Sunday, September 17, 2006

IMF participant talks about Singapore

IMF participant blogs about the need for Singapore to search for freedom. From Ignatius:
Singapore is in good hands – or rather: in iron-firm hands. It practises absolute free trade on everything including labour, attracting immigrants and expats to keep its economy (threatened by ageing - like OECD countries) going, invests heavily in education and skills. But it is still very much a policed state. I bought a cheap mobile-phone and a pre-paid SIM card – I had to hand in my passport to the respective shop owners for them to scan/copy. The shop-owners apologised when seeing my shocked face expression, saying this is what was required from them. I am not commenting further on the mic-mac around the ban of activists for the IMF meetings, in which even Paul Wolfowitz intervened (coming from Wolfowitz, this is rather ironic). And Singapore’s practice of pure market-economics is also doubtful. Temasek Holdings, for example, is one of Singapore’s most pro-active, globalizing and dynamic investment firms - but it is owned by the Finance Ministry and run by Prime Minister’s wife, while controlling a huge chunk of Sinapore’s businesses...

With 28.000$ per capita GDP, it is maybe really time to embrace Stage Two in the process of getting rich: the practice of freedom (which I believe getting collectively rich is ultimately about). Once you’ve got freedom from want, the urge for other “freedoms to” starts stirring humanity’s restless soul. You can’t have an ultra-educated population and then expect it not to ask too many questions. Singapore is not longer a hard-core autocracy. It has elections, it has an opposition. But support for its leadership is no longer what it was. People want “imagination”, people want dreams, people want to speak out. Let me be provocative, snobbish and classist, Mr Goh, and say: that is what makes the difference between the “bourgeois” and the “nouveau riche”.

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