Finding Freedom Podcast: Are we really equal?
Europe has seen many improvements in GENDER EQUALITY in recent years. Topic is not a taboo even in some less developed democracies. However, lack of equality between women and men in politic...
Singapore holds parliamentary elections every 5 years but the country has only had 3 different prime ministers since its independence in 1965. The Peopleâ€™s Action Party (PAP) absolutely dominates the political process and restrictions ensure that opposition parties do not get into power. This system is highlighted by the fact that the countriesâ€™ first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stayed in power for 30 years before handing over the reins to a chosen successor. In 2004, Leeâ€™s son Lee Hsien Loong finally became prime minister. In the last election for the single parliamentary chamber in 2011, the ruling PAP was able to secure 81 of 87 directly elected seats. However, these elections saw a more concerted effort by opposition parties, in particular the
Workersâ€™ Party, which was able to win an unprecedented 6 directly elected seats. The Singapore Peopleâ€™s Party (SPP) holds the remaining seat in parliament. In addition the 2011 elections for the largely ceremonial position of president saw the opposition-backed Tan Jee Say coming in third and in by-elections for a vacated seat the Workerâ€™s Party candidate clearly won the constituency vote with 62%. Though these may be small successes in a country that is dominated by a single party it highlights the growing willingness of the electorate to vote for opposition parties and against the rule of the PAP. Nonetheless, the political environment stays monitored and tightly restricted, making it very hard for the opposition to operate.
There are no unconstitutional veto players in a country as restrictively controlled as Singapore, although it is quite likely that the first Prime Minister and â€œfounding fatherâ€ Lee Kuan Yew still exerts influence on the countriesâ€™ politics, despite his resignation from the position as â€œMinister Mentorâ€ in 2011. Apart from that any forces which could be a threat to the ruling government are broken up immediately.
Singaporeâ€™s media landscape stays tightly restricted. All media outlets, newspapers and radio and television stations, are owned by companies with close ties to the government. The Sedition Act has been in effect since the colonial period, banning any kind of seditious speech, materials or acts. In such a repressive environment self-censorship is common. Public censorship also extends into pop culture, regulating references to sex, drugs or violence. Strict laws are also in place for foreign media, demanding legal representatives and high financial deposits to restrict their coverage of domestic politics. Access to the internet is generally unrestricted, though government institutions monitor content and occasionally block sites. However, restrictions were eased in the
run-up to the 2011 elections, allowing more public discussion of political topics and issues. The increasing use of social media platforms can also be seen as a reason for the latest electoral gains of the opposition in 2011. In August 2012 a Media Literacy Council was installed by the government with the intention of providing advice regarding the increasingly complex media landscape. Though this could be seen as a possible opening towards public debate and online activism, critics have warned that it will lead to new restrictions of internet freedom.
The Singaporean judiciary is generally independent. It can review existing laws, legislations, and policies. But the Singaporean governmentâ€™s overwhelming success rates in court cases raise some concern, not least because opposition politicians and parties who are prosecuted often end up going bankrupt. Whether the government pressures judges or simply appoints those who share its conservative philosophy remains unclear.
Singapore has kept its ranking in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index as the fifth least corrupt country worldwide and the least corrupt in Asia. This indicates that the recent high-profile corruption cases involving public officials have not dented its reputation for fighting graft.
The main agency responsible for combating corruption is the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The Chief of the CPIB will step down from his role on September 30 after it was revealed that supervisory failings resulted in a senior agency official allegedly misappropriating more than 1.7 million Singapore dollars (US$ 1.34m) of public funds. The zeal and transparency of the investigation has been admirable.
In 2012, changes were made to mandatory death penalty laws, allowing judges to use their discretion among some cases. Although capital punishment remains, this is a step in the right direction. There were also small improvements to migrant workersâ€™ rights, along with attempts to combat human trafficking. Despite the reforms, Singaporeâ€™s 208,000 foreign domestic workers are still excluded from the Employment Act and key labour protections, such as limits on daily work hours. Freedom of religion is generally allowed so long as it does not break any other regulations. Religious actions that are perceived to be against the state or promote unrest are prohibited. Academics are free to debate policy, but rarely do on topics concerning Singapore. The media remained
tightly controlled and dissidents continued to face political repression.
Both private and intellectual property rights are well protected under Singaporean law. Contracts are secure, and if urban needs make the acquisition of real estate necessary, compensation will be provided. Singapore has one of the regionâ€™s most sophisticated intellectual property rights regimes. The Intellectual Property Office is the country's leading agency serving as government advisor on intellectual property rights and promoting intellectual property awareness. In the 2013 International Property Rights Index Singapore ranks 7th among 131 assessed countries.
Government spending is still relatively low, standing at 17% of GDP. The state is involved to a considerable extent in the economy through government-linked companies.
The top income tax rate equals 20%, whereas the top corporate tax rate is 17%. Other taxes include value-added tax and property tax. Overall tax revenue accounts for about 14% of GDP.
Singaporeâ€™s financial sector is highly competitive. Banking is dominated by three groups, the largest being the government-owned Development Bank of Singapore. An additional 114 foreign banks operate more or less freely.
Starting, running and closing a business are fairly uncomplicated under Singapore's regulations. Starting a business takes a mere three days and three procedures. Getting a business license can be done in 11 procedures and 26 days. Closing a business is uncomplicated.
Singaporean labour regulations are flexible. The non-salary cost of an employee is low; dismissing one is easy. Work hour regulations are flexible.
Singapore is one of the freest countries in the world with respect to foreign trade. A founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Singapore promotes the reduction of trade barriers between member states. Singaporeâ€™s foreign trade, by and large, is liberalised; its weighted average tariff rate is 0%. However, some import and export restrictions, service market barriers and licensing requirements continue to be obstacles to foreign trade.