general elections

September passes, October cometh

September was certainly a month of numerous events.

The blood moon on the 27/28 September (depending on which part of the world you are in) was a highly anticipated phenomenon. Unfortunately, it couldn't be seen from Singapore as it was daytime (just past 10 am) here when it occurred.

The Iran nuclear deal has gone through, with potential dire consequences for the Middle Eastern region, especially for Israel.

ISIS continues to be a threat, and has forced action by numerous nations.

The pope and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited America, both with very interesting topics of discussion - immigration, security, and globalisation, to name a few.

The supposed financial breakdown has not occurred, though the cracks in the broken financial system are starting to become more and more obvious. Many analysts are still certain of its imminent arrival.

Closer to home, Singapore's General Elections have passed (and analysed in previous posts) and the haze is once again causing political tension with Indonesia.

Unrest is affecting Malaysia, with Chinese warned to avoid certain areas of the country.

This paints a rather dismal picture of the past month, and it has shown me that stability in this world is an ideal - one that cannot be fulfilled without a massive global coordination and cooperation. Who is to say that it isn't in the plans?

And yet, I am constantly reminded of scenes in the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

People will fight for freedom, but if there is chaos and instability, they end up choosing security over freedom.

Is this not what is happening around us? Should we not do something about it? Or are we too caught up with our own lives to notice or even care? 



What I Learned from Singapore's General Elections 2015 (Part Three)

Having had a little more time to gather thoughts, information, and opinions, I thought I'd look at another part of the GE puzzle.

One of the driving forces of human behaviour is fear. If you have ever felt angry and worried when you misplaced your phone, you have just experienced behaviour driven by fear - your fear that you have lost your phone.

Some analysts believe that voters were driven to the PAP's side by their fears. For example, their fear of:

1) A freak election result where the opposition parties win many more seats in parliament than they had in GE2011.

On the ground, the opposition parties are generally seen as unproven, untested, and therefore likely to be less competent. There is fear that their sudden increase in government may cause an imbalance, resulting in instability, at least for a short time.

This fear of instability is compounded by the opposition parties themselves suggesting that they don't want to take over the government, preferring to take a "quality control" position. This suggestion indicates to the voters that the opposition parties, noble as their intentions may be, are neither prepared nor confident enough of their leadership of the nation. It is probably safe to say that a seeming lack of confidence is often a deal-breaker in the election of a leader.

Also,  if parliament spends more time debating issues than it needs to, actions cannot be taken. 

Lack of action will be seen as weakness by the global community - a view that will likely lower investor confidence and lead to a depletion of funds for Singapore's still-strong economy. This will begin a downward spiral that may lead many to financial ruin, the likes of which we may not be able to recover.

Singapore's government must remain strong and action-centred, because these are the traits that investors look for.

2) The looming global crises

Looking away from the local scene, there are numerous indications of currency problems, falling economies, and increasing debts. 

As I am not an economist or a financial expert, I am in no position to analyse these things. What I do know is that there is widespread fear of a coming economic collapse, and, in times of uncertainty, voters will naturally gravitate towards the ruling party, which has a track record of leading the people out of past financial crises with below-average damage to the local economy.

Changes in the political landscapes in China, USA, and the Middle East are also getting people jumpy. Again, when things go down, people stick to what they are familiar with.

3) Too much change

People don't like change, especially not drastic ones. Although the opposition parties have clear supporters, many Singaporeans are wary of what they see as populist agendas and cheap publicity. They may worry that, should these ideas be brought to parliament, there may be too much emphasis on them, and other issues may be relegated to the background.

We are creatures of habit and we are often very unwilling to leave our comfort zones. 

As long as the ruling party maintains its pool of talent, and uses it wisely, it will take a confident, competent, powerful opposition party just to overcome the inertia of voting against them.

I believe that this will be the last post I will make on the General Elections 2015, unless something else strikes me.


What I Learned from Singapore's General Elections 2015 (Part Two)

It's been a few days since the election results have come in. Analysts, both local and overseas, have looked into the event and given their views on the reasons for the outcome. 

There seems to be a running consensus that the patriotism brought about by the SG50 reminiscence and celebrations, as well as the passing of our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, have contributed greatly to the increase in support for the PAP.

Doubtlessly, this shows the PAP's understanding of human sentiment and psychology. Though it may seem to some like an unfair advantage for the ruling party to use in politics, the opposition parties clearly use this in their riling up of their supporters as well.

This understanding of psychology is an indication that both parties know of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction of many Singaporeans, especially in terms of income gaps, immigration policies, and rising costs of living.

It is therefore improbable that the ruling party does not know that negative sentiments will arise from the introductions of some of their less-popular policies.

The question, then, is: Why did they still pass these policies?

Surely any government would like to know that they are supported by their people and popular with them. Knowing that some policies will make them less popular with Singaporeans, there must be other factors involved in the decision-making process.

Here, many disgruntled locals will cite the "obvious" reason that our politicians just want to make money and line their own pockets, with no heed to the well-being of Singaporeans.

With some thought, I find this to be a rather illogical conclusion to come to.

Here, I will list my reasons:

1) Stability is strength

There is no doubt that a stable country will be stronger than one that is unstable. Stability is, of course, affected by many factors. For example, crime rate, corruption, social disorder, and so on.

It is therefore not difficult to see that widespread dissatisfaction will eventually lead to dissent and social disorder. In order to counterbalance policies that will lead to dissatisfaction, other "pleasing" policies have to be put into action. It is a delicate balancing act, and it takes a lot of thought and tweaks to get it right.

If we are honest about it, we have a few policies that are still very unpopular. However, the fact that not every single citizen is up in arms about them shows that they have some benefits, to some, if not all, and may not be immediately felt by many of us.

This would mean that they are not necessarily bad policies, but policies that need further tweaking and refinement. As long as the government is still willing to work on them (even slowly), there is no reason to assume that they aren't listening to the people's concerns over these policies.

Singapore is one of the very few countries in the world with an atmosphere of security so high that a lone individual can walk along the streets in the wee hours and not have to worry about being a crime victim. Singaporeans feel so secure that they have no qualms leaving their bags and belongings to "book" a table while they go off to order their food - an absolute no-no in most countries around the world. Maintenance of such high security necessitates what may seem to be invasions of privacy - installation of CCTVs, police squads at large events, licensing for almost everything etc.

After all, security and freedom are two ends of the same spectrum. Though we are certainly leaning more towards security and less towards freedom, it seems to be a reasonable place to be.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are two points often brought up as missing in Singaporean media. Personally, having seen the negativity, thoughtless-ness, and lack of critical thinking and respect for others on numerous online platforms, I'm glad that these things are controlled. 

If we take a step back and look at the global situation, things are looking bleak. When all else is sinking, it takes great courage to keep trying to stay afloat. Singapore has built a reputation of stability over the decades. Without this stability, investors, businesses, and high net-worth individuals will lose trust in us and likely pull out. Once trust is lost, it is difficult to regain.

Without the resources that these entities provide, how can Singapore survive?

Even if our politicians are really throwing out policies ultimately for their own financial benefit, wouldn't it make more sense for them to maintain a stable country than to have everything in a mess?

In the meantime, instead of complaining about their policies, shouldn't we take advantage of the stability of our nation to better ourselves and improve our own financial situations?

2) Corruption is not difficult to spot

Policies that benefit only the politicians who pass them will be seen by the global community as a sign of corruption.

It isn't difficult to see corruption in a country. Singaporeans who travel are likely to see it everywhere in the world. Though it is impossible for Singapore to have zero corruption, we certainly have a very low level of it.

Again, if other governments and businesses see corruption in Singapore, they have no reason to want to put their money here. With the loss of their funds, how will Singapore sustain its economy?

Why are high net-worth individuals looking to own property or take up residence here? Are they all in cahoots with our politicians? That is highly improbable, isn't it?

3) Leadership requires sacrifice

Sometimes, we have to choose the lesser of two evils. Both choices may have undesirable outcomes, but we pick the one that is easier to handle.

Perhaps, this is the outlook of the ruling party. They know that their policies will prove unpopular, yet they go ahead with them not because they don't care about what we think, but because they see the larger picture and see the future benefits of these policies for the nation.

In sacrificing popularity, they gain stability and wealth for the nation. To some, this is a good trade-off. To others, it isn't. There is truly no way to please everyone.

If Singapore had never achieved the stability it has, we would hardly be as wealthy, and we would be complaining about very different, probably very basic things like food, water, and infrastructure. 

Our leaders have made difficult decisions, and they have surely thought them through. Perhaps they are not as in-touch with us as we'd like, but they are doing these things for the betterment of Singapore. 

Leadership is a lot of trial and error. The ruling party has made mistakes, and they have often been slow to recognise them, but, looking at the efforts they are now making at being better at communication, they deserve an opportunity to make amends and make changes.

If I may liken this to a classroom, a teacher would enjoy being well-loved by her students. She could do this by giving them little to no homework, simple tests and examinations, and rewards for the most trivial things.

However, a teacher who does this is irresponsible. Her role is to educate her students, not to become the most popular teacher in the school. If her goal is the latter, we would say that she is being selfish. Her students, spending more time at play than at work, will not learn much about the subject she is supposed to teach them. They will be happy. They will enjoy her lessons, but they won't be getting any benefit for their future. 

What do you suppose will happen when the national examinations come along, when they have to show what they are supposed to have learned? Who do you think they will blame then?

*A little disclaimer: These are my thoughts. You are free to agree or disagree with them. I am sure that I have missed details and/or connections between bits of information. If I make a thought connection in the future, I will edit as necessary. 


What I Learned from Singapore's General Elections 2015 (Part One)

Singapore's General Elections 2015 have concluded. Staying up with a group of friends to watch the proceedings was a novel experience. 

Observing my friends' responses and listening to their thoughts, I did the same for the presenters and journalists at the Channel NewsAsia studio, the telecasted candidates and their supporters at the various gathering points, as well as various posts on social media.

Having had very little past interest in the political arena, I cannot say that I understood all of the references that were made. However, I am familiar with what I witnessed in the recent weeks and months, and I have learned a number of things from these situations and events. In this post, I will discuss just one of them:

The Silent Majority is affected by The Vocal Minority and vice versa

On the internet, we need only go to an article of Singapore (sometimes of our neighbours as well) - almost any article - and read its comments to find that vocal commenters have decided to bash a politician, political party, or its supporters. The comments are often irrelevant to the article, seemingly serving only as an expression of the commenter's built-up frustration.

After a while, it gets very tiresome. Commenters like these show little inclination towards respecting or accepting the differences in the views and opinions of others, and even less interest in proper discussion and mature debate. Any attempts at disagreement inevitably lead to name-calling and callous dismissals of the alternative views.

Most people will, after some time, decide that it is not worth their time or energy to engage such narrowminded-ness, and move on with their lives, leaving these commenters with a false sense of victory that emboldens them to become more and more sarcastic and irreverent.

This is a sad reality in today's highly-connected technology-driven world, and, no doubt, if this post were ever to come to the attention of these so-called keyboard warriors, there will be a constant barrage of angry tirades against the offense that this post supposedly created.

What this vocal minority has unwittingly done is to alienate their cause from those who seek to know more about it. When genuine questions are met with casual dismissal and offensive replies, it heightens emotions, and makes fruitful view-exchanges nearly impossible.

The silent majority, who shun such pointless exchanges, are likely to have views from both sides. In terms of this political event, they hold the middle ground, and many of them may lean towards one political party, but are willing to listen to the views of another.

When they witness the vitriol and anger of one side's supporters and experience this negativity directed at them when they ask questions or express their views, they, unsurprisingly, feel pushed away and gravitate towards a side's supporters that are more welcoming (or at least not as dismissive) and willing to have a discussion.

At the conclusion of the elections, there is, once again, name-calling and condescending remarks about how those who voted the ruling party in had better not complain in the future. The vocal supporters of the opposition parties, now stung from their perceived loss, have once again demonstrated how much they hurt their own cause through their regrettably toxic behaviour. 

Instead of taking it at a loss, would it not be better to take it as motivation to work even harder, as some candidates of the opposition parties have?

Instead of blaming external factors, would it not be more profitable to take personal responsibility and grow from the experience?

Instead of a 'us vs. them' mentality, would it not benefit the very Singaporeans that the opposition supporters profess to champion for if co-operation, open dialogue, and engagement of both sides occur?

Imagine how much more our nation can achieve for both its prosperity and its people if we all come to a place of working together, building together, and helping one another.

I am reminded of Mark the Evangelist who wrote "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

One People, One Nation, One Singapore.

Sky Over Hougang