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Monday with the Editor: A casino for Singapore? Why Not?

Hallo everyone

The recent Huang Na incident in which an 8-year-old girl from China was found murdered has put Singaporeans in the spotlight again. This time, the attention is not so much on Singaporeans' sympathy piled on the dead girl's family, but rather, on Singaporeans' craze for lottery.
Thousands of people turned up at Huang Na's wake, presumably to offer their condolences to the family of the dead girl. But, the newspapers have it that many went there to look for lottery numbers on anything found at the wake that had numbers on it or could be related to numbers.
And, as if to justify the actions of such people, the newspapers reported that some of these numbers came out in the recent 4-D draws and people won money as a result.
This, of course, fuelled attention in Huang Na's funeral. More than a thousand Singaporeans turned up for her funeral and a report has it that the priest attending to the funeral rites had to stop many from offering incense as the situation was getting out of control.
Just imagine - all these things happened though we do not have a casino in our midst. So why blame a casino for the excesses of Singaporeans? Even without a casino, Singaporeans are already ugly for all sorts of reasons. Remember the Everitt Road saga, and the takeaways at corporate shareholders' meetings?
We should not pile blame on the casino proposal for Singapore. Rather, we should look at the proposal objectively.
Much has been said about the casino proposal in the newspaper forums, as well as on the Government feedback Web site. It has been reported that opinion is almost evenly divided on this matter.
There is no need for me to revisit those comments already voiced out in the forums. Let me offer another perspective.
I am already in my late forties. I have seen Singapore in its best times. I have been fortunate to have been born in the post-riots era so I missed out on Singapore's worst times.
I would say Singapore experienced its best years in the early 1980's. I would also say the good years peaked in 1984. Singaporeans will agree with me on this. We had many expatriates here then - a sign of the good times. I think we went downhill after that. I also think we won't have such good times again. But, that doesn't mean that we can't have good times again.
I would say good times will come around again if we have a casino in Singapore. But, it's not because we can party at the casino till we go broke. Rather, it's because a casino will help bring in much needed revenue both for the Government and us people.
The Government gains through taxes. We gain through the money that comes in at the sidelines - through increased spending in our shops and restaurants which translates into more job openings, and consequently, more money for the family.
We need not worry about the crimes that go hand in hand with casinos. Our police have been doing a good job maintaining security in our streets. In fact, we have an international reputation for clean and safe streets. Surely, we can't be thinking that our police will be any less effective in combating crime if a casino opens here!
I am offering serious thought on the casino proposal because I am afraid that if we do not have a casino, we may not be able to draw in sufficient income into Singapore to bring in the good times again.
If the good times do not return, I am afraid that more Singaporeans may think of emigrating with their families to start a new life elsewhere. Though this may not occur in the near future, there is a distinct possibility that it may occur within the next ten or twenty years. These able Singaporeans have no second thoughts about setting up home elsewhere - their personal well-being comes first on their minds. 
In case you haven't been noticing, our younger workers are generally less enthusiastic about their jobs. They have no qualms about switching to less demanding jobs. It is sad to note this, but in bringing about such high standards of living, the Government has inadvertently created what I would call the soft-Singaporean mentality which has already infected our younger generation, particularly those in their early 30's or younger.
My fear is that these younger Singaporeans will not think twice about emigrating to another country, thus creating a Singaporean diaspora.
Do we need to wait till such a situation occurs in our midst before taking action? I say no! Our Government is known for its pragmatism. It has been its pragmatism that has brought us thus far. We may not like the way the Government puts things in our face, but we can't deny we have prospered as a result.
Again, the Government is putting the integrated resort, of which a casino is a part of, in our face. Because we are used to the Government planning ahead for us and know it has already worked out the mathematics behind such a proposal before letting us know of it, we can't deny it's for our good.
The casino proposal is not new to Singaporeans. Over the years, as the Government realised that Singapore was finding it increasingly difficult to keep growth rates up there, it had been considering the casino proposal.
In the words of Prime Minister Lee, "We've said, 'No' to the casino for a very long time. I've said 'No' to the casino for a very long time. In 1985, we had a recession. I remember the late Mr Teh Cheang Wan wanted the casino, argued for it. We said, 'No'. We didn't proceed. This time round, we had the ERC (Economic Review Committee). The Subcommittee has put up the proposal for a casino.  On the ERC, I said, 'No', a majority of the members said, 'No'.  We didn't recommend it. But the subject didn't die and we have to reconsider because the argument comes up, the situation changes."
Yes, indeed, the situation has changed. And Prime Minister Lee, no doubt, has access to information that the ordinary Singaporean doesn't have. That PM Lee, who previously didn't support the proposal, has laid the proposal on the table for Singaporeans to take a look at it again shows the gravity of the situation.
We need to decide. The situation has changed. PM Lee was a nay-sayer to the idea of having a casino here, but he has relented and let us decide. Those among us who have previously said 'no' should think again.
It's not a case of doing what the Government wants us to do. Rather, it's a case of deciding in favour of Singapore's continued prosperity and preventing a Singaporean diaspora from taking place sometime in the future.
I repeat - it was pragmatism that has led us thus far, and it will be pragmatism that will lead us safely into the future. In the end, we must ask ourselves whether we are pro-Singapore or just plain complaining.
Have a good week!


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22 November 2004