It’s not often a Singapore election can really be called interesting, let alone relevant to Hong Kong – but today’s is. The ruling People’s Action Party will win, partly on its own merits, but also because a rigged voting system and decades of media bias and legal intimidation have ensured a de-facto one-party state, with an opposition that is splintered and too amateurish-looking to credibly claim an ability to govern.
But the PAP’s majority in elections has been on a downward trend. The autocrat-technocrat rulers’ vison of the future is at odds with that of much of the people. Essentially, the PAP has come to focus on economic growth as an end in itself; the nation’s population exists to boost GDP. More and more residents in the wealthy city-state are thinking it should be the other way round – the economy exists to benefit the people.
Much of this will sound familiar to us in Hong Kong: a weak opposition, and a government that is devoted to ‘development’ and treats quality of life as a hindrance. Specifically, both populations are suffering from high prices and crowding, as their apparently demented officials try to cram more and more humans – ‘talent’ or ‘tourists’ – from outside into their limited spaces.
Both city-states are mismanaged. In Singapore, the PAP-run state harms the economy and the people’s wealth by controlling – and messing up – much of big business and savings. In Hong Kong, cartelized tycoon interests co-opted by the Communist regime in Beijing are entitled to directly plunder the economy and population.
Singaporeans’ discontent is rising at a time when social media are sharply reducing the old impact of official censorship. The result is those big turnouts at exhilarating opposition rallies. We can only hope that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy politicians might spend a few minutes away from ranting about stuff no-one cares about to watch some of these gatherings. The Singapore opposition are addressing the issues that get people angry. This is how you do it. Shut up about whether you’ll talk with Chinese officials or why some ex-member of your ‘party’ is barred from your self-absorbed little meeting – get out there and talk tourists, housing, healthcare.
To give a small example… Liberal Party top bozo Vincent Fang has hastily backtracked from his call to lift limits on the number of cans of milk powder people can carry out of Hong Kong.
A prompt Localists’ protest against Mainland traders in Sheung Shui put his demand in context: ordinary residents suffering so the ‘retail sector’ (essentially landlords) can make more money. A bunch of kids called him and his cronies out for being greedy and selfish. Where were the pro-dems? Even a South China Morning Post editorial today dares question the Cram More People In Forever mentality of the Liberal Part and our zombie bureaucrats who have proclaimed tourism a ‘pillar industry’ and thus believe they must expand it at any cost…
For a true picture of the value of mass tourism, see how Macau’s GDP has plummeted as far as Greece’s, yet Macau people have barely noticed; unemployment is as low as ever. They never saw this amazing boom in the first place. I declare the weekend open with a free idea for any economist looking for a doctoral thesis subject – they’re so hard to find these days. It is a comparison between the influx of gold and silver from the New World into Spain in the 16-17th Century and the swamping of Hong Kong with Vincent Fang’s precious Mainland tourist-shoppers today. The thesis should examine the effects of these phenomena on consumer prices and purchasing power, and to what extent the infusion of wealth is captured by a tiny elite, does more harm than good, or is even just illusory.
And here’s Amos’s take.