09 September 2006

A Lost Bet: The IMF/World Bank Meeting

The IMF/World Bank has issued a strong statement, requesting Singapore to allow protests during the IMF/WB meeting. More than that, it has also implied in that press release that by banning protests, Singapore has broken the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between both parties. This comes after the police released a statement saying that they will shoot to kill anyone who threatens someone else.

Originally, the IMF/World Bank meeting is highly beneficial to Singapore as it serves to highlight Singapore's potential in hosting such international conferences and events. More than the immediate revenue from the event itself, if the meeting goes on smoothly, Singapore will gain by attracting the attention of other global organisations. Thus, this meeting has became a super-advertisement for Singapore.

However, it is appearing to morph into a liability. Assuming that Singapore maintains its no-protests stand, the accusation that Singapore is breaching the MOU may have negative repercussions. Already suffering somewhat a bad name internationally for banning protests, this additional fact will smudge Singapore's reputation to host such an event. Why should another international conference be held here when Singapore will not keep its end of the bargain?

If the government finally relents and allows protests, this will possibly result in a worse consequence, which has manifested in online discussions before the ban was announced: why are foreigners allowed to protest when locals are not? Why is it that foreigners have a voice while Singaporeans have their mouths zipped shut? How then can the government justify that Singaporeans are not allowed to protest on the basis of possible violence?

Either way, it seems that the government gotten itself entangled in a Catch-22 situation, a lost bet.

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