Saturday, February 27, 2010

Singapore: From Asian Dump to Impeccable Cleanness in 50 Years

What did Singapore officials have to do to turn a dump into the cleanest Asian city and one of the most flourishing countries in the world in as little as 50 years?

Russians became frequent guests in this city-state on the Equator. Wealthy Russians are looking into buying houses on the beach, while politicians and officials are trying to solve the puzzle of Singapore phenomenon.

“Try it, don’t be afraid!” says a top manager of the Singapore National Water Agency, giving me a bottle of mineral water. A minute ago he took a sip out of the same bottle. There is nothing unusual about it except the fact that recently this water was running through the pipes of Singapore sewage with excrements and other stuff. Yet, the city’s frugal residents purified all waste waters with membrane and other technologies and then bottled it. Now they are enjoying “New Water.”

“Many years ago Singapore stopped dumping waste water into the rivers and sea. All waste water is purified,” the manager says. Singaporeans purify other water too. They distil sea water and collect rain water. Half of the island territory has water collecting systems installed. The government’s goal is to install it on three quarters of the island. It is expected that in the future not a single raindrop will be wasted. Singapore used to have no drinking water, and it had to be supplied through pipelines from Malaysia. Now the country boasts 15 water reservoirs. There is a cult of pure water. Students are taught to save it, and adults enjoy discounted utility payments for the ability to use water efficiently.

Singapore found a way to use solid waste as well. Reprocessed litter is turned into a construction material for building new territories. The island area was artificially increased by nearly 100 square kilometers. Now the area of microstate is 700 square kilometers instead of 600.
Singapore and Russia seem to be completely different. Russia is the largest country in the world, while Singapore is one of smallest.

Russia’s area is nearly 25 thousand times (!) larger than that of Singapore. It was -15F in Moscow this winter, while it was 79F in Singapore. Russia is rich in natural resources, while Singapore has none. Singapore barely has any agriculture with 10 square kilometers of agricultural land. That’s enough to make a horse laugh. The island with the population of nearly 5 million people imports 100% of meat, over 96% of seafood, 93% of vegetables and 80% of eggs. Russia lives by means of oil and gas, while Singapore supports “smart” economy. The country has the largest port in the country, developed electronics and pharmaceutical sector, but the main profit comes from the service sector, i.e., banking, legal services, medicine, hospitality, etc.

This small country demonstrates economic efficiency that powerful Russia cannot even dream of. Within 45 years after obtaining independence, the country’s national profit recalculated per capita has grown from less than $1,000 to $35,000. Now the average resident of Singapore is four times wealthier than the average Russian. Estimating income of citizens of various countries, IMF experts ranked Singapore number 4 in the world. Last year, the World Bank ranked it number 1 in the list of the countries comfortable for conducting business. Russia was rated 120. Singapore was rated number 3 in the rating Transparency International 2009, following New Zealand and Denmark. Russia took 146th place.

It was more difficult to clear Singapore from corruption than to clear waste waters from excrements.
“Corruption was a trait of our Asian image,” recalls Lee Kuan Yew , the author of the memoir From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000. Lee Kuan Yew had served as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore for over 30 years, and virtually became the father of the nation. The wise man started curing the rotting fish from its head. Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) focused its attention on large-scale corrupt officials. The government intended to fight small fry through simplification of procedures and creation of clear and simple rules, all the way up to abandoning permits and licensing in less important social areas.

The director of CPIB was entitled to initiate investigation against any minister. Courts were allowed to view the mismatch between the officials’ salary and life style as a sufficient evidence of bribe taking. Fines for corruption were increased tenfold, to 100,000 Singapore dollars, along with the introduction of confiscation of illegal profits. Lee Kuan Yew did not protect his relatives and friends who fell under suspicion.

In his book, he wrote that one of the members of Parliament was charged with four episodes of misuse of authority. The total damage was estimated at 83,000 Singapore dollars. The minister was released on 50,000 bail, escaped, and lived a miserable life in Thailand. The most dramatic was an episode with the Minister of National Development, Teh Cheang Wan. One of his old partners confessed during an interrogation that Teh Cheang Wan received two sums of money, $400,000 each. A week later Teh Cheang Wan was reported dead. Autopsy revealed that he committed suicide by poisoning.

Imprisonment, escapes and suicides of high ranking officials produced the required effect – everyone was afraid of stealing. The Prime Minister himself showed a good example. His residence belonged to the government; he did not enjoy any benefits, cars, drivers, gardeners, personal chefs or other assisting personnel. He introduced the procedure where the Prime Minister and other Ministers were paid a certain sum of money every month and decided on their own how to spend it.

Apart from a stick, the government also used a carrot, i.e., high salaries for officials and judges.
Lee Kuan Yew believed that ministers and state workers ruined many Asian governments. Under his guidance, state salaries were made equal to private sector salaries to increase retention of smart, honest and energetic managers. As a result, Singapore Prime Minister became the highest-paid minister in the world, and judges were making nearly a million dollars a year. Yet, in difficult times the government showed the example of self limitation, reducing paychecks of the top officials by 20% in times of financial crisis.

“Their experience fighting the corruption is impressive,” says Sergey Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council who visited Singapore twice. “[they managed to combine] wonderful working conditions for the government sector with vindication for a smallest diversion, followed by confiscation of the possessions, poverty, and shame. Every Singapore official knows that her children will be provided for, but honest work is the stipulation. But if you misstep, you are done.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

25th Southeast Asian Games Information

The 25th Southeast Asian Games is scheduled to be held in Vientiane, Laos, in 2009. It will also be SEA Games 50th year since its inception. This will be the first time the country has ever held a Southeast Asian Games. Laos, the host country, is hoping to grab at least 25 of the 390 gold medals at stake. Two white elephants which symbolized Laos once "the kingdom of million elephants" (Lan Xang) were chosen as the Official Mascots.

The names of the elephants are Ms. Champee and Mr. Champa represent the national flower of Laos.

The founding seven members were Thailand, Philippines, Malaya (now Malaysia), Laos, South Vietnam (now Vietnam), Burma (now Myanmar), and Cambodia. The Southeast Asian Games Federation numbers grew over time and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste joined the ranks.

Vietnam has agreed to help out in the staging and organization of sports and footing the bill on a new $19 million Games Village. Thailand has offered exchange lesson for Laos's officials for more pointers in SEA Games preparation, which is worth some $2.9 million. Singapore are to provide teachers and technicians, and organization such as the Yuuwakai Association of Japan has agreed to donate US$100,000 for the new Karatedo training center in Laos, while China has agreed to chalk up the main cost for the new Laos National Stadium.

It is estimated a total US$85 million worth of aid has been handed by various nations. With the outpouring of international help, it is reported that the progress of Laos preparation for the SEA Games have been encouraging.

During the 25th SEA Games in Vientiane , to run from December 9-18, action will be broadcast live on 14 television channels in six countries.

A meeting took place in Vientiane yesterday to discuss TV broadcasting fees and copyright. Television networks that have agreed in principle to broadcast the SEA Games live are Brunei Radio and Television, Lao National Radio and Lao National Television, Lao Star Channel, Forever Group Co. Ltd (FRTB4-Myanmar), Media Corp TV Singapore Pte. Ltd, National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBT), TPBS, Channel 7, Channel 5, VTC Digital-Vietnam, VTV, TOT Co. Ltd., and CAT Telecom Co. Ltd.

The Phetchampa Advertising Company (PAC) is representing the Lao SEA Games Organising Committee (LAOSOC) and hosted the TV broadcasting rights meeting on duties and copyright for broadcasting in six Asean countries. Vice President of the Lao National Olympic Committee, Mr Chanpheng Silattana, representatives from LAOSOC and from Asean countries attended the meeting.

PAC Director, Mr Khammoui Keomany, said he was looking forward to cooperating with LAOSOC and the Lao people to successfully selling TV broadcasting rights for the games. Laos will use about 16 mobile broadcasting vans to cover all sports venues and will employ more than 144 people to work in production.

The budget for the management of TV broadcasting is about 34 billion kip (US$4 million).On the same day, LAOSOC officials reported progress on the sports complex and many other venues that are yet to be completed.

In addition to this, there is set to be coverage of specific events by individual magazines, such as PoolAsia for all the aquatic events. Venues include the main sports complex, indoor stadiums at the National University of Laos, the Chao-Anou football stadium, the Lao-ITECC arena and the Bungkha-nhong indoor stadium.

USA's Global Miliitary Dominance: Real Reason for Sanctions Against Iran

By Eric Sommer

The U.S.-sponsored drive to impose new economic sanctions on Iran has nothing to do with the noble cause of limiting proliferation of nuclear weapons on the planet. It is directly linked to the U.S. military doctrine of establishing 'full spectrum dominance' - i.e., military dominance on land, sea, air, and outer space over all other countries in the world. The logical extension of this doctrine is that only countries firmly allied to the U.S. government should be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons or to even develop the capacity to do so.

Israel , for example, is widely-believed to hold secret Nuclear weapons. Yet there is no call for sanctions or investigations of them. The reason is simple: They are a U.S. ally. India and Pakistan have declined to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and have developed nuclear weapons. Yet there is no call for sanctions or investigations of them. The reason is simple: They are U.S. allies.

Iran and North Korea are being subjected to economic sanctions, calls for more sanctions, and even threats of military aggression against them The reason is again simple: They are not U.S. allies.

The principal of national sovereignty includes non-interference in a nations internal affairs by outside powers. It is an important cornerstone of real international peace and security, and among other things is related to accepting and respecting the cultural, political, and economic diversity of the world.

A key element of national sovereignty is that wars of aggression against other nations which have not attacked ones' own nation are prohibited under international law. Wars of aggression were declared illegal at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, which established the invasion of other nations by Germany as the type-case.

Subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly has enacted resolutions prohibiting military aggression, invasions, and occupations of one country by another - except in self-defence when the target nation had attacked first.

Iran , at this point, is only known to be developing nuclear power plants and materials. And it has never attacked the U.S. Yet Iran is being subjected to sanctions, calls for more sanctions, and threats of possible military aggression against them.

The Truth About the Non-Proliferation Treaty

As a signatory of the U.N. Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Iran must not develop nuclear weapons.
However - and this is a crucial point - the non-proliferation treaty gives every signatory the sovereign right to voluntarily withdraw from the treaty on three months notice. After doing so, that country has the absolute right under international law to develop nuclear weapons on its own territory.

North Korea , which originally signed the treaty and later withdrew, has now the legal right to develop nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, and Israel never signed the treaty and therefore also have had the legal right to develop nuclear weapons.

Instead of acknowledging these realities, western politicians and media have systematically concealed them from the public. In place of the truth they have repeated vague mantras like 'defying the international community' (i.e., not bending to the will of the U.S.).

In a typical example of this deceptive rhetoric, U.S. President Obama said a few days ago: "Despite the posturing that its nuclear power is only for civilian use ... they in fact continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization, and that is not acceptable to the international community."

The absence of any legal argument in this statement reflects the fact that there is no legal argument against Iran's nuclear energy program, and that even development of weapons would be legal if Iraq withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Of course, Obama invoking the 'non-acceptance by the 'international community' does not mean the nations of the world; it's code for 'the U.S. and its allies'.

U.S. Sanctions are part of Imperialism

To fully understand U.S. policy towards Iran and North Korea, we need to situate it in the wider attempt to extend its military machine across the world, and to remove any obstacles to its dominance.

There are currently 700 U.S. military bases outside the U.S., and it is engaged in a vast project to extend the reach of Nato by incorporating as many as possible of the former East European socialist states and former parts of the Soviet Union.

The U.S. is also seeking to militarily encircle both Russia and China with sea-based missile carrying ships, bases in neighboring states, hi-tech weapons on Taiwan, and the arming of small client anti-Russian states like Georgia. U.S. bases are also being built in the South American country of Columbia, right next door to Venezuela, a country which has sought to develop a socialist alternative to U.S. domination of the region.

U.S. opposition to Iran's nuclear program is intended to help ensure that the U.S. - and its nuclear armed major allies such as Britain, France, India, and Pakistan - can continue to dominate the world. It is also intended to weaken the ability of middle eastern countries to resist U.S. domination in their region.