Jul 13, 2005

All Good No Bad

Center for Book Culture.org features an insightful article by Thomas Frank on his observations on the Singaporean print media environment. The full article can be read here.

Above all markets love the country of Singapore. There was a time a few years ago when one heard this repeated so frequently that it became one of the great media clichés of the age. Singapore was an economic miracle, a land arisen from Third World to First in a handful of decades. Singapore was showing the world the way forward. Singapore had resolved it all: ethnic hatred, crime, social decay, good government. Singapore was the country with the most economic freedom in the world.

Note the word "was", Singapore is not the country with the most economic freedom in the world by a longshot. Hong Kong easily surpasses that. And if you look at it from the viewpoint of the SMEs in Singapore, economic freedom in the sense of being able to compete freely (i.e. without deep-pocketed garguantuan GLCs snatching every morsel of an already small market) is sorely lacking here.

And what the market loved best about Singapore was what was absent: Politics. The country has quite literally traded politics for wealth, with its most prominent political thinkers endlessly reminding the world that "Asian values" prioritize economic achievement over civil liberties.

If these same "Asian values" gave priority to economic achievement over civil liberties, then the lack of politics meant a lack of monitoring from political opposition, giving rise to people like our former NKF CEO Durai, a member of the elite "club" who think S$600k is mere "peanuts". Someone apparently has a little too much cash on their hands.