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Leader vaunts S'pore's Unique Political System - Authoritarian Capitalism

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  • Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
    Leader vaunts Singapore s political system http://www.iht.com/articles/526964.html Agence France-Presse Monday, June 28, 2004 SINGAPORE Singapore s unique
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2004
      Leader vaunts Singapore's political system


      Agence France-Presse
      Monday, June 28, 2004

      SINGAPORE Singapore's unique political system must be maintained for
      at least another 30 years to avoid South-Asian-style disunity, Prime
      Minister Goh Chok Tong said in remarks published Monday.
      Shortly after returning from a week-long visit to Pakistan,
      Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Goh told members of his People's Action
      Party that the trip had renewed his conviction in Singapore's
      political structure.
      "I come back even more determined that we should keep our system of
      political self-renewal," The Straits Times quoted him as saying late
      Goh, who has led the country since 1990, has said he will hand over
      power this year to Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Singapore's only other
      prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
      The transition is expected to be smooth and maintain the vise-like
      grip on power that the party has held since the British introduced
      self-rule in 1959, followed by independence in 1965.
      Singapore practices a form of democracy in which the press has to
      report in the "national interest," rallies are mostly banned and
      elections inevitably end in crushing majorities for the governing
      Goh said his trip to South Asia, which coincided with the abrupt
      resignation of Pakistan's prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, had
      shown him how politicians can pull their countries apart.

      From: sg_review@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Mon Jun 14, 2004 8:20 pm
      Subject: Singapore and Authoritarian Capitalism

      Amidst the renewed interest in Entrepreneurship, we circulate below
      an old article by Christopher Lingle which confirms what we all know,
      that "State Managed" enterprises will fail.

      The Bottom Line is that creativit(and romance for that matter) is a spontaneous
      process which cannot blossom in a dictatorial styled regime.


      Singapore and Authoritarian Capitalism
      by Christopher Lingle
      Publisher: The Locke Institute, ISBN: 8485809521

      Despite the impressive growth rates in the region, there are some
      serious questions about the policies and institutions in the high
      performing East Asian economies. Indeed, several of the traditional
      institutions can be expected to impose a binding constraint upon the
      continuation of the rapid economic growth in Singapore and in other
      countries in the region.

      In particular, many of these institutions militate against
      individuality and individual rights and freedoms. In
      turn, "authoritarian capitalism" describes the operational elements
      of this particular development model. On one hand, authoritarian-
      capitalist regimes place a limited and selective set of persistent
      policy interventions into market activities. On the other hand, these
      same regimes impose heavy restrictions on political activity.
      Whereas, Soviet economies contrived to have an economy without
      prices, authoritarian capitalism presides over markets without the
      guarantee of individual freedoms or rights. As a result, there are
      conflicting and misleading signals about a relatively free economy
      whereas political freedoms are repressed within an authoritarian-
      based government. Singapore's single-party regime offers a model of
      authoritarian capitalism that may be followed by other single-party
      regimes in the region.

      Although this economic development model bears strong similarities
      to "authoritarian socialism," authoritarian capitalism has been so
      far immune to the criticisms of their shared potential for failure.
      Apparently, the strong economic performance has led many observers to
      ignore the ill effects and the long run costs associated with
      authoritarian capitalism.

      Acceptance of authoritarian capitalism as a viable and exportable
      model for development depends upon an understanding that economic and
      political liberties are not interdependent. However, similar faulty
      reasoning induced promoters of authoritarian socialism (communism) to
      overlook its most fatal contradiction. The collapse of communism
      provides evidence that repression of political freedoms will
      eventually undermine the activities that support economic growth.
      While authoritarianism can be consistent with short run economic
      gains, there are logical and economic limits to these results.

      On the economic side, authoritarian capitalism involves the
      politicization of commerce and the commercialization of politics.
      Commerce is politicized when the profitability of economic actors
      depends more heavily upon relationships with the ruling party than
      the efficient use of scarce resources. Commercial politics describes
      the actions by ruling parties to develop their own sources of
      revenues through business transactions to decrease their dependency
      upon the electorate. These activities are likely to involve
      privileged, insider access to economic data that benefit the party
      and also allow party functionaries to enjoy private gains.

      Despite the impressions to the contrary, authoritarian capitalist
      regimes employ extensive, if not always deep, interventions in the
      economy. Most of them have highly interventionist foreign exchange
      policies. These are implemented in support of industrial policies
      that target specific industries as leaders in their export-orientated
      industrialization (EOI) strategies. Investment funds and subsidies
      are directed toward selective areas of economic activity and,
      conversely, are diverted from use in other areas. Many of those
      countries applying EOI policies tend to be highly dependent upon
      foreign investment funds or technology or both, as well as access to
      foreign markets for their exports. This dependency on outsiders is
      exacerabated by the institutionalized restrictions upon the
      formations of domestic entrepreneurs to provide an indigenous source
      of economic growth.

      An equally problematic issue relating to Singapore's growth is that
      it can be explained in large measure by the massive increases in
      input of labor and capital instead of from increases in efficiency or
      productivity. Most economists readily recognize that such input-
      driven growth will be limited by the law of diminishing returns.
      Following this logic, East Asia's "miracle economies" mirror the
      early stages of growth in the Soviet Union that obviously proved to
      be unsustainable. In all events, the necessary sources of increases
      in productivity are inventiveness and free thinking. Unfortunately,
      policies under authoritarian capitalism suppresses individualism and
      intellectual freedom and will greatly impair the formation of

      There are few signs that regimes such as Singapore's are willing or
      able to undertake the necessary changes to modify their policies and
      institutions that have generated the conditions of "parasite
      economies" where they depend upon the financial capital or the
      creativity and inventiveness of other countries. In the long run, the
      economic arrangements associated with East Asian authoritarian
      capitalism are unlikely to sustain the levels of high performance
      recorded in recent years.

      Singapore's authoritarian-capitalist regime has its own peculiar
      political arrangements that mesh with its economic policies. By
      combining a sense of national insecurity and dread of the unknown
      with the fear of government retribution, Singapore's ruling party has
      implemented a special form of "Asian democracy" that can be
      identified as phobocracy. The rule-by-fear government of the People's
      Action Party (PAP) regime judiciously combines a western democratic
      vocabulary with a particular set of traditional values that it claims
      are unique to Asia.

      In order to maintain a disciplined and docile electorate, the PAP
      rulers rely upon a beguiling combination of reason and force.
      However, their idea of reasoning is limited to an unbalanced
      insistence upon only the advantages of communitarian arrangements and
      the necessity of consensus building. Their ability to construct these
      incomplete images of political utopia is supported by a subservient
      domestic media and a cowed international media. The passivity of the
      media results from legislative and judicial actions that operate at
      the behest of the PAP-controlled executive branch. In sum, the regime
      exercises obsessive and complete control over all branches of
      government and media as well as other elements of civil society. In
      turn, there are few limits to the amount of force that can be wielded
      as reprisal against critics or political rivals.

      Singapore's regime practices a form of "soft authoritarianism"
      without political murders or disappearances. Nonetheless, executive
      control over the judiciary and the legislature means that law follows
      the whims of the regime. One element of the illusion of the legal
      system is the scrupulous application of justice in cases that involve
      commerce, particularly when it affects the interests of multinational
      corporations. The resulting system is one of rule by and for rulers
      in place of the rule of law. The compliance of the courts leads
      to "lawless order" and is a conspicuous contradiction of the
      reputation for Singapore's corruption-free government.

      The criminalization of politics and politicization of crime represent
      several of the other institutional arrangements associated with
      Singapore's authoritarian capitalism. Politics in Singapore is
      criminalized in the evident pattern whereby opponents of the regime
      are sued for criminal defamation after criticizing the actions of the
      ruling party. Moreover, the authorities in Singapore use crime as a
      political weapon. One aspect of this involves the manipulation of
      perceptions and the apparent masking of crime statistics to provide
      the illusion of a crime-free environment. Another aspect is to place
      the blame for much of the crime that does occur on westerners and
      their decadent influences.

      Blindness to the shortcomings of the intricate and extensive elements
      of their development strategies has left the PAP open to a
      potentially serious crisis. It may not be the forces of
      modernization, per se, that prompts political change in Singapore. A
      failure in their economic structures may come first. A serious long
      run challenge that must be faced is how to escape the entrenched
      dependencies with the developed economies. However, the incentive
      structures associated with authoritarian capitalism work against the
      necessary emergence of local talent to serve either as entrepreneurs
      or as researchers capable of doing original research.

      Of more immediate concern is the stability of Singapore's economy
      that exhibits the classic symptoms of a property and stock market
      bubble. There is no reason to expect that the record of centuries of
      the collapse of bubbles can be changed even by Singapore's famously
      efficient bureaucrats or its supposedly squeaky clean rulers. The
      question of the bursting or deflating of the speculative bubble is a
      matter of when, not if.

      Happily, there is no doubt that the next century will witness a
      continuation in the rising fortunes and growing political importance
      of East Asia. Even so, it may be premature to anticipate that a
      simplistic extrapolation of the recent economic performance in the
      region will be an accurate harbinger of its post-millennial
      achievements. It may be just as likely that the authoritarian-
      capitalist regimes will set another record. Perhaps they will match
      their rapid pace of economic development by consigning themselves to
      the dustbin of history more quickly than was their predecessor,
      authoritarian socialism.

      © Christopher Lingle
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