Thursday, February 03, 2005

Casino: It’s about money versus money 

In my post “Parliamentary debate chokes on values”, I had mentioned Member of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon saying that the casino debate is about “money versus values”. Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan has a different take.

Too early to decide if Singapore should have a casino: DPM Tan
Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan has said he feels it is too early to decide if Singapore should have a casino...

Dr Tan said: “It is a complex issue and we can look at it in many dimensions. I think it is good that people should be given time to give their views. A lot of debate has been going on for this issue for quite some time. It has been framed in various ways I think.

“One discussion has been to look at it from value against money. Do we sacrifice our moral values for economic gain? There is a lot of talk on that issue. Another way to look at it is some people have tried to frame it as an issue of whether Singaporeans are mature enough. Can they look after their own money? Are they responsible? Are they grown up?

“My own view on the casino debate. I would tend to take a very hard-headed practical view of the casino, pragmatic. To me the essential question is on balance. Is having a casino in Singapore an economic plus or an economic minus for Singapore?”
In other words, it is not so much “money versus values” but “money versus money”.

That’s not too surprising. After all, for those who talk in terms of values, what exactly are the values that are usually mentioned in relation to the casino debate? Freedom from the vice of gambling, working hard for a living. What is the point of these values? Accumulating and retaining money. So it has always been money versus money.

You can also argue that it has always been values versus values — and I’m not just referring to the accumulation of money as a value. A casino brings money to Singapore. But it does this by allowing free enterprise. And in the process, it creates jobs — jobs that allow Singaporeans to better provide for their families, something that the “values” group can probably relate to.

So at the end of the day, money and values are merely means to ends. But different people connect with the issue in different ways depending on how the issue is framed.

Some people connect better when the issue is framed in terms of money; Dr Tony Tan is a case in point. Others connect better when the issue is framed in terms of values. If the pros for having a casino are cast in terms of money while the cons are cast in terms of values, the latter would tend to oppose allowing a casino, and vice versa.

The Singapore government is generally pragmatic and would probably not limit itself to thinking in just monetary or values terms. As Dr Tan says, the issue can be looked at in many dimensions, although in this regard, Dr Tan’s own statement quoted at the end of the Channel NewsAsia report is revealing.

Of course, personal circumstances also matter. Those who know people who are addicted to gambling, for example, would tend to oppose it. Those who are unemployed might welcome it.

Huichieh has also posted his own take (see “The Prince and the People”) on how the Singapore government handles issues like the casino, as did Han earlier.


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