Is Wikileaks making the Singapore Inc brand look like BP?

December 15, 2010

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)

 A simple question: is the Singapore Inc brand resilient enough to come out unscathed from the Wikileaks scandal? Some people may say that the Ministry of Foreign affairs has nothing whatsoever to do with Singapore Inc – I disagree as the whole idea of government is so pervasive and all encompassing that it’s hard if not impossible to delineate what is and is not Singapore Inc.

Let’s down a couple of cocktails and be perfectly frank; the persona that makes up the whole Singapore Inc brand can range to anything from SIA girls sporting designer Kebaya’s to discreet, congenial and efficient diplomats (providing they are not drinking and dealing lah – once they hit those cocktails then all bets are off lah) who radiate cool efficiency as they negotiate free trade agreements – that however was before the Wikileaks revelations.

These days when we consider how damaging those memos and cables revealed by Wikileaks were on the Singapore Inc brand – it conjures the image of a beleaguered BP following the Gulf of Mexico disaster when it went from being No. 1 in the brand-loyalty index in the oil industry — to dead rubber duck last of the untouchables. This coupled with its “how low can you go?” stock price has become the quintessential story of how a big brand can come crashing down like timbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer.

Will Singapore Inc end up like the ignominious fall from grace of BP?

I hope not – one reason why I’ve used BP as a comparative alongside Singapore Inc is because both share startling structural similarities – firstly, they both believe they’re at the top of their game – secondly, they both believe that they culled the best of best brains in the market – and thirdly, they both believe that they have a copper clad reputations that take whatever their competitors throw at them – paradoxically, one of the reasons why BP’s fall from grace was so sudden and unexpected could have been partly due to one or more of the reasons I listed above – for starters the firm has nurtured itself as the ultimate “green” oil company, amongst other similar oil companies who often seen by the public as either plain bochap (ambivalent) or only paid scant attention to the environment – as a consequence, the ubiquitous image of BP was considered greener than green; this coupled with its new sunflower logo; a new vision, “Beyond Petroleum,” and the playing up of the BP acronym instead of its name; and its boasts about alternative-energy initiatives such as wind farms positioned it as a leader in its game.

Similarly the Singapore Inc brand appears to have emulated the same model of success – where it has carefully nurtured the image of intellectual probity, good governance and delivery reliability based on a coterie of scholars. Along with vigorously selling the “win win” calculus as the appellation of excellence.  To complete this mythology a pantheon of firms help magnify this image of infallibility, efficiency and trustworthiness regionally via Temasek, GIC and other Singaporean firms which have a global footprint.

All of that seems laughably hollow now as the Singapore Inc brand has been unmasked for what it really is by Wikileaks. But the epochal problem for Singapore Inc just like the failed BP brand actually goes way beyond whether it was able to fulfill the lofty expectations it had managed to peddled to the general public – the problem was so much of it depended on the power of mythology and managing that perception – and all it really takes is for someone to go back stage and take a peek at what’s really going on – and in certain respects just as a busted oil well 2 miles down somewhere in the gulf of Mexico revealed BP for what it really was – a flake. Will further dumps by Wikileaks do the same to Singapore Inc.

I hope not.

(Some parts of this essay has either been shortened, removed, deleted or self censored due to full measured response)

 “I say who the devil is this Temasek Daddy? Is he a new fellow? I say old boy, didn’t that chap use to go by the moniker Singaporedaddy not so long ago? He is the Internet Liaison Officer of the Confederation…am I right? We went to school together in Eaton.”

“Right you are. Singaporedaddy has now rebranded himself as Temasekdaddy – it appears Singapore doesn’t seem to be in season these days, like Lychees in September wot… especially in Kuala Lumpur.”

“I say old boy is that a Singapore sling you have there?”

“You mean Southern comfort don’t you.”

“Yes, Southern Comfort. My regrets old boy…terrible business that…”

A reception hosted somewhere in Jalan Duta by the Saffron route Liaison officer based in Kuala Lumpur in conjuction with the Interspacing Mercantile Guild & the Laanstrad to commemorate the christening of the new Super Class Dimitri class Space Station – KDD Alor Setar / KDD Yah Ah Loy.


“Gentlemen let me speak plainly. No one doubts a married man regularly makes love to his wife. In just the same way no one doubts I or even you may say unflattering things behind my or your back. The issue here is not the truth; neither does it have anything to do with the pursuit of the truth – if that were really the case, then we could all just as well move on with admirable ease and none of us would need to drive 400 km to smooth things out with the Malaysians –for any relationship to grow, there must be some tension – this the French call je ne sais quoi – the Russians Marzuokar – the Spanish, Chiaroscuro – there is no equivalent in English, so don’t waste your time trying to google it – now that the cat is out of the bag; there is no more mystery, no more Marzuokar, no possibility of saying, we cannot confirm or deny that – and God knows what else your countryman has been blabbering behind the backs of others – Gentlemen, behold, the ugly Singaporean he is out in the open, warts and all – and his “win win” song and dance now sounds like a requiem. His indiscreations a flag of defeat! The Laanstrad considers him a wash out! A carpet bagger! He is finished!

What are we going to do Gentlemen? It is regrettable but we are now so intertwined with the whole idea of the Singapore Brand – when people deal with us; they see Singapore and us as one reality – so what affects Singapore will affect us as well – there is no other way; the four houses of the Laanstrad have all agreed; we have to send someone into the endless labyrinth of the virtual to stop further leaks, we want Darkness to do this.”

“Your Excellency, I protest…I would have you know Darkness is a criminal! And he has 71 charges pending against him! I will…”

“Centurion, do you see these seals? This man has had too many cocktails. Take this man out and shoot him! Where was I?”

“Your excellency, you were on the subject of Darkness.”

 “Yes, we want you the Council of the Wise to pardon unconditionally that troublemaker, you all call Darkness and his entire crew, JDAM, Scholarboy, Astroboy, the whole lot; the rest of the tribes are demanding that you do this immediately, especially the Malaysians; they may not understand one word of his broken guitar Malay, but let us face it, without that used car salesman; we would all not be able to sell those Superclass Space stations – the Laanstrad has authorized me with these four seals to see to this matter; to do everything humanly possible to stop these leaks – to insert Darkness and his team into the mess of the virtual to stop further leaks, hopefully, he will be able to pull it off like he what he once did during the Ascension Wars – do you understand why you cannot send Darkness back to Singapore? We want him back here in Kuala Lumpur! We want him to report to the Laanstrad directly. There is no more dotted line to the Council.  And thereafter to fly to Bueno Aries! Is there any part of this message that you all do not understand? I am clear Gentlemen? Please try to understand Gentlemen, this is business, it’s nothing personal. The Laanstrad now wants to know who we can blame for this? We always need someone to blame.”

Sar-har-bat (his excellency, the personal envoy of the Emperor of the Known Universe, Laanstrad)

Excerpt captured by an auto-bot crawler – on board Liberati Deep Space Star Cruiser – KDD Carphatia – Laanstrad.


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