In his New Year Day message on Sunday (Dec 31), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong claimed that 2017 has been a good year because of the election of Halimah Yacob – calling it a “strengthening of multiculturalism”. Without providing any figures, the Singapore PM also made baseless claims in his fake news speech that income is growing and foreign diplomacy has been positive:
“Although 2017 had started out with some uncertainty, given the muted economic mood coupled with concerns over terrorism and the US’ radical foreign policy approach, Singaporeans had pressed on, undaunted by these challenges. Overall, it has been a good year. At home, the economy has grown by 3.5 per cent, double the initial forecast, while incomes have gone up across the board. Singapore also strengthened its pledge to multiracialism this year through the introduction of the reserved Presidential Election, which saw Madam Halimah elected as the country’s first Malay President in almost half a century.
On the external front, Singapore has maintained good relations with both China and US, and bilateral relations with immediate neighbours such as Malaysia and Indonesia have been positive.
We dealt with the urgent concerns, but we looked beyond immediate problems and did not settle for quick fixes. We made steady progress on our long-term goals, and are finishing the year stronger than we started. We are ushering in 2018 with confidence and strength.”
The Presidential Election was the first racist and class-discriminatory election in the world that excludes 99.99% of the population – allowing only a specific race, Malay, and the rich elites (only executives of companies with more than S$500 million in equity) to participate. After re-writing the Constitution, Lee Hsien Loong abused his powers forcing the Election Department to disqualify the two other opponent contestants of his chosen candidate Halimah Yacob, allowing the PAP proxy to win in a walkover. Halimah Yacob’s race as an Indian was also whitewashed as a Malay to fit his “Malay President” context. The election caused major unhappiness in the country even among ruling party supporters, with many criticising Lee Hsien Loong of being a dictator.
Foreign diplomacy-wise, Singapore was recently ranked as one of the most unfriendly countries by China. Diplomatic relations sank record-low following Lee Hsien Loong’s hardline stance calling for China to give up their claims on South China Sea. ASEAN, where Singapore is now Chairman, is also in a fractious state. ASEAN countries are now pitting against each other over the Rohingya crisis, China’s sea claims and resistance against US President Donald Trump. Singapore-Malaysia relations also hit a low after a tariff war with both countries increasing cross-border taxes throughout the year, and also the Pedra Branca islands dispute. Indonesia is also demanding to be handed back control of their airspace currently controlled by Singapore, which Singapore repeatedly refused. Foreign diplomacy is definitely not as rosy-tinted as Lee Hsien Loong put in.
At home, GDP growth only spiked due to improvements in the global economy. Local economists have pointed out to the Singapore government that the unexpected growth were all in the manufacturing sector, and that the rest remained sluggish. Productivity growth also remained sterile, and total employment are also falling. Citizens’ unemployment rate hit a 8-year-high of 3.3% and the private sector reported a year-end bonus of only 0.5 month.
Lee Hsien Loong also announced that 2018 will be “Year of Climate Action”, and said that his carbon tax will help Singapore to be environmentally sustainable:
“With 2018 designated as Singapore’s Year of Climate Action, Singapore is committed to meet its environmental goals under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. The blueprint – the latest edition of which was unveiled in 2015 – will guide sustainability efforts such as maintaining green spaces, reducing reliance on cars and creating a green economy until 2030.
Singapore will also commit to the Paris Agreement on climate change to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent, from 2005 levels, by 2030. In the past year, the Government has announced plans to introduce carbon tax and tighten emissions standards for vehicles as part of its pledge.”
PM Lee also commented that the government is ramping up on infrastructural upgrades but hinted he need more tax money and more election mandates. Lamenting that his current government term is insufficient, Lee Hsien Loong cautioned Singaporeans to “plan well ahead”:
“All these are essential investments in our future. They require time and resources, and will stretch way beyond this term of government. We have to plan well ahead for them.”