The question of whether or not foreign workers in Singapore suffer systemic abuses continues to attract government denials and rebuttals, but to many observers the answer has long been settled with an obvious and resounding yes. In recent years Singapore has twice been rocked by apparently disgruntled workers, firstly with the SMRT bus drivers strike, and secondly the Little India riots. The plight of SMRT’s Chinese drivers was well documented in the months after they refused to work, but as the government continues to deny such realities in the wake of last year’s riots, it seems clear that crucial lessons have not been learned. As long as such problems go ignored, denied and unresolved, relations between foreign workers and locals are likely to be volatile.
Temasek’s offer to buy out Olam in a S$2.53 billion deal comes as the commodity trader continues to pile on debt. While Olam’s politically well-connected management and shareholders may appreciate the sovereign wealth fund’s backing, this is a deal which ticks all the wrong boxes for Singapore.
Olam’s management have been fending off critics of their financials and accounting for years. While Carson Block’s very public decision to short the stock in 2012 was widely reported, less well-known is the fact that top Asian equity house CLSA incurred the commodity trader’s wrath the year before over a research note that raised some of the same concerns. And while the public response from Olam has always been defiant, privately management have admitted defeat – tearing up a flagship six-year plan to generate US$1 billion in profits by 2016 and slashing the debt fuelled growth that Block saw as unsustainable.
Take a few eggs with peanut oil to fry them, add some chopped fresh tomatoes and mix it all up. Serve alongside a bowl of white rice and wash it down with orange juice. Is this the expatriate lifestyle Finance Minister Tharman had in mind when rebutting the Economist Intelligence Unit’s finding that Singapore is now the most expensive city in the world? Because all those items are included in the shopping basket used by the EIU to assess cost of living globally – including the frying pan you cook it in and the dishwashing liquid you use to clean up afterwards. So it seems unlikely that Tharman was correct when he said the survey does not accurately reflect the cost of living for locals.
My initial reaction on hearing that Gilbert Goh had planned to carry out the burning of an effigy of transport minister Lui Tuck Yew was shock and disappointment. There’s got to be a better way to express one’s dissatisfaction with the government and their increasingly authoritarian system. A pile of ashes is not going to contribute much to nation building, not least if it distracts from much more important questions around an economic model of state control in key industries that leaves citizens short-changed. I’m still glad that the act didn’t go ahead, but when The Online Citizen reported that the government had gone so far in 2008 as explicitly stating that burning of effigies would be legal at Hong Lim Park, it became clear that there is another side to this story.
Singaporeans from all walks of life were rejoicing today after Anton Casey inadvertently cured them all of xenophobia. This occurred after it was revealed that British readers of left liberal newspaper “The Guardian” hate the obnoxious expat too.
One office worker commented, “I know we’re supposed to help foreigners integrate, but really I just wanted to integrate my foot with his ass, if you know what I mean. At first I felt ashamed for harbouring such xenophobic thoughts, but apparently everyone in the world hates Anton Casey, so now it just seems normal and totally fine”.
The pale-faced expat is currently keeping a low profile, whereabouts unknown. But some Singaporeans sensed an opportunity. “At first I just wanted to throw eggs at his house, very xenophobic, I know.” admitted one cabby. “But after realising that thousands of Brits hate Casey too, I thought why not forge closer ties with the UK, ship our eggs over there and outsource the process? It may seem strange to integrate with foreigners who don’t actually live here, but at least they don’t hate us, right”.
Media commentators predict that hatred of Casey will continue to grow exponentially until either he apologises, or the next MRT breakdown, at which point everyone in Singapore will go back to bitching about the government instead.
Singaporeans have been implored by media regulators to “read the rights thing”, but that didn’t seem to prevent the government controlled Straits Times from writing a spectacularly wrong story about how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supposedly executed his own uncle by feeding him alive to starving dogs. The Straits Times’ prevaricating response to criticism of its decision to run a story pegged on an unverified event eloquently reminded readers that the truth can often be subjective and elusive. Yet the subjective reality which hinders the reporting of absolute truth brings many Singaporeans full circle, raising questions about the Media Development Authority’s apparent desire to regulate news websites for the accuracy of their reporting.
If you could leave Singapore, would you? For many Singaporeans, especially from the younger generations, the answer apparently is yes, in large numbers. This doesn’t seem sustainable, not least because the brightest individuals with the most to contribute will inevitably find emigration overseas easiest. While the negative effects of a so-called brain drain on Singapore’s economic strength will take years to manifest, the bad news is that this trend has already been going on for years. We may be suffering the results already.