Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 (Singapore)

ABOUT SEVENTEEN DAYS TO GO: It's official. Singapore has set May 7 as the date for its next General Election. I like the fact that it's on a Saturday, when fewer people are working. The Straits Times bannered the announcement in this morning's paper (right). The Asian edition of The Wall Street Journal put the story on its front page and took the time to put the election in perspective. For one thing, the ruling party, the People's Action Party has a decades-long grip on power. In the last election, in May 2006, the PAP won 82 of the 84 seats and snared 67 percent of the vote. One aspect of this election that is UNPRECEDENTED is that opposition candidates are expected to appear on the ballot for each seat. That has never happened before. The Journal article says, "No one expects the opposition to win, or even seriously challenge the People's Action Party's grip on power. But a stronger opposition represents another step along Singapore's slow road to greater pluralism and liberalization." Some items of concern here are high inflation and a growing wealth disparity. The Journal says that UN figures place Singapore's income inequality at No. 2 among 42 nation's with "very high human development."
With the GE slated for May 7, the Friday before acquires the label of "Cooling-Off Day" (as depicted at right in a Straits Times graphic). This is NEW this year. The day is designed to "give voters 24 hours to reflect rationally on their choice." Campaigning is prohibited, with certain exceptions. No brand-new political ads are supposed to air that day. I suppose it's an attempt to avoid a version of what Americans know as an "October surprise". It's odd, however, because the provisions for the so-called "cooling off" day still allows "mainstream" media to continue its reports on the election. Such outlets here are controlled by the ruling power and generally take pro-government stances. Not everyone thinks this is a great idea.

LONG DISTANCE TALKING: We are using Skype and gmail to stay in touch with a number of people, mostly family members. Today we talked with Andrew (right), to discuss sudden changes in his summer internship. It turns out he will not be in Beijing; rather, he will be in Hong Kong. He is likely to be there beginning May 8 or so--too late for the General Election in Singapore.

CRANES MIGHT HAVE ENDED WILD SWINGS IN STATUS: We might have detected a moderation in the swings of the cranes at the Tanjong Pagar Container Terminal. The "up" cranes dipped from 10 to 9, thereby bringing a smile to the staff that puts together the Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator. The most recent report:
Date: April 21
Time: 9 a.m. (Singapore time)
Cranes Up (bad): 9
Cranes Down (good): 16
CRANES MISSING (neutral): 2

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