YouTuber Did Video About S’pore That Has Wrong Info That Can Be Googled Easily

Last Updated on 2022-10-01 , 9:53 am

Once in a while, random videos about Singapore’s success will pop up on your YouTube feeds.

Whether it is a review of the country by a foreigner after visiting or staying here for a few years, our top-class and well-designed transport systems, the miraculous growth of a third-world country to a first-world country within fifty years, it is all out there.

(There is also a special place reserved for Singlish in the field of linguistics, but that’s beside the point.)

How Singapore Became Insanely Rich

Earlier in September, YouTuber Casual Scholar uploaded a video entitled How Singapore Got Insanely Rich.

To give credit where it is due, it is well-researched.

It details the significance of Singapore’s geographical location on the Malacca Strait which led to the abundance of trade and subsequent prosperity. The YouTuber emphasised on Singapore’s lack of natural resources, and gave a good summary of Singapore’s post-war conditions, namely the abject poverty, racial segregation and tensions, violence, drug abuse, and lack of proper housing.

Suffice to say, no one wants to go back to post Japanese occupation Singapore, it was not a fun time. 

0/10 on Yelp.

Alas, there are a few errors to point out about the video.

If you’re just interested in the glaring mistakes, you can watch this response video to the end instead:

If not, here are all the mistakes we’ve found.

About Malaysia

One of the defining points of Singapore’s history is most definitely our separation from Malaysia in 1965, which also culminated in our independence.

First off, Malaysia is not a poor country.

As a matter of fact, Malaysia in the 1980s to mid-1990s was incredibly progressive, economy-wise, as it had a sustained rapid growth of almost 8% annually, with high levels of foreign and domestic investments pouring in.

In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per capita—which is the macroeconomists’ approach to compare the economic productivity and standard of living of each person between countries—Malaysia is ranked third among ASEAN countries, according to the International Monetary Fund in 2022.

These are the rankings:

  1.   Singapore – 131,580
  2.   Brunei – 74,952
  3.   Malaysia – 32,901

The “Ejection” From Malaysia

While it was true that Singapore separated from Malaysia, to say that Malaysia “voluntarily ejected a strategic and important part of its own land” is misleading.

Secondary school history teaches that there were a multitude of reasons that led to the separation.

There were political disputes between the two countries. While the People Action Party ran on the campaign “Malaysian Malaysia”, which rallied on the idea of equality for all Malaysian citizens, regardless of their race, it directly contradicted the status quo of Malaysia which allotted special quotas for the Malay and other indigenous people of Malaysia.

Although Singapore’s political party lost in the Federal Elections of 1964, it caused a rift between the ruling parties of both countries. The United Malays National Organisation (UNMO) consequently ran an anti-PAP campaign which led to rising tensions between the Malay and Chinese.

The tensions turned into violence in the 1964 Racial Riots.

Even prior to the riots, Tunk Abdul Rahman, Malaya’s Prime Minister, had his reservations about Singapore joining the Federation of Malaya as he feared that the inclusion of Singapore’s Chinese majority would upset the racial balance.

In the aftermath of the racial riots, Tunku Abdul Rahman realised that these disagreements could not be settled, so it was best for Singapore to leave. PAP accepted the decision.

Election Tampering in Singapore

One of the boldest claims made in the video would probably be near the 13-minute mark: “Free elections would continue in theory however they would be tampered with so much that the nation would become a one-party state under the PAP, whose rule still stands to this day.”

Okay, yes, it is awfully suspicious that PAP has remained in power since 1959 and have won all 19 general elections since with at least 60% of the votes.

And that is to say nothing of how the PAP had won all the parliamentary seats from 1968 to 1980, while Lee Kuan Yew was the Prime Minister.

Nevertheless, the general elections in Singapore were fair and democratic.

Given the entire exposition about Lee Kuan Yew’s policies which lifted the population out of poverty and brought massive economic and social progress in a few short decades, so much so that Singapore is almost unrecognisable from its post-war self, it is not hard to imagine why the older generations were so supportive of the PAP.

By all accounts, Singapore’s governance is one of soft authoritarianism, not complete dictatorship.

Central Provident Fund Contribution Rates

In the video, the Casual Scholar mentions that overtime, the amount of wages that was saved into the Central Provident Fund (CPF) was increased to 25% for both the employee and the employer.

This is factually inaccurate.

The only time both employees and employers had a CPF contribution rate of 25% was in 1984. Apart from that, it has typically hovered around 17% for employers and 20% for employees.

However, it is not unheard of for the government to lower the CPF contribution percentage during economic downturns, to discourage employers from retrenching their employees by letting them cut some costs.

For instance, following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1999, the contribution rates were slashed to 10% for employers. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, the employer’s contribution rate stood at 14.5%.

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Death Penalty (Again)

In the eyes of the humanitarians, Singapore will never escape the image of the draconian state that still enforces capital punishment.

The statistics reportedly say that majority of the Singaporeans support the death penalty, so let’s go with that.

In Singapore, there are ten offences which may result in the death penalty.

Drug trafficking, murder, genocide, abetting the suicide of a minor or an “insane person”, kidnapping, and robbery.

The lesser-known crimes are waging or attempting to wage war against the government, offences against the President’s person, attempting to murder a prisoner serving a life sentence, and piracy.

Yes, piracy is apparently on the list, who knew.

Therefore, the statement, “Lee also took drastic measures to cut out corruption… [including] sentencing those suspected to death,” is false.

We do not dole out the death penalty for corruption charges.

Heck, corruption does not even warrant life imprisonment.

There the longest jail term for corruption, or the misappropriation of finances or property under  the Criminal Breach of Trust, is 20 years.  The maximum fine that can be imposed is no more than S$100,000.

Public Canings for Chewing Gum

Another running joke about Singapore is our chewing gum ban.

(We shall never live this down.)

As one might expect, Casual Scholar brought it up, but his phrasing was bizarre.

Around the 12-minute mark, he said, “The hard line authoritarian approach even included public caning for chewing gum, graffiti, and public drunkenness.”

In case you didn’t know, Singapore banned sale of chewing gum (not chewing gum itself) because some geniuses thought it was a good idea to stick the chewed gum on the door sensors of MRT trains which prevented the doors from functioning properly.

You can watch this video to know more about the ban:

Chewing gum litter was becoming increasingly problematic too; people would stick them on lift buttons, on staircase railings, on cinema chairs, and under tables.

Reportedly, the Housing Development Board (HDB) had to spend around S$150,000 annually to clean up the chewing gum litter.

Word of reminder: this figure was reported in 1983, so S$150,000 was a lot of money.

Needless to say, the ban was green lit by the government, and it came into effect on 3 January 1992.

Under the Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations, anyone found guilty of importing chewing gum (not the consumption), is liable to a fine not exceeding $100,000, an imprisonment term not exceeding 2 years, or both.

Repeated offenders may be given a maximum fine of up to $200,000, and a jail term not exceeding 3 years, or both.

There is no caning involved.

Additionally, Singapore never had any “public canings”. Canings have always happened behind prison walls.

The only kind of public caning in Singapore only happens in schools, but very rarely.

The penalty for being a public nuisance and vandalism does not include caning either.

Unions Are Not Banned

“To keep wages competitive, Lee banned unions and actively encouraged businesses to fire all workers when faced with a strike,” said Casual Scholar.

To refute the first bolded point succinctly, here is a list of registered trade unions from the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website.

Although the National Trade Union Congress is not actually a trade union or a government agency, it has trade union affiliates.

The reason why there are NTUC officials sitting in the government is because the NTUC’s principal role is to improve the working conditions of workers and enhance their economic and social status.

As for the claim about Lee Kuan Yew “actively encouraging” businesses to fire their workers if they go on strike… There are so many things that are wrong with this sentence, but we can take a rough jab at where this perception formed.

This is likely an indirect reference to the 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riot, whereby 299 workers from Hock Lee Amalgamated Company went on strike in a bid to improve labour and employment terms.

Dissatisfaction had been brewing within the bus company as early as March 1995.

It first started with 100 Hock Lee employees taking a day off on 24 March to attend a Singapore Bus Workers’ Union (SBWU) meeting, which the company viewed as a mass resignation.

In order to replace the absent workers, they called in the drivers from Hock Lee Bus Employees’ Union, which was a group that had risen in the ranks, and it was suspected that it was created by the bus company itself.

On 24 April 1955, the dissatisfaction in the company spilled over when 229 workers—all from SBWU—were fired at one go. Disgruntled, the dismissed drivers lingered around Alexandra Road bus depot and urged other drivers to join their cause.

The strike eventually escalated to a full-blown riot that comprised of around 2,000 people, including Chinese middle school students and other sympathisers.

On 14 May 1955, a day after the riot, the SBWU and Hock Lee Bus Employees’ Union reached an agreement with the help of an appointed arbitrator.

The arbitrator ruled in favour of SBWU and called for the dissolution of Hock Lee Bus Employees’ Union, and 85 of 170 workers in the dissolved union were dismissed.

Here’s the funny thing regarding the YouTuber’s claim though: PAP was not even in power in 1955; it was Chief Minister David Marshall who was heading the government at the time, while Singapore was still under colonial rule. 

Additionally, there was no indication that the Chief Minister was involved in Hock Lee Amalgamated Company’s decision to fire its workers.

Just because there was one prominent union riot in history does not mean that unions are banned.

If people have a reason to go on strike because of their working conditions or economic status, there is clearly something that needs fixing. 

The most recent riot that happened in Singapore was the 2013 Little India Riot and the instigating factor was a fatal car accident between a private bus driver and foreign worker. The violence was underscored by the need to enact justice for a compatriot and likely the growing resentment over xenophobic sentiments in Singapore.

Apart from these errors, the video was a great summary of the steps and policies taken by the pioneering generation to bring Singapore to its current economic success.

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Featured Image: YouTube