OPINION: Riot Exposes Dark Side of Singapore's Boom - Nisid Hajari

Bloomberg, 10 Dec 2013
From all appearances, Singapore seems to have dealt with the nation’s first riot since 1969 with its usual efficiency. The streets of Little India -- where an Indian migrant worker was killed by a bus on Sunday night, sparking two hours of mayhem -- have been cleared of debris. The government has called for a commission to investigate the incident, and has charged 24 Indian nationals with rioting. Officials have banned the sale of alcohol in the area this weekend. Citizens have been instructed to remain calm.
Up to this point, official have resisted linking the outbreak of violence to the alienation and poor working conditions of the migrant workers who gather in Little India on Sundays — their one day off, if they're lucky. There’s nothing wrong with this logic: the several dozen rioters who attacked police and first responders on Sunday night work for different employers, all of whom may be perfectly upstanding businessmen. The rush to find deeper sociological explanations for acts of disorder -- think of the London riots in 2011 -- is often misguided.
All this is true -- yet so is the fact that the hundreds of thousands of low-wage migrant workers who have laid the foundations for Singapore’s spectacular growth suffer all the same problems in the proudly efficient city-state as do their compatriots in much poorer, more chaotic nations. Middlemen charge huge fees to procure jobs and work permits. Bosses often delay or even withhold pay, knowing they can always get workers deported. Laborers are often housed in grim conditions, with dozens of men crammed into tiny, lightless rooms and sharing a single bathroom. Full story

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