Sunday, 19 August 2007

Can poverty ever be eradicated?

I personally feel that although minimizing poverty is possible, it is not possible to get rid of poverty in this world. Take for example, if everyone at least receives basic education and is quipped with certain skills, who would be willing to take up the low paying jobs?

One way of minimizing poverty in the poorer countries as mentioned by American thinker Jeffrey Sachs, would be for the world’s leading countries to donate 0.7 per cent of their national income to help the world’s poor. I feel that this is an effective method as it would not be fair for any rich country to be solely responsible for helping the poor. Also, if many richer countries were to contribute, each individual country would actually have to a significantly smaller percentage of their national income. As a result, it would further encourage other countries in the same league to do the same to help the poor. Jeffrey Sachs also mentioned that a ‘huge problem doesn’t mean a very complicated solution’, for example, a simple bed net can help to solve the problem of malaria in Africa.

In a commentary from the Worldpress, Kamala Sarup stated that poorer countries with many mountains and few waterways would certainly become richer because of the inevitable trade of cheaper goods and services provided by their richer neighbours. I agree that this would help poorer countries to eradicate much poverty as more people would be able to afford basic necessities. For example, trade between China and Mongolia benefited Mongolia as cheap Chinese consumer goods was more affordable.

Also mentioned in the article, poor countries are trapped in a vicious cycle, the availability of technology improves the standard of living, however, technology depends on capital, which depends on technology. As such, I agree that poor countries should import and not develop their own technology. This would allow them to be able to keep up with the current technology and provide better quality goods and services for trade. With the profits made from trade with other countries, money can be channeled to alleviate poverty such as to provide education to increase the literacy rate of people. In such a way, poorer countries would be able to break free from the vicious cycle.

However, it is usually not possible to totally eliminate poverty in the world. It was mentioned in the same article that geographical location plays a vital role in determining if the country can be freed from poverty. It is undeniable that countries with many mountains and few waterways are especially advantaged in the quest of wealth. There are limited areas of land available for development to take place and consequently, there would be naturally slower economic progress in the area. Singapore, for example, has flourished from a third world nation to first world within a span of about three decades due to its strategic location.

In addition, it is also mentioned that leaders in certain countries who pursue spiritual wealth and not economic wealth, for example, Bhutan. It is especially difficult to change the mindset of these leaders within a short time span thus posing an obstacle to eliminating poverty. In my opinion, even if they contemplate about focusing on economic development, they would experience great difficulty as there is a big gap to close as most of the developed nations are very far ahead of them.

In conclusion, it is possible for poverty to be eradicated only if developed nations are willing to lend a helping hand.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

How important are moral values in our society?

Moral values are defined as standards of what is right and wrong which governs the behaviour of an individual. One’s moral values can come from family, society, religion or self.

However, in this competitive society, I feel that it is not uncommon that some people sacrificed their moral values for one’s benefit, for example, lying in order to protect one’s interests. The foundation of a society where people value themselves beyond the good of the society would be weak. When one is only concerned about oneself and not the good of the society as a whole, one would only do things that benefit oneself and disregard the society. It would ultimately harm the society if people become self-centered. This is due to the fact that usually the good of the society would mean the good of each and every individual in the society. However, as this group of people is blinded by their self-centeredness, they would be unable to see that and become only interested of the short-term gains. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a strong moral foundation in the society.

I feel that moral education must begin when the child is young, as it takes time for the child to internalize it. Both families and schools should be responsible in bringing up children with moral values. There has been over emphasis on academic subjects and neglected moral education as a result. Parents are the first teachers that children encounter and emulate, therefore parents have to set a good example for them. In schools, teachers can come up with interesting ways to impart moral values and life skills to students.

This also applies to a government, where high-ranking officials with good moral values would mean that their subordinates would also follow suit and thus would be able to form a solid foundation of good governance. Corruption would be minimized to the minimum, the country and society as a whole would be able to prosper.

Quite recently, in the field of science and technology, there has been an issue raised on moral values in the society with the birth of Dolly, the cloned sheep. I personally feel that it is not morally correct to extend the use of cloning to human beings. This would cause a lot of unrest in our present society, for example, the police rely on fingerprints to determine and nab criminals. However, if totally identical people exist, then it would be extremely difficult to determine the identity of the real criminal.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Freedom of expression vs Social responsibility in Singapore

I feel that Szilagyi's view should be adopted, that more focus should be placed on social responsibility instead of freedom of expression in Singapore. Freedom of expression has to be accompanied by social responsibility.

In the context of Singapore's multi-racial society, where there is cultural and religions pluralism, we have to be very cautious with our words and actions so as not to offend people of other races and religion. The media is very powerful tool and can influence and shape the beliefs and perspective views of people, there was such an incident which happened a few decades ago in Singapore which can reflect my statement.
In 1964, a series of race riots took place in Singapore in July and September between the Chinese and the Malays. The first incident occurred on 21 July during a Malay procession that marked Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In total, the violence killed 36 people and injured another 556 and about 3,000 people were arrested and created disorder. At that time, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Through the Utusan Melayu newspaper, written in Jawi Script which is familiar to the Malays, the Federal Government in Malaysia stirred up anti-PAP and anti-Chinese feelings among the Malays in Singapore. They criticised the PAP Government in Singapore and claimed in the newspaper that Malays in Singapore were marginalised. In Singapore where people are the only resource, what would happen if people start fighting one another?
Therefore, it is crucial that media in Singapore play a vital role in fostering and marinating good relations between people of different races and religion, and has to be discerning enough as to judge whether an article, if published, would pose as a threat to Singapore’s peace and prosperity. The media has to work hand-in-hand with the government to protect the rights of minority in Singapore. Recently, there was a case whereby two Singaporeans were charged of posing racist comments on their blogs, the media can serve to explain the issue and highlight the possible consequences that would follow if the relevant authorities failed to take action.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Any form of punishment that is effective in maintaining law and order is justified. Do you agree?

I feel that it is not justifiable that any effective punishment in maintaining law and order should be allowed. In my opinion, many less developed or rural areas which are left out from the rapid globalization are more prone to have occurrences of unorthodox justice practices.

Take for example in Togo, West Africa, a village there believes that using a hot pot of boiling oil is effective in determining the criminal. Majority of villagers there are farmers, they depend on yam for their livelihood. There was once when one of the farmers discovered that some of his harvest went missing and suspected another fellow villager to be guilty of the crime. The practice of using the boiling oil was carried out and ultimately solved the case. In another part of the world, in Albania, where there is an ineffective justice system, people take the law into their own hands which resulted in blood feud for generations.

In the eyes of people in these places, the form of punishment administered is justifiable as it is effective. However, there are other considerations such as whether the punishment is ethical and appropriate for that particular crime committed. I view the use of a hot pot of boiling oil as merely a test of pain endurance, so the suspect may have been forced to confess because he could not endure the pain of placing has hands in the boiling pot of oil. The blood feud in Albania has deprived numerous children of education and a bright future due to the fear of being murdered by their enemies.

Therefore, it is crucial that the relevant authority should intervene to attempt to change the mindsets of these people; although it would take a long time for these people to correct their beliefs. It would also mean to work with governments in these countries to provide basic education for the young. Education would empower people with knowledge, a correct set of beliefs and has the ability to put an end to these unorthodox practices.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

What are the effects of an ageing population?

It is estimated that by the year 2050, as many as two-thirds of the world’s population of people over 60 would age in poverty. This is a result of an ageing population where there is comparatively smaller population of young and able people in the workforce.

The economy in the region would be adversely affected. Fewer young and able people would cause the shrinking of the workforce available. An example would be Japan, where birth rates are low due to their hectic lifestyles and high standards of living. In addition, ‘ethnic homogeneity” is a very sensitive issue; Japanese are usually not in favour of large-scale immigration. However, a recent UN Report recently forecast that Japan would need 17 million new immigrants to sustain the economy by 2050.

Another effect of ageing population would be that the younger generation would have to care for a greater number of elderly and have to pay higher taxes. This is due to the fact that the government of the country would have to increase the amount of tax per working adult in the future so as to raise the same amount of revenue collected. Some European countries practicing welfare systems would also have to make certain adjustments to their systems. It is inevitable that as people age, many health complications would arise. With an ageing population, it would mean that the government would require more money to subsidies a larger number of elderly. This would contribute to the fact that the younger generation would have a greater financial burden in the future.

It is thus crucial to take the necessary measures to solve the problem. Firstly, on the national level, countries could take a two-pronged approach, by providing cash incentives to the people to encourage them to have children and also to care for the elderly such as the provision of healthcare for the elderly. Secondly, the upper working classes have to take initiative to have children, and then many others would follow their footsteps and would be an effective way to increase birth rates. For example, if the boss of the multinational company takes the lead by having children and have incentives for employees willing to have children, many would be more willing to do so. However, the company would also have to consider that there have be sufficient people to run the company, so that productivity would not be compromised.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

What are the effects of Americanisation?

There is a difference between Americanisation and Globalisation; I feel that the American culture is part of the many other cultures that make up globalisation.

In a busy weekend mall, packed fast food joints, young people in a baggy combat pants and slang and people talking on Motorola cell phones about the latest Hollywood films is a standard American scene, however, such a scene is evident in many other cities round the globe. This shows the impact of Americanisation, influential, popular and persuasive.
It shows that people view America in the form of a role model and a leader in influencing other countries and have their culture blended in.

However, it can be argued that the American culture domination poses a threat to culture diversity. Ranging from Hollywood, popular music, fast food to Disney cartoons, the world in which we live in would be imbued with less local colour. Unique festivals and rites celebrated by people of different culture round the world which filled the world with vibrancy are on the verge of extinction.

In addition, americanisation can also have other downsides. The popularity of American culture can possibly lead to the consolidation of the communications industry to a few major American firms. This means that information generated for global consumption would nearly always be one from an American perspective.

I feel that americanisation have brought about the increase in the number of abortion rates, illegitimate children and the surge in the number of single parents in Asian societies. Traditionally, Asian societies were very conservative and the abovementioned problems were uncommon and condemned. This shows that the American culture has indirectly affected the mentality of Asians; although people generally disapprove of single parenting and abortion, the statistics prove otherwise.
Therefore, it is important that countries all around the world have to make a conscious effort to preserve and promote their culture. This would ensure that cultural roots would remain to bond people belonging to different cultures and ethnic groups. It would also serve to ensure that our world would continue to be colourful and vibrant.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Is the use of euthanasia justified?

The use of euthanasia is a controversial issue due to conflicting moral feelings both for the individual and between different cultures, ethnicities and religions, therefore in some countries, it is justified whereas it is criminalized in others.

I personally feel that the use of euthanasia may or may not be justified, depending on one’s values and interpretation of such an action and the situation. It is very much like an ideology in the way that neither side would ever be satisfied. There will always be two conflicting views. One would be that euthanasia is an infringement of human rights, the other would be that euthanasia is liberating the patient from a much worse fate.

It can be argued that such a form of mercy killing is not justified. Anti-euthanasia people treat it as a form of murder and voluntary euthanasia as a form of suicide. It can also be argued that these patients in such conditions can no longer make a decision of whether to accept euthanasia; it is usually the next of kin who would make such a decision. In some religion, the sanctity of life is used as justification, as it is believed that no one has the right to take away one’s own life.

However, it can be justified by the fact that if a patient is suffering in pain and have very slim or no chances at all of surviving, euthanasia can be seen as means to reduce the suffering of the person. Pro-euthanasia people are justifying their cause with the reason of pushing for the greater good, and that instead of allowing patients to continue live a life which is not a life at all. A coma patient is a good example of this argument. How much of a life is a coma patient living, stranded unconscious on a bed?

There will never be an end to this argument. Both sides are constantly reinforcing their own beliefs, but not ruling out each other’s. Whether euthanasia is acceptable relies totally on one’s individual perception of the matter.

Can corruption be totally prevented?

Corruption is a dysfunction in the political system whereby public officials seek illegitimate personal gain. It is possible to minimize but not totally eliminate it in any country. Take for example, in Singapore; known to be corrupt-free, had a case of corruption. The NKF issue is an example of corruption; however it is the way the government deals with the issue that distinguishes us from our Asian counterparts.
The backbone of the country is the government; corruption must not invade and spread within the government. If that occurs, then the whole government would not be able to function efficiently. As a result, the people would suffer. Corruption can be prevented through the following ways.

Corruption usually arises from greed of a high-ranking official or even the leader of the country. In such a case, the subordinates of these officials would also follow suit. This is due to the fact corruption in a government could be seen as a domino effect when a trigger would lead to the fall of many others. For example, if a key government official or even the President were to pocket state funds, many others would follow suit, this would even lead to immigration officers extorting money from returning countrymen.

A solution would be to set the minimum pay for ministers to be a reasonable sum to recognise the work and effort they put in to lead the country, in such a way, they are less likely to turn to corruption to obtain money they feel they deserve. It also crucial to attract talented people to be trained as future leaders of the country, as they would have the capability to lead the country to greater heights. However, many would consider the pay as to whether it sufficient to lead a comfortable life with the pay they draw. One such reason is that holding a key position in a multi-national corporation could provide the same person more earnings as compared to the job as a minister.

Is the use of torture ever justified in dealing with criminals and terrorists?

I personally feel that torture cannot be justified under any circumstances in dealing with criminals and terrorists. Criminals and terrorists are also humans, even if one may argue that the crimes they have committed are inhumane. Punishment definitely has to be mete out but it should not be torture.

Firstly, there is no guarantee that criminals would be forced to provide vital information through the use of torture. It is mentioned in the article that what if they pull out one of the terrorist's fingernails and he doesn't say anything, do they find and torture his child instead? This shows that neither is it effective in dealing with criminals nor is it justifiable. If authorities were to employ such a method, they are no different from the terrorists.

Secondly, torture is morally prohibited and it's also against national laws. Therefore, it shows that it is a common understanding by all countries round the globe that torture, in any case, is not justifiable. In such a case, no countries should have any excuse on the use of torture.

Thirdly, it has been reported that there is no concrete evidence in proving that torturing one of the captured terrorists could be linked to the capture of subsequent ones. Although difficult, the authority has to restrain from using violence, in this case, torture against criminals and terrorists.

The best way to deal with criminals and terrorists would be to form an alliance by countries around the world. This is due to the fact that terrorist operations are now extensive and a country alone would experience great difficulty in dealing with such a problem. In such a way, countries with information of the whereabouts of the terrorists would relay the information to the relevant authorities for further action. It is also important to correct the mindsets of these criminals and terrorists to feel guilty of their crimes so that they would be less likely to pose a threat to peace and security.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

New Media – Power to the people or threat to stability?

In this day and age, information and news can spread very rapidly due to the advancement of technology. New media can both act to serve as a threat to stability and power to the people. Terrorism is a main concern in the world and terrorists are taking advantage of the new media to spread their ideas across the globe. Take for example, the al-Qaeda extremist movements, many of these militants have poisoned Muslim’s public view of the West, creating conflicts between the Western and Islamic world. Therefore, in order to curb such actions by the terrorists, countries around the world should co-operate to change such perception and hostility, since we all live in this world. Due to advancements in technology over the years, in this present world, the most basic form of media, the television is accessible to many poor countries, thus we should not underestimate the influence of media. The first step to countering the terrorists is to correct the wrong perception that the Islamic world has on the West. This requires the work of Islamic governments and western countries to portray good relationships between the West and the Islamic world.. For example, when the media focused on America’s commitment to aid them in the case of a natural disaster, they had changed views and attitudes of America. This evidently shows the power of media.

The media provides power to the people in such a way that it provides governments with views of how the public thinks of them and the areas for improvement that would be beneficial for the country. With blogging gaining popularity, people could write comments about what they feel about the policies of the government and any possible areas of improvement in their current living conditions. This is especially useful in large countries like Indonesia and China, where it is difficult to reach out to its entire population, blogs and related media sources would prove to be vital sources where the government can obtain feedback from the people. This is a healthy way of interaction between the people and the government.

I personally feel that in countries where there is internet censorship, it would not benefit the people. This is due to the fact that the people are unaware of the impression and ideas others have and this could lead to some misunderstandings. However, in order to gain the trust and confidence of these governments to do away with censorship, it requires the each and every individual to be responsible when making comments or suggestions.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Response - Is the media reliable in conveying the truth?

I believe that the media is not very reliable in conveying the truth although it is a very powerful tool in disseminating information to the people of that particular country and worldwide. It plays a very significant role in the people's understanding and stand on current issues which may directly affect them.

If the media fabricate lies and attempt to cover up actual information to delude the people, it would have very serious consequences, people may accept the lies as truth, they would blindly support something which is internationally-preceived as incorrect, leading to misunderstandings. Take for example, in North Korea where the communist government has a firm grip on the media, people are unable to understand the world's concern over their country's nuclear enrichment. In some other cases, it can be dangerous, such as the cover up of outbreak of diseases. An example would be the recent case of bird flu, if the country does not acknowledge of such an outbreak and use the media to provide the general public with full accurate information, it would have disastrous consequences.

To a certain extent, I feel that the media indeed would portray the truth, only if it does not affect the ruling party. Some typical examples would be some natural disaster which happened in some other country or some social problem faced globally, information which is objective. Different countries have different extent of control on the media, the media is thus credible to varying degrees.

MM Lee Kuan Yew

MM Lee Kuan Yew was the key to Singapore's remarkable development and success, transforming Singapore from a fishing village to a thriving metropolis. He made wise choices in developing the economy of Singapore, which is very crucial to a country with little or no natural resources. With expert advice from Dr Albert Winsemius, MM Lee set Singapore on the path of industrialization, similar to that of Switzerland. With forsight, he set up the Economic Development Board in 1961 to attract foreign investment to boost Singapore's economy. This was accompanied by a well-trained, disciplined and low paid workforce. This is something which many neighbouring countries then fail to realise, instead, they were more interested in protecting the interests of their domestic investment. In addition, he also set up the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board to attract visitors to the country, creating employment and increasing country's revenue.

MM Lee was also aware of the downsides of a corrupt government, he set up the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) to monitor and single out any officer or minister suspected of corruption, this was prove to be effective as several ministers were charged. A clean and effective government, Singapore has today, is due to the weeding out of corrupt officials in the very beginning.

His contributions in transforming Singapore from a third world nation to a first world nation has made him influential, many other leaders in developing countries would like to emulate his qualities and style of governing to enable their countries to be comparable to Singapore. He laid the path to victory for Singapore and managed to convince our forefathers to aid him in his efforts.