By: Ng Kok Lim
I refer to Theodore Shawcross’s Quora answers to “Why do people hate Singapore?”
1) Freedom of speech and racial harmony
Theodore claimed that giving up freedom of speech is a price that Singaporeans must pay for racial harmony. That is falsehood.
Singapore was already a paradise for multiracial harmony (Chinese, Malay and Indian) long since colonial times. Evidences can be found at https://trulysingapore.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/singapore-racial-harmony-during-colonial-times
Mixed communities have lived together harmoniously in Singapore for over a hundred years before the PAP government came along. Yet throughout our colonial years of multiracial harmony, there was never the need to trade off our freedom of speech. Colonial era Staits Times was so much freer than it is today. Colonial era Chinese papers spoke for the Chinese educated masses unlike today.
Conclusion: Singapore’s racial harmony is carried forth from colonial times, not forged by the PAP government. There was no need to trade off freedom of speech for racial harmony during colonial times, there is no need now.
2) Hate crime
Theodore claimed that everyone in England has a friend who has a racial conflict story to tell and therefore UK is riddled with hate crime even though he himself has never experienced it.
For someone who claims to be an economist, Theodore’s claim is too unscientific. If every other person that Theodore knows have heard ghost stories, does that mean Theodore would believe in ghosts too?
There are so many conflicts between Caucasians and locals in public places captured on Youtube. Perhaps Theodore should view them and conclude the same about Singapore too?
3) Cost of living
Theodore claims that social spending must increase but that means increasing tax but that is a no, no since Singapore is attractive because of low taxes.
That is like saying nothing at all or nothing useful. Theodore is wrong because the Singapore government can increase spending without increasing taxes because it has billions of dollars of budget surplus to spare almost every year. We are not even talking about dipping into the reserves, just the billions of dollars of budget surplus every year that the government doesn’t use but puts away in the already bloated reserves.
Theordore claims that what keeps our economy strong also keeps our cost of living high so for the sake of our economy, cost of living has to be kept high. He also claims that cost of living in a metropolitan city must necessarily be high and cited New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney for comparison.
According to the Economist Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2016, all the cities Theodore cited are cheaper than Singapore. There are many other cities listed in the survey that are economically as strong as Singapore but that have much lower in cost of living such as Taipei, Luxembourg, Melbourne, Sydney, Frankfurt, Vancouver, Berlin, Stockholm, Hamburg, Munich and so on.
Conclusion: There are so many cities in this world that are as competitive as Singapore but with much lower cost of living. Hence the notion that a better economy must necessitate higher cost of living is therefore not true. Ultimately, it is human ingenuity that drives the economy, not cost of living. Human ingenuity cannot thrive when cost of living is exorbitant.
4) Western capital cities are filthy and public transport fail all the time
Theodore claims that most capital cities except Tokyo and Sydney are filthy and that their transport systems fail all the time.
Firstly, Sydney is not the capital city of Australia. Canberra is. Secondly, Theodore unfairly limits his comparison to capital cities when all cities can be compared for cleanliness. The fact that Theodore recognizes the cleanliness of Japanese and Australian cities shows that the cleanliness in Singapore is really not so big deal after all. There are so many other clean and beautiful cities like those in Switzerland and Germany, they have to be or they would not attract so many tourists year after year.
It’s plain exaggeration to say that Western public transport fail all the time. Singapore public transport cannot compare to those in Switzerland and Germany. This is despite the fact that Singapore’s public transport infrastructure is so much newer than those in Western cities. Because of lower population densities and the prevalence of car or bicycle use, public transport failure is comparatively less disruptive in Western cities than in Singapore.
5) Affordable public housing and cheap eat outs
Theodore says that our public housing is affordable and that he can eat at a food court in Singapore for SGD $10 whereas he has to pay SGD $50 for a proper meal in London.
In the first place, Singapore public housing, especially those in the open market, can be more expensive than private housing in Western cities. There are many Singaporeans who have sold their flats and bought houses with gardens to live in Western cities. So housing is clearly much more affordable in Western cities instead.
There is a website http://golondon.about.com/od/eatingdrinking/tp/EatUnderFiver.htm that tells Theodore where to eat for less than 5 British pounds which is approximately SGD $10. So no excuses for Theodore for not getting cheap meals in London unless his main intent is to unfairly compare a London restaurant with a Singapore food court.
6) Car costs and traffic jams
Theodore reasons that low car costs in Western cities are associated with traffic jams. He cites his own example of having to face the traffic jam on I-80 everyday in his one hour drive from home to Stanford.
But the same can be said about Singapore. Every morning and evening, expressways like PIE will be jammed. I once passed through two gantries along CTE only to end up in a jam just the same.
Conclusion: It is not true that high car costs automatically means little or no traffic jam. We have high car costs plus traffic jams often contributed by incessant road works or pruning of trees.
7) Freedom of expression
Theodore points to calling an Indian or Malay by the colour of their skin as the kind of freedom of speech that we should not want. He thinks that Lee Kuan Yew quit Malaysia to retain racial equality. He says that violence is just one step away from racially or religiously offensive remarks which only the law can protect us against.
While Indians or Malays are not referred to by the colour of their skin, they are called names like apu neh neh which some Indians take offense to (although I have seen a video explanation of why apu neh neh isn’t offensive).
Lee Kuan Yew didn’t quit Malaysia, we were kicked out of Malaysia because Lee Kuan Yew grew too ambitious and wanted to be prime minister of the whole of Malaysia.
Theodore is actually shooting himself in the foot. Going by his argument that the law can protect us against racist or religious offenses, there should therefore be no need for speech control to protect what is already and can only be protected by the law.
8) Singapore housing is affordable
Theodore claims that Singapore is the only country that has kept housing affordable in the capital city relative to suburban areas. He then contradicts himself by saying that Singapore’s suburban area is Malaysia where houses are cheap and affordable. If Malaysian (Singapore suburban) housing is cheap and affordable compared to Singapore, wouldn’t that imply that Singapore housing is expensive and unaffordable compared to Malaysia (Singapore suburban)? Thus, Theodore provides the evidence to prove himself wrong.
Most surveys such as the Global Property Guide rank Singapore amongst the most expensive cities in the world in property prices. So Theodore can only fool himself in saying Singapore housing is affordable.
9) The rest
Theodore blames people’s hate of Singapore on Hollywood. But Singapore is hardly ever mentioned by Hollywood so much so that our mention in Pirates of the Caribbean was already sensational enough for us. Theodore blames Singaporeans for ignorance when his entire essay is chock full of ignorance. Theodore describes young people as pain in the ass who needs to grow up. No Theodore, not all young people are pain in ass. You are not pain in the ass, you are just plain ass.
Theodore claims he is proud to stay and contribute to our economy and to create jobs for Singaporeans. But at the beginning of his essay, he said he moved to Singapore for economic reasons because jobs are here, not to create jobs. In the same token, if for some reasons Singapore falters, you can be rest assured that Theodore will move on to greener pastures for the same selfish economic reasons that he himself has confessed to.
Falsehoods, half truths and weak analyses that are sometimes self contradictory are the common themes that run throughout Theodore’s essay. It reflects deep seated ignorance and weak intellectual ability on the author. It brings shame to Stanford and other world class universities Theodore is associated with.
Republished with permission from Truly Singapore.
Reply to Theodore Shawcross’s “Why do people hate Singapore?”
By: Ng Kok Lim