NDR: One-eye dragon looking at ‘Four Dragons’

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“The Four Asian Dragons is a term used in reference to the highly developed economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. These nations and areas were notable for maintaining exceptionally high growth rates (in excess of 7 percent a year) and rapid industrialisation between the early 1960s and 1990s. By the 21st century, all four have developed into advanced and high-income economies, specializing in areas of competitive advantage. For example, Hong Kong and Singapore have become world-leading international financial centres, whereas South Korea and Taiwan are world leaders in manufacturing information technology.”

Source

If we study the so-called four dragons carefully, Singapore is the most vulnerable among them. PM said in his NDR 2012 speech that we are in a much better position to face the world in next twenty years’ time than most countries – presumably also referring to the other three dragons. I’m not that optimistic as him.

Let’s look at the hard facts – facts which we can’t change at all. Singapore is the smallest among them. Only 710 sq km. Hong Kong is more than a thousand sq km. We are the smallest city-state. All of them, including Hong Kong have huge hinterlands. Our population density is also the highest among them – in fact the highest in the world.

For any country to survive into the next 20 to 50 years before we can talk about other visions, it must have the pre-requisite basics such as security (defence), energy, food and water. Let’s examine them in detail.

We and Korea need to allocate annually tens of billions on defence expenditure, whereas Taiwan and Hong Kong need not. So long as Taiwan doesn’t declare independence, China will not bother to take it back by force. The Chinese have got more than enough internal problems to handle. No Chinese leader will want that honor of attacking it’s own race. With the billions saved, their citizens will have more social welfare benefits. We do not have that kind of luxury.

As far as energy is concerned, we are hopelessly dependent on others for oil and gas. We are forever at their mercy. Since the other three dragons are huge countries having mountains and valleys, they do have alternatives like hydro power dams. They could even go nuclear in future. We can’t. Where to put a nuclear plant? We don’t even have the buffer zone security for a nuclear plant. Other than solar power, we are completely energy resource poor.

Next is water. The other three dragons have plenty of fresh water unlike us got to convert water from shit. It’s not going to be cheap. It’s going to cost much more in future cuz we are using precious oil to burn shit to NeWater. Oil will get more expensive and scarcer.

What about food? Those three countries have lots of land. Hong Kong has got a huge hinterland since it’s part of China. As climate changes drastically, more and more farmland will be destroyed and crop yields may fall. Do you still remember Thailand banning sale of rice to us at one time? The Thais had to keep their rice for their own citizens. Here money may not necessary buy the rice from famine struck countries. Have we forgotten about that panic situation?

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I’m surprised that the Prime Minister did not in his recent NDR touch on the bigger picture twenty years or more from now. However, he did mention much about technology revolution and how it affects us unknowingly. He asked the audience if any one didn’t carry a mobile phone? Twenty years ago, hardly anyone had a mobile phone. Today, it’s so common that it’s assumed that you carry one.

By comparing ourselves with the other three Asia dragons, we are the most precarious. We are so small in size that every sq km is gold. It inevitably pushes up costs in everything arising from our limited land space – higher COEs, higher costs of housing, office, factory or warehouse rentals which ultimately lead to higher costs and more artificial inflation (not imported) passing on to end users. It’s a never ending vicious cycle especially our spiraling property prices. Will it burst or keep moving northwards? Is there an end to this madness?

The biggest glaring feature of Singapore which the three dragons do not have is that our economy is virtually dominated by GLCs and NTUC enterprises from foodcourt, supermarket, shopping malls, EC, pawnshop, insurance, travel, child care to funeral services. Almost every facet of our lives comes under their influence which is actually an extension arm of the current government.

Wonder no more why world class icons like HTC, LG, Asus, Samsung, Hyundai could thrive in Taiwan and Korea whereas we only have GLCs and NTUC to contend with. The latter instead of concentrating on it’s original noble mission has deviated into a huge business conglomerate! They are good only in our domestic economy reaping immense profits from within our shores.

Another thorny issue that is testing our social fabric is the composition of our population. As it stands, we are already having nearly 40% foreigners among us. Do the other three dragons have such massive foreigners in their midst? Their population is much more stable than us esp Korea where it remains original and retains its core identity. That is also the case for Taiwan and Hong Kong where they are basically of the same stock.

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In the next twenty years – a generation later, what will be our population composition? Will it STILL be 60% locals vs 40% foreigners OR the other way round? Will we ‘fold up’ and be replaced by them? Will our future PM be a new citizen? It is not impossible if we see a few more CSMs get elected to parliament.

Hong Kong is already part of China. In twenty years’ time, there is a slim possibility of Taiwan going back to her motherland and Korean re-unification. The available option is there for them if they fail. What about us? What’s our option? If there is a remote option for us, then the next question is on whose terms – ours or theirs?

PM says in NDR 2012 that we should not be ‘one-eye dragon’ (独眼龙) – meaning looking at things with only one eye or one sided perspective. But let me tell you don’t forget that the one-eye dragon is still the king in the kingdom of the blind! Often, it’s the onerous duty of the one-eye dragon to enlighten those around whom are blind to so much happenings around them. Have you heard of the nine blind men giving nine different descriptions of an elephant in the room?

Have you ever tried shooting a rifle or revolver with both eyes open? The one-eye dragon would have shot better than you shooting with your both eyes open.

Due to the above imponderables, we may not do as well as the other three dragons in twenty years’ time or more especially with our ever more demanding electorate in a fast changing social political landscape.

Click to read related article.

My earlier article on NDR 2012.

PS: Will the prophecy made 22 years ago that we may have to crawl back to where we came from, ever happen in another twenty-two years’ time?

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About Alan Tang

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of SG. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share some of the interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes from my friends or observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting my blog.
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25 Responses to NDR: One-eye dragon looking at ‘Four Dragons’

  1. Hi Gintai,
    I totally agree with all the hard truths you mentioned. Another point to mull is whether Singaporean will lay down their life for this country in case of a war. I think the rich will probably take the next flight out at first opportunity but the poor had to remain to shoulder the responsibility.

    • New Values says:

      No need for war – the economic machine will mangle you first – see Greece, Ireland, Spain – parts of USA, UK, France – notice the “riots” – this is the aftermath of an inequitable distribution

    • Sg Cabby,
      We do not have faraway hometown or kampung to seek refuge. We also have no millions where we park them in some offshore banks. We’ve got nothing but to stay put and dug in. Whether we like it or not, we will have no choice but to fight against foreign aggressors. That is the truth – not only the truth but the whole truth!

  2. The says:

    /// Other than Korea and Singapore where we need to allocate annually tens of billions on defence expenditure, Taiwan and Hong Kong need not. So long as Taiwan doesn’t declare independence, China will not bother to take it back by force. The Chinese have got more than enough internal problems to handle. No Chinese leader will want that honor of attacking it’s own race. With the billions saved, their citizens will have more social welfare benefits. We do not have that kind of luxury. ///

    Gintai, a different take from me on the above.

    From the CIA World Factbook, the per capita reserves are as follows:
    SG US$44,440, HK US$39,890, TW US$16,890 and Korea US$6,270

    SG, despite having to spend more than $10 billion each year on defence, still has more reserves per capita than HK which does not have to spend a single cent on defence. Hence, SG can afford to have more welfare spending – and it is no luxury. Instead, we spend it on $2,200 bicycles and $600 chair and $50,000 course on cooking. Moreover, SG also have very substantial assets in SWFs like GIC and Temasek plus MAS. I am not sure about the SWFs of other 3 dragons as they have not been featured among the top funds of the world.

    Our medical and social welfare spending are the lowest among the developed world.

  3. Dumbdumb says:

    Worst case , we become like the Irish people or our forefather. Going anywhere where stomach can be filled……………….

  4. New Values says:

    Beware the buzz words – computerization, technology and productivity. The current joblessness in USA n Europe is being caused by increasing permeation of ROBOTS or Bots. Anything can be replaced by these wondrous machines – the prime question –
    WILL BE JOBS after bots?
    Who will have the income without jobs and who can consume?

    Singapore currently looks like a tropical rainforest – verdant and sustainable because of the sum of innocuous contributions, abhorreal animals and epiphytes. the rainforrest is actually very infertile – remove a few elements and see the whole ecosystem start collapsing. See Kalimantan, Brazil……

    If we are serious we better start at kindergarten and teach our kids to be imaginative and innovative.

    More universities are just paper mills like QE, LTRO, ESM – basically it is inflationary allowing everyone to feel good for a while and then the bubble inevitably burst. Basic degrees will be worthless like India, US, Europe- we need entrepreneurs – the job for the mortals like us will be to provide services to them.

    Want beautiful butterflies – we need to learn to accept the caterpillars. no Honey without stinging bees, also no crops – so we sud not go around killing bees.

    20C thinking proccess cannot solve 21C challenges facing us.

    Majullah

  5. Pingback: Daily SG: 28 Aug 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  6. musingsofasingaporeretiree says:

    I can understand why S Korea has to spend a hugh portion of her GDP on defence but why Singapore? We are not in a state of war with our neighbours even though our leaders once in a while might have made some disparaging remarks on them and strained ties with them. Our leaders said that we are surrounded by a sea of muslims therefore we have to up our defence expenditures. I do not accept this line of argument either. Many years ago, I was told that communism was our enemy. So much so, there was a chop in my passport forbidding me to visit China. Now I see communist chinese every where in singapore! They are no more enemy but foreign talents!
    I think our leaders have their own agenda to step up defence expenditure. If only they could cut back on defence and spend more on health care and welfare for the people, we would be a happier society.

  7. I like the back to basic idea of rebuilding a home. We need to start from the basics again. Food, energy, water. Don’t forget skills. http://asingaporeanson.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/downfall-of-singapore-draining-of.html

    • Totally agreed! Back to basics. Remove all elitism. Give each citizen a basic flat and ban them from trading in the open market. A flat is for you to live not to speculate and make profits!

  8. Dumb question says:

    Saw an interesting comment about the rich fleeing Singapore in adverse time. Reminds me of our history, where whether by plan or chance our most prominent father was never in Singapore in times of great turmoil…go ponder

  9. LHL is FULLY AWARE, but chose to be “One-eyed Dragon” to project “Hope, Heart, Home”, i.e. all the way positive stuffs.
    And not forgetting we are loosing “First-Mover Advantage” gradually of signing Free Trade Agreement. Other countries are catching up, especially South Korea.
    For the nuclear plant, they have 2 medium-size in mind, I suppose.
    Even we don’t build, Malaysia is going to build one very close to us , i.e. South-East Corner of Johor.
    The overall situation is unfavourable.

    market2garden gt 2012.08.28

    • Indeed, we are in dire straits! If we can’t secure our existence in the next 20 to 50 years, what vision, dream or grandeur are we expounding at this very moment?
      Our dear PM should have used that powerful platform when he delivered his NDR 2012 to galvanize the entire nation and raise our adrenaline level in preparation of the coming serious life threatening challenges rather than delving in petty issues – storm in a teacup.

  10. alamak says:

    Gintai is such a role model for the PAP….apparently you must have been a convert already to the dogs after your 1:1 meet up. Beware !

    http://papalways.blogspot.hk/2012/08/pap-makes-best-singapore-government.html

    • What sort of dog are you? Have you read my recent posts before you open your filthy trap to cast your venom on my blog here? It won’t affect me at all. Go spit your venom elsewhere.

  11. ~presumably also referring to the other three dragons~
    I interpret the statement refer to our neighbours – islands SEA and continental SEA.
    And of course, we are still in better shape.

    • I wish I were as optimistic as you. I wish you are correct and I’m wrong. It’s not about prizes for guessing it right. It’s a question of our survival and existence. Your children’s and our children’s future. What are they inheriting from us? The legacy we are leaving behind? That’s the main point.

      • Still better shape than neighbous, slightly. Can’t say better than the other three dragons.

        • Market2garden,
          Let’s say a cash rich gentleman and a poor farmer with no cash but some chickens and small plot of land. Our cash rich gentleman living in the city is swindled by the like of Lechman brothers. He lost everything. Who has a better survival rate?
          Our neighbours like that poor farmer thru hard work will still survive. Can we say that to ourselves? We are cash rich but resource poor. If we are not careful, with 10 Soros knocking at our door, we are finished. Game over! Got it?

  12. patriot says:

    Well written.
    For some reason, natural elements are never factor into projection of the future. Disease, weather and other natural disasters such as earthquake, tsunami and volcano eruption can have serious implication and effect to our wellbeing. Though we maybe less prone to such phenomenon, it does not mean we are not going to be affected by their occurrences. A severe one elsewhere, worse if it is where we depend much for supplies, would have us in dire consequences.

    Those who feel that they are able to divine 30 to 50 years down the road, got to be mindful of the wrath of nature. It is beyond the intelligence of mankind.

    Gintai has made a very good analysis and it will be good if our both eyes open big big and wide wide talented leaders will take them seriously.

    patriot

    • Patriot,
      Thks. We are talking about the harsh reality of geopolitics here not natural disasters. We can’t avoid acts of God. We have to be clear of the available options 20 to 50 yrs from now.

  13. Sgcynic says:

    Even worse than the blind and the one-eyed dragons are those with good eyesight but pretend not to see. Emperor’s new clothes anyone?

  14. Good one, Gintai. One-eyed dragon may not be as bad as PM made it out to be.

    • Toothfully,
      Remember our own notorious gunman one-eye dragon donated his organs before he was executed? He converted to a pious Buddhist before his passing.

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