Category Archives: Singapore

The Idiosyncratic Autocrat: Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore City State

Binoy Kampmark writes for CounterPunch:

You never hear the end of it. The “Singapore miracle”, the fabulous Asian city state, a model of development and wealth creation encrusted with “Asian values”, corporate innovation and transparent governance. “Prosperous, orderly, clean, efficient, and honestly governed,” noted The Economist, though it had to concede that it was not only the work of the late Lee Kuan Yew.

The 91-year-old Lee, statesman spectacular, was the “geostrategist”, the “wise man of the East”. For many citizens, he was the “father”, a “king”. Margaret Thatcher expressed her admiration for his clarity of vision. He led Singapore at a time of crisis, having seen its eviction from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. Vulnerable to being swallowed up, devoid of natural resources, he imposed on Singapore a model of development that would make its way into manuals on economic management.

Such commemorative tributes do little to find in Lee the idiosyncratic racist, the cultural theorist, the humourless strong man of all views Singaporean – because any of his views were obviously deemed good views. (Forced laughter was always a feature of audiences listening to Lee’s at times eccentric articulations.)’

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China says South China Sea land reclamation ‘justified’

BBC News reports:

BBC Map‘China says its land reclamation work in the South China Sea is “totally justifiable” as it has “sovereignty” over the area. Its foreign affairs ministry spokesman Hua Chunying was responding to a BBC report which documented China’s construction work in disputed waters. The Philippines has accused China of illegal building in the area.

China is locked in a dispute with several countries over maritime claims in the South China Sea. The BBC report by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes said China was building new islands on five different reefs. He and his team documented Chinese work to dredge tonnes of rock and sand from the sea floor to pump into Johnson South reef in the Spratly islands, which are also claimed by Manila.’

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Total Information Awareness in Singapore

Shane Harris writes for Foreign Policy:

‘In October 2002, Peter Ho, the permanent secretary of defense for the tiny island city-state of Singapore, paid a visit to the offices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department’s R&D outfit best known for developing the M16 rifle, stealth aircraft technology, and the Internet. Ho didn’t want to talk about military hardware. Rather, he had made the daylong plane trip to meet with retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, one of DARPA’s then-senior program directors and a former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Ho had heard that Poindexter was running a novel experiment to harness enormous amounts of electronic information and analyze it for patterns of suspicious activity — mainly potential terrorist attacks.

The two men met in Poindexter’s small office in Virginia, and on a whiteboard, Poindexter sketched out for Ho the core concepts of his imagined system, which Poindexter called Total Information Awareness (TIA). It would gather up all manner of electronic records — emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports — and then, based on predetermined scenarios of possible terrorist plots, look for the digital “signatures” or footprints that would-be attackers might have left in the data space. The idea was to spot the bad guys in the planning stages and to alert law enforcement and intelligence officials to intervene.’

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Tax evasion controversy shifts east

Matthew Allen reports for swissinfo:

[…] The ICIJ reports include numerous references to Hong Kong, the Cook Islands and the British Virgin Islands. But Singapore, home to the Portcullis Trustnet offshore specialist firm, is also named as a key figure. Situated in the heart of the most economically vibrant corner of the world, Singapore’s wealth management industry grew 22% in 2012 to 1.63 trillion Singaporean dollars (CHF1.15 trillion). Industry research group WealthInsight expects Singapore’s share of global offshore wealth to outstrip Switzerland by 2020.

The Singapore financial regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is alert to growing suspicions that not all of the assets that it attracts are clean. The island state has signed up to tax information exchange programmes while making it a criminal offence for banks located there to accept undeclared or laundered money as of July of last year. […] But not everyone is confident that Singapore is following up its words with actions. Opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary-General of the Reform Party, has campaigned for years against perceived corruption in Singapore.

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