Comparing Singapore and the Philippines? Why bother?

mediocrityAny Filipino leader comparing oneself to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew should just stop. And not just out of respect for the deceased.

In 2010, a certain group of businessmen, the Anvil Business Club claimed current Philippine president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino is like Lee in the sense that they are both incorruptible.

That hasn’t turned out very well, has it?

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Being “incorruptible” should apply not only to oneself but also in the way one influences others.

Whether BS Aquino is honest or incorruptible, or whatever you’d like to call it, becomes largely doubtful, if not downright irrelevant, because:

1) He is unable or unwilling to stop his allies, or KKK, from doing things that are dubious;
2) Incompetence, which he has shown time and time again, downright trumps the so-called incorruptible nature

The only thing they seem to have in common is that they both don’t take too kindly to criticism. And yet, they do so for different reasons. From an outsider’s point of view, Lee seemed to stifle criticism because he would let nothing get in the way of his vision for Singapore. As it turns out, his decisions to do so were right. In contrast, BS Aquino stifles criticism because he does not want to admit he is wrong even when it is glaringly obvious that his decisions merit criticism.

The difference could be summed up in one word: results. Lee got them, BS Aquino didn’t.

Recently, Vice-President Jejomar Binay had also likened himself to the Singaporean statesman:

“As the architect of modern Singapore, the late Prime Minister shaped his country into one of the most prosperous countries in the world,” said United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) leader and 2016 presidential candidate Binay.

“[Lee] is a dedicated public servant and a well-respected leader. The success of Singapore is but a testament to his decades of remarkable public service,” he added.

Back at Makati, a certain segment of the population casts doubt on whether the Binays had anything to do with the development of that city. Some would say that Makati became what it is not because of the Binays, but in spite of them.

Singapore’s Lee has been admired by many as building a prosperous nation with one of the strongest economies in the world and one of the best qualities of life. In his land, the rule of law seems to be very strictly enforced, often with very hefty fines and/or capital punishment long frowned upon in other parts of the world.

On the other hand, the Philippines can be described as the Wild Wild East. Rule of law, discipline will get you nowhere here. Filipinos don’t plan long term and have consistently shown that they lack foresight. Not only that, they frown upon on those who do all of the above.

Singaporeans can be described as economically free, while Filipinos are politically free, as GRP webmaster benign0 has pointed out. And Filipinos have used that political freedom to vote unqualified people into public office time and time again. Singapore, on the other hand, is not only considered one of the best places to live, it is also one of the safest.

Vision, foresight, discipline, and obedience to the rule of law: if you propagate or insist on any or all of these, Filipinos don’t want you to be their leader. Filipinos can indeed learn a lot from how Lee built up Singapore. That is, if they want to. Whether they could have wanted, much less handled, a leader like him, is another question. As fellow GRP writer Ilda once said, Filipinos are too balat-sibuyas and anti-intellectual for a Filipino parallel of Lee to ever arise.

As Singapore has shown, people don’t mind giving up a bit of their “freedom” as long as they get prosperity in return. Unfortunately, imposing discipline on Filipinos now would be like putting an animal released into the wild back into a cage. Why would it want to go back?

So, it’s kind of hard to appreciate that on one hand, certain Filipinos admire the kind of leader Lee was and the kind of country he build, while on the other hand they would shun a leader like him if ever he came up here.

The key takeaway from what Lee did with Singapore, however, should not be the authoritarianism. It should be the pragmatic idealism. He had vision, foresight, and attention to detail, yet he did what worked.

As Filipinos now struggle with their democracy, the question of whether they are more suited to iron-fisted rule is entertained.

Until Filipinos realize that respect for rule of law, and discipline, and putting the greater good over one’s own, are behaviors that must be ingrained at the deepest cultural level, they can do nothing but keep gawking and staring mouth agape as they get left behind by their Southeast Asian neighbors.

20 Replies to “Comparing Singapore and the Philippines? Why bother?”

  1. Every Filipino Presidential aspirant now compares himself/herself to Lee Kwan Yew.
    Aquino wants even to compare himself to Lee Kwan Yew.
    How ridiculous these people are…

    Mr. Aquino…Lee Kwan Yew, did not have any DAP, PDAF, or utilized Pork Barrels to use it as “carrot ant stick”, to further his political agenda. LKY did not try to sell a part of Singapore to the Islamic Radicals. Much more lied about certain SAF massacre…or allowed a Corrupt Police, to run a delicate military operation…

    1. Lee Kwan Yew made his country strong and and become a superpower nation even if it’s small. He even jailed his own relatives for breaking the laws. He doesn’t let religious people affect his decision making and don’t give shit if popularity is down as long as he’s doing what’s right.

      The Aquinos and other corrupt politicians made Philippines their playground even if the country is promising and full of natural advantage against other small developing neighbors during the 1980’s.

      Both are depressed countries 30 years ago but took different paths on recovering. That is where you can differ a true leader and credit grabbing political families. Until such time that Filipinos will be disgusted with mediocrity, nepotism, and corruption, Philippines is doomed to repeat every mistake made in the past starting with the Yellows syndrome.

      1. @ Archy, Superpower? Please,economically viable,yes…Superpower? Not hardly. and LKY did not do it by himself, the Bank of England lent much money and Singapore paid heavy interest for the privilige of doing business with that bank,they surely did.
        Not to diminish the Man in any way, but he was a figurehead.Just like so many others.The people need someone to cheer for.SO…BRAVO !

        RIP LKY

    1. Pnoy or Binay are equivalent to LKY? WTF?!?! I’ve must be dreaming when I heard about that news. Duterte is much better to compare LKY, except that he can handle guns to scare off the criminals but not Mr. Lee. Hmmm….

  2. We really should stop comparing Singapore and PH. Two different societies, two different cultures.

    A better comparison would be our Latin American cousins.

    1. I am THE LIGHT, and I am THE FAILIPINO’S BEST FRIEND, if he admits that HE SUCKS.

      “A better comparison would be our Latin American cousins.”

      That’s RICH; at least the FAILIPINO’S Latin American “cousins” have the nerve to overthrow their leaders, if not their FATALLY FLAWED systems of government or their POISONOUS cultures. If there are countries that the FAILIPINO can compare his country to, that would be ZIMBABWE, or BANGLADESH, or MYANMAR.

      Those would be the RIGHT comparisons, made in THE LIGHT of REASON: DEGENERATE cultures with GOOD-FOR-NOTHING heads of state make for TOTAL FAILURES.

      Just like YOURS.

      1. Yeah, they have the nerve to overthrow their leaders, only to be replaced with crappier regimes.

        But… oh well, I get your point.

    2. Most of them are in the same crapboat as the Philippines. I don’t see why you would differentiate one trash country over another.

      1. yes Dax, we are asians because our country is located in Asia, but we are more than that. In terms of looks, we are both. in terms of passion and corruption having been instilled to us by the spanish in the early times, we are like our hispanic cousins, in terms of supression by our leaders like marcos, estrada and macapagal, we can be compared to Zimbabwe and Myanmar. oh, we have also our chinese cousins (look around you, there are more chinese-looking filipinos as normal looking filipinos) have taught us the art of cheating: dilluted products, not paying the right taxes to the govt., not paying the right wages to its workers (SM conglomerate is one example), etc. and the filipinos have never learned the art of discipline because the govt. officials don’t set good examples. all these contribute to what most of the filipinos are like.

  3. The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility.

  4. In other words, Filipinos are delusional freaks who need to be equipped with a mirror to see the kind of monster they’ve become. They always need a ‘celebrity’ whom they will use as a role model but reality is they can never be half of it because they have no idea about what they’re doing, much less an understanding of whether or not the role model is appropriate to begin with.

  5. These businessmen are comparing PNOY to LKY due to desperation. They may feel that the alternatives are much worse. Compared to the alternative, PNOY may seem to be like LKY. I know, i know, this comparison is laughable.
    LKY did not tolerate corruption in anyone whether in public or private companies. Our habit of asking suppliers for gifts during Xmas parties would not be tolerated there. (I was in the company dinner/dance committee and asked about this.) To avoid this in civil service, he raised salaries so that the top official salaries are in line with the top salaries in the private sector. The PAP changed it now to align more with equality (probably using the GINI coefficient). Private corruption is prosecuted even if the victim (a corporation) does not really want to prosecute. This is what we need in our country.

  6. The funny thing about Filipinos, in general, is that they hardly give any support or encouragement to their fellow countrymen whenever he or she is aiming to go upwards in life. If you think haters and trolls are so bad, just look at the disgusting comments on YouTube made by pinoys on Kobe Paras’ highlights. The kid is aiming to further his basketball career in the US, so why the hate? He’s your fellow countrymen and you should be supporting him towards his dream in making it to the NBA.

    1. I will watch this kid to grow. I would like to see videos of his highlights and training in gym like his bench presses, plyometrics, and cardios.

      Seeing the pictures of athletes like Dez Bryant, Anna Kornikova and Philip Rivers makes me train harder.

  7. agreed. i’ll put some technicalities for both countries. i’m not a political scientist or whatever but spending my time thinking, I came up with this theory.

    SG technicalities:
    1. size of country + population
    SG is like NCR. even smaller than our region. just look at google map and compare philippines and SG geographically. PH has 90million while SG is around 5million. probably smaller at the time both countries are at their starting point. but still SG population is smaller.

    if you are a teacher with 50 students to teach, would it be easier if we lower it down to 10 or better yet 5? so, population density plays a role.

    2. cultures/tribe/ehtnicity
    at that time when SG is starting, they have almost 60-90% mandarim speaking people. hence, same thinking / culture. LKY is chinese. so 90% of the population would understand him.

    PH Technicalities:
    1. geography – it’s an archipelago separated with waters. each island has regions.
    2. population – 90 million
    3. multi-ethnic / culture / religion / tribes / language

    hence, a leader would have more control if less population, small land mass, and almost one culture / tribe / language. of course the leader should have intelligence / integrity like LKY.

  8. Those who give up some of their freedoms in order to achieve prosperity will end having neither freedom nor prosperity. I just couldn’t recall his exact words, but Thomas Jefferson did say something like this early in the 1780s.                                                                                                                                                          Singapore.. the land where “live to work” is the norm”.. has prosperity but no freedom. The island city-state was my favorite ‘decompression’ stop-over after each six-month tour of duty in Saudi Arabia. They had a barber shop in ‘Changi Airport’ to ensure that all visitors to the city-state wore their hair above the ears. The ‘customs’ inspectors would search your person for chewing gum which was banned within the city. Everyone… Citizen and visitor alike.. meekly submitted themselves to these debatable exclusions. Could this kind of docility and obedience be key to Singapore’s properity?
    The Philippines, on the other hand is the polar opposite of Singapore on this matter.  A ‘haircut’, ‘no gum’? 
    “ano ka.. Baliw”? Filipinos do not ‘live-to-work’; rather, we ‘work-to-live’. And.. so long as we live within bounds, respecting others’ right to.. likewise.. live the way they want; we may go ahead and do so.  Is there anything wrong with this ‘philosophy’? Could this be a hindrance to our achieving prosperity? I don’t think so. It’s all about a ‘work ethic’; and that’s another conversation altogether.

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