Singapore at 50: the country the Philippines could only hope to be

The late great Singapore Elder Leader Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) wrote about the obvious in his 2000 book From Third World to First

A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums of money to get elected, or it must trigger off the cycle of corruption. Having spent a lot to get elected, winners must recover their costs and also accumulate funds for their next election. The system is self-perpetuating. To be elected to Taiwan’s legislative yuan in the 1990s, some KMT candidates spent as much as US$10-20 million. Once elected, they had to recoup and prepare for the next round by using their influence with government ministers and officials to get contracts awarded, or to convert land use from agricultural to industrial or urban development. In Thailand, a former government minister described it as “commercial democracy, the purchased mandate.” In 1996, some 2,000 candidates spent about 30 billion bahts (US$1.2 billion). One prime minister was called Mr. ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) because he was renowned for dispensing cash to candidates and voters. He retorted that he was not the only ATM.

Today, 15 years after Mr Lee’s words appeared in that seminal book that recounted “The Singapore Story”, we sadly see his message continue to be wasted on countries like the Philippines where the aspiration to “eliminate” corruption resounds during every election with so much irony. Indeed, every one of those elections (where virtually every candidate trumpets one “eliminate corruption” slogan or the other) is an anti-thesis of LKY’s simple “precondition for an honest government”.

lee_kuan_yew

It therefore remains quite baffling that many Filipinos continue to look to their affluent neighbour forlornly and wonder why their country remains at the bottom of the heap while a resource-poor pipsqueak of a city-state populated by the descendants of indentured labourers mainly from China and India booted out of the Malay Federation in 1965 towers above the rest today. What did Singapore do that the Philippines could not?

Sour-grapers deride Singapore as being merely “lucky” to be a small easily-managed country that happened to have been continuously led by a single brilliant visionary. It was all luck, see. But then the Philippines, too, was a lucky country. It was “blessed” by an abundance of natural resources and physical beauty and remained secured for the most part of the several decades following its independence in 1946 under the military umbrella of its former colonial master, the United States.

Unfortunately for Filipinos, history tells us today that while Singapore expertly capitalised on its “luck”, the Philippines all but squandered its “blessings”.

Suffice to say, it takes more than an ounce of imagination to envision a promising — but realistic — future for one’s country. And Lee had pounds of imagination to underlie his vision for Singapore from the very beginning when he and his ministers “made sure from the day we took office in 1959 that every dollar in [state] revenue would be properly accounted for and would reach the beneficiaries at the grass roots as one dollar, without being siphoned off along the way.”

Compare this resolve to be in it for the long haul armed with a clear strategy of how to achieve one’s vision with the way Philippine presidents today routinely fail miserably to articulate a strategy and a plan to execute it over a mere six-year horizon. Instead, Filipino politicians see six years not as a period to execute a plan but more as a payback period for moneys invested in winning elections.

Perhaps this is the reason why Philippine elections have never been about the real and pressing national issues and the solutions candidates stand for. Rather, Philippine elections are more about candidates’ winnability. The winning is the whole point of the exercise and not about whether or not the candidate is qualified to be president. The result — Philippine-styled “democracy” — is a sad perversion. In his Huffington Post article Philippines’ Survey Republic: Popularity and the Making of Presidents, Richard Javad Heydarian writes…

Philippine elections are sometimes more like a beauty pageant than a serious public affair. It is mostly about selecting motherhood statements, (numbing) jingles, and catchy buzzwords, which will resonate among voters. Not to mention, the power of family names — especially in a country that sometimes looks more like a collection of little kingdoms and unruly dynasties under a weak emperor, rather than a modern, egalitarian society.

It highlights the confronting fact about Filipinos’ political prison of their own making:

If Filipinos cannot take their elections seriously, they cannot have a basis to aspire for good government.

The administration of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III is enough proof that elections won on the bases of clever slogans and catchphrases alone will not make the Philippines a better-governed nation. President BS Aquino rose to power in 2010 on the back of clever catchphrases — his Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) doctrine that underpins his lyrical election slogan “Kung walang kurap walang mahirap” (“Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty”). But while these slogans so effectively resonated with an electorate that has long been incapable of thinking beyond the heady circus of Philippine-style elections, they were utterly useless in the midst of the job at hand to govern a nation of 100 million people. Writes LKY in his book as if he were alive today to witness the circus unfolding yet again in the Philippines…

It is easy to start off with high moral standards, strong convictions, and determination to beat down corruption. But it is difficult to live up to these good intentions unless the leaders are strong and determined enough to deal with all transgressors, and without exception.

The late Filipino comedian Dolphy once quipped after being asked if he would be willing to run for president (a sure winnable at the time on account of his vast popularity): “Running for president is easy. But what if I win?

If only the Philippines’ presidential candidates — and those of the future — were as reflective as these late great men.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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60 Comments on "Singapore at 50: the country the Philippines could only hope to be"

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oi
Guest

Our country has been robbed!
Please read this and spread awareness.

http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2004/site_packages/econ_hitmen/3150philipp_coup.html

Hugh
Guest
People always thought the other side of the fence is greener. Have you ever been to Singapore? I have stayed there for 5 years and got a good grip of how unhappy and dissatisfied Singaporean are with their Gov’t. The international news are all praising how Sg got everything in order, disciplined, clean, crime free, etc. etc but who would dare to stage a demonstration against a Gov’t that has no problem putting anyone in jail by just thinking about it? I’m not saying that Philippines is better at all but freedom is not free and Filipinos are paying for… Read more »
ChinoF
Member
Perhaps you’re looking at only one part of Singaporean society that feels its culture is repressive. If you’re looking at Steph Micayle’s “Why I’m not Proud to be Singaporean,” what she complained more of is “artists” like her (a singer) not being appreciated by a society that values mathematicians and scientists, and policies that are more favorable to immigrant workers than the locals. Also, think about it; why are immigrant workers like us Filipinos flocking there? Because peace and order are better there than in the home country and they get paid better? There’s a context for that. Perhaps, for… Read more »
Hugh
Guest

While it is true the some Singaporeans are spoiled brat and have entitlement issues, most of them are highly educated and hard workers to a fault, still the towering cost of living is driving them crazy consequently the upturn of suicide in Sg.

ChinoF
Member

And in being highly educated and hard workers, as well as compliant to their leader’s rules, to good manners and to honorable behavior, they still made a country that the Philippines could only hope to be. Obviously, there are Filipinos who don’t want to come homee from there because of the peace and security they find. High costs are sometimes the price to pay for that.

Hugh
Guest
I can understand the anger and the frustration about the current situation of the Philippines and tend to envy other countries like Singapore. But Singapore is for the rich in the like of Mark Zuckerberg. Ordinary highly educated Singaporeans are suffering from depression and so much hate against foreigners . Hatred built by their dissatisfaction over the government yet the only thing they can do is to suck it up and keep their mouth shut. Every Filipino I have talked to in Singapore doesn’t want to live there for good, they are only there to work and save or gain… Read more »
marius
Guest

anon: call centres are normally run by non-Filipinos (it’s one of the few types of business that foreigners are permitted to run). Europeans and Americans generally find age-discrimination either pointless or distasteful.

Personally, I’d want to hire the person who can do the job. Someone in their 40s is normally at the top of their game, so I can’t understand why Filipinos would want to exclude them. Maybe employers (bosses) are afraid that an expert will show up their own mediocrity?

Robert Haighton
Member
This article (in Dutch; copied from the website of the Dutch national broadcaster, NOS) doesnt sound very positive regarding Singapore. Title of the article is: Has Singapore’s magic formula come to an end? http://nos.nl/artikel/2051194-is-singapore-s-toverformule-uitgewerkt.html Is Singapore’s toverformule uitgewerkt? Gisteren, 17:51 Buitenland Door Azië-redacteur Floris Harm Vuurwerk, militaire parades, een speciale SG50-bonus voor alle 82.000 overheidsdienaren van 330 euro en een doos SG50-LEGO voor de kinderen: Singapore pakt uit vandaag want de stadstaat is 50 jaar onafhankelijk. Het is het hoogtepunt van dit jubileumjaar, waarbij Singaporezen er nog eens van worden doordrongen hoe bijzonder hun stadstaat is. De westerse bezoeker wordt… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member

Hugh,
the Dutch article states exactly your words (in short)

Hugh
Guest

Thanks Robert, the article is 101% true. One thing more, I find the caning extremely barbaric but to say so is a crime.

Jack
Guest

And look where that “barbaric” act got them now. You know what’s that called? Discipline and Filipinos as a whole are sorely lacking of the stuff. The society is too soft and forgiving, the people are letting impeached crooks back into office. That says a lot about Filipinos and their tolerance of corruption.

Robert Haighton
Member

Hugh,
you’re weldome. What do you mean by “caning”?

Robert Haighton
Member

Hugh, forget my latest question

55Hyden0077726Toro
Guest

It is really a Vicious Cycle. Politicians spend money in an election. He/She wins the election. He/She must Steal to take back what was spent in the election. He/She Steals more…for the next election, and for himself/herself… Recycle some of the Stolen Money, to buy votes. Give gifts to voters as: “tuyo”, rice, sardines, noodles, etc…The Vicious Cycle goes , on and on and on…

Unless, this Generation can Break this Cycle. There is No Way the Philippines can go , from being a “basket case ” of Asia to a First World country…

Add
Guest
To wage a presidential campaign today, you need: Salary of watchers nationwide during election day: Php 8 billion – that is about USD 177 million thereabouts Minimum for TV ads, paraphernalias, sorties, etc: minimum Php 5 billion – that is about USD 110 million thereabouts Salary of President: Php 1,950,000 per year x 6 years is Php 12 million which is 0.01% of what he spent getting elected. He basically has to get back from kickbacks Php 13 billion during his term to break-even, unless he already got it in his previous positions. No wonder none from the private sector… Read more »
Add
Guest

For TV ads, paraphernalias, etc.
Senator — about Php one billion
Congressman — about Php 500 million

If he is independent, and does not have Php 8 billion, then he has no watcher during election day. He is likely to be cheated.

Those within the party need not worry about Php 8 billion as the watchers of the Presidential candidate will also take care of them.

Add
Guest

Binay, in that sense, is formidable. His watchers come from the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and are not just after their salaries, but are dedicated to their frat brother. It is a well oiled political machine. Their effectivity was already proven in 2010.

We may be looking at a Binay presidency by 2016; LP s machinery quite fractured at this point. Shows you really a fumbling management. They think everything is all about bribing, and yet there they are accusing Binay having a tongpats mentality.

Add
Guest

I don’t understand why they say PNoy is not corrupt. Corruption is a two way traffic, giving and receiving. He bribed Senators during Corona trial and Congressmen during Merceditas impeachment. That is same as Binay getting tongpats from the parking building.

Add
Guest

Which is worse the one influencing events or the one being influenced; the one with agenda or the one yielding to greed? Same, same? Parepareho lang?

Pilosopo Socrates
Guest

Like the previous comment, it is a bad cycle that the Philippines has gotten itself and it contributes to so many factors both systematic and societal.

The key to improve and secure our country’s future not just laws but more on vision, will and even discipline but if the people are either too ignorant or in our own terms. “Tigas na ulo” at “Bahala na attitude”.

My exaggerated guess when we will reach first world, maybe 300 years??

Carmela
Guest
Breaking the habit is the most difficult to do, I just realize, ALDUB is not the first kalyeserye, but every election is a kalyeserye, voting is a no brainer because common people’s benchmark is who is the most popular at that time. It is painful to watch politician trying so hard to sing or dance just to convince voters, or ads where they are showing off those people that they have allegedly help like slapping us that here is what weve done, but to selected few? We can’t just put the blame on this politicians, but also to the voters… Read more »
Add
Guest
The 1987 Constitution put every kind of safeguards so there will no longer be a repeat of Marcos. Per experience now, the elimination of the two party system has ensured that it is either a stupid incompetent, or a competently corrupt, President who gets elected. Worse, they even become dictators, without declaring material law, just by controlling the budget. Stupidity could even be a worse form of dictatorship than a Marcos, an LKY, a Suharto, a Park Chung-Hee, or a Deng Hsiao-Peng, because there is no sustainable development; macro economy could look good, but it is really just based on… Read more »
andrew
Guest

I concur with add. the 1987 constitution made the government a money making machine instead of focusing on governance. now look at us, pathetic. the “tuwid na daan” will go a long way up to 2056. ambagal. by the time we reach that year the oligarchs will be the billionaires of southeast asia (that’s what they want) while the common juan can just enjoy playing video games while overburdened by credit/loans.

RBR
Guest
Sigh. Depressing and hopeless, but true. It is almost as if the PH needs a complete overhaul if we want to get change going (say a magnitude 7+ earth quake that will kill off 60% of the affected areas? I won’t mind not surviving so long as I know nature dictated it so) Mediocrity and incompetence is so deeply ingrained in our society that it affects everything from a micro to a macro point of view, and it seems there is no way to get rid of it especially when well-meaning, educated people are outnumbered by the stupid, arrogant, ignorant… Read more »
ChinoF
Member

I consider Singaporean culture one thing. For example, I’ll compare these. When a Singaporean couple finds prices are rising, they don’t have children. When a Filipino couple finds prices are rising, they beget so many children, hoping at least one of them will be their ATM to cope with rising prices, without thinking that they have to feed and make these children grow first (provided they don’t die from the complications of poverty yet). Different way of dealing with reality, different results.

Hugh
Guest

I had a good chuckle on this one but hey,bloggers like you might help some Filipinos to make the intelligent choice, so hope you’ll write something similar to your comparison on here.

d_forsaken
Guest
Failippines politics is the ruination of the country. Elect one for life, then they won’t have to cater to any interest. If you elect one party to power, why the other party don’t do any useful work for the next 6 years, only try to work some scheme to get back in. But if they were elected for life they wouldn’t have to worry. The minute a man knows he can’t get a political job, he may turn to something useful. A business that’s doing well don’t change people every 6 years. A man don’t no more than get into… Read more »
marius
Guest

LKY’s quote suggests the USA is in big trouble 😉

>> Suffice to say, it takes more than an ounce of imagination to envision a promising — but realistic — future for one’s country.

It seems to me that Filipinos do have a vision for their country. They want it to look exactly like it does now. It’s already perfect. Pinoy Pride!

bugsbunnyv
Guest
The Singaporean city-state is a paradise on earth where big business and international bankers thrive thanks to tax breaks. It also is a second “Switzerland” where secret bank accounts are deposited by benevolent leaders from around the world. The British-educated LKY was part of the elite, perpetuating himself to become a leader in the 1950s with help from his circle of friends. The elite were a scared of their pants of the growing communist movement after ww2 in Asia. LKY was smart. He learned different languages, such as “Bahasa Malay” and Mandarin to communicate with his constituents. He was also… Read more »
James
Guest

Can you think of any paradise on earth or elsewhere in the known universe where old people in 60s,70s and even 80s collecting cardboard boxes and cleaning tables at food courts just to survive? You might still find paradise in some parts of the Philippines if you can forego electricity and live close to nature. Finding paradise is a highly subjective venture.

Sick_Amore
Guest

“Kung walang kurap walang mahirap”

Let’s be specific just so we know who or what the real hindrances for progress are.

“Kung walang kurap na gobyerno, walang mahirap na Filipino.”

ChinoF
Member

I’d like to add my take on it:

“Kung walang kurap na Filipino, walang kurap na gobyerno.”

Sick_Amore
Guest

I agree to that, ChinoF. Corruption in the country is not limited to the government but take place on a national scale in that corruption involves bribery, incompetence, crime or illegal activities. It can happen anywhere and may involve anyone. Like what was said in one GRP Shorts, “The problem of the Philippines is Filipino.” Only there’s bigger damage when the authority who should be controlling it are the ones perpetrating it. The oligarchs and the government are able to amass the Philippines wealth, the first by owning basic services and resources, the latter by budgetary allocations.

zaxx
Member
Excessive costs for campaigns? – that’s easy Here’s a proposal. Make the PH a federal state with a parliamentary system. Campaign costs will then be limited to a regional scale instead of nationwide. Campaigns will be through the internet to lower the cost. No printed material, ads, and billboards will be allowed. Public assemblies will be sponsored through state sanctioned debates, fully funded by govt. elections will all be done through the net from the comfort of your homes. All results will be made fully public – the tally for each barangay will be transparent for any third part to… Read more »
BongPanda
Guest

I see that Cesar Virata was elected as PM in 1981, without showbiz or entertainment personality but with government and policy and military.

Waiting for Con-ASS Cha-Cha of the 1987 Const. as an amendment to see French-style Parliamentary system.

DIO
Guest

Why not? It is a flawed constitution to begin with. Your point?

mrericx
Guest

Well, if we really want our country to become the next Singapore then watch this video below courtesy of WOTL especially between two to… DU30 mins of this video (and you know what I mean). 😉

https://youtu.be/Rg0SvXS3VTk

wpDiscuz