The Development of Democracy in Asia And Europe
13 April 2007
Sheraton Towers, Opal Ballroom
Organised by ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) & CALD (Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats)
Aside from the refusal to permit the European Parliamentarians to speak at the forum, which generated bad publicity for the PAP government on an international scale, (as the gag order resulted in the news even on the BBC website), it proceeded without a hitch, as promised by the organisers.
Dr Chee, the Secretary General of SDP, of which the party is a member of CALD, spoke on the failures of the PAP leadership, focusing on the economic front. After flashing out certain quotes by Minister Mentor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and relating life stories on how the poor in Singapore survived on miserable amounts of salaries, Dr Chee brought out an array of statistics from various sources to support his validations on the failures of the PAP economic strategies.
They include (but not limited to):
monthly wages for low skilled workers decreased by 34% from $746 in 1998 to $492 in 1999. In 1999, 14,700 earned less than $200 per month and 2000 age eligible children did not attend school as parents were unable to afford their education in 1999.
Inter-country comparisons between Singapore and Hong Kong were also made to reflect the dire situation in the former.
While foreign exchange reserves in Singapore and Hong Kong are impressive, the former at 134.6 US Billion Dollars and the latter at 132, the similarities ended there. The public debt ratio as a % of Singapore is 100.6% (9th out of 120 countries) while Hong Kong is only 1% (120th out of 120). Singapore’s consumption share of GDP is 20% below Hong Kong and its household debt as a % of disposable income is 174%, higher than Britain at 116%, Japan at 100% and US at 90%. Clearly, the average Singapore Household is one of the most indebted in the world.
Quotes from academics about the PAP’s economic strategy were more indicting. For example, Dan Fineman, in an article for FEER, said their economic strategies, “… hurt Singapore more than possibly any country on the planet.” while Professor Greenway, NUS, commented that it, “… is creating significant inequalities to relative poverty…”
Dr Chee went on to cite more pessimistic statistics on how the nation building efforts of the PAP has resulted in citizen’s apathy. He said that survey results revealed that more than 50% of young Singaporeans, between the ages of 15 to 30, indicated that they wanted to migrate to another country with 37% of them claiming that they were not patriotic. 50% of them did not care which country they were a citizen of, as long as they attained wealth. The average outflow per 1000 citizens is 26.11 in Singapore, the second highest in the world, lagging behind only East Timor.
Close to an hour’s presentation, the forum managed to pinpoint the failures of the PAP’s leadership – that it has not only failed to bring economic prosperity to the majority of the population, but instead increased the relative wealth gap between the haves and the have nots. At the same time, they have brought the nation into spiritual degeneration by inculcating fear, apathy and an obsession with material achievements into its citizens.
On a side note, Singaporean’s displeasure with the recent increase in ministerial salaries can be seen by the outpour of letters to the local newspapers and the largely justifying opinion pieces and news reports from the other ministers and the nation building press. While the public rage was focused on how Ministerial Salaries should be set, the forum presents the perspective that the PAP government would not want the public to understand. In essence, they have failed to deliver what it has promised.