It has been a year of turbulence. From Brexit to Trump, the Western world has been rocked by seemingly unexpected turns of events. Events that have defied what the spin merchants have been weaving tirelessly.
First there was the disbelief at Brexit taking place. How could the United Kingdom exit the European Union lamented the vocal public, especially those used to having themselves heard on the world stage of social media platforms.
It’s the quiet equivalent of Singapore’s heartlanders, who worked in the rural areas and wanted life as it was, who flexed their muscle and forced the issue.
Now, with Donald Trump thumping Hillary Clinton and running the Democrats out of House and Senate, the unlikely has repeated itself. A much-maligned candidate lost in the vote count but won the electoral votes. The after effects, like Brexit, are not pretty. The world as most people saw it and portrayed it, was going to be changed suddenly onto a path of uncertainty.
And again, it was the rise of the frustrated common man; the large swathe of the anonymous working class who toiled to build up the country, only to find themselves being spurned and left behind by a government favouring shiny new thing and policies that favoured theory more than practicality.
Probably a good lesson for those entrusted in steering countries to realise that everyone should be part of the race. Or at least consulted before the wheels are put into motion.
As the UK figures its next move and the US waits to see what Trump will try and undo of President Barack Obama’s work, and leaders of countries try to be polite with their congratulatory messages, what do we see coming at us? STORM talks to a cross-section of people to get their views about the future that is looming.
7 Trump Points To Ponder
N Varaprasad, Partner, Singapore Education Consulting Group
While the shockwaves of the US Presidential election are still going around the world, analysts, pollsters, bloggers, news sites, facebookers, comedians and serious people are still analysing what really happened on 8 November 2016. While they are still dissecting the past, let’s take a look ahead and see what a Trump Presidency could mean for the world and for us in Singapore.
There are those who think that President Trump will be different from candidate Trump and become more rational, pragmatic and reasonable in tone and action. On the other hand, there are those who think that what you see is what you get (I admit to being in this category).
Trump is not known for policy minutae or for holding a thought for long. He is reactive and unpredictable in his actions and words. He is capable of holding a grudge until payback time. It would be prudent to remember that he got to be President by using hyperbole, exaggerations and insults.
Nevertheless, there are areas which he can do little about, and others where he can either do good or a lot of damage, especially as there will be hardly any check and balance to speak of (the Judiciary and Congress). So here are the clues to look out for you to decide which Trump will prevail:
Cabinet appointments: If he appoints his close proxies like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, this would indicate that he is not prepared to have thoughtful people, but ideological clones.
Protectionism and Trade: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead for sure. If he starts dismantling NAFTA, raises tariffs on imports, then we in Singapore will feel it as will China, Japan, South Korea and others.
Immigration: Forget the wall with Mexico. However, if he keeps his word to send back immigrants without papers, and reduce the H1B quota, this would affect the free flow of talent. This could be a plus for Singapore if it attracts some Singaporeans back.
Law and Order: Civil strife is already sparking up. Look for more of it as the police are given more free rein. American Muslims will come under greater scrutiny by the right-wing fringe, and will become a target.
Middle East: The finely-constructed deal with Iran will come under pressure; the Palestinian issue will grow more intractable, and Saudis will come under more pressure. Syria and ISIS could be in the headlines for more years to come, as it is not possible to bomb them to oblivion.
Foreign Relations: The choice of Secretary of State will be crucial in knowing the direction here. Relations with the EU, China, Russia, Japan, and India. Africa will once again be the forgotten continent.
Climate Change: If we see deregulation of environmental standards and more use of coal, there will be ripple effects all over the world and the painstakingly put together agreement which was recently ratified could go out the window.
A Well-Run Campaign
Charlene Kang, Director, Vault@268
Donald Trump ran a smart campaign, focusing on the perception of external conflict. He used that to rally his voters, and to trumpet the message to the world.
Trump is a businessman after all, and he will run America like a business eventually. Trump is a bit far right and capitalist, which may be good to turn the economy back on track. It won’t be the first time USA has shut its doors. Remember September 11th when the Twin Towers collapsed.
So if Trump lives up to his campaign slogans and does not back out on his promises, America may find its way back. Unfortunately, they will have to go through his “cleansing” process. Resulting in mass migration pattern happening in the next few years.
I have my concerns about the green energy issue. He’s going back to coal, but that’s a political decision. Taxes may drive up the price of goods but given the materialism in the world, it should address some carbon footprint issues.
Overall, this is just another blow after Brexit, 1MDB, President Park Geun-hye and Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership in this region. Leadership is facing challenging times at the moment. No country seems to be doing it right. We are a difficult generation to lead due to the Internet.
Trump may have his idiosyncrasies but his team can always correct him later. Let’s hope he is the one wrong thing that may make things right.
Voice Of Optimism
Dr Stephen Riady, Executive Chairman, OUE
“While it is still too early to comment on the impact of a Trump presidency, we believe that Mr Trump has a good and strong team behind him to make a positive social impact.”
A Christmas Gift From The Joke Shop
Lord John Bittleston, Executive Chairman, Terrific Mentors International
“Brexit x 10. That’s what he said but did he mean it? How will he deliver the promises made in the heat of campaign? Will the United Sates remain even remotely united? We know that left-wing administrations turn right in power. Will an apparently very right wing administration turn left as it enters the Oval Office? What got Trump elected?
There is a sense of disgust with most governments, with many employers, with a lot of parents, with whole swathes of the teaching profession, with religious authority and, in fact, with anyone who has to order the disorderly, turbulent world we live in. It emanates not from the obviously suppressed, though they are sympathetic to it, but from a large part of the middle class that feels it has carried the burden of world crises for the last 10 years and got nothing but criticism for doing so. Not only that, but their wages have not gone up to match their overwhelming responsibilities. They’ve had enough. They are the closet voters. Well, they’ve come out of the closet now. What will they do with this understandable but incomprehensible victory?
The President of the United States is invested with stature and gravitas by virtue of his office. Ronald Reagan moved from a bit part to centre stage with style. He let others take the credit because they did all the work. Trump won’t be like him but he will feel the mantle of office heavy on his shoulders. He has managed without advisers for much of his campaign.
He will have advisers galore now whether he likes it or not. I dare say he will listen to them, at least in the areas of foreign policy and diplomacy. If he doesn’t we are, for certain, going to have a very hard time.
He will try to give himself stature, to be a People’s President certainly but to be an American President, too. I don’t doubt his sincerity in wanting America to be great again but I wonder why he doesn’t realise that America is still great and needs to maintain its position in the world as a great nation.
I think he will modify his extreme views, conduct a few fairly unconventional international visits, make several decisions that demonstrably bring jobs back to USA, do a good job of negotiating trade terms with other countries who might regard him as hostile based on what he said on the hustings. He will not achieve all he wants to do — no President could — but he is in a very strong position to negotiate with the Republicans in the Senate and the House. They don’t want to lose the Presidency or the political power they have acquired and he basically doesn’t care if they do. You cannot be in a stronger position than that.
President Trump is a Christmas present from the joke shop but he may turn out to be more effective than the itching powder they put in your stocking. As the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan said “It’s Technicolor”. Whether you like him or not, you will notice him. You may want to take care that he doesn’t notice you.”
Transcending The Trump
Melisa Teo, artist and photographer
Donald’s Trump extraordinary rise to power has driven father against son. Neighbour against neighbour. State against state. And driven the world to question its own values and beliefs. In times such as these, we can apply art as a balm to smooth the invisible lines that separate men from men. Art unlocks the finitude of our minds so we can embrace the infinity of the consciousness to transcend the divisiveness that Trump preaches. And understand that, despite our differences, we are all connected.
May The Businessman Prevail
The Singapore Business Federation
The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) sent out a release following the election. We highlight some salient points.
The US was Singapore’s third largest trading partner in 2015 with a total bilateral trade of over S$75 billion. According to the US Department of State, the US is Singapore’s largest foreign investor with investments reaching US$154 billion in 2013. Trade between ASEAN countries and the US cumulatively amounted to USD $227 billion at the end of 2014, supporting over 370,000 American jobs.
Businesses across the globe will need to adjust to this new normal in American politics.
This US Presidential Election has unmasked the strong undercurrents that are dividing their society. This also appears to be what we see as a growing and worrying trend of inward-looking and protectionist politics globally. Such politics threaten stability, which is particularly important at a time when the global economy is fragile.
The ripple effects of these policies will affect the multilateral US-led TPP. Opposing the TPP undermines the ethos of credibility, free trade and investment — values which are strongly advocated by US and Singapore. We hope that President-elect Trump’s administration will focus on the longer-term benefits and the strategic value that TPP can bring to the US.
President-elect Trump is a businessman. He will understand where to put the smart money. We are therefore confident that US corporates will remain strongly engaged in the region. We are friends and we will continue to do good deals.