General Paper Topic Singapore Examples & Perspectives

ISSUES FROM THE SINGAPORE PERSPECTIVE


Be it for essays or the Application Question in your paper 2, you must stand by several examples for questions that relate to the Singapore context and perspectives. This is one GP topic everyone must prepare. Here are the top issues and challenges faced by Singapore:

 

ISSUE 1: The Success of Singapore as a City

1.1 Factors contributing to Singapore’s success:
– Singapore, as an independent city-state, has advantages over city-regions that are parts of nation-states.

– Our ability to control the movement of people into Singapore. Instead of indiscriminate urban drift, we select migrants based on talent income and other criteria. There is an emphasis on the importance of foreign talent in cosmopolitan cities in the world today.

– But any ‘attractive’ city may very well attract the ‘wrong people’ and hence lead to the problems raised by former minister Phillip Yeo. Singapore has done well in preventing such problems from occurring through their stringent Immigration policies. Foreign talent plays a major role in ensuring Singapore’s success. Through filling up of jobs that the educated Singaporeans do not want (eg. Nursing or labourers) to plugging the gap left behind by the aging population. S’pore has managed to maintain economic development at a sufficient level and till today remains a “magnet for talented people”. Our attractiveness, thus, is testament of our success.

– Low crime rates, little traffic congestion, no slums, prostitution and drug addiction, are not serious problems, no pollution.

– Continuous investment in our labour force: achieved through constant adjustments to labour policies and industrial restructuring. For example, many segments of the labour force from taxi-drivers to doctors and teachers are constantly encouraged to opt for skills-upgrade. The age of retirement has also been increased in an attempt to integrate older Singaporeans into the workforce.

– S’pore is In a relatively youthful phase of development.

– Singapore’s version of socialism: includes,
i) enormous subsidy of housing, health and education,
ii) s
trengthens group responsibility -Works welfare policies through the family-strengthen the family net and
iii) treatment of minorities: Ensure fair minority representation through GRCS.

1.2 Other points to be discussed:
Meritocracy
Multiculturism
Innovation – eg. Spring Singapore: creative community Singapore’s emphasis on lifelong learning

More GP themes relating to S’pore in our revision course.

 

ISSUE 2: Race & Ethnicity

With respect to race and ethnicity, the key question is: how Important is it for states to make a commitment to equal treatment of all persons regardless of the racial or ethnic origin and some of the challenges the Singapore government and other governments today face in observing such a commitment? Also, how can these challenges be overcome?

2.1 Challenges governments face: Loyalty
Globalisation has made it very difficult to instill loyalty in people, Movement across borders means that people who make up the human capital essential for a country’s growth, may not stay. This is a problem for many developing nations and those that face constraints such as limited resources Ike in Singapore.

2.1.1 How to overcome these challenges:
It is important to make a country a warm and inviting place to live in. In this way, not only do we retain our precious human capital, we also attract and retain foreign talents who bring in much needed expertise.

2.1.2 The Singapore government achieves this by
– Offering
attractive remuneration packages which come with benefits for spouses and children as well.
– Offering benefits such as workfare bonus to look after the welfare of its people.
– Acting as an example in promoting a more gracious and compassionate society that does not discriminate against any race, religion, language or gender. Eg. The Singapore government has even recently allowed for the hiring of homosexuals in the civil service.

This topic is also common in GP Comprehension questions and passages.

 

2.2 Challenges governments face: Minority Group
In countries like Australia and UK, all potential immigrants must take a test to ascertain their proficiency in English. In some countries, potential immigrants are even tested on their history. This is to ensure that foreigners are not excluded from mainstream society and are successfully assimilated.

However, foreigners still do end up somewhat Isolated from mainstream society. In some places such as London and Paris, migrant communities or foreigners are seen by the roadsides or train stations, selling pirated wares, or at the park, speaking to each other in their native tongues even though they are proficient in English or French.

2.2.1 How to overcome these challenges:
“the protection and promotion of minority rights become essential”. The governments have put in place a system of affirmative action to assimilate or reduce the marginalisation of migrant communities or foreigners. Eg. In Canada, migrants are provided with free English classes. Hiring of foreigners is made easy as long as there is proper documentation.

In Singapore, each major race is protected in the constitution. Speeches in parliament can be given in any of the four major languages according to the speakers’ preference. Also, every believer is allowed to practise his or her religion.

Eg. Some roads are closed for Thaipusam and Chingay processions.

 

2.3 Challenges governments face: Fairness
The commitment to equal treatment of all persons is an arduous one. Such a view is a reasonable one and it is indeed one of the greatest challenges governments today face.

As reflected by Finland, it is evident that governments need to do more than merely attempt to Integrate different races and ethnicities together. There is a lot more that has to be done simultaneously such as the protection of the rights of each ethnic group in order to achieve equitable treatment for all.

Eg. The American story tells us that, despite efforts to provide for equal treatment for all, the conscientious application and observation of such a commitment can be difficult to follow.

2.3.1 How to overcome these challenges:
It is necessary for governments to make a genuine effort to Implement legislation that provides recognition to the ethnic groups involved and not just acknowledge the presence of majority groups, just like what the Finns did.

Important markers of ethnic groups include language, access to education and employment, privacy are some examples of factors to consider when allowing for equal treatment.

 

2.4 Challenges governments face: Harmony
It can be highlighted that legislative measures are just part of the “package’ that would pave the way for greater respect to be shown to all ethnic groups in a society.

The challenges governments today face are the manifold programmes that have to work hand-in-hand so as to achieve a maximum level of ethnic tolerance and equal treatment for all, which includes both ‘hard’ measures such as passing of laws and ‘soft’ measures such as education programmes that promote greater understanding and tolerance. Such extensive measures require much political effort and finances.

2.4.1 How to overcome these challenges:
Governments need to ensure, or be more aware of the effectiveness of the measures that they have proposed. This can be achieved by making sure that there is reasonable representation the different ethnic groups and conduct regular checks and reviews of existing laws. This would aid in making sure that measures are relevant and effective as far as possible.

 

2.5 Challenges governments face: Racism
Hate crimes are hard to eliminate, especially if the police force is made up of the majority. Law enforcement could be difficult because racism might exist within the police force itself.

New government may face difficulties promoting empowerment through education and also ensuring adequate health care. New governments may face financial strains and may not have enough processes in place to carry out their plans.

2.5.1 How to overcome these challenge
Educating the public through public awareness programmes and campaigns.

 

2.6 Challenges governments face: Conflicts
This maybe difficult as developing countries and countries currently in strife may not have the facilities to disseminate this information. Facilities such as Internet and also radio maybe under the control of ruling parties that may not want such information.

2.6.1 How to overcome these challenges:
Use the media effectively.

 

2.7 Challenges Faced by Governments Today: Violence
Despite the fact that democracy is practised in some nations, the issues of ethic violence 
amongst the minorities are still teething problems waiting to be resolved. These riots and “outbursts of violence” resulted in Innocent loss of lives and damage in property.

The Governments have to deal with interest groups and activists who have a different political agenda that go against the state authorities.

2.7.1 These challenges can be overcome:
Electing a strong Government that is keen to implement pro-minority policies and other legislative measures to prevent further racial conflicts. Infested with ethnic disharmony and tensions, it will be hard for the Governments to steer its A sluggish economy and high rates of unemployment among the minority would result in sudden, uncontrolled and fatal racial riots where the authorities cannot avert.

Example: In the mid-1980s, children were caught in the ethno-national and religious civil war in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, whose population is about two-thirds Muslim and one-fourth Christian; with each faction further divided into sects. In 2005, In view of global pressure, tensions receded in Lebanon and the Syrian occupation forces were forced to withdraw. The new government proclaimed its commitment to help maintain peace and provide strong representation for all ethic and religious factions.

 

2.8 Challenges Faced by Government Today: Abuse of Rights
As expected, there will be more unforeseen consequences if minority rights and fair treatment are not addressed. Infested with ethnic disharmony and tensions, it will ne hard for Gov to steer the economy forward.

Other underlying factors such as marginalisation and abuse of rights against the minorities will further hasten the state of racial discord in the country.

2.8.1 These challenges can be overcome by:
Protecting the economic, social and cultural interests of these minorities working closely with the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The active involvement of the NGOs can help to promote their shared Interests and Ideals in order to influence the policies a state governments,

Example: NGOs such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and Global Youth Connect work with the government to regulate certain issues such as human rights: and this is evident in autocratic governments where NGOs work hand in hand with the authorities to reduce the repression of minority racial in the communities.


Note: It is questionable if any one country can “…encouraged ‘full participation in political life for all. non-discriminatory treatment of all regions and ethic groups within a country, and respect for the rights of minorities…” it is indeed a challenge for the governments today to exercise equality and meritocracy in its policies for all its people regardless of race and religion.

Example: Singapore has done it with a participatory state policy where every Singaporean is given a chance to voice out his or her concerns. There are many channels of communication for different ethnic groups to contribute their opinions. For instance, minister visits, ‘meet the resident’ gatherings and dialogue sessions are great means to get ‘up close and personal’ with the government officials.

Singapore’s national pledge encapsulates the essence of respect and sovereignty of rights given to every Singaporean so that future generations are given the liberty to actualise their dreams.

In addition, the close monitoring and heavy Involvement of the Government in the economy, social sectors, media and education ensure the interests of Singaporeans.

 

2.9 Challenges Faced by Government Today: Clash
We know it is hard for the governments of today to find a common ground and commitment to ensure the minority interests are protected as there might be a clash of international agenda with the global community. It could be an easy way out to focus on short term gains than to solve the key issues of concern to protect the cultural uniqueness of these minorities, allowing them to flourish in the future. These political blind spots will eventually result in ethnic violence on a massive scale.

Example: On September 11, 2001 the Al Qaeda terrorist network attacked the United States to vent anger of its extremist Islamic members against the West. This terrorist attack and global catastrophe is a stern warning that ethnicity, racial conflicts and aggression are issues that are not disappearing and becoming less important. In fact, the governments in the world such as the G8 nations should promote more dialogue and policies to resolve these issues.

2.9.1 These challenges can be overcome
Promote an inclusive culture – a culture of prevention than culture of reaction where certain measures are taken into prior consideration.

New policies and mandate should be established to bring a revived notion of ethnicity sensitivity in the form of racial campaigns and public education where schools, media and the family function as positive platforms to disseminate Information.

Nevertheless, not all countries can apply the same old strategies for racial harmony; certain policies have to be reviewed and localised for its effectiveness to take place. 

 

2.10 Closure on Race & Ethnicity
We shall always learn from history and reflect upon our roles as an individual member of the society we live in.

It is disturbing to know how ethnic conflicts can Impact lives (e.g. Genocide in Rwanda in 1994 drove more than 1.7M refugees from their homeland and the roving Islamic radicals had slaughtered 2M in Sudan).

Though these challenges are not easily overcome, there is a need to minimise these ethnic strife to bring back world peace and order in the future.

 

ISSUE 3: Consumerism & S’pore Society

3.1 Analysis
It is a fact that economic growth and the obsessive pursuit of mass affluence can only make people miserable. The Singaporean obsessive dream of chasing the 6Cs: career, cash, condo, credit card, car, county club which equates/measures happiness with the achievement of the 8Cs obviously cannot be attained by all-due to the Inevitable income gap, even in affluent Singapore.

Also evident that obsessive pursuit has also led to more stress, higher rates of depression, lack of quality leisure time and lack of quality of family life. This is also evident in how families often leave their children in the hands of domestic helpers (aka maids) in order to focus on their careers, resulting in weaker family bonding.

This problem is obviously a significant one at the government has taken steps to emphasize the need for leisure, family time etc, e.g. Family Day and the Implementation of the 5-day work week to encourage a balance between work and family.

 

3.2 Negative Effects & Evaluation
While it is a fact that the obsessive pursuit of material wealth can make people miserable because of man’s insatiable desires or because its pursuit may be at the expense of his well-being and personal relationships critics of consumerism are overly pessimistic. It
is myopic to generalise that pursuit of wealth and economic growth will only make
people miserable,

This applies perhaps only to those who are lack balance and moderation in their lives. Anyway, the definition of happiness is subjective to different people. People can be unhappy due to various reasons and not just because of pursuit of wealth. Hence, I subscribe more to the view that economic growth is a worthy goal to pursue as it can have many benefits and will not necessarily always breed misery.

3.3 Explanation
Many people feel happy and rewarded if they are able to climb up the socio-economic ladder and are able to attain the luxuries of life -seen as a fitting reward for hard work / achievement of life-long dream. Prosperity brings choice and gives people the freedom to achieve their wants/dreams, etc.

EG: Singapore is based on meritocracy and a  such Singaporeans believe that getting a well-paid job and attaining the 6Cs is a seen as a just reward for hard work, good performance and ability/ an achievement of the Singaporean Dream. Affluent countries which can provide their citizens with a high standard of Iiving and better quality of life in terms of better educational standards, better health care, cleaner environment, good infrastructure, better security, better leisure opportunities – happy citizens Poverty breeds unhappiness too when people are unable to afford the basic necessities and struggle to make ends meet.

Prosperity can help alleviate the plight of the less privileged in the form of humanitarian aid, grants, bursaries and so on-easing pain and suffering and thus bring joy to the recipients.

EG: Most Singaporeans contented and happy with the high standards of living which economic prosperity has given them-give examples of good employment. education, leisure and travel opportunities, roof over our heads, clean and green Singapore

Evidence mandate for PAP

More charitable acts / philanthropic deeds / volunteerism / donations during President’s Star Charity etc.


Also agree that we should not look at the pursuit of coveted but limited resources as a “zero sum” game but instead see it as an 3.opportunity for competition to raise standards and perhaps even create more resources to satisfy public needs. Besides, being able to enter a university of one’s choice or get a lucrative job can bring great
pleasure indeed knowing that one has outdone the rest. Competition has allowed for healthy growth and breeds creativity.

EG: The need to maintain a competitive edge and our economic prosperity has obviously done Singapore and her citizens much good. It has driven us to invest in training, research and development (R&D) and to constantly upgrade ourselves in order to maintain our appeal in terms of trade and employment. Examples include training for senior or less skilled workers, investment in groundbreaking technology, more universities and ink ups with international educational institutions.

It has certainly improved not only Singapore’s standard of living and quality of life but has also benefited Singaporeans in terms of the vast array of opportunities available.

3.4. Scenario
If you were tasked to head a programme by your government to aid developing countries in your region to eradicate poverty, what policies would you implement?

3.4.1 Social Policies or Programmes:

Education
Schools-help to set up schools in urban cities and poor rural areas
Teachers-training of local teachers
Books/ materials
Computers-provision of cheap laptops (US$100) which are small and compact, with Internet connection. User friendly, looks like a toy. Engage the children in the education process.
Community centres-cater to young adults: provide training (skills, etc.)
Government scholarships, exchange programmes, etc.

Housing
Co-build affordable high-rise or low-rise public housing for the poor

Healthcare
Set up hospitals and clinics in poor rural areas
Help to set up/ provide clean water and proper sanitation
Provide cheap anti-retroviral drugs for AIDs from Western pharmaceutical companies
Provide cheap solutions to vast problems-e.g. mosquito-nets/ bed-nets to prevent malaria
Public education campaigns on the spread of HIV
Family planning campaigns, the provision of free condoms
Vaccines for Covid-19,Polio, hepatitis, etc
Oral rehydration packets for those who are suffering from diarrhoea

Communication
Telecommunication networks and Internet access

Transport
Roads, 
public transport system

 


3.4.2 Economic policies / programmes:

Agriculture
Technology to improve crop yield to feed themselves as well as surplus for export.
Vocational training to teach people the skills of modern farming.

Even urban farming in S’pore is now an industry itself.
(See article on: Urban Farming In SG)

Financial Assistance
Monetary assistance
Loans: Interest-free / low interest, short-term, medium-term. Must be accountable, strict terms and conditions to be observed. Time-frame/ exit.

Partnership / foreign investments
Set up niche industries
Development of traditional industries

 

ISSUE 4: The Place of Women in Singapore Today

There is solid and consistent evidence from scientists that they are structurally different!

Example: Women In Spore are exempted from NS and caring, however, this must not be the bash for society to give unfair treatment to women. Since Independence in 1965, Singapore has witnessed major changes in the attitude and mindset of its people with regards to women. These changes due to the inter play of Science, Technology and the economic system have impacted the status of local women significantly, it will be difficult for Singapore to progress if women were denied the opportunities to fully participate in the economic development of the country in a globalised economy, it is crucial to have a level playing field for talents to be nurtured.

Based on the nature of the economy, it does not matter whether you are a male or female to achieve success in the society. Women in Singapore enjoy an elevated status due their financial Independence. Local women are educated and pursuing careers that enable them to be financially independent of men.

The traditional roles of women as child bearers and homemakers have changed. Social expectations such as early marriages, staying married throughout life, stigma of divorces and remarriages etc have changed dramatically and women are no longer expected to be subservient as they are economically Independent.

 

4.1 Political Participation
Greater involvement of women in politics. For example, in the GE 2006 many women candidates from both the ruling and opposition 4.political parties, stood for election together with their male counterparts. Some women like Sylvia Um holds Important position like Secretary-General of the party (Workers Party) that she belongs

Women are appointed to high political positions such as Minister of State, Parliamentary Secretary and as ambassador apart from being Members of Parliament. Examples Include Ms Lim Hwee Hua (MOS, Min. of Finance and Transport), Prof. Chan Heng Chee (Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States), Mrs. Yu-Foo Yee Shoon (MOS, Min. of Community Development, Youth and Sports) Women MPs like Madam Halimah Yacob. Indranee Rajah and Dr. Amy Khor are making their voices heard through their political participation and are well respected in the society. And of course, Madam Halimah Yacob becoming our President, S’pore’s 1st female President.

4.2 Economic Involvement
Successful women entrepreneurs are a common feature in Singapore today. Their contributions to the economic success of Singapore are by no means trivial. Some examples include Olivia Lum (Hyflux), Jannie Tay [Hour Glass), Tina Tan-Lao (The Link Group), etc.

There are women who are spearheading big economic corporations, for example Ho Ching (Temasek Holdings), Associate Professor Ivy Ng (KX Hospital), Claire Chang (Banyan Tree Holdings) etc. They play major roles in the economic development of the country. Women constitute a high percentage of the workforce and are no longer seen as passive contribution to the economy. In the past, local women were mainly performing household chores and were not regarded with importance in terms of their economic contributions to the country.

 

4.3 Jobs and Education
Women are no longer associated with jobs that are traditionally “female” dominated like nursing and teaching. They can be found in all areas of work like, engineering, law, architecture, neurosurgery etc that were once male enclaves. They have also made their mark as commercial airline pilots (for example in Jetstar), fighter pilots etc.

Educationally, women are excelling in all fields of study and there is a high number of female students in all the tertiary Institutions In Singapore. The number of women achieving postgraduate qualifications is also increasing. More women are better educated today as compared to their predecessors.

 

4.4 Some impediments that are hindering local women from making progress:

4.4.1 Culture and Tradition
Some Singaporeans of Malay, Chinese and Indian origins are still clinging to their age-old cultural and traditional beliefs and practices. Girls are seen as less important than boys (for eg. they are considered to be fit for domestic chores only) and as such are given less priorities and opportunities generally.

Professional women have also been known to resign from their jobs after marriage to look after the children and their husbands as expected by their cultures and traditions. Unless these beliefs, values and practices are changed, women today may still have to suffer the fate that their predecessors went through.

 

4.4.2 Mindset
Despite the fact that Singapore is economically affluent and progressing, some people still hold on to the mindset that women are not men’s equal and can never be.(Sadly, some educated women, may also subscribe to this thinking). Singaporeans of all generations, regardless of race, language and religion need to totally change their mindsets to accepting women as equal contemporaries of men. This perception can enhance women’s participation in all domains of life. Currently, no woman is appointed as full time Minister in the Cabinet.

Religion can also be a barrier to women achieving the same rights as men.

 

4.5 Closure: Evaluation of progress made by local women:

4.5.1 Although there is equality for both sexes to excel in all domains, in reality many women are denied the opportunities to showcase their talents and abilities. For example in the political arena, no women have been appointed as Cabinet Minister. let alone Prime Minister or President. Employing women as pilots is rare and far in between.

4.5.2 Regardless of her educational/career achievement, a woman, upon marriage, is still stereotyped to be the homemaker. Singapore can still be considered a patriarchal society where the traditional perception about the role of women as homemakers prevails. However, the undercurrents of change are palpable today.

4.5.3 Fixed mindsets/prejudices of employers regarding the contributions that women con make due to their dual roles as employees and mothers pose a hindrance to their progress the irony is the country needs them to procreate for long term survival but the mindset of employers is extremely resistant to change.

 

ISSUE 5: Sense of Distrust of Authority

Is the trend of distrust of authority in your society a safe or dangerous one? How effective is your country in managing this trend?

5.1 Danger #1
Dangerous as this obstructs the proper functioning of society. Can be dangerous to small societies like Singapore.

Can be harmful even on a small scale: how can a class function with students constantly undermining the authority of the teacher? (Recall the handphone camera issue.)

5.1.1 Good
In fact many bureaucracies around the world are too set in their ways and bloated.

Some amount of distrust is good to keep the bureaucrats on their toes (greater accountability) and less complacent and more nimble to societal needs. Eg.. Singapore’s PS21 Initiatives to make our civil service world-class in the 21st century. Encourages people to look for alternative systems, to constantly improve on how things can be done.

Inevitable to accept distrust as people get more educated and aware in modern societies. Good as it teaches traditional authorities that trust is earned, not given.


5.1.2 How effective is your country in managing this trend of distrust?
Singapore authorities have tried to encourage greater transparency to reduce distrust, eg. Dialogue sessions, online feedback, meet-the-people sessions, profession of absolute abhorrence for corruption (NKF saga, Joaquim Kang), etc.

However, could lead to backlash on popularity of leadership instead, more unconstructive griping.

Such means of displaying transparency are in fact criticized as being contrived and do not gain public confidence. Problems of patriarchal government system: leads to people’s over-reliance on leadership. Considered as over-intervention by the government into almost all areas of civic society, harmful as it undermines civic responsibility.

PAP government has tried to improve its staid brand image by having younger MPs taking part in hip hop dances in Chingay, having PAP party in MOS, all in order to reach out to younger crowd. However, these are viewed as piecemeal efforts. Singaporeans are pragmatic and still expect solid results from the government.

Singapore has publicized perks of voting the Incumbent government during election time (lift upgrading, progress package, workfare bonus) so as to lessen the distrust of the government.

However, moves have been criticized by the opposition as pork barrel politics.

 

5.2 Danger #2
Dangerous as even minor gripes become major issues, makes mountains out of molehills, easy to be abused. Such conspiracy theorists need not be truthful too and can be damaging to credibility of established institutions. Eg. DSTA scholars’ criticism of A*star, eg. handphone issue, project work grading by MOE.

Dangerous on an international level: leads to mass irrational paranoia eg. Internet rumours, on effect of handphone use on brain, food scares.


5.2.1 Good
Some amount of cynicism towards traditional authorities is good. This prevents abuse by overly powerful traditional institutions.

Gives a voice to the common man-healthy democratization processes.

Ability to address issues with feedback from a larger audience can be useful in clarifying erroneous beliefs.

5.2.2 How effective is your country in managing this trend of distrust
Limited ease to gripe publicly in Singapore, eg. Speaking at Speaker’s corner requires police registration, harsh defamation laws, keeping track of blogs by controlling ISPs, active censorship, especially during political elections.

Yes these are effective, however, this can be viewed as a violation of free speech. Conversely, people can think of more creative alternatives to give subversive feedback eg. Mr Brown’s podcast. Backfires on government. The more Institutions try to control the distrust, the more distrustful people are.

 

5.3 Danger #3
Dangerous as such new forms of authorities have no watchdogs on them, and do not have to be accountable for their actions. Harmful of young audiences. Do we want our children to make Britney Spears their new moral paragon? (shaved herself bald. divorced, doesn’t wear underwear…)


5.3.1 Good
Cannot generalize, not all celebrities are bad role models. Such new forms of authorities are a refreshing change from staid models of authority. They may be more effective in championing truly worthy causes, and making a real difference, eg. Bono for poverty. Angelina Jolie for children. Traditional healers may in fact be more effective than doctors, eg TCM and acupuncture etc.


5.3.2  How effective is your country in managing this trend of distrust?
Singapore is stringent on licensing of new products, treatments, methods despite the pronouncements of celebrities or other unconventional authorities. Some educated Singaporeans are still rather cynical of new forms of authorities. But perhaps our Asian background would predispose us towards being more accepting of the pronouncements of holistic’ healers? (eg. Jamu, TCM, bomoh, Ayurveda)

Singaporeans seem to buy products that are endorsed by local celebrities, even charity events have to be tied up with celebrities doing ridiculously difficult stunts.

 

5.4 Danger #4
Dangerous as it distracts from handling the real issues and solving real problems. We find people doubting the intentions of US, will this instead undermine their ability to police the world and ensure security for all? Even distrust of leaders within UN (eg. Kofi Annan) undermines ability of the UN to perform other duties properly. As friction increases with more distrust, less efficiency which may have an effect on the economy.


5.4.1 Good
People will become more understanding of other cultures due to globalization. Friction may become lesser, not more.


5.4.2 How effective is your country in managing this trend of distrust?
Singapore is one of the most globalised nations in the world, and hence face the challenges of globalization even more, greater need for a stable government to steer the country politically. economically and culturally into the uncertain age of globalization.

Thus Singapore government has led this drive to deal with the challenges of globalization by having a hand in almost all economic sectors (eg, biotech, casino industries). If people doubt the moral feasibility of these economic Initiatives, could impede the economic progress of the nation. (no IR means  no $100 billion injection into economy)

On the other hand, there is very little people can do to change the course of the government’s decisions despite their distrust of the government’s actions. Thus this may further increase distrust.

Singapore has dealt with this need for stable government by attracting good talent for civil service by increasing pay, keeping it comparable to private sector. However, this has incurred public wrath and distrust who see it as the top rewarding themselves while the lower end continue to suffer from the economic Impact of globalization (outsourcing. retrenchment).

 

5.5 Danger #5
Very soon we may have no one to trust! Hinders the functioning of society altogether if there is no trust at all.

5.5.1 Good
NGOs too may have personal agenda and represent different cultural biases. Eg. Christian groups who champion against women wearing burqas (cover for head and
fac)) in the Middle East. Fair to be distrustful against NGOs.

5.5.2 How effective is your country in managing this trend of distrust?
The NKF saga and the recent Youth Challenge fracas deepened Singapore public’s distrust of charitable NGOs. The government has tried to deal with this by clamping down on errant charities, and being more stringent with monitoring fund management 
of such groups.

 

 

ISSUE 6: Do Singaporeans Demonstrate Unhealthy & Excessive Consumerism (Affluenza)?

 

6.1 Yes: (Society)
– In developed societies, it is not just an emphasis but an over-emphasis on wealth acquisition-the 5Cs and the celebration of the rich and famous e.g. Hi-Life

– The mark of a civil society is often mistakenly measured by affluence and its economic prowess E.g. Singapore – fixated on amassing wealth at the expense of other more positive traits such as appreciating the arts and social etiquette. Singaporeans being infamous for
snobbish/obnoxious behaviour in Malaysia (Johor Bahru) Everything is ‘cheap cheap cheap’.

– There has been much talk about the emerging middle class in China and their purchasing power. Other countries are wooing Chinese tourists because of their ability to purchase and their brand consciousness.

 

6.1.1 No: (Society)
Societies also emphasise other things, besides wealth. The attempt to instil social etiquette is an example, for e.g. Singapore’s courtesy campaigns, Beijing’s attempt to educate its residents to stop spitting and littering (i.e. It’s not just building up infrastructure to get ready for the Olympics and hence showing off its economic prowess only)

 

6.2 Yes: (Individuals)
– Many assume that the more money we have, the better able we will be able to use it to provide us with what we value-material good, leisure time and education Eg. There is an increasing trend of the wealthy In Asia buying expensive watches: more luxury cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris being sold in Singapore, all these for the sake of building up an image, for elevation of status. They are self-delusional. It is a misconception.

– Eton schoolhouse / exclusive and elitist schools favoured by Singaporeans because they are seen as prestigious (even though parents choose to believe that these institutions will be able to provide better quality education),

– We derive our identities and sense of place in the world though our consumption activities. More people are visiting gyms, rather than do sports outside, as going to gym is seen as a lifestyle i.e. people no longer exercise for the sole purpose of keeping fit: people want to be seen. (narcissistic) And affluence gives them the means to buy gym memberships. People even go to gyms to check out members of the opposite sex.

– We have an inability to exert self-control. We have a powerful tendency to indulge in short-term passions at the expense of long-term interests, and increased wealth feeds this myopia, by giving us the wherewithal to Indulge such preferences.


Reference:
Australians and Americans are plagued by credit card debts (long-term implications) because they consume excessively due to their inability to exert self-control. Seems prevalent amongst young people even in Singapore as well, as more file for bankruptcy at a young age.

US Federal Reserve Increased the interest rates, which was an attempt to slow down the overheated the property market as people were buying property on credit, causing a property bubble.

An example is the obesity epidemic that now plagues the developed world: that’s myopia in action. Increasingly, obesity is plaguing societies with emerging economies, suggesting that wealth/affluence can also bring about health problems because wealth gives us the means to indulge. Parents in China, for example, send their children to camps just to lose weight. This also suggests a co-relation between economic progress (hence affluence) and obesity.

Increasing obesity rates In USA and Australia.
BBC (2002): obesity responsible for many cancers & Increased risk of cancer. 50% of men & 35% of women are obese in UK. Between 1987-97 10% increase in obesity rates, but Govt is still ignoring  issues that make a difference: long working hours & high pressure environment, which leads to a decrease in leisure time, prohibiting regular exercise or healthy cooking.

In Iran, Saudi Arabia and Australia adult obesity is increasing alarmingly. In some islands in the South Pacific the svelte are close to extinction. Obesity rates on Nauru and Western Samoa are almost 75%

Singapore
Trim and Fit (TAF) programme in schools have to be implemented to fight this problem of 
obesity among chiidren. In the past we relied on a network of restraints provided by the state and various social and religious institutions. But these restraints have weakened.

As societies focus on building wealth, and with personal choice and freedom being the basis of consumption (which is needed to fuel economic growth), societies seem to have become more individualistic and liberal. Such exacerbates the problem of affluenza as the parameters of what is socially acceptable become blurred.

Religious leaders themselves are not setting very good examples for us to follow; the financial scandals involving the Churches in America show us that even priests are not immune to affluenza. Also some of the pastors and Buddhist/ Taoist monks drive Benz and earn a lot of money conducting rites for people.

6.2.1 No: (Individuals)

We are conscious of the impact of our decisions on the rest of the world. Around the world, the effort to save the environment is gaining momentum (example: Live Earth concert). Governments have begun putting in place measures to do their part or encourage their citizens to do their part for the environment, such as Singapore’s ‘Bring your own bags Day’. Ikea charging for its plastic bags in its outlets all over the world. These show that we acknowledge that we need to pay a price for the affluence we enjoy and we need to start looking at the long-term consequences.

Other efforts include: RGS students lobbied to force their canteen drink vendor to buy fair-trade coffee as well as the excitement about hybrid cars in the recent years especially because of its popularity amongst politicians and celebrities.

Bodyshop: popular among the young because of the marketing strategy about non animal testing (a different way of marketing themselves by promoting animal rights, thereby showing that we need not compromise the environment while promoting consumption)

Dove has tried to deviate from such advertising tactics by using ‘normal’ women of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and to promote what they call ‘true beauty. Not everyone is affected by influenza; there are families which try to strike a balance and are able to juggle both, where there is an equal emphasis placed on both material pursuits and family.

The time spent on pursuing material pursuits is an attempt to better provide for the material comforts of our family: means to an end. Friends can also ‘bond’ through similar topics of conversation albeit through shopping for their material goods

Not true that the restraints provided by the state and various social and religious institutions have weakened. The various institutions remain strong advocate of positive values such as family relationships, morality and environmentalism (already discussed earlier). Governments definitely play the largest and more active role in promoting family relationships, such as encouraging people to start families through various incentives (for e.g. Germany contemplating giving mothers a year’s maternity leave, suggesting the emphasis/importance placed on family.) Moreover, the restraints may not necessarily be effective to begin with. Studies have shown that even though Americans go to church more often (presumably more religious therefore), such does not translate into positive behaviour. This undermines the role of religion as an effective restraint to begin with.

Many parents still fulfil their roles in imparting values to their children. Also, many young people are active in their cell groups and the sermons preached by religious leaders have an impact on young people too.

 

6.3 How far are people in your generation willing to re-examine their priorities and values to combat affluenza?

Willing
Some young people are conscious of the impact their actions have on the environment; and are involved in green projects.

Other young people are fervent supporters of causes, such as recycling, and the refusal to wear fur.

With so much talk about the environmentalism and the effects becoming more evident, as well as greater awareness, young people may actually be more willing to practise ‘conscious consumption’.

It does not mean that other things are not important to them either. Youths Initiate Community Involvement Programmes (CIP) and despite being voracious consumers. do not allow other things to recede to the background. While they may be materialistic, they are not about to create a dystopian future. They are not overly obsessed with consumption.

S’pore has realised the impact of affluenza. Schemes introduced to improve welfare / refocus on the family: such as Family Day, 5-day work week. Eat With Your Family Day.

 

Unwilling
Difficult for young people to cultivate conscious consumption because they are at an age where they tend to be less self-assured and more self-conscious. They are thus more vulnerable to the deception of marketers and this is exacerbated by peer pressure.

Parents themselves may be plagued by affluenza (dual income families being on the rise) and are busy amassing their wealth to even spend time with their children. Young people take the cue from their parents and in their own ways succumb to affluenza. Parents also contribute to the problem by making up for their lack of attention with material goods, and hence send the wrong message to children.

Youths are self-centred and tend to make decisions based on what they think will benefit them (the “what’s in it for me’ mentality). They are unlikely to think of the impact of their decisions on the others around them and they are too caught up in the hedonic treadmill to reflect on the impact of their consumption on others.

Many societies are still result-oriented, especially as competition becomes more Intense in the global economy. Where there is so much emphasis on GDP, young people may find it hard to choose not to be part of the rat race. This is evident in the Singapore system, where the young are encouraged to do CIP so that they can stand out (CV-building), market themselves better. There is also evidence that youths these days are plagued by many more problems (such as self-mutilation and suicide) suggest that the competition has become even more intense. In addition, consumption could be a means o  escapism.

Difficult to change the mindset of people who have been ingrained with the mentality that Singapore can only rely on human resource and that the economy will only survive if the people are skilled to work in the economy.

Unwillingness to re-examine our priorities and values stem from the fact that people in this generation have grown up in relatively affluent times where their needs and wants are very much provided for by their parents. Being used to it, it would take tremendous effort to get this generation to alter their consumption patterns. (History has ended for them)

 

ISSUE 7: Is Your Society Considered a Happy one?

The issue as to whether Singaporeans consider themselves happy must hinge on subjective perception as much as on objective facts.

Our belief is that Singaporeans are their own worst enemy. In this regard, Poet John Milton’s words are instructive. “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven”.

Generally-speaking, Singaporeans do not consider themselves happy despite Singapore’s meteoric rise from Third World to First World status within one generation and despite having one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia. In a study called the Happy Planet Index, Singapore ranked a deplorable 131 (out of 178). This is very ironical when we consider how economically-oriented and materialistic Singaporeans are.

Layard’s description of Britain as a money-obsessed society. “serious politics, and thus our national life, revolves around cash” sounds uncannily like Singapore where “money politics” predominates. Considering Singaporeans’ undeniable obsession with money. some people are surprised that this society of the nouveau riche/newly affluent is perversely unhappy.

The line Schumaker quotes from Bruce Brockburn’s song can help explain why Singaporeans are less than euphoric, “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse”. And the trouble with good fortune is that it seems mundane especially for younger Singaporeans who have no experience of harder times. Many Singaporeans have grown so accustomed to economic growth, world-standard amenities, stable government and social order that they see these as a form of entitlement. It is hardly surprising that Singapore has been called “an air-conditioned nation” and (more damningly) “a society of passive complainers”. Like Salvador Dall who complained self-Indulgently of dying from “an overdose of satisfaction”. Singaporeans are Jaded, unimpressed and dare I say, ungrateful. Indeed, the trouble with ‘happy’ (happiness) is that it now seems merely normal.

Schumaker’s recommendation that “people who have it all must learn the art of flirting with deprivation” is implicitly encouraged by the Singapore education system. One of the reasons Singapore schools send students on overseas community projects is to open their eyes to the Third World squalour Singaporeans should be grateful they have escaped from. Most other Singaporeans don’t have the benefit of this eye-opening comparison and remain predictably disgruntled.

Tocqueville’s description of Americans (‘so many lucky men, restless in the midst of abundance”) could very well apply to Singaporeans. The highly developed culture of competitiveness confers an economic advantage but it also encourages social envy. Singaporeans wish to be richer, more successful and more upwardly mobile. In a country with a burgeoning middle class, they long to be distinguished from the rest. Status anxiety runs deep in the national psyche and is manifested in their choice of residential district, the make of their cars and the schools their children attend. The “retail therapy” Layard talks about is not just Singaporeans’ favourite pastime but part of their feverish acquisition of status symbols. The combination of social competitiveness (a defining attribute of the middle-class) and greedy consumerism (a particular vice of the newly affluent) traps many Singaporeans in an expensive lifestyle that they have to work even harder to sustain, upsetting further the already abused

work-life balance. Relentless competition is already a cause of unhappiness in Singapore, a regional economic hub attracting professional expatriates and skilled foreign labour. Exacerbating the insecurity is the government’s assertive reminder that “no one owes Singapore a living”. Further fuelling discontent are complaints of unfair competition. While politicians boast about the “meritocratic system”, some cynics argue quite persuasively that what Singaporeans have is actually an inflexible meritocracy narrowly based on academic qualifications (within an education system that is itself too conservative to recognise or develop diverse competencies).

Being a Singaporean, I can speak from personal and shared experience that Singaporeans do not consider themselves happy. We are too busy to enjoy ourselves and our families. Real wealth notwithstanding, we feel ‘deprived’ because of our immodest desires and social ambitions. We never get the sensation of having arrived because of our perpetual obsession with getting ahead. We compete feverishly in an economic race we suspect (not unjustifiably) of institutional unfairness. Compounding the unhappiness is the realisation that people with very high expectations are often the first to be disillusioned.

Who was it who said, “A rising tide lifts all boats, but not all spirits”? He could very well have been describing the average Singaporean, discontented in the midst of affluence.

 

ISSUE 8: Meritocracy in Singapore

8.1 Meritocracy can lead to elitism.
Elitism is the belief that a small group of people, usually the best and the brightest, at the top, makes the important decisions influencing society. These best and the brightest are capable of leading well. In Singapore, the Singapore government believes that the only way to attract scarce talents into the government and the top echelons of the civil service is to pay wages competitive with the private sector.

Elitism need not necessarily be negative. The PAP leaders accept the best carries with it the responsibility for being the most able and virtuous, and for leading by example. They do  not tolerate corruption or ostentatious lifestyles among themselves, and they are conscious that they must be seen Iiving up to their own high standards.

Elitism can be tolerated and accepted if to quote from The Economist, “there is equality of opportunity”, it is important that the government is conscious and is seen, as concerned with all the people in society.

8.2 The Singapore government has been aggressive in attracting foreign talent.
Of the 170 staff working in the country’s Genome Institute, about 120 are foreigners.

Alan Colman, a member of the Scottish team that cloned Dolly the sheep, is also based in Singapore now.

The local population has not expressed explicitly on this issue. To deflect any negative response, the Singapore government has modified the term “foreign talent” to “global talent”. Because of its small size, Singapore cannot generate a critical mass of local talent to put Itself at a competitive advantage. It has to rely on global talent.


8.3 A government can embark on the following measures:

8.3.1. Address gap in standard of Iiving and opportunities
The government can embark on or affirmative action or positive discrimination. In South Africa, it may mean “black economic empowerment or in Malaysia, the pro BUMIPUTRA discrimination. Disadvantaged sections of society are “looked after” in terms of education public-sector jobs, university places and even government
contracts

However, positive discrimination policies must reflect the evolving social dynamic. Providing such peris must be carefully monitored. In Malaysia, the gap between the haves and have-nots among the Malays has widened. Rewarding contracts seem motivated by “ENCRONYMENT”, the enrichment of those well connected to the ruling United Malays National Organisation.

The government needs to give impression that there is quality injection in the living conditions of lower classes. It must have the mindset that it is aesthetically possible to approximate the property environs of the talent elites. For example, the Singapore government recently announced its plans to upgrade Punggol housing estate to one that is in its class of its own.

The government continues to provide support for the lower classes in crucial areas eg health care.


8.3.2. Address gap in education opportunities
Measures suggested Include universal education and reforming schools to make them more robust. For example. In Singapore, primary education was made compulsory in 2003. Neighbourhood schools have been developing their own niche programmes to cater to their students.

The PAP government can also re-look education by considering different types of education at the secondary level, instead of general education. The general education route caters to the more academic, whereas there is a sizeable group who are inclined to street-life type jobs. in Singapore, ITE education is a positive step to cater to different abilities and interests. The SIM is a good move because it allows adult learners alternative routes. However, there must be commensurate opportunities in the job sectors.

The government can reserve scholarship opportunities for certain groups of a certain income level and below, Currently, scholarships are competed by all, but those of the lower income group may not reach scintillating levels partly because of their background. One very good example is the acquisition of the English language. Children of the talent elites may be able to attain language proficiency much faster and higher compared to those of less favourable backgrounds. As English is the main vehicle of instruction and writing, the potential of the bright from less favourable backgrounds may not reach their potential.

 

8.8.3. Recognise diverse talents
The overall climate needs to change if this is to take place. The government must be skillful in managing this as there can be very few places or just one for certain talents eg hotdog eating champion.

Ultimately, Singapore because of its size cannot be the New York, where many types of occupations can thrive. However, Singapore can still have its best dry-noodle chef (MEE POK man), best sales executive, best ice-cream maker etc.


8.8.4 Create opportunities for the talent elites to interact with lower echelons of society

Society should have programmes that encourage the elites to Interact with the lower classes. These programmes could be instituted at the organisational level. An advantage of this is that work life can be integrated with community work. Organisations must bite the bullet and sacrifice work days in order for these activities to take place.


8.8.5 Encourage the talent elites to contribute
The government can showcase philanthropic efforts and benefits to generate further efforts.

The government can set up a School of Philanthropy or programme where public can Interact with philanthropists.

Caveat: many people shy away from publicity. Perhaps, the government can make it clear that:
No Names Are Shown
Just Come and Listen to…
Our Share and Care

The government may need to conduct research on the origins of philanthropy to implement appropriate measures. Many philanthropic efforts may be driven by unique circumstances of a person’s life journey that can be hard or impossible to replicate.

Caveats / in Perspective
Certain measures can be difficult to alleviate e.g. choice of marriage partners as there is
a tendency for people to click better with similar intellectual wavelength.

Because society pays one according to his talent and in the bid to retain the top talent, there is a widening income gap between the CEO, the manager and the office worker. We may have to live with the multiple identities of the talent elites. Being head hunted. they are mobile and can choose where and when to go. The country or organisation has to be content that the talent elites have added value during their stint.

 

ISSUE 9: On Achieving Multiracial / Multicultural Harmony in SG

9.1 Approaches and effectiveness:
Housing racial quota): HDB ethnic integration policy makes it mandatory for different races to live together in a HDB precinct. Hence it is a norm for minorly and majority races to live side by side. This ensures that racial enclaves that lock a group away from the mainstream is not formed. Such enclaves develop a sense of exclusivity and breed resentment and distrust which can be lead to volatility.

Effective? superficial because there is no real interaction, but this could be because of the demands of city life, people are too busy for their neighbours

Or relatively successful? – More interaction between neighbours. Not unusual to see Chinese children playing soccer with Malay or Indian children in HDB estates. Although we need more time to examine the effectiveness, can be sure that it is necessary and 9.2 effective to a large extent.

 

Singaporeans are linked by certain shared values like meritocracy and a work culture that emphasizes diligence and efficiency.

Effective? But some private organisations employ only a particular race. Govt does not have much control over this,

Handling of terrorist threat is judicious: sensitive to feelings of Singaporean Muslims. Govt and Media do not emphasise the religious background of the terrorists. Effective? Has generally made Muslims in Singapore feel secure and encouraged a greater sense of belonging to the nation.

Schools/Education:
Meritocracy is also practised in schools and same criteria for university admission apply to all students.

Prohibited the use of religious headscarves in schools on the grounds that they Prohibit d accentuate differences between ethnic groups in a common space that is important for integration. Multiracial interaction during national service, CCA Involvement etc.

Not successful-Surveys shows that many students only have friends of their own race and would rather remain in their comfort zone 

Bi-lingual policy. CME and National Education to promote understanding of other cultures and a greater sense of national Identity. Not effective – National Education viewed as propaganda and seen as contrived and trite by both students and teachers.

Legislation: Religious Harmony Act and the Internal Security Act are examples of laws enacted by the government to protect Singapore’s multi-cultural society. Under these laws, those guilty of trying to undermine racial and religious harmony, by plotting terrorist attacks or posting racial hate speeches on their blogs can and have been dealt with severely by the law. Eg terrorist suspects have been detained without trial.


Effective? – YES- Such measures taken to regulate behaviour have been effective. Together with the wide publicity given to them by the state-regulated media, these measures have succeeded in curbing public speech and actions that might lead to racial or religious violence.

Policies (e.g. GRC representation) and organisations (e.g. Inter-Racial & Religious Confidence Circles) to ensure that minority voices are heard and needs met. Specific groups to meet needs of specific ethnic groups (e.g. Mendaki, SINDA, CDAC)

Effective? – Yes – Outright discrimination is minimal and minorities are represented in politics and other areas with open discussion among religious/ethnic leaders.

Integrating foreigners into our culture: Benefits for locals (e.g. lower school fees, places in university) to ensure that they don’t feel threatened by foreigners. Books written to help foreigners integrate, befriender schemes to introduce foreign students to local lifestyles and habits:

Successful-foreigners integrate well into local culture (e.g. invited by local friends to take part in festive celebrations, eating in coffee shops, living in HDB flats) Successful-sports matches between local and foreign teams and other forms of interaction obvious

Not successful-many still view foreigners as a threat to their jobs

Not successful-stereotypes of foreigners hinder integration and acceptance (e.g. Bangladeshi construction workers, Filipino maids)

Not successful-many foreigners send their kids to international schools and keep to their own kind.

 

ISSUE 10: Maintaining Work-Life Balance

The life-long issue of work-life balance is a perennial GP topic of interest for S’pore JC GP exams.

10.1 Why do we work so hard?

So-called culture of excellence is endemic to Singapore. It is a prominent feature of the civil service, well-known for its relentless stress on work performance and professional upgrading. For example, performance bonuses are pitched to pre determined notions of hard work and professional knowledge, Job scope, potential for promotion. It is a way of life for a vast majority of Singaporeans employed by the Singapore Civil Service, which happens to be the biggest employer on the island.

Many Singaporeans are Indoctrinated from young to accept that Singapore’s survival prospects is largely dependent on healthy economic growth. This is translated into a pragmatic outlook in most citizens who tend to value and define the good life in terms of career and success (such as the 5Cs). This is a superficial gauge of what “success’ really means.

Aspects of the in Singapore (from the perspective of the ruling government and the individual) which indicate an awareness of a demanding and gruelling work culture and of the need to change it:

Government-initiated maternity and paternity benefits for civil servants, 5-Day Work Week

Institute of Mental Health actively markets stress-management courses to interested organisations (in public and private sector)

Most organisations have staff welfare units (e.g. teaching and military) to balance between work and play, to promote recreational pursuits to enhance mental well being

Sports for Life National Campaigns: promote healthy living, recreation, sports and exercise as a means of better quality of life for individuals, families and corporate organisations.

Some well-to-do Singaporeans choose to ‘resist’ Singapore’s stress-inducing work culture. Many opt out of rat race through migration. Exodus of wealthy Singaporeans to popular ‘retirement’ spots/ destinations such as Australia, New Zealand to enjoy a slower and more relaxed pace / quality of life. Happened in early 1990s. Trend is still discernible today. It may manifest in other forms: bond breakers or students who study abroad and choose to work overseas.

Travel and leisure. Singaporeans know how to ‘set limits’ and take a break. Surveys reveal that Singaporeans are known to be among the most well-travelled in the world. Note the high frequency of travel fairs in the country. Changi Airport is set to be hub for budget airlines in the region. The travel industry designs short weekend getaways on their fours such as free & easy packages. Frequent and popular travel fairs held in city: various leisure industries not only forecast but supply service to cope with high demands.

There will always be an inspiring group of Singaporeans who are willing be generous with their time and invest their care and energy in non-materialistic pursuits (Spiritual/Social/Emotional Enrichment). NGOs or civil societies/groups Eke Nature Society, Lion’s Befrienders Groups, SAGE, SIF, Dover Park Hospice Support Group promote volunteerism to citizens as an aspect of service-learning or community outreach, Support can be in the form of advocacy, nursing, counselling or fund-raising. Other outreach activities include environmental care, outreach to intellectually disabled, Aids patients and overseas missions.

 

ISSUE 11: Biotechnology in Singapore

Of recent years, this GP topic of Biotech relating to Singapore context is increasingly important.

11.1 How is the biotechnology sector regulated
Ethical codes of stern-cell research in Singapore: Recommendations made by Bioethics Committee on the regulations Imposed on stem-cell research here. This is to prevent any possible breach in the field of eugenic enhancement procedures such as disease screening, sex selection and gene screening during the IVF process. There is still a lot of debate and controversy over attempts to help Infertile women conceive ‘designer babies’. Our ethicists are aware of the need to impose rules on biomedical science. Limits are set to safeguard any attempt to devalue life and compromise human dignity in the use of human embryos for research. This is one way to disallow excessive ambition from blinding us to the ethical minefield of human cloning or reproductive technology.

A Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) comprising members from government statutory boards, Ministries and the hospitals was established in April 1999. Its main objective is to oversee and advise on the research and development, production, use, handling and release of GMOs/food in Singapore, ensuring that these are done in compliance with International standards. The GMAC also develops and approves biosafety guidelines regarding GMOs and stringent tests are required under These guidelines to ensure these foods are safe for sale and consumption. GM food is Thus regulated like any other food in meeting the same rigorous current international health standards, so it can be as safe as non GM food. The GMAC’s charter is to put health and safety before profit and to ensure all risks related to these products are minimized through the establishment of a proper risk assessment.

The government’s efforts to ensure GM foods pass risk assessments are comprehensive as besides the stringent GMAC tests, Singapore imports only GM foods currently available on the International market that have also been tested by the producing countries and shown not likely to present risks for human health as a result of their consumption.

Apart from conducting stringent checks on GM foods, the government has put in place bio-safety guidelines and a common framework for research organisations wording on GMOs. This again is aimed at ensuring public health and safety through monitoring on-going work, and maintaining high standards of facilities and personnel within research organisations so as to uphold competent GMO research.

Our government’s efforts have also been comprehensive and meticulous as they extend beyond minimising health risks to minimizing environmental risks involved in producing and utilizing GMOs.

 

However, there are two areas where governmental effort is lacking / inadequate.

First. It has not reinforced the labeling of GM food as there is to date no legislation reinforcing current international labeling rules. Although the GMAC has set up a sub committee to look into labeling, no guideline has been finalized. This is unfortunate as currently, GM foods that have undergone nutritional or compositional changes or that may present health risks are subject to mandatory labeling in most countries.

Second public education has fallen short as little has been done by the government to provide responsible and balanced information to the public with respect to GM food.

For instance, not much information has been disseminated regarding government bodies involved in GM food research, its legislation or regulatory systems and the rationale and processes by which health and safety decisions related to GM products were made. It is important that the public knows the concerns involved. In case of scientific doubt, the public should be made aware of these doubts as they are entitled to information that addresses their concerns and preferences. The government should also respond to any question raised. Increased awareness promotes more enlightened public decision-making.

Our government should thus make such information accessible to a variety of consumers through the mass media eg. pamphlets or fact sheets, newsletters, television or the internet. There is presently increased public interest in GM products as more citizens want to know about the risks and benefits. It is thus our government’s role to highlight that an infrastructure is in place to deal with issues pertaining to GM foods, and that it is committed to making its role more transparent and visible.

 

ISSUE 12: Critical Thinking in S’pore

The need to instill critical thinking is an imperative thing and a strong GP topic and theme for SG context.

12.1 Why there is a lack of critical thinkers in SG:
Top think-tanks in the world come from the West. Consider the number of think-tanks in S’pore as compared to the number of think-tanks in the West. Singapore – 4; UK-abt 34: US-about 70.

Lack of enterprise in countries like Singapore. There’s no need for critical thought since the government with its capable leaders can take care of everything.

Repercussions of speaking up and criticising: Catherine Um’s political commentary: “The PAP and the people-A Great Affective Divide” drew a harsh response from the government which called for Lim to “take responsibility for her views” and enter politics if she wished to continue airing them. Libel lawsuits and detention without trial are also often used in Singapore to suppress political dissent.

The fear that critical thought will weaken power and or traditional values has resulted in harsh controls of the media and strict censorship: In Singapore, there was the arrest of bloggers who posted racist comments on the Internet as well as the sacking of “Mr Brown” from the Straits Times for his critical comments of the Singapore government.

While greater affluence could encourage more critical thinking, interestingly it could also encourage just the opposite – greater apathy and conformity. This is especially so if people become more concerned with acquiring wealth than with political change. This “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality can be observed in Singapore.

 

ISSUE 13: The Need to Curb Freedom of Expression in SG

The need to curb freedom of expression is another major GP theme for SG context.

13.1 Reasons to Curb:
Singapore as a multi-racial / cultural / religious society

Geo-political sensitivity required: Singapore part of the Malay Peninsula even though majority of her population are ethnic Chinese.

i) Maria Hertogh Riots (religious and racial lines)
ii). 1964 Race Riots (Racial)
iii). 1969 Race Riots of Singapore (Racial)

Suffered badly-if repeated, will very likely:
i)
hamper economic progress
ii) affect investors’ confidence
iii) cause political instability
iv) disrupt social cohesion

The above took decades to build after the racial/religious riots..

Growth of the country depends on her people, especially so in Singapore which has no natural resources.

Therefore especially important to be tactful in Singapore, where the majority of the people live in HDBs and communal functions are held at void decks, like Chinese funerals and Malay weddings.

The Sedition Act was first used on Individuals when three men, including a teenager, were charged for making seditious and inflammatory racist comments on the Internet. A deterrent sentence is necessary so that such offending acts are tackled early and contained. Callous and reckless remarks on racial or religious subjects had the potential to cause social disorder, regardless of which medium or forum they are expressed.

MM Lee’s (Lee Kwan Yew) bad experiences with irresponsible press reporting in his early years in politics-> emphasis on “responsible journalism” Many news agencies have been sued, notably FEER: In late 1970s, Ho Kwon Ping, the Review’s Singapore correspondent, was accused of endangering national security and fined $3.000. 

 

The above 13 issues are the pertinent ones in Singapore. Select 4-6 at least and prepare to them in your AQ answers, or examples in essays, form the S’pore perspective.

Happy Revision!

 

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