Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Rains Gold in Singapore

I spent Chinese New Year in Singapore, the land of no corruption.

If you like to shop, do not go to Singapore during CNY, because all the shops are closed... well most of them anyway.

My family and I, on an impulse, decided to go down south of the border because we missed the food. The red "tulang", the briani, the murtabak, the mee hong kong (which we couldn't get when we were in Hong Kong), the mamak mee. Also, my mother-in-law wanted to find the "Sabun Cap Kipas" which can only be found in a certain shop in Marine Parade.

But, I'll not talk about the wonderful (and high cholestrol) time we had. I want to do the cardinal sin of comparing Singapore with Malaysia.

Singapore "achieved" independence on 9 August 1965, after it was expelled from Malaysia due to racial based political issue.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the genius that he is, saw what he wanted Singapura to be, and he made this small island bigger than all it's neigbors put together. He changed the country by changing the people's attitude...

Before the 1970s, corruption was rife in Singapore. Mr. Lee, with his far sight, saw that in order for Singapore to grow, since it practically has no natural resources and therefore must become a service provider nation, it must project a corruption free environment especially in the public sector.

He wanted it to be done and done quickly. Singapore already have an anti corruption agency called the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) established by the British in the 1950s, but it was during Mr. Lee's administration that the CPIB was given considerable powers to conduct arrests, search, call up witnesses, and investigate bank accounts and income-tax returns of suspected persons and their families. The CPIB was given the authority to investigate any officer or minister, and several ministers were later charged with corruption. Today Singapore is ranked third as the least corrupt public service sector in the world.

Mr. Lee ran a semi-authoritarian government. He needed it to be so, in order to ensure that the policies and decisions of the government, which may seem harsh, are carried out. Opposition parties are practically non-existence. And, even with all the controversials that arose from some of the government's action, the ruling party (People's Action Party - PAP) continue to win elections since independence. The people, apparently have the full confidence in PAP. The people of Singapore themselves have something to prove to the rest of the world and especially to Malaysia. They are saying "we don't need you and your abundance of natural resources... we can make it on our own. We'll be better than you."

They sure are. In 31 years Mr. Lee was prime minister, Singapore became the only developed nation in this region.

Talking to my relations who live on this island nation, they would hem and haw about all the charges and duties, and levies and taxes that they have to pay. But, I doubt if they ever want to leave Singapore for Malaysia, despite being a minority.

My sister-in-law, her husband and two daughters who live in Woodlands do not own a car. They do not need one. The public transport system is probably one of the best in the world. The daughters go to schools which are walking distance from their HDB flat. Schools are housed in beautiful, clean buildings, the likes of which can only be a private or chinese venacular school in Malaysia.

There are no 'setinggan' or squatters, and everybody 'owns' a home in Singapore. The Housing Development Board (HDB) established by Mr. Lee's government before it's independence build apartments and maintains them. You can't find any housing estates with mouldy buildings and cracked paints. Each time I go to visit, the flats seems to have just been painted.

So often I hear Singaporean complain of the charges they have to pay to the government. Yes, maybe the Singapore government squeeze money from the people, but the people get the best the government (or any government in the world) can give.

I've always enjoyed visiting Singapore. But, I don't think I want to live there. As a Malay, Malaysia is the best country to live in. In Singapore, Malays are a minority. I did not see or experience any discriminations, but maybe it is the nature of the Malay people that confines them to the lower levels in the society. Singapore demands the best out of everybody, that it developed a Kiasu attitude which is never a Malay characteristic. As such, in a meritocratic environment, Malays (save a few exceptional ones) lose out.

I googled the Cabinet Ministers of Singapore, and found that there are 22 ministers. 17 are Chinese, 4 Indians and 1 Malay. The one Malay minister, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, has a double PhD in structural engineering. His, I presume, is an obligatory appointment as he is in charge of Muslim Affairs, apart from his main portfolio as Environment and Water Resources Minister.

In rains gold in Singapore, but for the Malays, Malaysia rocks!

1 comment:

  1. Relatives not relation.

    Let is us what will happen to Singapore once LKY is out of breath.