Saturday, March 28, 2009

6 million people

Someone wrote a letter to the Straits Times decrying the opinions of a certain professor.

As much as I agree with the author of the letter, I have no illusions as to how helpful (or not) such letters are.

The government, broadly speaking, and the local media machine, narrowly speaking, usually has a tendency to seek out the opinions of "experts" to reinforce their existing inclinations or ideas. 

For example, the columnist Tom Plate that the Straits Times keeps on retainer is a foreigner with a perspective acceptable to the government.  He writes regularly in the national paper. Not so long ago, Richard Florida's ideas on the creative class were ostensibly the reason why we had to "open up" , create "little bohemias" and be welcoming to foreigners. Never mind whether these ideas provided the actual impetus behind our economic initiatives or that they were just a post-hoc justification. Several notable scientists have also spoken in glowing terms of Singapore's science enterprise. Of course, they were also the recipients of government largesse in the form of large grants and paychecks, but let's not get distracted by something as banal as ... money.  

This isn't so remarkable, since spin doctoring is a much appreciated (but practiced with little finesse) art in Singapore.

The scary part is when the government actually starts believing its own spin a.k.a. confirmation bias.

We are already seeing it with regard to the economic crisis. The government is still speaking of preparing for the inevitable upturn in the not-too-distant future instead of preparing for a long grinding recession and readying abundant social safety measures.

We are also seeing it in how the government views the financial industry as a keystone industry when it is in fact in the process of being permanently and globally downsized.

And finally, if the government actually believes that Singapore should have more people than it already has, then this place can only become more less pleasant to live in. But of course, their opinion is hardly unexpected. After all, our politicians don't take the meat cars MRT, eat at mass (sic) halls food courts, shop at our generic and flavorless McMalls, or live in worker beehive cells HDB flats.

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