Sunday 1 December 2013

Neighbours know Singapore will not harm their interests: Shanmugam

By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2013

FOREIGN Minister K. Shanmugam gave his first comments yesterday on allegations that Singapore had spied on its neighbours, saying "the Indonesians and Malaysians know that we won't do anything to harm their interests".

Without giving away any details, he said Singapore works with the Americans, Australians, Malaysians and Indonesians on various aspects of counter-terrorism.

"The point is the Indonesians and Malaysians know we won't do anything to harm their interests," he said.

But he noted that on intelligence matters, the Government would not confirm or deny any specific reports, even if they are untrue.

"You cannot, on intelligence matters, be coming out and saying this is true, this is untrue. Or this is 5 per cent true, that is 95 per cent false... (or) this line in your article is true because it says that we do this sort of thing. Never-ending," he said.

Reports in Australian and Dutch media this week said Singapore and South Korea were working with "Five Eyes" intelligence partners, including the United States and Australia.

Based on documents from US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the reports came in the wake of disclosures that Australian intelligence had wiretapped the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and top officials, sparking outrage in Jakarta.

Mr Shanmugam, speaking at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum at Shangri-La hotel yesterday, said the articles "gratuitously" brought Singapore into the fray and were rehashed from stories originally published in August.

The only difference this time was, he added, "Singapore was mentioned in rather tenuous circumstances".

Asked by the dialogue's moderator, Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez, if the allegations would harm Singapore's ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, he said they should not as "what we do, what Malaysia does, what Indonesia does, is known to all of us".

The forum, an annual affair organised by The Straits Times, was presented by ANZ Bank, with partner Mercedes-Benz, and attended by more than 400 people.

In the 90-minute dialogue, Mr Shanmugam was also asked about China's new air defence zone, which overlaps those declared by Japan and South Korea, and covers contested territory.

Mr Shanmugam said the "entire suite of developments" reflects an underlying trend of domestic nationalism pressuring all the major players into illogical moves. "Nationalism can be a force for good, it can also impact on logic when it comes to foreign policy," he said.

"Logic will dictate that these issues should be set aside, and we should continue as we have done.

"And each time you think logic would prevail and that you know, it can't get any worse... an incident can easily happen."

Tensions in East China Sea 'pose serious risk'
A miscalculation can spark a conflagration, Shanmugam warns
By Bhagyashree Garekar, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2013

A MISCALCULATION can pitch the heightened tensions in the East China Sea into a conflagration no one wants to see, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam cautioned yesterday, adding that wisdom required these disputes be shelved to let commerce continue.

"I think there is a serious risk of miscalculation," Mr Shanmugam said when Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez asked him for his reading of the rising tensions across the Pacific in a session at the second Straits Times Global Outlook Forum yesterday.

Tensions have escalated rapidly after China's sudden declaration last Saturday of an Air Defence Identification Zone over a vast area that covers islands and territory claimed by China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

In response, the United States, Japan and South Korea defiantly flew military aircraft through the area without notifying China as it demanded. In turn, China sent its warplanes there.

Mr Shanmugam said the situation was worrying. "An incident can easily happen and we, the rest of the world, are to some extent hostage to what some ship captain might do. And how he might get us all involved in a major conflagration that no one wants."

He saw nationalism as the underlying factor in the nations' response. "No leader of any of these countries can be seen to be giving up on territorial sovereignty. Not in China, not in Japan, certainly not in the US, not in Korea."

The way out, he said, would be a return to the old ways of dealing with these kinds of disputes. "It is going to require wisdom to try and deal with this. The most sensible approach would be to say, 'let's put these disputes aside, let's try and deal with them within a platform or framework and meanwhile let's continue to engage each other commercially'."

And that approach is hardly new, he said. "If you dial back 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, back to the (Chinese) leader Deng Xiaoping, he was able to say to the Japanese prime minister, look, let's leave this aside and let's move on with the real business."

Also giving their take at the forum sponsored by ANZ Bank and Mercedes-Benz were this newspaper's overseas correspondents.

ST's former China bureau chief Peh Shing Huei said the move was a miscalculation on China's part, which was obvious when Beijing appeared to have little to say soon after the US flew its B-52 bombers into the zone.

He pointed out that the US chose B-52s - rather than, say, the F-35 stealth fighters - for the mission. B-52s are the biggest planes in the US fleet, he said, with the largest radar profiles, so the message from the US was that "we want you to know", he said.

He noted too that the US launched the B-52s from its territory in Guam rather than from its base in Japan. It was an unambiguous signal that "this is a message coming from the US, not Japan, listen to us", Mr Peh said.

Govt 'not curbing blogs, websites'
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2013

LAW and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday responded to charges that the Government is clamping down on sociopolitical blogs and websites, saying its only aim is to encourage responsible and accountable debate online.

The Government is not out to curtail freedom of expression, he said at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum, but it believes people should be held accountable for what they say online.

Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government would require registration by commenters on its REACH feedback website, and encouraged other sites to do the same.

Mr Shanmugam said yesterday that this was not foreshadowing a law "to make everyone do it". Still, he urged "responsible, respectable" sites to do so.

When Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez, who was moderating the session, said this demand could be taken as an attempt to constrain debate online, Mr Shanmugam asked why should people be unwilling to identify themselves. "Why should people be uncomfortable expressing their views on political and social issues? I can imagine that they will be uncomfortable if they want to bully, if they want to, as often happens, distort the truth."

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at a dialogue during the second annual Global Outlook Forum organised by The Straits Times. It was attended by more than 400 people at the Shangri-La hotel.

He rejected the description of recent moves as "new rules" to regulate the Internet, saying they were existing media rules that were now being extended to online media.

In June, the Government introduced regulations that require news websites to take down undesirable content within 24 hours and post a $50,000 bond.

It has also asked two websites, The Independent and Breakfast Network, to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification. This would prohibit them from accepting foreign funding, which the Government says is a fair requirement, but which others have criticised.

Mr Shanmugam said the Government has always had the legal power to demand the removal of posts. The only "new" part is the 24-hour timeframe, which was decided on due to the speed of online discourse, he said.

In the past 20 years, he noted, this power was used 24 times:

22 times on pornography-related matters and twice on posts offensive to certain religious groups.

"So, that is how it has been used," he said. "You have a very vibrant sociopolitical commentary going online in Singapore. This current minister, and his predecessors, have never used that power to (order a) take-down."

S-E Asia 'has bright economic prospects despite volatility'
By Cassandra Chew, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2013

SOUTH-EAST Asia's economic prospects are bright despite the volatility in the region, several analysts said yesterday.

Chief economist of ANZ Bank Glenn B. Maguire and Mr Manu Bhaskaran, partner and head of economic research at Centennial Group, believe good times are ahead, as they observe an inflow of investments to Asean.

Trouble between Japan and China, such as over Beijing's new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), will lead to a fundamental change in where the Japanese invest, Mr Bhaskaran said at the ST Global Outlook Forum titled, "Will 2014 be a year of living dangerously for Asia?".

"That fundamental change actually means more Japanese investments in this part of the world, even with problems of the business environment in Indonesia and so on," he said.

Agreeing, Mr Maguire noted that the political disputes have economic consequences.

The last time there was significant political tension between Japan and China in 2005 - when a new Japanese history book was said to have failed to address the extent of Japan's World War II atrocities - Tokyo responded by moving its production networks from China to Thailand.

Then, when Thailand experienced flooding in 2010 and 2011, Japan moved farther into the region - to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, he noted.

Additionally, when the flow of funding from the United States into Asia begins to reverse once the Federal Reserve puts an end to its quantitative easing, Mr Maguire expects this to be replaced by "a more stable foreign direct investment, building real assets".

Both men were speaking in a panel discussion on the economic outlook of Asia-Pacific with three Straits Times journalists: Mr Peh Shing Huei, Deputy News Editor and author of When The Party Ends, which looks at China's rise and challenges after the 2008 Beijing Olympics; veteran Japan correspondent Kwan Weng Kin; and senior economics correspondent Fiona Chan. It was moderated by Foreign Editor Ravi Velloor.

Mr Peh noted that with the recent policy changes in Beijing - including the reversal of its one-child policy and the loosening of hukou, or household registration, restrictions to ease migration, Chinese President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power and shown himself as having more clout than his predecessors.

But Mr Kwan was sceptical over policies introduced by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revive its ailing economy, dubbed Abenomics. "He has set his targets, but he hasn't told us how he is going to do those things," he said.

Ms Chan was more optimistic, saying that Mr Abe's policies were working. She added, however, that the average Japanese has yet to feel their impact because his wages have not grown yet.

Tensions between Japan and China over China's ADIZ also featured prominently at the forum, which was attended by 400 business leaders, academics and government officials.

The panel was followed by a lunchtime talk on US megatrends and their impact on Asia by Dr Parag Khanna, director of the Hybrid Reality Institute and senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam fielded questions from the floor. This was the highlight for several people, including participant K.J. Tan, 74, from a think-tank. "The Foreign Minister was very frank, and the questions were solid, insightful, relevant and pertinent."

Ms Eleanor Oh, senior communications manager for publisher Wiley, said she wished there was more time with Mr Shanmugam, who spent an hour and forty-five minutes with the audience.

"He was very open in sharing his thoughts, and it showed that he was willing to engage us."

Excerpts from Shanmugam's dialogue

Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam engaged with an audience of more than 400 business leaders, academics and government officials in a 90-minute dialogue at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum on Friday. Here are his thoughts on Asean's response to Typhoon Haiyan, why it's hard to define India, the Iranian nuclear threat and just why the United States is looked after by a "strange providence".
The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

On never writing off the US

"I am personally a strong believer in the United States. Not in terms of believing its governance model is the best, but certainly in terms of the freedom of economic enterprise, the ability of people to make their lives better, the ability of the economy to constantly reinvent itself and, chief of all, the ability to attract the best talent from all over the world, which then contributes to the American economy. I think one can be bullish about the American economy.

You know, now they've found shale gas in huge quantities, they're going to become net exporters and the cost for them of energy (per million British thermal units) is $3 to $4, compared to $18 for us and many others in Asia.

So each time you think that the US is down, something happens and they're back up. So never write them off. There is a saying, attributed to Bismarck, that 'there is a strange providence that looks after drunkards, orphans and the United States of America'."

On criticism that Asean has been ineffective in resolving regional issues like the haze, and that its response to Typhoon Haiyan that wreaked havoc in member state Philippines was weak

"Never say never, but I don't think the Asean Economic Community of 2015 envisions the kind of integration that exists in Europe now.

Europe took a very long time and before that, three or four centuries of wars and living together (after the concept of nationhood arose more clearly) before it could reach this stage. We haven't had anything like the same experience.

So the next (question) is, is Asean in a position - with the kind of military assets, the kind of coordination, the kind of financial assets - to be able to deal with the typhoon of the magnitude that hit the Philippines in the way that the US was able to?

Obviously not. We don't have those kinds of resources. We can't come together and put together an aircraft carrier to go and help. How many countries in Asean can put together a disaster relief team that can actually go and do good work in an area where assistance is needed?

I say that seriously, because you need the ability to go and fly out there and the right equipment. You don't want to become a burden to your host because they are already struggling. Not every country in Asean has that. So how do you talk about an Asean response that is on a scale of the European Union's, or the US' or China's or Japan's?

But we do what we can. And I know the Brunei chair of Asean has written to all of Asean to ask what else we can do. So as our capabilities increase, I think our responses would be qualitatively different as well."

On whether India has been forgotten in the region's narrative

"I think the mistake that many people make is to talk about India as one entity. Almost anything you can say about India would be true. Some of the smartest people on earth? Yes. Some of the poorest people on earth? Yes. Some of the fastest-growing regions in the world? Yes. Some of the best and the best-run companies with best management talent? Yes. Some of the most imperfect economic models? Yes. So what do you want me to say about India?

The fact is you have a hugely talented people (but) the system of governance hasn't been delivering the kind of growth and advancement in people's lives that I think India deserves, (considering) its resources, arable land, and bright and hard-working people.

India should be doing as a complete unit far better than it is doing. But you get huge pockets which are not doing well. And really, whether India as a unit progresses much further depends on competition between the states. Because, given India's electoral system now, I think it's going to be difficult to find any central government that has a significant majority on its own without forming alliances with a series of parties which may or may not share a similar economic outlook.

I think there are good reasons to be optimistic about India. Economically, I think India is progressing and the headline growth is 4 per cent. But there are states that are growing 8 to 10 per cent.

Singapore companies are invested there and more significantly, Indian companies - 6,000 of them - are here looking at Singapore as a base for the entire region.

And India is also looking at the entire region and is negotiating a free trade agreement with the region as a whole."

On Singapore's ability to stay relevant in the world

"The only reason why people talk to us in the world is because we are relevant and successful. Why does (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong), when he goes to Beijing, get to see all the top leaders? Don't forget we are a small city-state. Why do I, when I go to the United Nations, get to see about 40 foreign ministers from all over the world? Many ask to see me, some I ask to see them.

I went to Bahrain. The constant theme from my host was that whenever he goes to his meetings with the Gulf countries, the smaller countries all talk about the Singapore model and how they want to be like Singapore.

So our soft power, our value, our brand recognition, is huge. And that's due to the good work of our predecessors. It's being achieved within a framework of rationality, of doing the right thing, of hard work, and recognising that the world does not owe us a living.

It's about recognising that we are like a spinning top that has a very narrow base. You got to constantly spin. If you stop spinning, you fall. And in international relations, people take you seriously if you have a big army, a big economy, a big land mass, or a big population. We have none of that. But we are taken seriously.

So if you're small, you need to learn how to run faster, be smarter, do things sensibly, to survive. And if you want to prosper, you've got to do a bit more. Will we manage our politics in such a way that we will continue to be successful? That's really for Singaporeans to answer."

On the possibility of a nuclear deal with Iran and it being ready to rejoin the international community

"I think the conditions today are right and ripe for a deal (with Iran to halt its nuclear testing). Why do I say it? I think, to be very frank, Iran is at a stage where it feels that it can do such a deal. Many people believe that Iran is ultimately not interested in the nuclear weapons themselves. What Iran is interested in is to be accepted as a significant power in the region.

What knowledge, technology and capability that you have all goes towards showing whether you are a power and how seriously you are taken by the US and other countries.

I think the years of enriching, the years of dealing with nuclear reactors and so on have given the Iranians a degree of knowledge and comfort with what they can do and cannot do. Having reached that stage, maybe now I think they have to look at the economy and they have to also look at their people. And the sanctions appear to be having a significant impact. The Iranians are pretty bright. And some of them do very well in major American universities.

Probably, Iran has calculated that at this stage, it doesn't need to go further and it can do a deal and move on, and come back into the mainstream of the international community."

China 'is already a superpower'
Shanmugam: Asia is dependent on China for much of its prosperity
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

CHINA does not get enough credit for what it has achieved and the superpower role it already plays in the world, said Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam.

Speaking at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum last Friday, he noted that the reality of a China-dominated region is "already here".

It is either the biggest or second-biggest trading partner and investor for almost all the countries in South-east Asia, he said. Its influence over the less developed countries in the region is even greater: Of Cambodia's US$14 billion (S$17.6billion) gross domestic product (GDP), for example, Chinese loans amount to some US$8 billion or US$9 billion, he said.

"Commercially, all of us now owe our prosperity to some degree to China," he pointed out.

Responding to a point by dialogue moderator, ST editor Warren Fernandez, that China's economic growth from now on is not so assured, Mr Shanmugam said: "It's all relative, isn't it?"

"I think most countries in the world will be happy with 7.6 per cent or 7.4 per cent growth," the minister said, referring to China's GDP growth of the last two quarters.

He said he found descriptions of China's "slowdown" to be hyperbolic: "The reality is people don't give China enough credit. You get a chap who is arrested, he ends up on the first page of the international newspapers, but the fact that 500million people have been moved out of poverty, the fact that the Third Plenum now has come out with what could potentially be very significant restructuring (do not)."

Last year, Beijing removed Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai from his post and this year tried him for taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power for covering up his wife's murder of a British businessman, in a case that captured headlines worldwide.

The Third Plenum was a key meeting among Chinese political leaders last month that set the reform agenda for the next decade. Among the changes are the loosening of China's one-child policy and ending the use of labour camps.

But the Chinese behemoth also faces challenges of a massive scale, Mr Shanmugam said during the 90-minute dialogue attended by over 400 people.

These include managing the "largest transmigration in the history of the world" that will see 60 per cent of its population living in its cities, as well as narrowing the income gap and the larger wealth gap between the coastal regions and its interior provinces.

China also needs to move away from its export-led growth model, where it makes goods "faster and cheaper" than anywhere else in the world, to one where internal consumption plays a bigger role. This, he noted, would be a "significant boon" to all the countries in the world, including South-east Asia, because it means a huge new market of 1.3billion people for their goods and services.

"Of course, you're going to have to compete with the Chinese, who are very fierce competitors, but it's an opportunity," he added.

Asked about Chinese electricity giant Huaneng's acquisition of Tuas Power from Temasek Holdings in 2008, Mr Shanmugam said that from the Chinese point of view, such investments go beyond economic calculations. They can also help their strategic interests on the geopolitical scene, he noted, a goal that all big countries, not just China, have.

Whether extending low-cost loans to countries or acquiring their major businesses, "part of it is to help those countries, part of it is also their diplomacy", he said.

"Every country does it, Japan does it, Australia does it, the US does it, the Chinese would do it and are doing it. The more advocates a country has in the world, the better (off) it is, obviously."

'Rise of nationalistic pressure intensifies air zone row'
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

DECADES ago, then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping could ask his Japanese counterpart to put the issue of disputed territory in the East China Sea aside to "move on with real business".

But, lamented Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam on Friday, the rise of nationalistic pressure in Japan, China, the United States and other countries has escalated the dispute and caused moves that are not "dictated by logic".

Last week, China established an air defence identification zone that covers the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands and overlaps with Japan's and South Korea's own air zones. The US promptly flew two B-52 bombers into the zone without notifying China as demanded.

Mr Shanmugam, speaking at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum, said the entire suite of developments reflected a worrying underlying trend of nationalism-propelled foreign policies in these countries.

"Nationalism can be a force for good, (but) it can also impact on logic when it comes to foreign policy," he said.

"No leader of any of these countries (wants to) be seen to be giving up on territorial sovereignty - not in China, not in Japan, certainly not in the US, not in Korea."

Domestic nationalism has been growing stronger in each of the major players, he noted. In the US, "China-bashing" has become very fashionable, while China has "a huge amount of politics" in the form of "five hundred million netizens pushing and putting pressure on the leadership". The same goes for Japan, Mr Shanmugam added.

"So you can say logically that China, Japan, South Korea and the US really need not get into this," he said. "There are so many ways in which the situation can be sorted out."

But, instead, with the nationalistic pressure from their populations, a "serious risk of miscalculation" has arisen, he noted.

This escalating situation is worrying for Singapore, he said.

"We are a major air hub in South-east Asia. We are a major sea port. The freedom of navigation, freedom of air rights - these are fundamental to us and our interests."

S'pore 'not immune to religious tensions'
Significant religious debate already occurring, says Shanmugam
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

SINGAPORE is not likely to be spared as religion-fuelled tensions spread through the region, Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has said.

Responding to a question at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum last Friday on rising religiosity in the region, Mr Shanmugam said the flow of funds from international sources to churches and religious schools gives rise to significant issues in the region.

For example, with money flows from the Middle East to Islamic schools which are not always subject to state supervision, "you have to worry about what exactly are the children being taught", he noted.

Mr Shanmugam said two elements - the ethnic mix in the region and the fact that many countries are in a "state of transition democratically" - are factors behind the conflict between Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines and their Muslim minorities.

Even in Singapore, a stable place where funds from overseas are controlled and the land for mosques is subsidised, "you already see a significant religious debate taking place", he said.

American-style "culture wars" over issues like gay rights and abortion are also beginning to happen here, he added.

"Ten years ago, if you'd asked a Singaporean, do you think a woman should have a right to abort, everybody will have said 'of course'.

It was a no-brainer as far as Singaporeans are concerned, he said.

This is no longer the case today, not just among older people but also for young, religious Singaporeans, he said.

He cited a woman law undergraduate who sent him a paper arguing that Singapore's laws on abortion are too lax. Her legislative views are probably influenced by her religious ones, he noted.

"So society is becoming more religious and I think we will see these debates. Don't mistake me. I think there is a place for these debates but, in my own view, from a secular point of view," he said.

"What should the laws be on gay rights? What should the laws be on abortion? I think there is a framework to discuss this from a secular perspective.

"But inevitably, the arguments within the secular space will be informed by people's religious beliefs. And those religious beliefs are getting stronger and stronger."

'Singapore already a global city'
Republic should be a role model, play bigger role in region, says academic
By Cassandra Chew, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

BY SEVERAL counts, Singapore is a global city and does not need to advertise itself as one, academic Parag Khanna has argued.

At The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum last Friday, he said Singapore fulfilled many of the characteristics of a global city, which to him is one that is stable, wealthy, diverse, connected, creative and a role model for others.

The rise of global cities was a topic that Dr Khanna, director of the Hybrid Reality Institute and senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, spoke about at a lunchtime talk at the forum.

He also touched on megatrends such as the devolution of power and the rise of regionalism, and how these impacted on Singapore.

On Singapore's qualification as a global city, he noted that it has a diverse demographic. With foreigners making up a third of its total workforce, the city state is second only to Dubai in terms of the percentage of foreigners in its population.

Also, as a wealthy city, Singapore plays a key role in the international financial sector. It was chosen as the first offshore yuan hub outside China in May, and has over $28 billion in yuan deposits to date.

In June, consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicted that Singapore would overtake Switzerland and London as the world's top wealth management centre by the end of this year.

And in a nod to the social, political and economic stability that Singapore offers, a PwC study last year ranked Singapore as the most liveable city in Asia, mainly due to the ease of doing business and efficient infrastructure.

In human resources consulting firm Mercer's new City Infrastructure ranking of 221 cities, Singapore came out on top.

However, Dr Khanna said there was no need for Singapore to advertise itself as a global city.

"You don't see in New York (the label) 'New York: Global City', nor do you see that in London, because they are global cities. If you are a global city, you don't need to brand yourself as one."

Singapore's drawback is that it is a CSI - City, State, Island - with no sprawling countryside retreats for those who need to escape congested city life, unlike most other global cities belonging to countries.

He acknowledged the tensions between Singaporeans and their Government over the rapid expansion of the city's population to ensure economic growth, but said he would not suggest going back in time to undo what had already been done.

Rather, "the goal tomorrow is to allow everyone to benefit" from the growth achieved.

"Just because Singapore is not letting in people as fast (as it used to), that is not a measure of how global a city Singapore is. It's how well you serve all its constituents while also being global," he said.

As for what the optimal population size of Singapore should be, Dr Khanna said it was "not unimaginable that seven or even eight million people could live here productively" in the next 10 to 20 years.

But he also envisions a "much more physically evolved Singapore where towns play a stronger role" as laid out in the 2013 Urban Redevelopment Authority Draft Master Plan.

It would be where "not everyone is going down to Orchard Road or the Central Business District every single day". He described the future Singapore as "a city of villages".

During his speech, Dr Khanna observed the trend of devolution worldwide. This is the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, such as from central government to local or regional administration.

In the United States, for instance, President Barack Obama's administration is seen to be ineffective because of debacles such as the foul-ups with the launch of the health-care programme and the recent government shutdown.

Cities such as New York realised they could no longer count on Washington to carry out policies effectively and have begun to pursue their own immigration and foreign commercial policies.

At the same time as the tendency towards devolution of power, there is also the move towards regionalism, helped by the success of, say, the European Union.

The euro zone has proven resilient in the face of its economic crisis. There is now talk of greater integration with a fiscal compact and a banking union.

Possibly taking a leaf from the EU, regional mechanisms are spreading and deepening worldwide.

There are now several regional organisations, such as the East African Community, the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council and, closer to home, Asean.

As a "nimble player of multi-alignment" and the "capital of Asia", Singapore needs be a role model and play a more assertive leadership role in the region, he argued.

In the case of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and a few Asean nations, for example, Singapore could play an active role to resolve the conflict.

It could set up a Singapore-listed company, managed by the respective littoral states' national energy companies which would share responsibilities for approving exploration projects and sharing profits, he said.

"I propose that this is an opportunity for Singapore to play a neutral role as a commercial arbiter to transform the dispute from one that is legal, territorial and nationalistic and therefore in many ways unresolvable, towards one that is commercial and cooperative."


"So often we talk about mayors like (mayor of New York City) Michael Bloomberg and (mayor of London) Boris Johnson as if they are CEOs of cities and running cities the way we run companies.

I think that's interesting because of the ways we can use data today as a tool for governance. What I see happening in Singapore is the transcending of traditional debates around political modernisation that presume an inexorable culmination in Western democracy.

Instead, Singapore is becoming what I call the info-state, a place in which data matters as much, if not more, than democracy.

In this way, Singapore could have an edge over other city-states and even great world capitals such as London or New York, or certainly remain on par with them.

- Dr Parag Khanna on how data is becoming more important than democracy in the running of global cities

'Strategic paranoia helps S'pore succeed'
By Cassandra Chew, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2013

SINGAPORE'S economic success can be attributed to the country being "strategically paranoid", said academic Parag Khanna.

Explaining the phrase at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum on Friday, Dr Khanna said it is about being constantly on your toes to consider various scenarios in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.

"It isn't one thing. It's maintaining a relationship with China and the United States, ensuring your economic viability. It's about constantly shifting your value chains to remain relevant," he said.

The labour movement's mantra of "cheaper, better, faster", urging companies and workers to become more productive, is one example of strategic paranoia.

Other examples include: seeking water independence from Malaysia; refining petroleum despite having no indigenous oil and gas; and maintaining friendly diplomatic relations with the US, China, India, Japan, Europe and all other major powers at the same time.

This is how, despite being a small state, Singapore has outdone other post-colonial states, said Dr Khanna.

"I think strategic paranoia has been a great guide for Singapore in the last 50 years. I think it will be a great guide for Singapore in the next 50 years as well."

He coined the phrase "strategic paranoia" for countries based on a concept called "constructive paranoia" for individuals, described by anthropologist Jared Diamond, 75, who spent most of his adult life living among the cannibal tribes of Papua New Guinea.

In explaining it, Mr Diamond said he managed to live so long despite prolonged exposure to disease, falling trees and cannibal tribes by being "constructively paranoid" all the time, recounted Dr Khanna.


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