Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme?

The following is an article taken from this website, The Globalist.

If you read it without knowing who the writer is, you might just conclude that he is writing about Singapore's PAP liberal FT policy but he is not. Joseph Chamie is a demographer who is expert in population issue and was director of the United Nations Population Division for 12 years. Please read on and you will have a better idea of why PAP is selling the "More is Better" solution to us in terms of liberal FT policy.

Globalist Analysis > Global SocietyIs Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme? 

By Joseph Chamie | Thursday, March 04, 2010
The basic pitch of those promoting population growth is straightforward in its appeal: "More is better." Joseph Chamie, who has spent a lifelong career as a demographer, including 12 years of service as the director of the United Nations Population Division, finds that more is not necessarily better.

ernie Madoff's recent Ponzi scheme has drifted out of the world’s headlines. However, there is another even more costly and widespread scheme — "Ponzi Demography" — that warrants everybody’s attention.
While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth.
While more visible in industrialized economies, particularly in Australia, Canada and the United States, Ponzi demography also operates in developing countries. The underlying strategy of Ponzi demography is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs incurred from increased population growth.
Concerns about population growth become radioactive. Politicians, journalists and environmentalists choose by and large to sidestep the entire issue.
The basic pitch of those promoting Ponzi demography is straightforward and intoxicating in its pro-population growth appeal: “more is better.” However, as somebody who has spent a lifelong career as a demographer, including 12 years of service as the director of the United Nations Population Division, I find that more is not necessarily better.
As has been noted by Nobel laureate economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen as well as many others, current economic yardsticks such as gross domestic product (GDP) focus on material consumption and do not include quality-of-life factors.
Standard measures of GDP do not reflect, for example, the degradation of the environment, the depreciation of natural resources or declines in individuals’ quality of life.
According to Ponzi demography, population growth — through natural increase and immigration — means more people leading to increased demands for goods and services, more material consumption, more borrowing, more on credit and of course more profits. Everything seems fantastic for a while — but like all Ponzi schemes, Ponzi demography is unsustainable.
When the bubble eventually bursts and the economy sours, the scheme spirals downward with higher unemployment, depressed wages, falling incomes, more people sinking into debt, more homeless families — and more men, women and children on public assistance.
That is the stage when the advocates of Ponzi demography — notably enterprises in construction, manufacturing, finance, agriculture and food processing — consolidate their excess profits and gains. That leaves the general public to pick up the tab for the mounting costs from increased population growth (e.g., education, health, housing and basic public services).
In an unrelenting public relations campaign, every effort is made to equate population growth with economic prosperity and national progress.
Among its primary tactics, Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power.
Due to population aging, government-run pensions and healthcare systems will become increasingly insolvent, according to advocates of Ponzi demography, thereby crippling the economy, undermining societal well-being and threatening national security.
Low birth rates, especially those below replacement levels, are considered a matter of national concern. Without higher fertility rates and the resulting population growth, the nation, it is claimed, faces a bleak and dreary future.
So Ponzi demography calls for pro-natalist policies and programs to encourage couples to marry and to have more children, which will lead to the promised sustained economic growth.
In addition to financial incentives and other benefits for childbearing, appeals are also made to one's patriotic duty to have children in order to replenish and expand the homeland: “Have one (child) for mum, one for dad and one for the country.”
In addition to measures to increase fertility levels, Ponzi demography also turns to immigration for additional population growth in order to boost companies' profits. The standard slogan in this instance is “the country urgently needs increased immigration,” even when immigration may already be at record levels and unemployment rates are high.
Among other things, increased immigration, it is declared, is a matter of national security, long-term prosperity and international competitiveness. Without this needed immigration, Ponzi demography warns that the country’s future is at serious risk.
The sooner nations reject Ponzi demography, the better the prospects for all of humanity and other life on this planet.
Another basic tactic of Ponzi demography is a pervasive and unrelenting public relations campaign promoting the advantages and necessity of an increasing population for continued economic growth. Every effort is made to equate population growth with economic prosperity and national progress.
"Economic growth requires population growth" is the basic message that Ponzi demography wants the public to swallow. No mention is made of the additional profits they reap and the extra costs the public bears.
Attempts to question or even discuss Ponzi demography are denigrated and defamed to such an extent that concerns about population growth become radioactive. Politicians, journalists and environmentalists, for example, choose by and large to sidestep the entire issue.
When confronted with environmental concerns such as climate change, global warming, environmental contamination or shortages of water and other vital natural resources, the advocates of Ponzi demography typically dismiss such concerns as unfounded and overblown.
And they claim there is no scientific basis, or they obliquely stress “innovation,” ingenuity and technological fixes as the only appropriate and workable solutions.
Many are complicit with Ponzi demography or at least tacitly support its goals. Few politicians, for example, are able to resist promises of campaign financing, the appeal of increased numbers of supportive voters, prospects of increased tax revenues and the political backing of pro-natalist and pro-immigration lobbyists and special interest groups.
Increased immigration, it is declared, is a matter of national security, long-term prosperity and international competitiveness.
Many environmental groups are also reluctant to take up or even touch the volatile subject of population growth, especially those that have been burned on this issue in the past. Such groups fear possibly offending some members and donors, which might undercut their organizations and efforts.
Despite its snake-oil allure of “more is better,” Ponzi demography’s advocacy for ever-increasing population growth is ultimately unsustainable. Such persistent growth hampers efforts to improve the quality of life for today’s world population of nearly seven billion people as well as for future generations.
Moving gradually towards population stabilization, while not a panacea for the world’s problems, will make it far easier to address problems such as climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and development, human rights abuses and shortages of water, food and critical natural resources.
Fortunately, most couples around the world have chosen — or are in the process of choosing — to have a few children rather than many and to invest more in each child’s upbringing, education and future well-being. Nations need to make the same vital transition with respect to their populations.

The sooner nations reject Ponzi demography and make the needed gradual transition from ever-increasing population growth to population stabilization, the better the prospects for all of humanity and other life on this planet.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Losing the Democratic Soul

                                            Image from Fabrication of PAP FB

When I first read about this saga of WP controlled Aljunied Town Council using the "carrot" of attractive Lucky Draw Prizes to get favourable HDB upgrading poll result, I was devastated.

This brings me back to a very emotional past of mine. It was the Generation Elections held in early 1997 (2 Jan 1997). I was one of the voters of the "Legendary" Cheng San GRC, hotly contested by the WP team led by the late JBJ and Tan Liang Hong. For those younger readers who are interested to know more about this GE, please refer to Wikipedia here. During the run up to polling day, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong put his reputation at stake by declaring himself as the "special candidate" of that battle. He reportedly

told Cheng San voters that if they returned PAP candidates to power in the election, they would get a host of benefits. These included access to better transport facilities such as the MRT and LRT, new housing projects, such as Punggol 21, and opportunities to upgrade their HDB apartments and public housing estates. The PAP emphasised that constituencies that failed to return PAP candidates to power would not receive priority in government upgrading programmes and might end up becoming slums.
This single incident back then became the main critical factor that decided my fate into the opposition politics. After the WP team lost with 45% of the votes, I wrote a very emotional article posted on soc.culture.singapore. I was emotional because I know some of my family members have voted PAP for fear of the very threat that it has put up, the deprivation of HDB upgrading.

I am against such pork barrel politics practiced by PAP, not only it is unfair, unjust and unscrupulous, but because it will create a social environment and norm that is detrimental to our future generations. It will set a very bad example and system to teach our kids the wrong values and discarding the up-righteousness of being who we are and what we are, without being bought over easily by materialistic favours.

It was with that in mind, I declared that either I would leave Singapore and migrate out, to find a better environment for my future generations or I stay and join the fight against such decay political environment that will shape our Nation very badly. The rest is history.

The first party I joined was Workers Party in 2001, right in the middle of the GE. This was the platform that I chose to carry out my fight against such decadence political environment. I remembered I made my most satisfying speech in Ang Mo Kio GRC, just outside Cheng San Primary School, declaring the Cheng San Spirit will not die and we will not succumb to PAP's pork barrel politics. That was really deja vu for me. That was the Democratic Spirit that I have upheld for decades until today: the fight against injustice, social injustice, pork barrel politicking, democratic development for our Nation, well being of our people and reclaim the rights and power of our people. 

Ironically, I was devastated yesterday when I learn that WP has fallen into the trap of its own success.

According to the "clarification" made by the Workers Party Aljunied Town Council, they have decided to carry out the "Lucky Draw" for those who voted "YES" for the upgrading because they want to encourage the residents to get pass the requirement of 75% "YES" votes so to ensure that the whole precinct will get the upgrading. The first poll conducted by PAP right before GE2011 is merely 50%. The WP didn't specifically state that who paid for the prizes though it was mentioned that HDB has given them $400K to conduct the poll. It claims that the poll was not secret polling as it was "consensus finding" exercise and said it was a "common practice" by other town councils (well, presumably PAP Town Councils). It further said that the residents were informed BEFORE HAND through the 22-page booklet that those who voted YES will get to participate in the Lucky Draw.

What is wrong with all these? Do they seem to sound very familiar? Yes. Using material gain to influence voting process!

First of all, the excuse of "other PAP Town Councils have done it so we do" doesn't sound right at all! PAP doesn't respect the secrecy of such poll doesn't mean that an opposition party that have been fighting vigorously to uphold Democratic principles should not respect the secrecy of such poll! WP should lead the way in good Democratic practice and stay true to its belief of upholding Democratic principles in whatever it does, instead of following blindly of what PAP is doing, which ironically, has been attacked by opposition parties (including WP) all these years!

Secondly, to add salt to the wounds, instead of respecting the secrecy of the poll, WP has in fact EXPLOITED the polling process to practice the very DIVISIVE tactic that PAP has been using all these years to preserve its monopoly over power.... If you vote me, you got your carrot, if not, you will not get it! This is exactly what WP is doing, by declaring that if you vote YES, you will get a chance to win that 40 inc LED TV! In fact, WP has gone even further in this practice... at least for PAP, they could only know their support level at precinct level and cannot discriminate those who didn't vote for them in the precincts that supported them most. But WP actually pin point to EACH AND EVERY household to identify who support and who didn't! Is WP trying to be MORE PAP THAN PAP?

Last but not least, WP should learn to respect residents' choice. To use such method and in fact, implicitly declaring "I know who didn't vote for it" to residents to exert undue stress on them is totally unethical. This is what PAP used to do for the past decades as well.

I am puzzled on why WP is using all these desperate DEVILISH means that we have been criticising PAP all along to try to influence the residents' voting preferences. I remembered very clearly that Pritam Singh has just spoke on the rally stage during the Hougang by-election denouncing PAP's HDB upgrading vote buying tactic and Mr. Low Thia Khiang has also said on the rally stage during GE2006 to openly denounce PAP of VOTE BUYING when Goh Chok Tong dangled that $100million upgrading funds for Hougang. I am very shocked and devastated that WP, after winning the hard fought Aljunied GRC that I have contested in GE2006 as well, has resorted to the very unscrupulous tactic of PAP, trying to win votes of YES for HDB upgrading.

Maybe WP is just trying very hard to outdo PAP, wanting show that under PAP's management of Aljunied Town Council, they could not get that 75% YES votes for this upgrading but under WP, they made it. It just wants to show that WP is "better" than PAP in that sense. However, is it worth losing your Democratic Soul by using the Devilish means to achieve such little battle? 

When a man just do whatever it takes to "win" without holding much principles, he will just become a wandering opportunist.

When one tries to do everything to fight the devil and eventually won the devil by using the devilish means, you might have won a little small battle but lost the bigger war by losing your soul to the devil. You will become the wandering soulless body with no vision nor light to the right path.  

I really hope that while WP enjoys its electoral success and trying every means to "win" at every little battle, they should not lose their democratic soul, losing sight of what they are fighting for and why they are there fighting and who they are fighting for. 

 The so call "Clarification" has done more harm than good for WP. It has put lots of doubts on whether WP is sincere in its fight for the democratic cause. WP should apologize and admit that such UNDEMOCRATIC practice should not have been conceived and carried out in the first place. It owed all opposition supporters a big apology.  Else, all confidence, goodwill and support it received will be squandered off. Who will want to support a party that is More PAP than PAP?

I guess WP didn't really realize the great potential damage that this little episode could bring to them, as well as all other opposition parties at large. We do not just pay lips service to Democracy but we should carry out good Democratic practice whenever and wherever we can. Else, we will lose all the credibility and moral high ground that we held against PAP all this while.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Open Letter To PM Lee - No Response

Dear Prime Minister Lee,

Please refer to my personal open invitation sent to you on 24 September 2012.

Once again, I am writing this letter with utmost disappointment and regret that you have chosen to give no response or ignore of my open invitation. I am brought up in a humble family and though my parents aren't highly educated, but they have taught me that it is discourteous not to reply to other people's invitation. I have tried to follow their teaching as far as possible, though I might have missed one or two replies in my life so far, but those are definitely not done on purpose. I hope you didn't ignore my open invitation on purpose. It would not look good to the world that we have a Prime Minister who will ignore kind open invitations.

Well, maybe the mass media in Singapore have done you a great disservice because they have not published my open invitation to you and that might have caused you to miss out the importance of this importance. I guess the mass media has further enhanced Singaporeans' skepticism about your administration having a tight control over the mass media in Singapore. It is within many people's expectation that the mass media will not report about it because they would think that the mass media won't even dare to put forward such a "challenge" to you and your administration. I guess we can't blame Singaporeans' perception, rightfully or wrongfully, that the media in Singapore has come under total control of your administration, or even regard them as the "mouth piece" of your party. Such perception had further been enhanced by their deafening silence on this open invitation.

Some people may think that I am throwing a "challenge" to you by inviting you openly. Even some of my close associates have told me that I have "put you on the defensive". I would like to apologize to you if I have made such unintended feeling upon you. My sincerity in inviting you must not be misunderstood. It is a genuine effort to provide a rare opportunity for you to experience first hand what a commoner life is all about.

Some people have told me that you must have "known" of the crowded MRT but I guess, "knowing" is very different from "experiencing" it. We could see photographs of the devastation done by the earthquake in Sichuan but that would stay at a superficial level of "knowing". Empathy is hard to be derived until we visit the devastated sites personally. We would be awed by such personal experience. Thus similarly, I guess it is important for you to experience first hand how crowded the Singapore public transport is.

We cannot blame you for such lack of empathy because we cannot blame you for being born into a family with a silver spoon, that would not be able to provide you that precious opportunity to experience the commoner life. You do not need to feel guilty or shameful about not having such experiences or empathy. It is not your fault at all, that is, before anyone invites you to experience it personally. The least we could do, is to help you, in the interest of the Nation, to experience first hand of commoner lifestyle. Unfortunately, you have chosen to ignore such goodwill.

There has been an uproar about your National Conversation effort recently, with many people "exposing" that some of the attendants on TV were actually PAP members or somehow related to various government linked establishment. Personally I feel that if these people have declared their affiliations before hand, it would not be a big problem at all. However, the sincerity of the whole National Conversation exercise has been put into doubt when their affiliations have been "exposed" by skeptic Singaporeans. In my view, rightfully or wrongfully, your National Conversation has suffered the loss of credibility right from the beginning.

It would be fine for me if you would reply me to give a simple answer "No". I would take respect your decision and hope that maybe someone else who is more acceptable to you, would do the same and invite you over to their place for a Short Stay. However, your complete ignore and silence, perpetuated by the Mass Media, on my open invitation has further enhanced my personal doubt over the credibility or the sincerity of your National Conversation exercise. I am not sure whether others will feel the same as I do but I feel that a conversation is a two-way process. And it should be based on the aim for both sides, the ruling and the ruled, to understand each other perspectives. I would think that experiencing the commoner life would be a very very important part of this National Conversation exercise as well. Unless, your aim and definition of your National Conversation exercise is just another soft approach of talking down or telling Singaporeans how wrong we are and how right your polices are.

It is with much regret that I will have to sign this letter off with the thought that my sincere invitation to you, an effort to help you in enhancing your National Conversation exercise has been totally ignored. But nevertheless, all the best to your effort in National Conversation, regardless of how little it would achieve.

Best Regards,

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. I would not be sending this open letter to your private email, nor send it to the mass media (like what I have done previously) because I guess, you would just ignore it anyway. If you have second thought, I guess your people would probably inform you about the existence of this letter somehow.

A Thought on Opposition Political Development

Many people I have met seem to have great reservations about SDP, particularly about Dr Chee's "re-entry" in electoral politics for the next GE. I am keeping an open mind here.

SDP has done some of the right things after GE2011, Although it has suffered "talent drain" of few GE candidates but it seems that at the same time, it has gotten a renewed support from certain segment of the population.

What impressed me was the new political direction SDP has adopted; more focus on policy specifics instead of the usual human rights cum democratic issues. The launch of the healthcare policy papers and the subsequent effort on housing policy etc is a refreshing start.

Many people thought that opposition politics is simple and to stand on the stage to fire off at PAP's policies are easy jobs. They are not. That is why I have quoted this Chinese idiom on my FaceBook, 台上一分钟,台下十年功, meaning "One minute of stage performance, requires ten years of consistent practices off stage". It may look easy to many for people to just attend political forums, especially those TV broadcast ones and fire off. The truth is, it is not just about how good your prepared scripts are but rather, what depth you have with regards to the topics being discussed. You are facing your opponents face to face and you must be prepared for whatever questions or bombs that they will throw at you. Especially so when you are practically and literally OUTNUMBERED most of the time. Of course, you will have to be quick witted to throw back a spanner or two at them.

It takes years of grooming, in terms of critical thinking, policy studies, discussions etc to come up with that ability to become politically effective on stage. Ideally, any political parties should groom their people, especially potential candidates, on ALL policy aspects by having consistent policy discussions and closed door internal seminars whereby experts are invited to provide crash courses for the party members.

SDP is doing the right thing now, although I may not agree totally with some of their policy ideas but at the very least, they have their own ideas and will know how to defend or sell it to the voters.

Some other political party players may also like or even enjoy the limelight of conducting or attending various high profile forums. BUT for every events you participate, you will have to make sure that you are well prepared, else in the long run, people will see through the shallowness of your political or policy views.

Opposition politics is not just about having limelight, shaking hands with ground people and kiss babies. If you want to stay relevant to Singapore politics, you will have to extra hardworking, not only on the ground, but to read more on Economics, Democratic principles, Public Finance, Statistics, Public Policy, current affairs on both Singapore as well as regional and Singapore.... etc. Politics is not just show business, publicity and such, it will involves much more serious stuffs than that.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Minimum Wage - The Necessity for Capitalism

Recently, there is a discussion on minimum wage in one of the public forums on income disparity/ gap.

Well, the headline put up by Singapolitics screamed "Minimum Wage is not the solution to wealth gap". Within this report, it was reported that Minimum Wage dominates the forum while Nicole Seah reportedly said, "If we were to impose the minimum wage, then what’s going to happen? Are business owners willing to stay put?"

I find it quite disturbing reading the report because apparently, the headline itself is an oxymoron. How could the panelists or the report try to make that special claim that Minimum wage is not the solution to wealth gap when it is NOT supposed or meant to be used as a tool for that purpose in the first place? For a start, wealth gap itself, is not about income gap. The concept of wealth is totally different from income, though they may be correlated. Well that is not the crux of the matter.

It seems to me that either the forum or the report is trying to "discredit" or "write off" the issue of minimum wage in such a ingenious way.

The issue of Minimum Wage is about FAIR WAGES for the lower income group who may have little bargaining power in the labour market that make them more prone to exploitation. It is also called as "Living Wage" in some places.

The fundamental concept is that if capitalism is left on its own unregulated, it will become "exploitism". This is especially true for the vulnerable group of low wage workers.

In Singapore's context, the liberal foreign workers policy has in fact aggravated the situation of pure exploitation. The exploitation happens not only to local citizens but also to those transient workers. PAP government cannot just keep both eyes closed on such issues which are becoming potentially a big time bomb for us.

Such living wage as minimum wage, is to make sure that the lowest percentile of 10% to 20% of our workers would not be exploited and that their honest labour will provide them with an income that could sustain their livelihood in Singapore.

Throughout history, we know that revolts or revolutions will always start with hungry peasants due to various reasons, with ultra feudalistic exploitation being the main culprit most of the time. Thus, in a capitalist system, in order to prevent instability, a living wage as minimum wage for the lowest wage workers are a necessary regulation.

Will minimum wage policy chase out foreign investments? Most unlikely. We must always remember that such policy only affect the lowest 10% to 20% of the workers at most. The fact is that most MNCs do not employ workers at this spectrum of the labour force. The recent implementation of minimum wage in Hong Kong did not create any significant impact on business closures at all. In fact, Hong Kong is negotiating an increment of their minimum wage after one year of implementation.

Will the implementation of minimum wage affect prices? Maybe yes, maybe not. As minimum wage policy will only affect those companies employing low wage workers, not all sectors and prices will be affected. It will also depend on the levels of minimum wage being set as well. If businesses could still earn a decent profit after implementation of the minimum wage, due to market competition, they may not be willing to increase prices. In fact, even if businesses are to increase prices to transfer the higher cost to consumers, it will not be an increase to facilitate full transfer of higher costing.

Will minimum wage be "the maximum wage" for these workers? The experience in Hong Kong's implementation has shown that many companies, especially restaurants, which are thought to be affected by minimum wage policy, have to employ workers way ABOVE the minimum wage. This is due to the shortage of labour. It basically means that even with minimum wage implemented, market forces will still dictate wages as well and it is possible for low wage workers to earn more than minimum wage.

Should we implement minimum wage for foreign transient workers as well? Yes. Else, the minimum wage will lose its effectiveness as local Singaporeans will lose their jobs to foreign workers. I have touched on this point in my other postings before. In fact, a minimum wage implemented together with the foreign workers levy applied would tilt the balance towards low wage Singapore workers.

The implementation of minimum wage will definitely affect local SMEs more than MNCs. However, it would provide the incentives for local companies to increase their labour productivity through various means.

For example, I find that in the construction sector which is more labour intensive and dependent on transient workers, labour productivity can be increased by more investment in machinery.

The crux of the matter is about how to set a FAIR WAGE to reflect a Living Wage, instead of whether we should or should not have a minimum wage policy.

There are many studies and methodologies derived to calculate FAIR WAGE. You can find some examples here at this website. For Hong Kong minimum wage negotiation, academia, various labour unions and employers groupings have gone through extensive discussion with FULL DATA provided by the government. Well, you may not please everyone but as long as consensus is achieved, the policy kicks off with the promise of yearly review.

I hope that politicians (from both ruling and opposition parties) should not confuse the issue of Minimum Wage with Income gap or disparity, least with "Wealth Gap"! And I definitely hope that the usual "bogey man" scare tactic of "business will close down, MNCs will leave Singapore" should be discarded forever as it does not make any sense for such assertion when Minimum Wage only affects 10% to 20% of low wage workers, not the whole spectrum of the labour force. Such bogey man scare talk is only fit for kindergarten politics.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Challenge of the New Age Internet Politics

It is nothing "new" about this New Age Internet Politics but it is just that Singapore, in spite of the high internet connectivity, is pretty slow in riding on the waves and tide of the Internet Politics.

Just across the causeway, Malaysia has been the beneficiary of this new wave of internet politics that had given Malaysian political landscape an irreversible shake up since GE 2008. Internet politics has also exerted great influence all over Middle East, effected even regime changes.

Yes, this is a world trend that cannot be ignored, not even in "Paradize Singapore". We have seen the tremendous impact of the New Age Internet Politics in play whereby policy discourse has been played up and dominated by internet chatters, blogs and citizen reporting websites like TOC. PAP has suddenly felt so hopeless in dominating public discourse on any policy due to the new empowerment of opinion making and access to shared views by individuals via internet access.

Many people would have thought that such development will only benefit the opposition movement. However, I think this New Age of Internet Politics is a double edged sword for both the ruling and opposition parties. For any small mistakes you made, it will be put on focus under the internet microscope to be examined and exaggerated.

I, for one, is one of the earliest victim of internet politics. Most people would recall that I have resigned from WP due to a mistake I made in my internet engagement back in 2006 right after the general elections. It is not really a mistake of death even politically, but it was blown up as the newspaper just picked it up.

Thereafter, WP has adopted a more stringent Code of Conduct for its CEC members and these were subtly applied to other members as well. No CEC members will use their real names in internet engagement, implicitly implied that anonymity is encouraged. Even for personal blogs, CEC members are discouraged to put up policy views as well.

Subsequently, Chia Tilik resigned from WP as well, mostly due to his disagreement on such regimental implementation Code of Conduct.

Many would think that such Code of Conduct would be the best approach towards the rising influence of internet politics. I beg to differ. It will only prevent temporary embarrassment from potential mistakes made by key individuals in any political parties but the tradeoff is the deprivation of the necessary opportunities for these future leaders or MPs of the country to learn how to cope and deal with this new age political trends.

The recent fumble of MP Pritam Singh over the "conversation" with Andrew Loh, a veteran internet social-political activist, is a very good case to look at. The mistake Pritam had made, in insinuating that all other kinds of activism (including interne activism) is less important than partisan political ground work, is a common mistake most people in partisan politics (including me) would make at any point of our political life time. I have to admit that I used to think that way too (many years ago) but after experiencing lively engagement on the internet, I realize that internet activism itself is an important movement to make democratic development happens as well. Partisan politics alone, is just not enough to initiate democratic changes. We will need a holistic approach with people from all aspects of activism, from NGOs to internet activists to make the political awakening happened back in GE2011.

Internet politics would also mean that politicians will have to be very careful on what they post on their very own blogs, FBs or simply say anything to the Main Stream Media. We have seen how, politicians or MPs from both ruling and opposition parties, being mocked at when they made a mistake. Photos, screen shots or even important document will be posted or even emailed to the press to show evidence of discrepancies or question their integrity.

Sometimes, it is not even about discrepancies or integrity, but just purely differences in opinions that would trigger the wrath of public opinion instantaneously. There are many instances and the latest saga involved Lawrence Wong's lament on "politicising" of National Conversation and personal attacks happening in the internet sphere.

Information used to travel at slower pace in the last century but not for now. Information basically travels in the flick of the fingers on the keyboards.

Most people who believe in the healthy democratic development for Singapore would have jumped in joy with such "Freedom" brought by this wonderful technology called internet. However ironically, such development in internet politics will result in the biggest setback for anybody who are pushing for change for more Freedom of Speech and expressions.

The protection of anonymity which gives most people the false sense of security is slowly breeding irresponsible speech and expression. I am not against anonymity in cyberspace because I have also grown out of anonymity from my earlier days of internet activism. However, such anonymity is slowly eroding the moral high ground of the fight for more Freedom of Speech and expression, the very cause that most of us in the democratic movement take it as our core values.

Not only the ruling party PAP MPs and ministers are suffering from unnecessary personal attacks from people under the cloak of anonymity but opposition members like me are also suffering from such attacks, not only from PAP people (supporters) but also from other opposition parties people (supporters). In fact I would say that PAP people have evolved and toned down in their internet attacks on their opponents but opposition supporters or IBs are getting more aggressive nowadays.

If these anonymous handlers in the cyberspace would only comment on their differences in views vs others, that's perfectly fine. But when they start to use aggressive words or even spread lies against their opponents, then they would have crossed the line of responsible freedom of speech and expression.

They must realize that they are not doing any good to the overall democratic movement by such misbehavior. They are giving the exact bullets that the ruling party needs to make their case in controlling or even curbing our freedom of speech and expression.

Someone once told me this and I agree with him totally : For those who do not treasure but abuse their freedom of speech and expression, they don't deserve Freedom in the first place.

Freedom comes with responsible. If sensible people from the democratic movement do not stand up against such abuses of freedom of speech and expression, we may just be letting those irresponsible abuses derail our fight for our rights altogether. We do not need a formal "Code of Conduct" but we will have to help to shape our own turfs in this New Age Internet Politics.

In my view, putting "Code of Conduct" to ban partisan members from using their own identity while implicitly encouraging anonymity in the cyberspace may yield undesirable results. It is alright for people to make mistakes but at the same time have the opportunities to learn and grow from their own mistakes. I would say that encouraging partisan members to use their own identities would contribute to a more healthy development in this New Age of Internet Politics. It would encourage responsible use of this new found freedom of expression provided by technology and thus, cultivate a healthy social norms for all Singaporeans using internet as a means of social-political engagement. What we need more is not just mindless attacks on government policies or individuals (from both ruling or opposition parties). What we need is more responsible people using the internet platform for more fruitful exchange of ideas and views.

The Challenge of maintaining a healthy development of internet politics and thus, National political engagement lies with everyone of us, including both political party members as well as normal citizens. We just cannot allow a few irresponsible agent provocateurs to terrorize the whole cyberspace while destroying our path towards Freedom of Expression as well as democratic development for Singapore.

Goh Meng Seng