Thursday, March 21, 2013

SDP supporter Kirsten Han: "Foreigner in a foreign country where innocents get no second chance" - a reaction

Journalism & film student Kirsten Han recently took on Joseph Stiglitz the Nobel Laureate for Economics. Responding to Stiglitz's New York Times op-ed, Kirsten slammed the Singapore system in an article published on QZ.com.

She quoted speculation by academic Christopher Balding, alleging that Singapore's CPF retirement fund is being used to fund sovereign wealth investments. If that were true, we'd expect speculators to be attacking the Singapore dollar like George Soros did to the British Pound in 1997. This hasn't happened. In fact Singapore is one of the few countries still having AAA credit rating, ahead of the USA and France.

Kirsten has problems with foreigners in Singapore, saying they push down wages. Although she forgets to mention that Singapore's reverse income tax (WorkFare) helps moderate the Gini coefficient. She says the Singapore political leadership opposes minimum wage but she doesn't seem to recall Singapore's fiscal transfers for wage support. Surely a journalist's eye would not intentionally miss these details?

She also has strong views on Singapore's death penalty for drug traffickers. She believes in "Second Chances".

Kirsten is a British Chevening Scholar receiving UK public funds from the UK Government. From the viewpoint of UK citizens, she is a foreigner taking UK taxpayers' money which could have gone to support UK students and UK workers. How does it all add up?

Studying journalism in Cardiff University, Kirsten has many opportunities to see the ground in the UK -- not the tourist life of a foreign student but the real-life outcomes of British government policy and spending. Broken families who can't find jobs because of a British minimum wage which looks good but doesn't empower workers. Children who cut their feet on HIV-infected needles left by drug addicts, in turn fuelled by drug traffickers who know Britain is soft on crime. Young men knifed and gunned down in the streets because of drug gangs and drug money. They never got a Second Chance.

One might not agree completely with Joseph Stiglitz's outsider view of Singapore, but at least he has looked beyond his hometown for additional perspectives. Kirsten could at least do a little of the same before sticking it to Stiglitz. There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in Kirsten Han's philosophy.