Saturday, January 27, 2007

Meannie Friends?

Nowadays, my son refers to us, his parents, as meannies whenever we disallow him from doing something or having something. We, the parents, know better and any restrictions are for the child's good, so we believe. Thus being called mean doesn't really hurt us a bit. In fact, I detect a hint of affection whenever we are so labelled.

However, this doesn't seem to be the case in the recent spat, first between Singapore and Thailand, and most recently, between Singapore and Indonesia. Singapore has gone out of its way to court of its neighbours, preferring a prosper thy neighbour policy rather than the one-up-manship policies that the previous Malaysian government under Dr. M used to practice, with some degree of relish.

But alas! Even our best intentions and actions are sometimes not good enough. Singapore stands accused of spying on Thailand by no less than the General Boon-whatever-his-name-is (hope it doesn't rhyme with Baboon) who led a coup that toppled Thailand's previous premier, Dr Thaksin. As improbable as this may be, the Thai brass has already determined that this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There was a time when we laid out the red carpet for each other, not only at the government level, but also on the business, educational and social levels. Catching a plane to Bangkok to shop has been every Singaporean's favourite past time. But then, it is probably the militarian's psyche that is at work here. Pretty soon, this psyche will also set the Thai economy back a couple of notches, if it has not already begun, that is. In retrospect, Temasek Holdings made a very ill-considered investment in gaining majority control of Shin Corp, an asset the Thai government considers strategic to its national interest. But what is done cannot be undone, unless Temasek divest its interests soon. But this is to kow-tow to the Thai military on a matter that Singapore considers a purely business transaction. So how? Wait for the wind to blow over, or the Thai military to stumble. Some are speculating that this is a diversenary tactic by the Thai brasses to cover up its incompetence at managing an economy going downhill. Whatever, it is Thailand that is in real trouble. As a friend, Singapore wishes them well.

Indonesia has suddenly woken up to environmental issues and is now banning all exports of sand to Singapore. Given that Indonesia consists of vast stretches of islands that span the seas between two major oceans with Singapore but a red dot, they cannot be serious that stopping the sales of sand to Singapore will make a significant difference in the environment? You'd laugh at this reason for their decision, especially when they haven't done any thing to stench the fires that destroy vast stretches of forests (over areas many times the size of Singapore) over the last few years. Just look at the map. Even if sand is dumped onto Singapore 10 times its size ten times over, it would not affect more than 0.01% of the land mass of Sumatra. It would seem that the Indonesia Minister and her minions who suddenly became environmentally conscious and dreamt up this restriction don't know their Geography at all. Again, Singapore must have stepped on sensitive toes when it complained about the haze originating from Indonesia to the UN recently.

What can we learn from all this? Singapore property is going to go on the up and up again. Obscene amounts of foreign money will now flow from Thailand to Singapore even as foreign sand from Indonesia stops coming. Singapore has turned an economic backwater into a vibrant economy which is the envy of many. It is now exporting water technology into lands where, ironically, desert sand is in abundance. Will Singapore invent sand now that it is in short supply? Well, if its history of the last 40 years is anything to go by, it probably will.

And Thailand and Indonesia will remain clueless...


Anonymous said...

off topic - er, when did Singapore become independent ...

LCS said...

Heads of state who seize power by force from legitimately elected govt shd not be taken too seriously.

Epilogos said...

Oops - off topic - typo there. Corrected. Singapore became independent in 1965. Some would say it became independent the day its people began to learn the English language. Those learning Chinese were obviously more interested in Communist China.

__earth said...

Have you ever heard this story?

My friend, you are in a car listening to the radio news bulletin. The news reader says: "And now a traffic warning from
the police: one wrong-way driver has been seen on the M4 from London to Glasgow. Please keep left and warn the
driver by light signalling" and then you angrily put the radio off, while you shout: "ONE? ONE wrong-way driver? I
can see HUNDREDS of wrong-way drivers!"