Friday, April 18, 2008

Singapore Materially Rich, Spiritually Poor

Singapore is materially rich but spiritually poor -- and the government is partly to blame, one of the city-state's most prominent authors says.

Catherine Lim, also a political commentator, is one of a very few to publicly criticise the government in Southeast Asia's most economically advanced society.

Lim said that while Singapore is consistently ranked high in various surveys on material measures, such as business friendliness and economic achievement, the standings are reversed when other factors are considered.

"Press freedom, happiness and even love life and romance and so on, Singapore is ranked very low," Lim said in an interview with AFP.

"Maybe it leads to some questions. Are we achieving all this material prosperity at the cost of something? Soul, spirit, heart, senses, whatever you want to call it?"

She said the government's tight political control is partly to blame for a lack of happiness among the city-state's 4.6 million people.

"If there were less of a climate of fear... we would be a happier society," she said.

Singapore is one of the most politically stable countries in the region and has become the base for thousands of foreign firms.

The country's leaders say its tough laws against dissent and other political activity are necessary to ensure such stability which has helped it achieve economic success.

It is illegal, for example, to hold a public gathering of five or more people in Singapore without a permit, meaning demonstrations seldom occur.

Singapore's leaders maintain that Western-style liberal democracy is not suitable for the tiny, multi-racial nation which has been ruled by the People's Action Party since 1959.

Lim said the government is doing much better than others in helping to deal with "material issues", including rising global food prices.

"This is a very pro-active government... a very pragmatic, problem-solving leadership," the Malaysian-born Lim, 66, said.

"The problem is in the other areas, political and social liberties that we don't hear much of here in Singapore."

Lim, who has lived in the city-state since 1967, spoke to AFP on the sidelines of a conference on The New Science of Happiness and Well-being, where she was invited to speak, and which ended Thursday.


Nine in 10 people stressed

Paris based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked the city-state at 146 out of 168 nations, lower than Zimbabwe at 140, on a global index of press freedom released last year.

Singapore has also placed at the lower end in global surveys of sex frequency and satisfaction.

A recent poll by advertising firm Grey Group found that nine in 10 people living in Singapore said they were stressed.

Singaporeans are not "unhappy in the real sense of the word as in poverty-stricken countries", Lim said, but they seem to feel something is missing to complete their happiness. "We need more time to relax. Singaporeans are always talking about pressure. We make money, but hey, we don't have the leisure to spend our money."

Lim has written more than nine collections of short stories, five novels and a book on poems. Her works have been published internationally.

Last year she also turned to the Internet, after the pro-government Straits Times refused to publish one of her commentaries, her website says.

The newspaper had, for 13 years, published her commentaries even though they were critical of the government, she wrote on the website.

But in September it rejected one on "the need for a political opening up", the website says. The Today daily also refused to publish it, forcing her to go online, she says on the website.

Direct criticism of the government is rare in Singapore's mainstream media, forcing dissatisfied Singaporeans to resort to the web to express their views. (ANTARA News)
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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Press freedom
Happiness
Spirituality
Material prosperity
Love life and romance
Tight political control
Permit required for public gathering

Ask any bloke in the 3rd World which makes up 85% of the world's population to choose any one of the above and he/she would choose Material prosperity and say "To Hell with the rest". It's your stomach that really counts in the final analysis

7:20 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Purple Haze said...

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs might be applicable to the little red dot in its quest to survive.

10:39 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said anonymous 7.20 p.m.

Perhaps Singapore should deport Catherine Lim to America where she will soon find, to her horror, intense scrutiny and shackled feet with Patriot Act I and Patriot Act II. For a writer, she is extremely dense. Stupid is the word.

6:44 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No need deport Catherine Lim to America lah. Just send her to Malaysia where she would have to spend the next 50 years of her life applying for 2nd class citizenship and also be branded a kaffir

8:37 AM GMT+8  
Blogger kittykat46 said...

Its true that for the least developed countries, even the minimum material progress is more important than anything else. However, once a country has achieved a reasonable level of economic progress, further improvements in the quality of life would involve increased freedom of expression, choice, spiritual and personal development.

Singapore has long passed that threshold material development. PAP is simply perpetuating a myth that even a modicum of press freedom and political opening will cause the destruction of Singapore's material progress.

Barisan Nasional succesfully played the same lies in Malaysia for 50 years until March 8, 2008.

Anonymous 6:44 pm -
"deport Catherine Lim to America where she will soon find, to her horror, intense scrutiny and shackled feet with Patriot Act I and Patriot Act II"

Have you ever stepped foot in the USA ? I can tell you for the vast majority of American citizens and foreigners in America its a total non-issue. There have been cases of heavy handedness in its application, and there are concerns on its effect on civil liberties. However, it has been rarely used, unlike the ISA in Malaysia, where it is regularly wielded as a threat.

Don't believe everything you read in the UMNO/ MCA controlled newspapers, guys, including the foreign news.

2:33 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

singapore singapore singspore. if you like singapore so much pack your bag and leave. no one is stopping you.

7:48 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a student studying in Singapore.
To put it off seriously, I am quite used to the fact that me, as a student of Singapore schools, face a lot of pressures.It just grows in me. It then grows again into adulthood.See how it goes?

11:13 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isnt it ironic that "the malaysian" is talking about the lack of freedom in singapore when his country bans websites and trys to shut some websites down due to their views or nature. look at the recent scandal of some malaysian mps son. they tried to shut down websites which had pictures of his son "playin" around wit girls. u call that freedom?? how about gettin arrested cause u kissed in public. i jus think "the malaysian" should first raise issues and problems about his country before lookin at other countries and tryin to identify their problems. call it cliche but u really are the pot callin the kettle black.

10:30 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

atleast Singapore is the SAFEST country compared to malaysia and indonesia..and malaysia is just too jealous cos we are betta off than them...stress??isnt it good?cos if we dun have pressure how we gonna succeed?and Singapore being the smallest country but hv biggest achievement..too many poeple want to stay here...malaysia dun nid to luk at Singapore problem watsoever..luk at their country development and corruption..so slow..they are not fit to challenge with Singapore cos Singapore development is too fast for them

9:32 AM GMT+8  

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