Tuesday, October 23, 2007



Singapore would be happy to rejoin Malaysia if it surpassed the island's success said its former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Is Lee Kuan Yew a shit stirrer, who likes to ruffle Malaysian leaders feather? 

With the present Malaysian leadership, unfair economic and social practices and discrimination against the other races, can Malaysia overtakes Singapore in term of economic success ? Malaysia and Singapore have had long history of murky and ambivalent relationship under Mahathir.

Malaysia had enjoyed a good degree of economic success under former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad, who soft-pedaled the NEP (New Economic Policy) to stimulate economic growth. 

Mahathir, whom many Malaysians have learned to hate during his tenure, knew without strong Chinese participation the economy would not be able to grow substantially to take the country out of its middle income status. The government needs the Chinese economic engines to drive the economy to a higher level.

On the 9th of August 1965 at about 10 a.m, music playing over Singapore radio was cut off abruptly for an urgent announcement that would change the course of history and the future of the two nations. The announcer Mr Lee Kuan Yew solemnly read out a shocking declaration. 

"Whereas it is the inalienable right of the people to be free and independent. I, Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore, do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf of the people and the government of Singapore that as from today, the 9th day of August in the year 1965 Singapore shall forever be a sovereign,  democratic and independent nation founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society."

Later in the evening, Lee Kuan Yew appeared on television overcome by emotion, cried and only regained his composure after about 20 minutes, announced to the nation the separation of Singapore from Malaysia. The separation was at the behest of Tungku Abdul Rahman and his ruling party, UMNO. 

The sudden ejection of Singapore from Malaysia was taken with mixed feelings, some were overwhelmed with emotions while others were jubilant.Some Chinese merchants in Singapore's Chinatown set off firecrackers to celebrate their liberation from Malay hegemony.

Singapore was thrown out of Malaysia without being given a chance to explore other avenues to resolve the issues of Malaysian Malaysia, a war cry sloganeered by Lee Kuan Yew. The Malays took his demand for equal rights for all as an affront to Malay supremacy and disrespect of the central government.

Most nations have to fight for independent, Singapore had independence thrown on its lap. As Lee Kuan Yew wrote in his memoirs "We were a Chinese Island in a Malay Sea". Two million Chinese surrounded by over 100 millions Malays. He said "How could we survive in such a hostile environment." Undaunted, Lee Kuan Yew would spend the next 40 years to find answers to this difficult questions.

Singapore, an island nation of about 214 sq.mile has no natural resources and an economy that can survive better on the inefficiencies of its neighbours.The entreport trade founded in 1819, which it depended much on now face a doubtful future. Much of Singapore economy at that time depended on its strategic location as an entreport and the military presence of British forces. Britain defence spending in Singapore accounted for about 20 percent of the GDP and directly employed 30,000 workers and indirectly another 10,000 domestic help.The scaling down of the British presence would have a serious impact on the economy.

The man of steel, Lee Kuan Yew is not easily rattled, not afraid of danger, combative and a no nonsense guy, he embarked on a long and tedious journey to develop tiny Singapore into a nation he visualised would one day be one of the most ultra modern and most developed nations in the world.The man has a dream and had gone through turbulent times in pursuit of his dream of making Singapore a great city state.

I have lived in Singapore for over ten years and witnessed the transformation of the country from a gangster-infested and crime-ridden city into ultra modern, efficient and almost crime free metropolis. From the already efficient Payar Lebar airport to the super efficient Changi airport, I have witnessed the clock work that the leaders of the country had installed to catapult it into the twenty-first century. This is the airport of the future where traveller's comfort and ease of movement is a priority. Not many airports can rival Changi where even the toilets can dazzle you.Going through Immigration and Custom is like a breeze and it's probably the only airport in the world where upon arrival your baggage wait  for you at the carousel instead of you spending time waiting for your baggage.

The brand new Sepang International Airport is a far cry from being airport of the present, let alone the future, built more as a showcase than functionality.It has many drawbacks.As always and in true Malaysian style the toilets are what toilets should be.... must have that shitty smell. For a first time traveller arriving at Sepang can be quite a challenge if you were to have an immediate connection on another flight. Directional signboards can be quite challenging and there weren't enough shops, restaurants and cafes inside the main departure hall. Singapore way ahead by leaps and bounds, Malaysia Airports Berhad should send some of their personnel to Changi to learn how airports should be run.

In Singapore you can apply for a telephone line and it would be installed within the same day, or next day.Applying for property loan from any bank your approval/rejection can come within a day or two. Even more amazing the many years that my family lived there, we have no remembrance of blackouts, or water supply problem. In many parts of Malaysia, blackouts, power surges and water shortages can be  daily occurrences.

Singapore never failed to amaze me for its incredible efficiency.One day I arrived at Changi and was at the Immigration counter waiting for my passport to be chopped and to my utter amazement and disbelief, the Immigration officer told me politely that I haven't paid the property tax on my apartment and asked me to do so immediately before the government take action against me. I do not know of any other country that had such efficient and well coordinated government departments , certainly not in my country, where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand doing.

If you have been visiting Singapore frequently, you would probably have noticed how they carry out their road repairs. Most roads were repaired at night when there were less traffic to avoid causing inconvenience to the public.In Singapore, truck carrying spoils to the work site dare not spill dirt on the road, any spillage would be quickly removed by the driver's assistant and any traces of dirt left behind would be washed away. In Malaysia roadworks are carried out at anytime of the day causing long traffic queues. The relevant government department seems not to have any control over contractors doing the work.Spillage on Malaysian roads are very common and the culprits are seldom brought to book.Malaysian policemen are only interested in checking road taxes and close their eyes to other more damaging offences.

There was a joke in Singapore that even the angsana tree dares not shed its leaves out of fear of Lee Kuan Yew that he may get so angry he will order the tree to be chopped down. In Singapore, the specie of trees to be planted were chosen for its character. If it has a nasty habit of littering the roads with its leaves, it would not be the tree of choice. This botanical discrimination is for the purpose of cutting down the cost of cleaning up, which makes a lot of sense. Singapore is greener than many other cities including those of its neighbours. Most pedestrian malls and boulevards are lined with trees on either sides to provide natural sheds. This is a city that cares for its citizens and visitors, putting taxpayers' money to good use and providing excellent amenities for the people. Unlike Kuala Lumpur, it is a pedestrian friendly city. Bustling Orchard Road in the city centre are covered by shady trees .The same cannot be said of Jalan Bukit Bintang in downtown Kuala Lumpur. After Kebun Raya in Bogor, Indonesia and the Pamplemousses in Mauritius, Singapore is the only other country in this region that can boast of having a botanical garden.

A functional city must have good public transportation system.This city state has one of the most efficient and reliable public transport. The public buses and LRT are clean and on schedule.Taxis are available everywhere and round the clock. Taxis cannot refuse to take passengers as long as they are not changing shift. Any taxi driver found to have broken the code of conduct may lose his taxi licence.This is a government that mean business and enforce the law without fear or favour.

Try get a taxi in Kuala Lumpur during peak hours, most taxi drivers will refuse to take you to the place you want to go, if they do agree, they will charge you a bomb. Worse still, there were many instances where taxi drivers cheated foreign tourists by overcharging the fare.Recently, there was a case where a taxi driver raped his female passengers. Discipline is still a big problem with taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur.

Many years ago when I was still staying in Singapore there was case of a rickshaw driver who charged a Japanese tourist an exorbitant amount for a short ride on his rickshaw.The driver was charged and when the case went to court, the Singapore government brought back the Japanese tourist to attend the court case as a witness and a victim. The Japanese tourist got a free holiday as all expenses were paid by the government. Most other government would have considered it a petty crime and would not have bothered.Some 9.7 million tourists visited Singapore in 2005.

Lee KuanYew is a gift to his country. He became Prime Minister of self-governing Singapore at the age of 35 and at 42 he was Prime Minister of independent Singapore.

In his second memoirs 'From Third World To First' he said "We faced tremendous odds with an improbable chance of survival.Singapore was not a natural country but man-made, a trading post the British had developed into a nodal point in their world-wide maritime empire.We inherited the island without its hinterland, a heart without a body."

Immediately after the expulsion many foreign press predicted doom for Singapore .The Sydney Morning Herald, on 10th Aug 1965 wrote "An independent Singapore was not regarded as viable three years ago.Nothing in the current situation suggests that it is more viable today".The London Sunday Times, on 22 August 1965 wrote "Singapore economy would collapse if the British bases - costing more than 100 million sterling - were closed"

Undaunted by the prophecies of the Western media, Lee Kuan Yew almost single-handedly set out to prove that nothing is unattainable as long as you persevere, which he did and proved them wrong.

The per capita GDP of Singapore in 1959 was US$400, in 1990 it had grown to US$12,200 and in1999 to US$22,000.Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy.The manufacturing industry is well-diversified into electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences.In 2006, Singapore produced 10% of the world's foundary wafer output.It is also the busiest port in the world in term of tonnage shipped.It is the world fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre after London,New York City and Tokyo.It has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world.Thousand of foreign expatriates work in multi-national corporations in Singapore.

The per capita GDP in 2006 was US$26,833.It was ranked No.24 in 2005 per capita GDP.How could a seemingly godless person like Lee Kuan Yew transformed a small tropical backwater into an economic powerhouse without any natural resources and with a population of less than 5 millions?

It has been said 'take care of the penny and the pound will take care of itself'.

Singapore success story had been on...... nothing is to small, or too little........ like the tourist and the rickshaw driver.

In Malaysia, we want the biggest, the tallest, the longest ............and got short end of the stick!


Anonymous said...

You are a Malaysian, how come you support LKY.Do't you think you are being unpatriotic?

LKY insulted the intelligence of Malaysians.

gram.kong said...

Dear anonymous,

Please don't be confused, it is not about being patriotic, it is about giving credit where credit is due.

Lee Kuan Yew is one of the great leaders of recent time.To build up a tiny island without natural resources is not an easy task.Singapore is one of the most ultra modern and functional cities in the world and has a strong economy.

Do you know that Temasek, a S'pore owned investment company has over USD108 billion assets and investments, Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional has only USD17.9 billion.S'pore total assets and investments under GLC is well over USD320 billion.If this couldn't impress you than I am sorry I can't help but feel sorry for Malaysia.

Don't you think Lee Kuan Yew deserves a standing ovation?

h@n| said...
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h@n| said...

LKY once said, "I will make Singapore the 2nd New York." & it happened.

gram.kong said...

S'pore success is due to determination, perseverance and incorruptible leaders running the country.Your should be proud of such leaders.

You should thank your lucky star that you don't have scoundrels running the country.Otherwise, you would be another third world liability, like many countries in Africa.

Mat Salo said...


I enjoyed this piece here and your first commentator missed the point completely. Having been there (on business) quite often in the past, you're aboslutely right at how their gomen goes around doing its stuff. The sad thing is we could be as good, if not better. So where is the problem? Our BN should really look closely at S'pore and learn from them.

I have a classmate who is an aide LHL but chose not to become a Singaporean for personal reasons. They gave him a scholarship to Harvard up to PhD level. You know, a few years back I met an 'American' (White, Anglo-Saxon)professional in S'pore, and I was shocked that he gave up his US citzenship to be a Singaporean! Now have you heard of an American applying to become a Malaysian?
And you don't see Singaporeans going in droves migrating do you?

Perhaps we should consider importing some of the talented Malaysians working there (like that classmate fo mine) back.

The problem with our politicians, the Malay ones especially, have some ingrained belief in their own sense of superiority. Just take a look at the numbers vis a vis our SG neighbor and be prepared to be ashamed. Malaysia's problem is "arrogance" when we have no reason being so.

It is certainly "arrogance" that makes RELA men behave the way they do...

gram.kong said...

Dear Mat Salo,
That's a nice piece from you.When I was living in S'pore, many of my S'pore friends urged me to apply for PR, which I politely declined.I just don't like big city and S'pore is a bit too plastic for me.In spite of the fact, I still love my stay in S'pore.You know, it's a pleasure to stay in a city that's functional, cause it takes the daily stresses out of your life.

I prefer the environment in KL, but the city fathers were not great city planners then. Sitting out one hour in traffic is quite common and on a day of heavy downpour, home could be many hours away.I am not sure what the situation now.

There are many Malaysians working in top jobs in S'pore.Recently, a top student from Sabah who couldn't get scholarship from his own government was given one by the S'pore government.

The brain drain from Malaysia would continue as long as the BN government don't change their education policy.

Anonymous said...

As such, LKY had lower population to deal with and smaller territory to administer. Singapore's Ports and Airports yes are successful due to the fact that Singapore has always been a strategic located country. Its easy to supply electricity to a country like singapore wereblackouts are seldom. Try providing electricity to a country like Malaysia and its population, its another ball game.

Singapore owned investment companies have such high capital is because of less money use to development areas in Singapore. Less area to develop means less money to use. Which in turn is directed to investment goals. I am sorry LKY has everything going for him there. Small easily persuaded population and strategic location. which is the Key to a success goverment. Dont BS me about harmony and tolerance. 75% Chinese dominant Singapore? as to 60% Malay in Malaya.

The person who deserves a standingovation is Tun Mahathir, He took a developing world country, out of one of the worst ecnomic crisis in the region, perhaps the world.

If LKY wasnt president someone else would have been, and Singapore wouldve been where it is now. Not so if we did not have Tun Razak or Tun Mahathir.

Anonymous said...

Malaysian arrogance? All i could see here is Singaporean arrogance. Malay superiority? I'd say Chinese Superiority. Seems Singaporeans think to highly of yourself without consequences of your comments. Just because your high above us (well actually below) doesnt mean you can trash talk and rant about "oh our country is perfect (which is not), your country well.. umm sucks big time"

Anonymous said...

Americans leaving to be Singaporean. old news. An opportunist strikes everywhere in this case a American. Yes Ive heard of Americans, Portuguese, British, Australian getting a PR here in Malaysia. Its nothing new.

Tho I don't see them migrating, they sure do follow Mall sales in herds. In due time. Singapore will leave the Island May it be political views or just cant seem to take a shit without someone's window being beside you.

If you cant stand the traffic, carpool. Be kind to the world. New York has worst traffic then KL, why belittle our capital? More cars mean more traffic ,less cars mean less traffic, get the jib? KL has a population size almost as Singapore. plus the hundreds of thousand moving in and out each day.I seriously doubt hundreds of thousand going into Singapore each day, Its saying that the last guy in line would be going to work at 12 pm. And I've experience Singapore side of causeway. fast and easy my.. Put that fact in your hard heads, before you start ranting.

Anonymous said...

Malaysian should learn from Singapore? Dont make me laugh. Singaporean are one of the most passive people on earth. Demonstration against the goverment e point where you are not allowed. One Party system? no racial integration of politics, which is dominated fully by Chinese ethnics? Fear of retribution? At least the Malaysians are brave in their fight for reformation. Singaporean Elites just dangle a picture of grandeur and superiority and the whole nation comes in line.

Anonymous said...

I am a Malaysian Indian, and I have worked nearly 20 years in Singapore. I was denied a University education in Malaysia because of the quota system, and I couldn't seem to get a job because I 'couldn't speak Chinese'.

I totally agree with everything the author has said about Singapore. Half my working experience in Singapore was in the Singapore Civil Service ( yes, thousands of Malaysians have work in the Singapore government in the past without having to be Singaporeans or even PRs). I was amazed of how professional, efficient and clean they were. After years of being 'taxed' by the Malaysian police by the roadsides and having to put money under the table just to apply for a low cost house for my widowed mother, I couldn't believe that it was possible to be a civil servant and not be corrupt to get things done!

The Singapore secret, I've learnt is 'wages'. The Government constantly raised wages in the private sector (through the National Wages Council) and even in the Civil Service - not just to keep up with the times, but also to improve the standard of living. A civil servant in Singapore does not ask for bribes because he can manage with his decent salary. In Malaysia, however, a low ranking policeman would need to eat grass if he were to survive on his salary.

The BN government has been deliberately keeping salaries low just to attract foreign investment. It is the only way they know how to develope the economy. When they try investing themselves, they loose money instead( eg Proton,MAS,Cyberjaya,etc etc).

In effect,the Malaysian government has been keeping its workforce in poverty!

Anthony Roy said...
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whatever said...

Last year I went to singapore to have a visit..and it's simply breathtaking and fantastic! Clean, paved roads, with no traffic jams unlike KL or in Penang. No sight of dirty buildings, nor leaves strewn everywhere. I am kinda amazed to know from you that they actually chose trees to be planted around singapore city. I do know that despite all the complaining from singapore about PAP, they still support this party for what they made singapore to be today.

I plan to study in singapore next year , and hopefully my family can migrate to there as well...letting my parents spend their old days happily and without having any risk (riots/snatch thiefs and such)in Malaysia.
Im sure that many people do think that way too.
No way malaysia can advance as long as corruption and racism prevails.
Thank you for writing this post about singapore. This gives me an insight into singapore...and be amazed by their development.
Singapore, truly malaysia's dream.

Unknown said...

You hit it spot on. Singapore is a good place to live but I'm afraid its too contrived for me. Was there for a short period & by then was hankering for M'sian newspapers what with Mona Fandey, carjackings & other freaky news. As other commentators said there are loads of M'sians working there, there's where our brain drain ended up. But there are idiot Malaysians who call themselves patriotic by slamming M'sians who migrate. If they were true patriots they should find out why this brain drain & try to reverse it to help build Malaysia.....too many small minded idiots running around, maybe I should consider moving myself