if you were to stand in my constituency in the coming elections.

    But surely, projecting more ambition than ‘giving the ruling party a historically low popular vote (less than 60 per cent will do the trick) and breakthrough with one or more GRCs’ would be essential in capturing the imagination of the electorate!

  2. That is neither a projection nor is it a target. I was just stating a fact that a result like that will be sufficient to shake the ground under the PAP. Of course a better result than that will be welcome.

  3. The key is the army and security forces. If they support the protesters or at least agree not to intervene, as in Egypt, then protesters have a chance. If they massacre protesters as in Tiananmen, or actively break up protests as in Thailand, then protests as futile.

    Voters can’t be told to vote 60%. They can only vote Yes or No. Tell them what you want them to do. Don’t be shy about it.

    Much as we laud our million-dollar ministers, I do not think Singapore will collapse if we have a new Govt this year. In fact, people will probably be better off.

  4. You seem to attribute the younger generation’s willingness for revolution to their being “more energetic, more idealistic and less cynical of the possibility of change”.

    The reason as I see it is simpler: People did not do this for democracy. They did this because they want to improve their lives and saw no hope for the future under the Mubarak regime.

    When you have a substantial proportion of youth coming out of school but unemployed, this will create hordes of disaffected people who have a lot of time on their hands. When this proportion and the absolute numbers rise to a significant level, and the general sentiment is that life is miserable and yet there is no foreseeable hope for the future, at some time you will have a revolution.

    This has been the same story throughout much of history, in so many different parts of the world. It happened to leaders such as Marcos and Suharto.

    To answer your question: “How will we ever see scenes of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators thronging the Padang?”, it will happen when you have masses unemployed for significant periods of time, when people have nothing to look forward to and nothing to lose. The PAP were astute enough to recognise and utilise similar factors in their own years as an opposition party and then as the first self-government.

  5. The lesson of Egypt is that when people congregate en mass peacefully in a big space, there is very little the police can do to effectively remove them.

    I have faith that members of our citizen army would behave similarly to that of the Egyptian military forces. In fact, it has been found that it would be the gravest mistake a govt can make if they use the military on the people. The damage to the people’s support of the armed forces can be irreparable if force is used.

    People must stand their ground though. If the govt were to use foreign mercenaries, such as the Gurkha contingent the result would be catastropic for the govt.

    Just my view.

  6. contrarian Says:
    February 12th, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    You’re not the first person to mistakenly claim that Egypt’s unemployment rate is the main reason for the uprising. That is a gross ignorant exaggeration with no basis in reality.

    If you had bothered to do a simple search, you’ll see that their unemployment rate is about 9.4% (as of 1st half of 2010), which is actually lower than the US’s at 9.6%. In comparison the average Euro-zone unemployment rate is higher at 10%.

    And yet, a revolt occurred in Egypt but not in the US or much of Europe.

  7. Hi Gerald,

    I was wondering as you are a member of the WP CEC, what is the official WP stand on mass demonstrations? If one occurred in Singapore, would WP condemn it as it’s against the law or would they stand with the protesters?

  8. I believe the concoction of high youth unemployment, stagnant economic conditions AND energetic, idealistic people willing to organise the masses in protest is what brought down the Mubarak regime. There is no one factor that is solely responsible.

    Wael Ghonim, the Google employee who started the Facebook page that mobilised people in protest was obviously not a disaffected, unemployed youth. But he stuck his neck out and even got detained by the authorities for doing it.

    Al Jazeera interviewed an Egyptian activist who remarked that Egyptians were known to be apathetic and unwilling to risk their livelihoods for change. But when a small group of passionate activists got together and rallied others to do the same, it brought forward a revolution. See this interesting article: http://www.thenation.com/article/158498/how-cyber-pragmatism-brought-down-mubarak

  9. Mass demonstration will never happen here because we are not homogeneous people. We are under authoritarian rule for more than 50 years is because many people here are waiting for the day opposition parties can garner as many if possible good quality candidates to stand up against the ruling party. Take a look at the previous GE and the result indicate clearly the ruling party is slowly losing the majority population support. The strongest opposition team in Cheng San got 45 percent of the votes count. The ruling party were force to take drastic action and that is to dismantle Cheng San. In 2006 the strongest opposition team contest in Aljunied GRC and again lost narrowly. If opposition can garner the same WP 2006 Cheng San and Aljunied GRC type of candidates quality and also contest all 84 seats, i am optimistic the ruling party will win the coming by not more than 60 percent.

  10. With Mubarak out, there is a sense of optimism in Egypt for now. This situation was rather identical in the US in year-end of 2008, when Barack Obama was elected President.

    An agent of change, as what people around the world has described Obama back then. But see for yourself what change ‘for the better’ was made in the past 2 years, whether it’s in US or in the rest of the world.

    I believe Egyptians will soon realise that this revolution of theirs would not improve their lives in the near future.

    Should Singaporeans want a change? Probably, but only if it could improve the standard of living for us.

    I have always believe the dominance of PAP is the result of a lack of good alternatives which the Opposition parties fail to propose to forge Singapore ahead.

    I personally feel the Opposition party members should not just simply oppose the PAP’s law-making decisions, but they need to come up with better solutions than them.

  11. Oppositions in Singapore are a fragmented lot. Such a tiny City Sate and yet there are so many Opposition Parties with non able to contest more than 50% of the constituencies in the past.

    This coming election is the last opportunity left for the Oppositions. If they failed again, Singaporeans will have no faith in the Oppositions in the future.

    patriot

  12. I think it is unfair to judge Obama performances base on his two years in office. America’s economic problems was due to the previous adminstration under Bush Jr. The change is needed there. America is a big country, a superpower who is “the mother of all democracy and human rights”. America believe in fair and free trade. Here an elected opposition MP have to ask permission to set up a temporary office at the void deck of the constituency he/she in charge. Dismantle of constituency where opposition party have strong support from voters. Eunos, Anson, Bukit Gombak and Cheng San all disappear in thin air. The rich and those who earn high salary naturally place high standard of living their top priority but to most of us ordinary citizens cost of living is more important. I think there is nothing wrong to see more political party formed afterall there were 34 constituencies walkovers. In fact i can see more and more well educated Singaporeans coming forward to join opposition parties. It is healthy to see them coming forward to have their says in their future unlike the uneducated, naive and gullible older generations.

  13. When you look at the typical PAP candidate, it would be someone in their 40s / 50s, holding a senior position in the public / private sector, highly educated with plenty of leadership and management experience, and has a conservative mindset focused on maintain the status quo. It is like listening to the high-flyer directors in a MNC; you know they are impressive even if you may not like them personally. Same approach for the PAP. The typical swing voter, with little affiliation with the Opposition camp, could be rather impressed by these candidates.

    The typical Oppositional candidates tends to be much younger in their 30s / 40s, hold junior or middle positions in the private sector, part of the well educated with huge potential for further character development, and has a progressive mindset often focused on democratic values. When swing voters listen to them, the impetus is on the candidate to prove that they are better than the PAP candidate, are a safe pair of hands to lead the town council and are worthy of their votes.

    I agree with Gerald in that a drop in support to less than 60% for the PAP is a good step in the right direction for the Opposition. Another step is to actually win one or two GRCs. The team that contest Aljunied GRC possibly stands the best chance in the upcoming election. It is important to take incremental steps in winning the support of the swing voters, and increasing the number of oppositional MPs is yet a third step. Once a momentum is established, only then will highly qualified and credible candidates step up to the Oppositional camp.

    A complete change of government, at this stage, is not feasible and will not be acceptable by the swing voters. Also, very few of society’s elites are willing to risk their standing and that of their family to go against the current government.

  14. I agree with several of the above comments. This Government has been masterful at dividing Singaporeans and preventing them from communicating and organising in “unapproved” ways. The mother-tongue programs, and especially the “Speak Mandarin” campaign, have been unbelievably effective tools in that. As someone who’s come and gone from Singapore several times over the past few decades, the decline of English as a common language here has been amazing, and deeply troubling.

    I also agree that our NSmen might very well follow the Egyptian example, even if their well-connected superiors order a Tiananmen-style “cleanup” of peaceful protest. Bringing the Gurkhas into that kind of situation would be the quickest way imaginable to end PAP rule and its leaders’ influence forever; I can’t believe that even our National Narcissist would fail to see that.

    I’d be thrilled if, say, a 40% vote for non-PAP candidates actually turned into a similar slice of MPs. But from what I’m able to see about the GRC system, we’d have to win majorities in every ward in a GRC to win representation. Is that correct? If it is, then we are indeed less democratic than Mubarak’s Egypt, which at least allowed the election of Opposition MPs.

    I’ve long seen the quote that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable” as a reasonable first-order approximation of historical change. Egypt didn’t disprove that by any means — the heroes of Tahrir Square proved that peaceful revolution is possible in some highly unlikely situations, if the revolutionaries are committed enough to stand their ground and not be divided or bought off by half-measures.

    I fear that would be the greatest threat to a possible “Durian Revolution;” we’ve been indoctrinated for far too long to look after our own interests and not group together, particularly against our colonial overlords (first the British, now the PAP). That must and will eventually change.

  15. Phiau Wah Says:
    February 13th, 2011 at 12:02 AM
    “Mass demonstration will never happen here”

    You used one of the magic words, “never”. Few things are “never” or “always”, especially with the passage of time and circumstance.

    Has an opposition party taken over the government of Singapore? Yes, the PAP did in 1959.

    Has a ruling party with an overwhelming parliamentary majority suffered a big split that shook it to the depths of its core? Yes, the PAP did in 1961.

    Elections are rarely won by the competing candidates. Elections are lost by incumbent governments.

    When the day comes for the PAP to lose power because it has done poorly for a sustained period during its term or terms, then it will be replaced like all governments. This has been the case in all of history, even in feudal societies.

  16. I love it when someone uses terms like “mistakenly claim”… “gross ignorant exaggeration with no basis in reality”, and then goes on to demonstrate his own ignorance by not knowing the difference between youth unemployment and total unemployment.

  17. I am rather shock to see comments from Phiau Wah posted on 14 Feb at 12.10am.

    First of all, voters do not want to see only an increase in opposition parties/members contesting in GEs.

    What voters seek in an opposition party/member is someone who could provide better alternatives than PAP, and not simply opposing PAP.

    Increase in numbers of opposition members contesting in GEs does not equates to an improvement in the qualities in the opposition parties’ candidates…. It will be meaningless to field any Opposition members to contest against the PAP, if this particular person has an integrity issue.

    With your last statement on the older generations whom you have describe as “uneducated, naive and gullible”… I do not fully understand what has it got to do with educated Singaporeans coming forward to join the opposition parties. How has the ‘uneducated’ older generations prevent Singaporeans to come forward to join the opposition parties? There is no minimum education qualification required to stand for an election.

    So it’s all back to the very fundamental of politics, what will the Opposition parties do to improve the living standards in Singapore.

    If the opposition parties are to be given a chance to govern the country…. What would they have done differently from what PAP did for the last 5 to 10 years.

    Just let me post you a question:
    “What will you do to help the low-income families in Singapore? “.

    If you can provide a better solution than what PAP has done so far, I am ready to vote for the Opposition party

    PS. I am not a hard-core PAP or opposition party supporter.

  18. Kindly check the statistics on Egypt’s youth unemployment rate and compare it with several other EU countries before you embarrass yourself once again. I suppose you do know where to find those do you?

  19. Did PAP formed in 1958 have any alternatives when they decide to contest in the 1959 GE? Increase in numbers of opposition contesting in GE means less walkovers and also the changing of goalposts will not be a breeze. Hereagain, if voters decide to go for change, an opposition alternative policies can be introduce and be judge by the people. Singaporeans are no fools. Three SDP MPs were voted out in the following GE after their poor performance. As for integrity of opposition candidates which was questioned time and time again by PAP camp, name me 3 past GE opposition candidates charge in court for corruption or under CPIB probe and i will name you 3 PAP MPs in return. No one can tell whether a person has integrity or not until he/she is caught for committing wrong doings. What i meant is more and more educated Singaporean is not afraid to come forward and join opposition parties as party members not necessary as GE candidates unlike my generation mostly uneducated, naive(easily convince by PAP GE candidates must be educated or holding high post) and gullible(quick to believe rumours that anyone badmouth the government will land him/her in jail). First and foremost i would be very happy if the alternative government dismantle PAP”s Singapore Inc. policy. An economic reforms lessened the government role in the economy and increase the role of both private enterprise and market forces. Strategic industries will continue to be under the GIC. The government will still play a major role in making broad decisions in economic priorities and policies. Each economy sector is supervised by government department. Every policy making process involves extensive consultation and negotiation. Form an independent council to monitor cost of living and adjust wage accordingly. Education and health should be exempted from GST tax(Singaporean only) so is baby products. Build one, two and three rooms affordable rental flats to citizens. Citizens should have the rights to live in rental flats. Citizens working odd jobs(no CPF contributions) and those who chose to stay single or could not afford to start a family should not be discriminated. Single citizens 21 years old and above is entitle to purchase one room, two room or studio flats directly from HDB. Single who salary is $5k and above is entitle to purchase 4 room and 5 room flats in the open market. Domestic maid levy should be discontinue. PRs must stay and work in Singapore continuously for 5 years is entitle to apply for citizenship. Discontinue the policy to allow PRs to rent from HDB tenants or buy HDB flats from open market. Any government who think they need one or two million PRs to help jack up the GDP figures should not repudiate responsibility and have to build rental flats to house the PRs. Free bus and MRT rides for senior citizens(above 60 years old) with no fix timing. Yearly GST rebates for those earning less than the median national average wage. Introduce an old aged guarantee health insurance policy. Invite two to four big insurance company to participate or any organisations who is interested. All working adults must contribute a small sum until they reach the age of 50 years old. The insurance company will employ health workers to provide free transport to and fro hospitals if needed or health workers on daily roster to patient’s house to provide medical care and consultations. If possible find a big piece of land and build a big Senior Citizens Resort and house all those aged who cannot take care by themselves. This will be a very big problem for the younger generations because most of them comes from single child family. Finally, the PAP target of three million new citizens for their GDP growth figure sake should be discontinue immediately.

  20. I will be very depress to learn that the objective for opposition parties to get candidates contest in a GE, is to prevent a walkover.

    If the current Opposition parties could do what the PAP has done back in 1959, I will be impressed.

    But my main point is, what are things that the Opposition parties would have done differently, compared to the PAP…

    Giving subsidies… free rides…. providing for this and that… who will be bearing the costs???? How sustainable will these policies be? 1 year? 10 years?

  21. To have more candidates means the chances of a stronger and louder voice in Parliament so that the people’s grievances and requirement can be heard and for sanity sake take over the ruling of this tiny island. Back then without the “communist” support do you honestly believe PAP formed in 1958 can win the 1959 GE? If so far sighted and capable why in 1959 sent a team to seek help from United Nation and then need the U.N. to sent a Dutch economist to become Singapore’s economic advisor for 24 years(1960 to 1984). Economic and social problems differs between then and now and between now and future. Please, who said everything must be free? Ask for one or two item free does not mean people want everything free. The true blue hard working Singaporean can take care of ourselves. No need yearly handout from government if Singapore Inc is dismantle. Alternative government like any other government in the world collect taxes especially from the rich to subsidies the poor. Right now it is collect from the rich and poor and then return back some of the excess taxes to the rich and poor.

  22. Meng Teck, Phiau Wah: I’m reminded of an old American “joke” about fascists (that was later “borrowed” for communists): “The fascists will run in an election until they win. Then they’ll make sure they can never lose again.” It was true in certain European countries before the war; the PAP is on record as saying their intent is for it to happen here.

    It took outside intervention, as Phiau Wah noted, for the PAP to seize power. Outside intervention to help remove the PAP is unlikely to materialise. Times have changed…except for the PAP.

  23. Phiau Wah, if you were the leader of the ruling party back in 1959, what would you do back then?

    As for the idea to build the “Senior Citizens’ Resort”, where will you want to build this. Over the existing Lim Chu Kang Cemetary, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, or Pulau Ubin?

    Show the voters some quality in the Opposition party members, someone like Ms Silvia Lim, and you could gradually challenge the PAP, and win over us

  24. Meng Teck..You ask me what would i do back then…like what the British government have done, send back those migrants back. Hereagain, like i have said situation back then is different from present. After the war the British government allow too many migrants especially those from China to migrate here. This policy cause the population to grow too large creating high unemployment. As the result workers were exploited by employers and politicians took advantage of the situation. Before the war Singapore is an important trading port. Thanks to Sir Stamford Raffles good foresight. After the war Singapore continue to become Asia’s entreport and financial hub. Today Singapore is still the main shipping port and i believe with PAP or no PAP she will still continue to become Asia shipping hub. It the 75% Chinese population that makes this tiny going. Look at the 5000 years of Chinese History and you will know what i mean. One dynasty after another collapsed and yet China recovers. Like one Malay neighbour have said to me, you Chinese when come to making money even if you have to dash through a ball of fire in front, you Chinese will do it. You ask where to find Land to build Senior Citizens Resort. How about those Land took over by the government more than 20 years ago under the Land Aquisation Act in Lim Chu Kang, Chua Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah areas. Got Land to lease out for company to built a weekend resort for the rich but no Land for the Aged Senior Citizens. No Land for own citizens but got Land to accomodate another 3.5 million new citizens. You say opposition candidates no quality others says have. You say your election system is fair others say unfair. This is democracy.

  25. Dynasties collapsed, because their officials became corrupted, and they do not look after the people. There will be no government in the world, which will be able to satisfy all its people.

    Do you really think we need just a big resort to solve our ageing problem? Have ever look after an elderly people in your life so far? Do you know the time,resources and efforts required to look after them?

    As for democracy, what benefits can this bring about? Will it be able to narrow the income gaps between the rich and the poor? Lower unemployment rates? Solve housing issues? Better governance for our country? Resolve ageing problems?

    Other than ‘freedom of speech’ and the’freedom to protest’ , what can democracy brings about? It will, most of the time, either divide its people or leads to social unrest.

    With your vast knowledge of history, perhaps you could tell me which country has benefitted from democracy, without resulting in any internal security issues, or social unrest?

  26. I am not interested about the reasons why dynasty collapsed. Some dynasty collapsed due to bad leaders and others due to foreign invaders but whatever happened, Chinese people are resilient and that is why they are able to recover from one set back to another. When Japan invade China, it was the people not the government who use their own initiative to form guerilla groups to counter attack the Japs. When a road from Burma through the Himalayas Mountain to Chungking was needed for armed supply to reach China by Land, Allied commanders estimate it will take 7 years to complete but China cannot afford to wait that long so the Chinese people decide to build the road themselves and it was completed in 9 months. I hope you know what i am trying to say. Sorry i have to be a little bit long-winded. Looks like you are just plucking in the air and throwing in questions and also twisting the topics. I ask simple questions and received twisted reply. I am suggesting the government build a big centralise nursing home complete with resident doctors and nurses. Please don’t ask where to get money. If can afford to give away 6 billions near GE why no money to build a centralise nursing home? If time, resources and efforts are the main reasons, don’t you think increasing the population to 6.5 millions will made the aged problem even worse? Democracy is democracy. Wide income gap is wide income gap, not connected. To narrow income gap i suggest introduction of minimum wage. For housing and unemployment i already mentioned early on, send back as many if possible the FWs. Did any of my previous post mention about freedom of speech and freedom to protest? Japan, Hongkong and Taiwan have freedom to protest and freedom to speech, i did not see any sign these three countries sinking. When a party was the opposition they place democracy first but when become ruling party they say no to democracy. Are you trying to say democracy is the caused for a country social and internal security issues? What a crap!

  27. Your solutions to the problems are totally impractical. First of all, tell me where could find this place of yours to build a centralise home?

    With China, India, Vietnam and other developing countries providing much cheaper direct labour to attract foreign MNCs to invest and provide jobs for their people, a “minimum wage” would only make the less educated in Singapore worse off.

    If there are no foreign MNCs coming to Singapore to invest, I bet you can stop talking about ‘minimum wage’. You will, by then, be talking about coping with high unemployment rates in Singapore.

    As for FWs, how many of those do you think we should send them back home? Which group of FWs do you think we should send back first? Those FWs who are clearing our trashes daily? Or those expatriates who were sent in by the HQs from the MNCs to oversee their businesses in Singapore.

    As for Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, their unemployment rate are not getting any better, compared to Singapore’s current performance. Are they progressing?

    So as for democracy, what benefits can it brings to us then?

    What’s the point of fielding as many opposition candidates to challenge PAP? Will we get to see more “Dr Chees” who cannot even behave properly in public, and yelling at our former PM, while campaigning? Or “James Gomezs’ ” who try to smear the integrity of the Electorate Department.

    That is what the Opposition parties are good at, fielding candidates who have personal integrity problems.And you expect these kind of candidates to serve the people?

  28. @Meng Teck,

    “If there are no foreign MNCs coming to Singapore to invest, I bet you can stop talking about ‘minimum wage’. You will, by then, be talking about coping with high unemployment rates in Singapore.”

    You’ve bought into the propaganda told to you by the PAP about the model of economic development that they have offered you, which is all about having low salaries to attract foreign MNCs. This has not changed for years.

    In reality, we can try something different. We should, in my opinion. Our economic trajectory is very different from those of other Asian tigers. For example, in Taiwan and South Korea, they have well-developed home-grown manufacturing facilities and enjoy a technological edge over Singappore because of the long term and broad support their industries receive from the government. We don’t have that in Singapore. We only use tax breaks to attract investors and little beyond that.

    Take my industry for example. I used to be in the semiconductor industry in Singapore and am deeply familiar with the current state of technology in Singapore compared with South Korea’s and Taiwan’s. Our average fabs are one to two generations (130 and 180 nm) behind those of Taiwan and Korea. It is increasingly more difficult to compete with these countries because our costs are not much lower but our technology is way behind. Why? We were counting on foreign investors to provide technology and never took any long-term initiative to develop any of our own. In truth, foreign companies have always been very reluctant to transfer their best technology to Singapore. When they do, they have a very high markup. The high end semiconductor technology is kept in California (US), Hsinchu (Taiwan) and South Korea. The industry in these places are not feeling the heat from China or Vietnam but it is Singapore who is having more trouble. Ask youself why.

    Because of this lack of any serious local initiative to develop our local industries on the basis of technology, we are far behind Taiwan, SK and the US. That’s why we have to compete on the basis of cost. That’s long term economic planning by the PAP for you. That’s why the salaries of engineers in Singapore are significantly lower than those in SK or Taiwan.

    Our high GDP per capita is quite useless because a very large fraction of it is remitted by MNCs. Our wage levels are relatively low compared to those in Taiwan and SK.

  29. One former Bengadeshi engineer who came here to work in 2000 was paid $2.7k. In 2004 he got his Singapore citizenship and they sponsor him for further study in NUS. After he finish his course he was promoted to a higher post and now earning $4k but he was unhappy. You know why? His former countrymen working as an engineer in Bengadesh is now earning $4k the same as his present post and can afford to go holidays in Dubai but as for him he have to think twice going on a holidays with his family to Thailand. Recently three locals in their 60’s were employed as sweeper in the area where i live. Beside sweeping car parks and big fields they have to get rid of discarded heavy items. They were paid $700/month working 9 hours daily. Like what Damien have said, you have bought PAP’s propaganda about the economic development model that they have offered to you which is all about having low salaries to attract foreign MNCs. Albert Winzemius advise to attract MNCs here because Singapore is a Third World country then but today Singapore have reach the First World status. I think the sweepers is being paid 1980’s wage.

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