To what extent does your country have a moral obligation to help others?

Singapore has established a prominent and reputable presence in regional and international affairs and has always been wary of the challenges that plague the world. her astute and shrewd government has enabled for the formation of bilateral ties, which are essential in ensuring long-term stability. Singapore has developed drastically since she gained independence in 1965, and has built a commendable degree of technological expertise and knowledge in the scientific, political, social and economic realms, However, it may be pretentious to argue that Singapore is always obliged to help other nations as the recipient countries may be unwilling to accept the aid, and sometimes, Singapore must prioritise the needs of her citizens first. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that Singapore is indeed obliged to help other nations to sustain diplomatic ties, maintain international security, leverage on her expertise and for the future benefit of Singapore.

Singapore has an obligation to help other nations to sustain the diplomatic ties she has established with her regional counterparts. Singapore has signed various treaties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), one of which is the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea. Following the burgeoning tensions in the waters, Singapore’s failure to respond and assist China would only cast Singapore as oblivious and apathetic. Hence, during Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s visit to China in March 2016, he proposed a short-term interim solution to avoid accidental miscalculation that could lead to conflict art sea. Additionally, Singapore has to show concern in the plight of the South China Sea has a large percentage of trade passes through the sea, and should tensions escalate, Singapore’s trade could be adversely affected. This shows that it is only ethically correct for Singapore to assist China to not only uphold the treaties that she has signed, but to secure domestic and international interests. Should regional interests, like trade, be threatened, countries in the region like Thailand and Myanmar, who are not as rich in resources as Singapore is may experience further problem, causing more burden to Singapore. Hence it is only right for Singapore to provide aid in the South China Sea dispute.

Besides regional security, Singapore has an obligation to help other nations to maintain international security, and consequently, enhance her own security. This dynamo effect is only made possible due to the dynamics of this highly globalised world, where events in one country have a direct impact on the status of other countries. For example, between 1999 and 2003, as well as between 2008 and 2013, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), in support of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Timor-leste, contributed over 1000 personnel and equipment like Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) and UH-1H helicopters in the international effort to resort peace and security in Timor-Leste. To enhance her own security Singapore has prevented extremists from using Afghanistan to export terrorism to the rest of the world, including our region. Such assistance show Singapore’s commitment towards safeguarding global interests and hence the world would perceive Singapore as credible, and this would allow us to continue being respected in the global arena. Hence, Singapore has a moral obligation to help other nations.

Furthermore, it would only be right for Singapore to lend a hand to other nations so that we can put our rich technological expertise and lofty knowledge to good use, and in the process share our experiences to other less developed nations for their betterment. For example, Singapore has heaped more than 170 developing countries in South-east Asia to the Pacific Islands, and from Africa to Latin America on capacity building and addressing climate change issues. To date, Singapore has trained close to 11,000 officials from developing countries on climate change programmes alone. Furthermore, Singapore has herself undergone an arduous development journey, and thus would be more aware of the best approaches to assistance. Singapore is also capable of providing non-tangible assistance. For example, although we are geographically incapable of providing shelter to the displaced Rohingya refugees, we offered a US$200,000 contribution through ASEAN to support the efforts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia who have been providing shelter to these refugees. Singapore is also blessed with a pool of intellectual ministers who can offer their suggestions to the three aforementioned countries. Hence, it is inarguably true that Singapore has a moral obligation to help other countries and would do whatever she can to alleviate any problems.

Lastly, Singapore realises that it is only right to help other countries for the future benefit of Singapore should we be in peril. To be completely objective, it must be acknowledged that Singapore is to some extent limited in her influence and there would be situations where we would need the aid of other nations. Helping other nations in the hope that they would reciprocate the same help back to Singapore is a worry investment. For example Singapore has helped the US by signing various trade agreements like the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and the US has in turn helped Singapore through foreign direct investments like Harely Davidson. Hence, Singapore is indeed morally obliged to help other nations for the purpose of long-term benefits.

The natural corollary to the aforementioned arguments is that Singapore does not have a moral obligation to help other countries when the recepient countries are resistant about receiving aid. This would only worsen relations between both countries, and Singapore might be construed as intrusive. An apt example would be the haze quagmire in Indonesia that has taken a drastic toll on Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesia has expressed its discontentment towards Singapore, saying that Singapore should refrain from commenting on Indonesia’s efforts as the latter’s government was in the process of implementing policies. In such times, Singapore should not undermine Indonesia’s national sovereignty and perform that is ethically correct and accede to Indonesia’s demands to prevent any tension.

Moreover, detractors argue that Singapore should not be obliged to help other nations as she needs to protect he down citizens in times of economic hardship, hence Singapore should not be legally bound to any aid agreements. A pertinent case in point would be the 2008 global financial crisis. Only an inept politician would offer assistance to other countries in such a situation. During the crisis, Singapore had to resort to austerity measures, quickly bring the economy back to the full employment level and mend the depreciating exchange rate. Had Singapore helped other nations, Singaporeans would have been unhappy with the government’s unloyalw actions. Hence, Singapore should not be morally obliged to assist other nations, and only lend a hand when she has the capacity to do so.

In conclusion, while it is true that no country should be obliged to help other nations as this would disregard inevitable downfalls of the donor country, I firmly assert that Singapore is indeed morally obliged to help other nations as she has established such a reputable position worldwide. She is highly regarded for her rich expertise that would give her an edge over other economies. As long as Singapore can strike a balance between domestic and international needs, I remain hopeful that Singapore is obliged to help others.

Score: 40/50

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