Singapore begins to be suspicious about globalization effects on its territory

Modern-Day Singapore Pays a Price for Globalization

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Singapore by night.webphotographeer—Getty Images/Vetta

The city-state has done all it can to succeed in the global marketplace, only to end up feeling some unease at having its distinctive sense of place eroded.

You land at Changi Airport after flying for what seems a lifetime, and you’re disoriented even before you hit the customs booths with bowls of mints, dire warnings about the death penalty for those bringing in drugs, and digital comment cards asking if the service was to your liking.

Duck into a public restroom and you’ll be exhorted to aim carefully and to “flush with oomph” for the sake of cleanliness. Outside, it’s tropical sticky but impeccably clean, in a city is inhabited by Chinese, Malays, Indians, and guest workers from around the world—all speaking English.

Singapore is an assault on one’s preconceptions.

Singapore calls itself the Lion City, but it would be more accurate to call it the Canary City—the canary in globalization’s gold mine. Arguably no other place on earth has so engineered itself to prosper from globalization—and succeeded at it. The small island nation of 5 million people (it’s really just a city, but that’s part of what’s disorienting) boasts the world’s second-busiest seaport, a far higher per-capita income than its former British overlord, and a raft of number-one rankings on lists ranging from least-corrupt to most-business-friendly countries. So long as globalization continues apace, the place thrives.

On the event of its 50th anniversary as an independent nation, Singapore’s defining achievement is summed up in the title of its longtime leader Lee Kwan Yew’s memoir,From Third World to First. When it split off from Malaysia a half-century ago, Singapore had little going for it, other than a determination to become whatever it needed to be—assembly plant, container port, trustworthy banking and logistics center, semiconductor hub, oil refinery, mall developer, you name it. But the brilliance of its founding fathers—OK, it was mostly one father, Mr. Lee—was in realizing that the precondition for all of this was good governance.

Over a recent week of briefings with Singaporean business and government leaders sponsored by the nonprofit Singapore International Foundation, I heard one business leader say that he has never had to pay a bribe in his lifetime. To an American audience, that may seem like a fairly modest boast, but as this speaker noted, it’d be a difficult claim to make in neighboring Southeast Asian countries (or developing nations anywhere). Like Americans, Singaporeans worship the concept of meritocracy. Unlike Americans, Singaporeans entrusted their society to an all-knowing one-party technocracy that has delivered the goods across two generations—including affordable, publicly built housing for a majority of the population and a system of private lifetime savings vehicles that are the envy of policy wonks the world over.

Still, even at the height of its success, Singapore doesn’t get much love from the legions of foreigners who avail themselves of its First World amenities. It’s almost obligatory for Westerners visiting or residing in Singapore to complain about the “sterility” of the place, and joke about the pristine shopping malls, contrasting Singapore unflatteringly to the grittier authenticity of nearby Cambodia and Vietnam.

It’s a form of colonial prejudice to begrudge Singaporeans their lack of Third World “charm.” But the interesting new wrinkle is that Singaporeans themselves are joining in the second-guessing about the price of development.

Opposition parties are gaining some ground, capitalizing on unhappiness with strained public services, soaring prices, and an influx of super-wealthy foreign investors. Having taken care of its population’s basic needs and then some, it must be galling for Singapore’s relentlessly pragmatic leadership to see a surge of yearning for rooted authenticity. The few older neighborhoods that haven’t been demolished—including the first generation of public housing complexes—are now heralded as historic landmarks.

This ill-defined sense of nostalgia reflects the tensions inherent in globalization. You can leverage all of your comparative advantages to succeed in the global marketplace, only to end up feeling some unease at having your distinctive sense of place eroded.

Until recently, Singapore was among the most welcoming places to outsiders, with one out of every three residents born elsewhere. But with fertility rates dropping, the country opened the floodgates to immigrants to ensure continued growth—turning immigration into a lightning rod. One triggering event for a national debate on the subject was a modest riot late last year in the city’s Little India Quarter. A government official, off-script, said with some relish: “Imagine that, we had a riot: we must be a real place.”

In the aftermath, the government slowed down its intake of immigrants and tapered its growth projections. The move was a testament to how responsive Singapore’s system can be to its citizenry’s needs and desires, without being terribly democratic.

It was a testament, too, to how perfect Singapore—and its paternalistic, technocratic cosmopolitanism—is for this age of interdependence.

Andrés Martinez is the Washington editor of Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Trade Winds column, and Vice President of the New America Foundation

Le Bhoutan enterre le bonheur national brut

Le Bhoutan avait jusqu’alors une philosophie de vie portée sur le bonheur et la qualité de vie de ses habitants; bien plus que sur leur développement économique et leur ouverture au monde de la globalisation. D’après cet article, nous sommes en droit de nous demander si ce pays ne va pas se retrouver forcé de rentrer de le jeu de la mondialisation, avec ses conséquences, positives ou négatives.

Par Alain BarluetMis à jour le 15/07/2013 à 23:17 Publié le 14/07/2013 à 18:45

Le Bouthan a voté samedi pour ses représentants à la Chambre basse. Le Parti démocratique du peuple a remporté la majorité des sièges.

La crise économique est venue à bout de l’indice de bien-être inventé naguère par le pays himalayen.

Le «bonheur national brut» (BNB) ne fait plus recette au Bhoutan. Les élections parlementaires, remportées dimanche par l’opposition démocrate, témoignent du malaise qui règne dans ce petit État himalayen, célèbre pour avoir lancé dans les années 1970 cet indice donnant la priorité au bien-être sur la croissance économique. Pour la deuxième fois depuis la fin de la monarchie absolue, il y a cinq ans, le «pays du Dragon Tonnerre» élisait ses représentants à la Chambre basse. Le Parti démocratique du peuple (PDP) a remporté 32 sièges contre 15 au parti monarchiste, le DPT au pouvoir, invoquant notamment la suspension par New Delhi, début juillet, de son aide économique cruciale.
Coincé entre l’Inde et la Chine, le minuscule Bhoutan (750.000 habitants seulement) est fortement dépendant de ces deux géants, principalement de son voisin indien, qui lui prodigue investissements, aide et importations. Mais le Bhoutan a eu le tort, selon New Delhi, de vouloir se rapprocher récemment du grand rival chinois, avec lequel les troupes indiennes se livrent toujours à des accrochages sporadiques sur le Toit du monde. En représailles, les Indiens ont coupé les vivres, ne subventionnant plus le gaz domestique et l’essence, ce qui a eu pour effet immédiat de faire flamber les prix et d’aggraver les difficultés économiques du Bhoutan. L’an dernier déjà, à court de roupies indiennes, le pays souffrait d’une crise du crédit.

D’autres plaies affectent ce petit paradis bouddhiste, coupé du monde durant des siècles et qui, jusqu’aux années 1960, n’avait ni téléphone, ni routes, ni monnaie. La consommation croissante de drogue, l’alcoolisme, l’effritement du tissu social traditionnel mettent à mal la fragile harmonie d’un pays qui s’était ouvert avec l’arrivée des premiers touristes, férus de trekking, en 1974. La télévision n’y a fait son apparition qu’en 1999. Deux ans plus tard, en 2001, le royaume entamait une marche vers la démocratie, sous la houlette de son souverain, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, qui abdiquera en 2006 en faveur de son fils, formé à Oxford.

Le Bhoutan a fait son entrée dans la mondialisation en promouvant le BNB, un concept qui allait faire le tour du monde et lui valoir la réputation de «pays du bonheur». À l’aune du nouvel indice, il ne s’agissait plus seulement d’évaluer la richesse d’un pays en termes de croissance économique mais en prenant aussi en compte d’autres critères, tels que la sauvegarde de la culture et de l’environnement et la bonne gouvernance. Des «conférences du bonheur» étaient ainsi régulièrement organisées pour faire le point. Mais pour les habitants, notamment pour la jeunesse, le décalage se faisait béant entre l’horizon radieux du BNB, vanté par les élites, et une réalité quotidienne de plus en plus précaire. Les électeurs, eux, ont clairement indiqué par leur vote qu’ils ne croyaient plus à cette utopie.

Source : http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2013/07/14/01003-20130714ARTFIG00122-le-bouthan-enterre-le-bonheur-national-brut.php

Key facts about the T.P.P ( Trans-Pacific Partnership)

This article illustrates very well the positive or negative affects that globalization can have on some countries rather than on others.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): A Trade Agreement You Should Care About

 @moranzhang
on October 15 2013 6:19 AM

A comprehensive Asia-Pacific free trade deal is still on track to cross the finish line by year’s end despite a daunting list of unresolved issues and U.S. President Barack Obama’s absence from a regional summit that is ironing out differences on the pact.

The three-year-old Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, now involving 12 nations, are aimed at lowering trade barriers across a wide range of sectors in 12 Pacific Rim counties that would stretch from U.S. to New Zealand and from Japan to Chile.

TPP, arguably the most important trade agreement in a generation, emerged following nearly a decade of disappointment in trade talks. The World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of talks first collapsed in 2003 and effectively died with the 2008 financial crisis. The death of Doha and the rise of TPP mark an important phase for global economic negotiations.

Here is what you need to know about TPP:

1. Why is it important?

If completed, the TPP would cover two-fifths of the world economy and one-third of interracial trade. It aims not just to eradicate tariffs on goods and services, but would cover labor and the environment, intellectual property, government procurement and state-owned enterprises.

Burgeoning global supply chains have been a significant boost to world trade in recent decades, strengthening the case for free trade zones. Increased internationalization and verticalization of production means that final goods now have a higher degree of foreign content. The International Monetary Fund reckons that the foreign content share in gross exports has, in effect, almost doubled in 40 years, according to Gustavo Reis, a senior international economist at BofA Merrill Lynch.

Moreover, the higher foreign content in final goods increases trade in intermediate goods. Trade in intermediate goods now accounts for more than two-thirds of global trade, blurring the boundaries of national trade interests by making international trade more intertwined. This expanded global supply network is one reason why there has been limited use of traditional protectionist measures in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Both the U.S. and the Japanese administrations have embraced the project and consider it significant. “The TPP looks like a rare breed of an ambitious multilateral project with political backbone,” Reis said.

2. How involved is the U.S.?

The TPP is one of the main pillars of the Obama administration’s ambitious second-term trade agenda and is central to its plans for boosting America’s presence in Asia. In effect, the U.S. is leading the negotiations.

The TPP started out as a trade pact envisaged by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. It was transformed in 2008 when the U.S. expressed its interest. Since then, the TPP has expanded to 12 members, bringing in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam. Japan — often considered a free-trade laggard — joined the negotiations this year, and South Korea is balancing pros and cons of membership.

The Japanese government has raised the TPP’s profile by linking the trade deal to Abenomics — the economic strategy aimed at pulling the country out of deflation.

3. Progress so far?

While leaders sound hopeful, there are signs the end-year deadline may not be met.

Obama was to lead talks at the APEC summit with the leaders of 12 nations negotiating the TPP agreement that the U.S. wants to complete this year. Instead, he canceled his trip in order to resolve the government shutdown in Washington.

The APEC meeting was a symbol of regional co-operation, but Obama’s no-show turned it into a symbol both of gridlocked politics in Washington and of the difficulties facing Obama’s commitment to refocus U.S. foreign policy on Asia.

“Obviously we prefer a U.S. government which is working to one which is not, and we prefer a U.S. president who is able to travel and fulfill his international duties to one who is preoccupied with his domestic preoccupation,” Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore, a key U.S. ally and a member of the TPP, told business leaders at the APEC meeting, the Financial Times reports.

4. Winners and … participants

TPP members have very different levels of trade protection. Judging by the World Bank’s overall trade restrictiveness index, which measures the uniform tariff equivalent of a country’s tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, Malaysia at 27 percent is significantly more insulated from trade competition than Canada at 5 percent. The benefits seem higher for a handful of the more protected economies, according to Reis.

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The Asian Development Bank has estimated the impact of the TPP on gross domestic product and found that most member countries would experience moderate economic gains from joining the free-trade bloc. New Zealand, Mexico and Malaysia would likely benefit the most from a successful agreement. Singapore, Australia, Japan and Vietnam also stand to gain. In contrast, Peru and Chile are expected to be hurt. Both countries already have free-trade agreements with other TPP economies, so TPP could divert trade to competitors like Mexico and Vietnam, according to Reis.

Meanwhile, the lack of clear economic benefits for the U.S. does not seem to justify its engagement. But the U.S. sees the TPP as part of a foreign policy reengagement with East Asia. Critics of TPP negotiations have argued that the true U.S. goal is to contain rising Chinese influence in the region. China is not standing still, and is promoting a Sino-centric bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.