Back in July, I mentioned that the Singapore government planned not to allow anti-IMF/World Bank demonstrations to take place (except in certain prescribed indoor areas). I also said that the IMF and World Bank were unhappy about this - for they welcome the active participation of civil society in their matters . To recap, here's what a World Bank representative said:
'While we recognise the desire of the Government to provide space for civil society within the conference precinct, we believe that other options could give civil society representatives more space and more opportunity to express their views, without violating Singapore laws,' Mr Stephens wrote.Well, the matter has since worsened somewhat. The Intelligent Singaporean provides the relevant links. Here's an excerpt from the very respectable Financial Times, to give you a flavour of the current situation:
'Effective inclusion of the voices of civil society is key to ensuring that their Annual Meetings are a success'.
IMF and World Bank rebuke SingaporeSounds nasty, doesn't it? So much for the Four Million Smiles project. It looks like out of this whole IMF/World Bank event, Singapore has succeeded in creating a bad reputation for itself - even before the event actually gets started.
By John Burton in Singapore and Shawn Donnan in Jakarta
Published: September 8 2006 13:16
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Friday issued an unprecedented rebuke to Singapore over a ban on accredited activists invited to attend the annual meetings of the two financial institutions next week.
The IMF/World Bank suggested that Singapore had violated the terms of its agreement to host the event by blocking the entry of 19 civil society representatives, who allegedly posed a security threat.
I wonder if it would have been better for Singapore not to host this event at all. Singapore's views on civil society are way out of sync with those in other developed countries - we knew that already. But now our backwardness is now being highlighted all over the international press, in a most embarrassing manner. We wanted a high profile, and now we're getting it - for all the wrong reasons.
I am not completely unsympathetic towards the Singapore government's security concerns over the World Bank/IMF event. But if the World Bank/IMF event is such a hot potato, then perhaps the better decision would have been for Singapore to give it a skip.
Yes we want to be champion mice - but the world has many other international events which don't normally attract protests and demonstrations, and aren't natural magnets for terrorist attacks. Can't we focus on those?
And I'm not saying this, just because I happen to work in Suntec City.
Technorati: Singapore; IMF; World Bank.