Well Played – Bolleh State

One of the most interesting relationships in international diplomacy is relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. As one commentator said in the 1997, Malaysia and Singapore are like two kids in sandpit who love nothing better to do except hit each other over the head with their plastic spades. The strength and weaknesses of both countries mirror the other and if they found a way of working together, they’d be a world beater.

The world holds Singapore’s government up as a model of efficiency and effectiveness. Outsiders are prone to reminding the locals that Singapore works better than just about everywhere else. However, Singapore is a tiny place and we have, as the government has often reminded us, no resources. Malaysia, by contrast, has a government that is a byword for inefficiency and corruption (think 1MDB) but it has plenty of resources. Lee Kuan Yew’s (Singapore’s founding father is reported to have once described the concept of an independent Singapore as a ridiculous notion) original dream was for Singapore to be a dynamo for a proud and strong Malaysia, providing the know-how in utilizing the resources.

Unfortunately, human nature and the personalities involved in Malaysian and Singapore politics did not allow this to happen. Singapore, as we’re often reminded, was kicked out of the Malaysian Federation on 9 August 1965 and had to survive despite lacking just about every necessary resource. The rest, as they say is history.

We are, as one Indian expat said, “Frenemies.” In the game of one-upmanship, Singapore has enjoyed a far more successful win-lose record against Malaysia. Our Ministers have great fun pointing across the Causeway whenever anyone from the International Business Community wants to talk about things like government transparency and efficiency. The government loves being able to remind the population that whatever their grumbles, things are inevitably worse in Malaysia. It’s even more fun for us when Western businessmen complain about bring shaken down for bribes on the Malaysian side of the Causeway. My most educational experience in the regional politics was when I first moved back nearly two decades ago and made a day trip to Malaysia with a friend’s driver. The man’s greatest happiness was bribing Malaysian officials – this is a sport for Singaporeans, it reminds us that we’re doing much better than the Malaysians (firstly the bribe is relatively cheap – 50RM is SG20, then it’s also something we can’t do in Singapore, so we come to Malaysia to do it.) If Singaporeans are accused of being a tad smug, its because we’re the tiny nation that’s doing much better than the big brother across the Causeway.

Having said all of that, Malaysia has just managed to pull one up on Singapore. On Tuesday 24 March 2020, the Malaysian Government allowed its citizens to apply to withdraw RM500 a month for over a year in order to help people deal with the effects of the coronavirus. More can be read on Malaysia’s move here:

At the time of writing, Singaporeans are wondering if our government would allow us to follow suite and withdraw a certain sum from our CPF accounts. I’ve read somewhere on my social media feed that our leader in waiting, Mr. Heng Swee Kiat, may allow us to make a one-off withdrawal of SG$2,000 but I can’t confirm the source.

Malaysia for all its faults, is at the very least admitting that the global economy is going to tank and livelihoods will be affected. People all over the world are avoiding going out. Businesses are bound to shut and as countries go into lockdown, trade and tourism will be affected. At the time of writing, even big names like SIA are asking people to take pay cuts and go on unpaid leave.

The Malaysian solution recognizes that people are going to suffer and they need to find a solution. So, what better way to help people but than to let people use their savings. The RM500 is not going to make a major difference but it will help people.

Singapore’s problem is that it has grown so used to success that it cannot envision the possibility of things going south for an extended period. Malaysia has had an element of “unemployment insurance” for decades. It’s a small component of its social security system but it exists and Malaysians who become unemployed have something to help them out when things turn to the shit. Malaysians are being allowed to use money financed by themselves.

Prior to spread of the coronavirus, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower, Ms. Josephine Teo, actually stood up in parliament and argued against introducing any form of “unemployment insurance.” I’ve blogged about this in my entry “We’re not asking for the lottery” on 28 February 2020. I don’t want to run down the government’s handling of the situation, which has been generally good as can be expected, but surely the signs were there that things would go south and that the ordinary citizen would get affected.
It’s this simple, Singapore got so used to success, particularly the economic variety, that it cannot envision a situation where bad times would have a long-lasting effect on the population. Hopefully the virus will help to change that.

Tang Li

*The author blogs at http://beautifullyincoherent.blogspot.com/



11 Responses to “Well Played – Bolleh State”

  • help the poor:

    Pls, help the poor.
    Better to let them use their CPF savings than resort to legal high-interest loan sharks to survive this period.
    Set some limits to withdrawal to avoid abuse.

    GD Star Rating
  • opposition dude:

    Both countries have had their ups and downs over the decades for sure. Because Mahathir was boss for such a long time we had loads of negatives said about us by him. But look at it this way, we have got plenty of Malaysians working here as our currency is much stronger than theirs. At least the Malaysians aren’t blinded by what Mahathir has said about us over the decades.

    And we also have our people going over to JB on the weekends to shop, makan and entertain themselves too. Good exchange I will say unless you are a resident of JB.

    But what I do not like is how both governments constantly try and one up the other and not resolve issues like the water agreement. Their side says the rate is too cheap and our side constantly hammers away at the 100 year contract that they signed back in the 1960s. End up with no deal and an impasse.

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  • Gunung Belongkong Timor:

    The author is dead wrong!

    Malaysia has everything Singapore has but not the other way around.

    Singapore is just like a cheetah, good just for a few hundred meters spring but tired of easily.

    On the other hand, Malaysia is a good Long-distance runner, able to cover kilometres after kilometres. They will eventually overtake Singapore in every fields and has the last laugh!

    GD Star Rating
  • REGIME CHANGE is the solution:

    Malaysia has problems but at least Malaysians have the “smarts” and courage to vote for regime change and made their country a functioning democracy. Most Singaporeans are self-centered and “practical” (a.k.a. “spineless”) which makes them mediocre.

    GD Star Rating
  • Singapore has no resources?:

    Why do so many supposedly well informed people think that Singapore has no resources?

    Are they brainwashed by the gov for 50 years?

    GD Star Rating
  • Steven:

    The Resilience Package,is, I think superior to what Malaysia’s package is.

    The notion of allowing citizens to dip into our own CPF savings,is, I think, misconstrued. It should be the government’s responsibility to come out with a package (like the Resiluence Package) to help Singaporeans.

    My main grouse with the Resilience Package is the lack of timelines when payouts are to be disbursed eg when will the $100 Passion Card be banked into our accounts and the $900 I am entitled to; I still do not know when it will go to my bank account.

    I have relatives and friends who are under Workfare and not sure if they will receive the special $3000 and if yes, when the money will be banked in.

    It is good the government mentioned the payout dates for the Self Employed Persons (SEP) ($3000 in May, Jul and Oct) but the definition of the SEP is still not very clear..HSK mentioned taxi drivers and private hire cars. It was mentioned those on Workfare also qualified..will these people receive any letter soon to tell them they are eligible?

    It seems there are conditions and details yet to be worked out. The question is when?

    It is like the government is saying “the cheque is in the mail”. So, we wait and wonder like a beggar

    GD Star Rating
  • Stupid Selfish Biatch:

    All degree holders are generally very selfish people. Because they have to work on their own to get degrees. They can’t tolerate those weaker, less able people.

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  • Aprelect:

    Vote now all new citizens 80%

    GD Star Rating
  • Leengam Hochinnaswamy:

    these old wrinkled half dead corpses also wiping tables and cleaning toilets. They are the victims of this old fart Lee sponsored ideology of no education – clean toilet. Got education – become minister. O level only – Ok settle for $1200 job. Degree _ ok u take $2500… above that? ok u take millions.

    All agreed yes sir. System that works perfectly beautifully that others want to emulate

    Now decades later still follow that old ideology find themselves lack of retirement and their children even though have degree are even worst – unemployed and unable to support . Typical PAP voters. , stupid, scaredy cat. Quite justified call them idiots….

    GD Star Rating
  • Harder Truths:

    $G could have very quickly stopped ALL incoming and outgoing travel – full lockdown within a few days early on. Any incoming citizens to be quarantined until cleared in an isolated part of the city like Pulau Tekong or Ubin.

    Of course the government is so weak and stupid and of course so full of sh*t that such a critical lesson escapes them. Now we are not even halfway up the pandemic curve. When it REALLY starts to get bad you will know about it very quickly.

    How long it will last is another problem. Does anyone know how long? Then why take the risk to allow anyone and everyone to come in? Look at China now – total lockdown for foreigners. China are showing how stupid this island’s leeders really are.

    Again the sh*theads will not help the common $G citizen even though they f*cked up in the quarantine. $G is the only place where the political party a;ways attains 70% or more votes for helping to eradicate its own people.

    GD Star Rating
  • Michael:

    With genting closed in kl, our Casio still open for business .

    GD Star Rating
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