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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mayor who shagged me

The Mayor Who Shagged Me

I refer to Wednesday's Straits Times of 4 Aug 99 on Parliament's report on the Suzhou Industrial Park fiasco.

Lee Junior said:

"We don't know where he got his figures from, but members will know that this is Dr Chee Soon Juan's statement, and with him, accuracy and facts are matters of taste rather than morals."

This is patently unfair to Dr Chee, who, in my opinion, is infinitely better than BG Yeo, whom I rate as a better mind than BG Lee.

How did the figure of US$30 billion come about?

Here, it is important to note that the fiasco is the brainchild of no less than Lee Kuan Yew himself. It is the biggest project both in prestige and size of finance. It was hailed at that time 5 years ago as a landmark joint project of Singapore and China and an initiative from LKY that will cement relations between the 2 countries. Not to mention, getting LKY some very personal attention and several hours of talks with Jiang Zemin.

So the figure of US$30 billion came from LKY himself 5 years ago, amid much publicity and hoopla. In those heady days, there was no doubt some exaggeration and many cost items were unclear.

If I remember correctly, the figure didn't materialise out of thin air. Nor did it come from Dr Chee. It came from LKY and was reported widely in the international press. Dr Chee, like the good Opposition politician that he is, simply picked up the figure US$30 billion from published sources. He certainly did not conjure it out of thin air. His interest and concern are exactly what we need to force the PAP regime to accountability and transparency.

For example, LKY at that time was burnishing his role as a China expert with close ties to the Chinese leadership and much 'guanxi' with them. He was then a sought-after 'expert' on Chinese leadership thinking and pontificated convincingly on US-China relations. Now we know how limited is his clout with the inscrutable Chinese.

So, instead of accusing Dr Chee of pulling the figure out of thin air, Lee Junior should ask his Daddy how he arrived at US$30 billion. (Now, with more determined accounting, plus the currency upheavals, the projected cost is US$20 billion).

It is also important to note that until that Parliamentary proceeding, (with its usual pre-planned Question and Answer sessions), THE PAP NEVER ATTEMPTED TO GIVE THE 'TRUE' FIGURE. This is most strange as the standard PAP practice is to immediately 'correct' any fact or figure it considers wrong in any publication, especially the many leading newspapers that reported on it. Instead, the PAP maintained a guilty silence until that Parliament session. If Dr Chee had not brought up the issue, God knows how much money would continue to be sunk into that bottomless rathole. As events proved, Dr Chee's articulation forced the renegotiation of the SIP deal and relieved Singaporean taxpayers of a much bigger loss.

So much for 'China expert' LKY and his 'understanding' of Chinese thinking.

Following closely in his father footsteps, Lee Junior said:

"Not only Singapore, but US and European investors and business schools such as Harvard and Insead, would likely be documenting and scrutinising the case to learn from its lessons."

This is a bald attempt to pressure the Chinese into being more 'cooperative'. Lee Junior is in effect, saying, "Look here, you Chinese. We lost taxpayers money and more importantly, 'face' in Suzhou. If you don't play ball, you'd lose foreign investors from this SIP fiasco."

How little intuitive understanding of the Chinese leadership!

They are a bunch who think nothing of lobbing missiles near Taiwan and holding wargames on the mainland coast opposite Taiwan. They are not so covetous of money and foreign investment that such talk of losing foreign investors will weigh much on their thinking. Besides, US$30 billion is only what they'd spend on developing a new missile.

Their attitude is, "If you want to sink US$30 billion in China, fine, if not, we can live without it. We will not sell our soul for foreign investment."

Lee Senior and Junior cannot understand that, of course, since they are exactly the opposite. Meanwhile, the saga continues and our money, as taxpayers, will continue to be at risk.

So LKY lost out to a lowly Mayor of Suzhou. Perhaps, one lesson from that is that LKY should devote all of his second book to the SIP and name it, "The Mayor Who Shagged Me".

Honest Singaporean