Can New Zealand’s Defence Model Work for Singapore? NO.
Ajax Copperwater’s article “New Zealand’s defense model: An example for Singapore?” at The Online Citizen is an example of how not to compare Singapore and the Kiwis in terms of decreased defence spending and healthcare as a peace dividend.
Let me state where I’m coming from. I’m a Realist and don’t apologise for defence spending, all things equal, unless defence spending is badly squandered like having subs that don’t submerge unless sinking is considered or if defence spending is supposedly excessive like $11.46 billion according to the 2010 Budget and about 4.5% of the GDP .
Firstly, New Zealand’s defence model is a terrible example to compare with Singapore as Ajax himself admitted. New Zealand is geographically isolated and its closest neighbour is Australia and threat of invasion is unrealistic. Singapore, a maritime state like Venice in its golden age and unlike New Zealand, has its commercial sea lanes to defend by air and sea if necessary. Furthermore, Switzerland, a neutral country with conscription since time immemorial, is a better description of Singapore’s defence posture than New Zealand. Even then if Switzerland is a yardstick, it is comparing apples and oranges as although Singapore is in a peaceful region, it is not that politically stable as Europe in comparison. That’s the ugly truth about it although this region has matured peacefully since Konfrontasti and the Vietnam War.
Singapore should not be seen as a hawkish regional menace despite its arms modernisation. But neither should it be seen as some ridiculous naive pushover like what this Ajax Copperwater wants us to believe.
Concluding paragraphs from “New Zealand’s defense model: An example for Singapore?”
“What can Singapore learn from New Zealand?
I’m not suggesting Singapore should adopt New Zealand’s example completely for New Zealand’s defence needs is different from ours. New Zealand has an ally in its neighbour, Australia, and is not situated in a heavily-militarized region as Singapore does.
Nevertheless, if New Zealand can meet its defence needs with less than 15,000 personnel, surely Singapore can do with less than 100,000? I believe it can do even lesser than this number. Many would disagree with me. They might feel every soldier is critical to an army’s defence. That is true to a certain extent. Having a large army is counter-effective as the North Korea has shown. What good is an impressive army when its people have to shoulder the burden of military expenditure with poverty and poor health?
A huge army might be a good deterrent against an imaginary invasion, but there are more credible threat threatening Singapore: diseases. The less well-off would skip medical attention, believing they can get well on their own, to avoid the cost for treatment. That is a very dangerous act that could lead to death. According to MOH, pneumonia is third leading cause of death, 15.3% of case, in Singapore as of 2009. Early treatment in some cases of pneumonia can prevent death.
I feel Singapore can implement a system similar to New Zealand’s District Health Boards. Though Singapore is a city-state and does not have land area the size of New Zealand, its population size is larger. Each region of Singapore are different demographically and better needs of its residents can be met if overseen by a health board. A regional health board can provide a transparency in health expenditure and services dispensed. If the health board members are also members of Parliament or members of the public, perhaps the people can have a larger say in decision making and the health services they want.
As the climate changes for the worse, cases of new contagious and virulent diseases will rise. Is Singapore more prepared for something as deadly as SARS? Perhaps, but won’t it be better if Singapore spend more money on health care, more than 3.1% of its GDP, to safeguard better the health of Singaporeans? What’s stopping Singapore from at least providing free health care service to our youngest, our oldest and our most vulnerable? Won’t you rather have granny access to free health care whenever she needs it and whatever her affliction?”