Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lee Kuan Yew, 1923-2015: Some Links Worth Checking Out

2015 03 29 LKYpapers

I was traveling when Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, died Monday, and haven’t had a chance to blog about his passing until now. (Pictured above: a recent sampling of Singaporean newspapers’ front pages.)

Here are some links I suggest checking out.

The WSJ obituary:

Lee Kuan Yew, who dominated Singapore politics for more than half a century and transformed the former British outpost into a global trade and finance powerhouse, setting a template for emerging markets around the world, died Monday. He was 91 years old.

And here’s the NYT obit, as well.

My colleague Shibani Mahtani, a Singaporean who lives abroad, at WSJ Expat on the significance of Lee’s death for her countrymen:

Singaporeans are a lucky breed—we do not have memories of coups or mass protests or riots or severe terrorist attacks in recent years, unlike most of our neighbors. In many ways, the passing of Mr. Lee is the deepest loss that the country has felt, together, in a generation. It is also a reminder of the fragility of the nation, and how its history could have gone in a completely different direction if not for Mr. Lee’s vision.

Elsewhere, The Economist charts the remarkable rise in Singapore’s per capita GDP — and low fertility rates:

2015 03 29 gdp

What comes next for Singapore? Here’s our story:

Mr. Lee, who died at 91 on Monday, has been widely credited for turning what had been a malaria-ridden British trading post into a gleaming economic success story. Singaporeans now enjoy a standard of living comparable with Japan and advanced European and North American economies, albeit without a pluralistic political system, a free press or strong dissenting voices.

But what comes next? In many ways, Singaporeans have been quietly preparing for a future without the steadying influence of the republic’s founding father.

The past four years were the first for independent Singapore without Mr. Lee in government. He stepped down from his advisory role of “minister mentor” in the cabinet in 2011, just a week after the ruling People’s Action Party recorded its worst electoral showing in five decades—a result government officials and political observers have attributed to festering socioeconomic tensions in recent years.

And here’s our look at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — Lee Kuan Yew’s son:

He has been prime minister of Singapore since 2004, but Lee Hsien Loong was inevitably overshadowed by his celebrated father, Lee Kuan Yew, who died this week.

The younger Mr. Lee faces the task of carrying forward his father’s legacy in his own style at a time when Singapore confronts social and economic challenges that have seen support for the governing People’s Action Party erode more than at any time since it came to power in 1959.

Politically, Ernest Bower at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says:

Some of PAP’s leaders may pine for the old days, but hopefully they won’t pursue the path of their counterparts in Malaysia, where the ruling United Malays National Organization party seems to be trying to turn the clock back, betting on an ultra conservative approach.

It is more likely that over time, PAP’s well-educated and globally focused leaders will find there is new room to breathe and innovate in the new political space of the post-Lee Kuan Yew era.

Meanwhile, we also ran a long, very interesting Orville Schell essay about the “Singapore model” and the future Asia. It concludes:

Lee Kuan Yew not only made Singaporeans proud; he also made Chinese and other Asians proud. He was a master builder, a sophisticated Asian nationalist dedicated not only to the success of his own small nation but to bequeathing the world a new model of governance. Instead of trying to impose Western political models on Asian realities, he sought to make autocracy respectable by leavening it with meritocracy, the rule of law and a strict intolerance for corruption to make it deliver growth.

Though his country was minuscule, Lee was a larger-than-life figure with a grandness of vision. He saw “Asian values” as a source of legitimacy for the idea that authoritarian leadership, constrained by certain Western legal and administrative checks, offered an effective “Asian” alternative to the messiness of liberal democracy. Because his thinking proved so agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party, he became the darling of Beijing. And because China has now become the political keystone of the modern Asian arch, Beijing’s imprimatur helped him and his ideas to gain a pan-Asian stature that Singapore alone could not have provided.

As countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and even China continue to search for new models of development and governance that do not bear the stigma of their former Western colonizers, Lee Kuan Yew’s example is a tempting option. Even though he is now gone, the Venice-like republic he founded will continue to be extolled as a hopeful experiment, and the man himself, the progenitor of what has come to be known as the “Singapore model,” will doubtless remain an influential political evangelist.

Read the whole thing.

And finally:

Embedded above and on YouTube here: Lee Kuan Yew on “Meet the Press” in 1967. He discusses the Vietnam war and Southeast Asia. An interesting slice of history.

Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

It’s been a busy week or so.

Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

Google declined to comment.

The Economic Times first reported the news.

InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.

There’s Finally an Ebook Version Available of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital”

2015 03 07 being digital

Back in Dec. 2012, I blogged about the irony that there seemed to be no ebook version available of Nicholas Negroponte’s popular book about the future of technology, “Being Digital.”

A major theme of the book, which was published in 1995: We’re moving “from atoms to bits,” and everything that can be digitized eventually will be.

Yet 17 years after the hardcover came out, the very book itself apparently hadn’t been digitized into an ebook format.

No more.

Behold:

2015 03 07 ebook bd2

Thanks to reader Pierluigi Montinaro, who recently left a comment on my earlier post pointing out that an ebook version of the book is finally available, as of Jan.

Atoms do indeed turn into bits. Sometimes it just takes time, it seems.