Shanmugam says S’pore is ‘doing better’ than UK in response to The Economist article

Shanmugam fires back at The Economist for article on Singapore’s leadership transition

Following the announcement that Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong will succeed Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong on 15 May, British publication The Economist released a commentary on the transition of leadership.

In the article, The Economist noted that DPM Wong would only be Singapore’s fourth PM thus far, amongst other pointed remarks.

This included a comment on the country’s “docile press”.

Responding to the article, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has published a Facebook post calling out The Economist for its criticisms.

Shanmugam calls out The Economist for article on leadership transition

“The Economist can’t resist sneering at us,” Mr Shanmugam said in the post on Friday (19 April). “It’s an instinct lodged deep in the unconscious of the British commentariat class.”

They can’t stand that a people they were accustomed to lecturing are now doing better than they are, across the board.

He had made these comments in response to an article titled ‘Lawrence Wong will be only the fourth PM in Singapore’s history’, published by The Economist on 18 April.

The piece is a political commentary on the Singapore government’s upcoming leadership transition and makes note of DPM Wong’s character traits, and also, the People’s Action Party (PAP).

In the context of the upcoming General Election, the Economist said:

“The PAP will win thanks to formidable organisation, unrelenting attacks on the opposition, a docile press, a record of good governance and a not always subliminal message that its survival and that of Singaporeans are synonymous.”

In his Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam listed several areas in which he claimed Singapore was faring better than the United Kingdom (UK).

Source: Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

For instance, DPM Wong will be Singapore’s fourth PM in 59 years. Meanwhile for the UK, Mr Rishi Sunak is their fourth PM in 4.9 years.

While acting as PM, Mr Boris Johnson accepted a holiday worth £15,000 (S$25,264.95). In addition, he spent £50,000 (S$84,189.60) from donors to renovate his residence.

“In Singapore, anyone who did what Mr Johnson did would have been charged in court,” Mr Shanmugam noted.

Singapore currently has 5th highest GDP per capita

As for Singapore’s economy, Mr Shanmugam said it started with a GDP per capita of US$500 (S$680.80) while still a British colony.

In present day, the GDP per capita for Singapore is over US$80,000 (S$108,904).

According to Forbes, Singapore has the fifth highest GDP per capita in the world.

This, Mr Shanmugam noted, was “well ahead of the UK.”

He then added that both countries’ respective media was another area where they differed.

Referring to The Economist describing Singapore’s media as “docile”, Shanmugam said the publication “obviously prefers” a situation like in the UK.

This included one person controlling major media outlets and having politicians paying court to him. Media owners could also influence who got elected and who became PM.

“A similar situation in Australia was described, by a former Australian PM, as a cancer on democracy,” he said.

Singapore faring better when it comes to public safety

The Economist had also implied that Singapore’s youth were “less respectful of hierarchy”. As such, they wanted a country “sitting on such gargantuan financial reserves” to “more generously support welfare.”

Mr Shanmugam noted that the Singapore government provides people “of all classes and races, with far better healthcare, housing and education”.

As for public safety, Singapore was similarly faring better, having been ranked by Gallup as the safest country in the world since 2015.

“95% of adults in Singapore feel safe walking alone at night,” he said.

In comparison, Mr Shanmugam noted that last year, across England and Wales, authorities closed more than 33,000 investigations into vehicle crimes, including thefts and break-ins, before catching any suspect.

For over a hundred neighbourhoods, none of the reported car thefts were solved.

“A situation like that would be unthinkable and unacceptable in Singapore,” Mr Shanmugam said.

Social cohesion in Singapore

Mr Shanmugam concluded his post by bringing up social cohesion in Singapore and how the situation is far better than in the UK. He said:

“In the UK, a Tory party donor recently said, of a black MP, that looking at her makes him “want to hate all black women.” His party said all should just move on from the comments. That’s it.”

“In Singapore a person who makes such a comment is likely to be charged in court,” he pointed out. “What price your sneer?”

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Featured image adapted from NUS Law on Facebook and The Economist.

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