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Archive for the ‘Political economy’ Category

PAP govt missing the point on how to grow the economy?

In Economy, Political economy on 27/03/2014 at 4:54 am

Growing the economy doesn’t mean more FTs, nor more start-ups, nor more financing of SMEs (owners use money to buy property, flashy cars and donate to WP LOL), but an innovation ecosytem.

This comment by someone analysing the stagnation in the West applies here too

What we need if we are to avoid the much-feared “secular stagnation” is not many small startups—or an obsession with financing “SMEs”–but an innovation ecosystem in which these new firms are made relevant through a dynamic interaction of public and private investments. This requires a public sector able and willing to spend large sums on education, research and those emerging areas that the private sector keeps out of (because of high capital intensity and high technological/market risk); large firms which reinvest their profits not in share-buybacks but in human capital and R&D; a financial system that lends to the real economy and not mainly to itself; tax policy that rewards long run investments over short run capital gains; immigration policy that attracts the best and the brightest from around the world; and rigorous competition policy that challenges lazy incumbents rather than letting them get away with high prices and parasitic  subsidies.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2014/02/invitation-mariana-mazzucato

Given the importance the PAP places on growth (a growing economy translates into voters: a Hard Truth that went wrong when the PAP forgot that growth must benefit voters), one can only hope it focus on creating an innovative ecosystem, rather than talk about it, as it has done for yrs on end.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/productivity-ageing-population-immigration/

WP should resurrect its 1984 manifesto and 1991 speeches?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 21/03/2014 at 4:55 am

(Or “Back to the future for WP in next GE?

In the course of helping the author of Dissident Voices in the research for the sequel, I borrowed the WP 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book from the National Library, Marine Parade branch. I couldn’t find it on the shelves so I asked the librarian if it was “protected” by an invisibility field or was only available to the “right” people. No, it wasn’t hidden away under lock and key. It was openly displayed on the shelf near the PAP’s 50th anniversary book. But it is such an inconspicuous volume that I missed it.

The book told me things that the ST never reported about the 1984 and 1991  general elections. Remember that these events happened before the internet age. If the media didn’t report something, it didn’t exist for practical reasons (Somewhere I blogged on how the 1988 results for Eunos GRC came as a surprise: WP nearly won).

I learnt that the 1984 election manifesto was entitled”Wake Up to Your Freedom , It’s Time”. calling for the people to vote for “the Hammer for a caring society”. The WP called for

– Free and adequate medical care for the needy

– Commission to review education policy

–Free schooling and equal opportunities in education for children from poor families

– Workers’ rights

– Reduced CPF contributions and the right to take your CPF savings at 55

– Adequate care for the aged

– Greater share forSsingaporeans in the economic wealth

– Help for the disabled

– Abolition of tax subsidies and privileges for the rich

– Reasonable compensation for acquired properties

– Abolition of tax on water, light and telephone services

– Review of all fees paid to government and statutory boards

– Guaranteed personal for every citizen

– Freedom from exercise of arbitrary power and protection of citizen’s rights

All this in response to the younger PAP’s ministers call to vote for the PAP for a Swiss std of living.

Compare this to the 2011 manifesto (Key Highlights) which has since been watered down. No more public tpt nationalisation.

I find the 1984 manifesto more stirring and, more importantly, rationally relevant today. True the ideas in the manifesto sounded like pie-in-the-sky in 1984 (when I voted for the WP because I believed that a one-party state was bad for S’pore even though I was happy with most of what LKY, Dr Goh and the other Water Margin “bandits” were doing for us: ya I that ungrateful), but the ideas are no longer rubbish.

According to the PAP we now have a Swiss standard of living (huh? OK, like us the Swiss are unhappy about immigration, so unhappy that in a recent referendum they told the govt to restrict immigration)), and it’s a fact that we got oddles of money in the reserves (though you wouldn’t think so reading Chris Balding and his mindless “hate S’pore” groupies) thanks partly to Dr Goh’s ideas: doesn’t this mean we can now afford the things WP was calling for in 1984?

As regards the danger of overspending, we got the capital, and part of the income from it locked away from the govt in power, whether it be PAP or not. So the govt can only spend what it raises in taxes and the like, what with borrowing requiring the president’s approval.

So the ground is fertile for trying shumething new without worrying that the new policies cannot be reversed.

Another interesting fact I learnt is that according to the book in the 1991 GE, speeches centred mainly on bread-and-better issues:

The PAP would give beautiful promises before elections but there would always be strings attached — service charges would see a hike soon after.

– Under PAP’s reign, it would be difficult to maintain a family and provide decent education for the next generation.

– Their policies have promoted social inequality and a widening of the rich-poor divide.

– Job security for the workers was pathetically limited.

Sounds familiar?  Back to the future?

So, all in all, JBJ and his merry men of bicyle thieves*, ex-Woodbridge patients* , opportunists and economic illiterates were prescient. More prescient than me at least (trained lawyer and wannabe corporate financier). They were prescient earlier than Dr Chee who was still in shorts in 1984. Remember he had been banging away since the 1990s about growing inequality etc as the SDP rightly never fails to remind us. Well JBJ and his merry men had been doing so earlier.

With this track record, why doesn’t WP remind us that it called the future right in 1984 and 1991?

One reason could be that Low is a modest man, not prone in triumphalism; he was Organising Secretary in 1988. Another reason could be that the WP thinks that in the real world the public has a bad impression of the WP in those years even though JBJ is fondly remembered in cyberspace. History began only in 2001, after Low took power from JBJ.

It’s a fact (not a Hard Truth or a Heart Truth) that after the 1997 GE, the WP went AWOL (or is it MIA?).

It went so AWOL or MIA that it could only field two candidates in 2001. It had wanted to field a GRC team too but one James Gomez** it is alleged screwed up, even though publicly Low took responsibility for the balls-up. In 1988, in the first GE under the uber gerrymandering GRC system, it fielded 32 candidates of uneven quality and contested 6 GRCs and 14 SMCs. In 1991 it fielded 13 candidates in 2 GCs and 5 SMCs. in 1996 it fielded 14 candidates in 3 GRCs and one SMC (Houygang). The candidates in 1991 and 1997 were the kind of people voters were comfortable with.

True the leadership had a major distraction that started when JBJ as the editor of the Hammer, even though he didn’t understand written Tamil, published a letter written in Tamil. Let these extracts tell the story.

Legal Action: An Tamil Article Published on THE HAMMER
In November 1995, the Party and the whole of its Central Executive Council found itself the object of two defamation suits filed by five PAP Tamil MPs and eleven members of the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week arising from an article published in the Party organ, “The Hammer”. The Plaintiffs’ complaint in both suits was that the article implied that their efforts to promote the Tamil Language had been less than sincere.Members of the Central Executive Council under suit by PAP Tamil MPs and the Organising Committee of the Tamil Language Week were:-
Chairman Dr Tan Bin Seng
Vice-Chairman A. Rahim Rahman
Secretary-General J. B. Jeyaretnam
Assistant Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang
Treasurer Sim Say Chuan
Organising Secretary Ng Ah Chwee
Committee Member Lim Ee Peng
Committee Member James Teo Kian Chye
Committee Member James Tan Joo Leng
Committee Member K. Mariappane
Committee Member Chan Keng Sieng
Eventually, in September 1997, the Party and its Central Executive Council members agreed to pay the five PAP Tamil MPs by 6 instalments, damages for defamation of $200,000/- (inclusive of legal costs). The suit by the eleven members of the Organizing Committee was in the course of hearing at time of writing.
 …

Judgment: A Tamil Article Published in THE HAMMER
By the said Judgment given at the High Court on the 30th November 1998 that Jeyaretnam, A Balakrishnan and the workers’ party were collectively and severally ordered to pay ten of the plaintiffs in the said suit a total sum of $265, 000/- for damages and costs to be taxed.The Worker’s Party’s appeal against the said judgment was dismissed on 21 April 1999. By then the total sum had snowballed to close to half a million dollars, inclusive of legal costs.

(Above extracts from http://archive.is/lSomP#selection-1561.0-1583.184)

(Update at 6.52 on day of publication: More on nuances of the defamation case: http://article14.blogspot.sg/2012/03/who-got-facts-wrong-kenneth-jeyaretnam.html and http://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lrwc.org%2Fws%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F03%2FDefamationinSingapore.pdf&ei=N3ErU56GM877rAfhr4D4BA&usg=AFQjCNEGC0kB5Gwv5vdRztQr1ooO1060KA&bvm=bv.63316862,d.bmk)

Whatever the reason for not invoking the past in the past since 2001, the WP should seriously rethink the strategy of trying to be near-clones of the MIW. It was the right strategy in the noughties, and it culminated in the victories in 2011 (it campaigned as the voters’ co-driver to the PAP), 2012 and 2013. Huat ah.

But is it the right strategy for the next GE? For the reasons given above, I think not. It’s like the by-election strategy that was adopted by accident in 1991 (JBJ didn’t want it but he couldn’t get enough WP candidates); gd idea for its time but by the end of the decade had outlived its usefulness.

What do you think?

Especially if the ideas expressed here (http://thehearttruths.com/2014/03/19/truth-exposed-how-the-pap-will-crash-the-singapore-economy/take root in the real world), not juz  cyberspace i.e.”cowboy towns” (actually paper-warriors’ alternative reality).

As someone who wants for starters, an opposition that deprives the PAP of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, I don’t want the next GE to be a rerun of the 1997 one.

*OK, OK . Only one of each.  But there were many “strange” MP candidates, pre 1988. But thinking about it only those who perceived reality differently from other S’poreans would have dared take on the PAP in the 70s and 80s.  Remember LKY was no wimp like Goh or Pinkie; he was the leader of Water Margin “bandits”.

**Yup the same Gabra Gomez of 2006. His instructors in BMT would sure have been real nervous during range, and grenade throwing. In 2011, SDP made sure he kept away from the form filling.

When global rankings don’t flatter, PAP’s evolving response

In Economy, Humour, Political economy on 19/03/2014 at 5:03 am

“Troubles come in threes” is an old English saying.

he PAP may have reason to agree. The PAP has had three unflattering rankings. First off was the one early this yr from the people behind the Corruption Index.

Remember Ng Eng Hen getting upset with Transparency International (TI) for giving Singapore a “poor” rating last year for the way it spends money buying weapons. He said that TI’s assumptions for its assessment were flawed. He questioned its move to group Singapore in the same category as Iraq and Afghanistan. TRE rightly pointed out that given if the government finds TI not to be credible as Dr Ng has alleged in Parliament, perhaps the government should stop using TI’s rankings and surveys altogether.

For a start perhaps, CPIB could stop using TI’s rankings on its website. Presently, it prominently displays TI’s CPI on its home page.

Next, CPIB could remove all references to TI on its website [Link]:

[Err don't think this is done]

Also, PM Lee should remember not to quote TI in his speeches anymore [Link]:

(http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/02/19/dr-ng-condemns-tis-defence-spending-rating-for-sg/)

Smart people TeamTRE. TRE readers should note that the public face of TRE is a scholar and elite schoolboy. And they hate elites even though one of elites is on TeamTRE. Kinda irrational?

This was followed by EIU naming S’pore as the most expensive city in the world. Tharman rubbished this: My take on Tharman’s take.

BT, part of the constructive, nation-building SPH came out with a piece rubbishing the basis of the index Index and saying that it was not applicable to locals. Extract from BT is at end of article. Kinda long and boring.

Finally there was S’pore’s appearance at 5th spot in the Crony-Capitalism Index http://www.economist.com/news/international/21599041-countries-where-politically-connected-businessmen-are-most-likely-prosper-planet.

So far, there has been conspicuous silence from the govt and its media running dogs (apologies to the dogs) allies, even though the new media is flogging the story with glee, together with the takeover of Olam: anything to do in the PAP?

Could it be that the PAP has realised that silence is golden when it comes to responding to unflattering rankings. Perhaps it  has realised the self-defeating nature of rubbishing the unflattering ranking. It gives more publicity to the ranking, shows how hurt it feels and its rubbishing leaves PAP supporters wondering if the assumptions or basis of flattering rankings too are rubbish especially if the rankings come from the same organisation like in case of TI’s rankings.

As someone who hates triumphalism of any sort (the fates get tempted), I hope that the PAP’s silence extends to flattering ratings too. Pigs likely to fly first.

SINGAPORE may have climbed five spots to claim the “unenviable title” of the world’s most expensive city, according to a bi-annual ranking compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), but economists downplay the significance of the results.

While acknowledging the undeniable existence of rising price pressures here, economists The Business Times spoke to cautioned against extrapolating that the cost of living for locals has skyrocketed.

This is because two key factors – currency fluctuations and the survey’s expatriate focus – would “automatically limit” such deductions.

In order to achieve comparative indices, EIU’s Worldwide Cost of Living survey converts each country’s prices into US dollars. Therefore, a weaker yen pushed Tokyo – last year’s most expensive city – down to sixth place, and this paved the way for Singapore to claim the dubious honour this time around.

Therefore, Singapore’s ascent to costliest city was due in part to currency fluctuations – EIU noted that over the last decade, Singapore has seen 40 per cent currency appreciation.

Said UOB economist Francis Tan: “There’s so much (buzz) about Singapore taking the top spot, but a lot of this has been fuelled by the fluctuations in different currencies. I wouldn’t read too much into it, because next year we could be number 6 again.”

Mizuho Bank economist Vishnu Varathan added: “If one were to look at cost of living from the point of view of a domestic person, then currency movements arguably don’t matter as much.”

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun was also keen to highlight the survey’s expatriate focus and its purpose as a tool for determining foreigners’ salaries.

In its description of the survey, EIU said: “The survey itself is a purpose-built Internet tool designed to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.”

Still, emphasising that the basket of goods is “fairly broad to address a lot of essentials”, Jon Copestake, editor of the report, told BT: “The survey is also comparative between locations so it could be argued that if a city is most expensive for expats, then why not for everyone?”

But Mizuho’s Mr Varathan pointed out that “the survey has got inherent biases”: “As they’re looking to compare (like-for-like) items, they probably missed out on some local stuff, and that’s going to work against us. For example, if we take the price of a cappuccino, it will likely set you back about $5. But that’s not the same as getting Ah Poh’s coffee at Golden Shoe.”

Limitations aside, all three economists agreed that the survey results are worth reflecting upon, especially since currency fluctuations only tell part of the story.

Noting that Singapore’s rising price prominence has been “steady rather than spectacular”, EIU said that the city-state was the 18th most expensive city 10 years ago.

It said that Singapore has some structurally expensive items that “skew the overall cost of living upwards”, including cars. This has meant that transport costs in Singapore are almost three times higher than in New York.

Added EIU: “In addition, as a city-state with very few natural resources to speak of, Singapore is reliant on other countries for energy and water supplies, making it the third most expensive destination for utility costs.”

Although the survey’s findings could suggest that Singapore may be losing its cost competitiveness, UOB’s Mr Tan thinks otherwise: “There’s a reason why Singapore is expensive, and there’s a price to pay for everything. If (multinational corporations) want to be in a country where you push a button and things work, where there is near-zero political risk, where the business environment is vibrant – they’ve got to pay a premium for that.”   5March BT

Cost benefit analysis: PAP govt underestimating the value of human life?

In Economy, Financial competency, Political economy, Political governance on 12/01/2014 at 6:27 am

I came across this in the latest copy of the Economist in the letters section:

Petty’s cash ledger

SIR – You credited William Petty with inventing economics in the 17th century, but did not do full justice to his cost-benefit calculations (Free exchange, December 21st). The good doctor estimated the value of a person to be somewhere between £60-90 and in “Political Arithmetick” he suggested these values could be used “to compute the loss we have sustained” from the plague and war. In 1667 he argued that given the value of an individual and the cost of transporting people away from the plague in London and caring for them, every pound spent would yield a return of £84 as the probability of survival increased. (He also suggested that an individual in England was worth £90, and in Ireland £70.)

In a lecture on anatomy in 1676 Petty argued that the state should intervene to assure better medicine, which could save 200,000 subjects a year and thus represented a sensible state expenditure. Today’s economic estimates are more refined and the data are more exact, but the arguments presented by Petty still resonate in public policy.

Rashi Fein
Professor emeritus of the economics of medicine
Harvard Medical School

This set me thinking that since the govt is forever touting the importance of costing out the benefits of any spending proposal (something I agree with), maybe it should tell us how much it values a S’porean in monetary terms? Esp since the PM has just said that that more social spending does not mean better results http://www.tremeritus.com/2014/01/11/like-a-war-zone/

As pigs are likely to fly first maybe the SDP RI brains trust (Paul A, Wee Nam, Ang -Drs three- etc) can  “force” the govt to do so by coming up with their own SDP valuation, and what they calculate is the PAP valuation.

As to the co driver doing something? They wearing white?

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/why-a-2015-ge-is-now-more-probable/

Dr M, like one LKY, is losing his memory

In Malaysia, Political economy, Political governance on 31/12/2013 at 4:46 am

(There is some analysis of what one LKY said tagged on at the end but yes it’s analysis about M’sia week (previous) ).

Going by this extract from BT, seems that Dr M has forgotten that there was almost no money left in the Treasury when he stepped down.

FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that Putrajaya should cut its own costs before burdening the public with higher taxes and tariffs.

It was his first public comment on what has fast become a contentious issue among Malaysians: an increasing cost of living that is set to escalate in 2014.

After the general election (GE) in May, Malaysia was put on notice by the international rating agencies that it had to get its fiscal discipline right. Prime Minister Najib Razak responded by first cutting fuel subsidies and raising petrol prices by 10 per cent in September.

In his October Budget, Mr Najib abolished sugar subsides and pledged to cut total subsidies by 17 per cent in the financial year. The Budget did not achieve that, so most commentators expect more fuel subsidy cuts possibly in the second half of the year. Mr Najib also promised a 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) by next April.

Yes, yes, I know Badawi accused him of over-spending. But the fact that Badawi and now Najib are having to cut back govt spending shows that Dr M overspent when he was in power. Sadly this never happened here. If only GCT had spent more, LHL, would not be in so much shit. But don’t pity PM: he was DPM then, and in charge of economical and financial matters.

Coming back to Dr M. We can’t be too hard on him given that one LKY said that S’pore was a “barren rock” before the PAP took power. He must have got HK in mind when the British seized HK from the Chinese. I’ll let a HK official tell the story, It was on this day, January 20 in 1841 that a treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

 To cut a long story short, Captain Charles Elliot of the British Royal Navy had negotiated the terms of the agreement and reported them to Lord Palmerston who was then the Foreign Secretary in London.

Lord Palmerston was outraged that Britain had got such a raw end of the deal. He promptly dismissed Captain Elliot from his post and famously declared that Hong Kong was, and I quote: “A barren rock with nary a house upon it. It will never be a mart for trade.”

S’pore as all TRE readers will be able to tell you was the second most important port in Asia, though they may not tell you (because they may not know)  that it had problems, problems  outlined below*.

LKY would have been on safer ground if he had told S’poreans what might have happened if S’pore had gotten bad govt (like in Burma). But then S’poreans could rightly have asked if there were credible alternatives. The answer to that is not so obvious and detracts from the narrative that the PAP made S’pore. It didn’t: S’poreans of my parents’ generation made  modernS’pore on the colonial foundation. The PAP helped in the making.

*Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962)

(http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mai/new-book-singapore-correspondent/)
by Leon Comber*

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

Singapore Correspondent Book CoverSingapore Correspondent” covers five years of Singapore’s colourful political past – a period of living turbulently and sometimes dangerously. It is a collection of eye-witness dispatches, sent from Singapore to London, spanning a time when Singapore was emerging from British colonial rule and moving forward to self-government and independence. Many of the early struggles of the People’s Action Party (PAP) are described as the focus is on the political struggle taking place in which the PAP played a major part. Many important events which have long been forgotten are brought to life. These dispatches prove that political history need not be dull, and indeed can sometimes be entertaining and lively.

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

Reviewed here: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/im-invested-in-spore-spore-in-50s-60s/

Related: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

Ho Ho Ho: Santa = S’pore govt = Scrooge?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 26/12/2013 at 5:54 am

Santa’s critics note that higher profits and productivity have not resulted in higher pay for the elves. They were seeing their real incomes squeezed even before the Fairy Tale of Wall Street had an unhappy ending in 2008, and then took pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. With welfare being cut, most plumped for a job over the dole even if it meant a cut in living standards.

Santa accepts that the workforce has made sacrifices. But he insists these are vital to keep the company going at a time of cut-throat global competition. The elves have to understand, he adds, that the alternative to zero-hour contracts and pay cuts would be that the jobs would be outsourced from Lapland to a lower-cost grotto in the far east.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/dec/22/santa-elves-living-standards-surveillance

Doesn’t Santa sound like PM or his dad or VivianB or “cheaper, faster” Zorro  etc? I’m so confident that readers will agree that I wouldn’t give examples. This isn’t ST.

As to Scrooge, this is how Dickens described Scrooge before Scrooge repented and became a Dr Chee type of person (actually better than Mad Dog  as Scrooge had his personal wealth to spend on the poor, Dr Chee is depending on our reserves and higher taxes)

“Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

“Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

Mean of Dickens? Scrooge when asked for donations for the poor, “There are many things which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited” and  “Are there no prisons?”. Sounds very much like our very own VivianB when he was welfare minister?

Merry Christmas.

Thailand: Huge ad, gd PR for PAP govt?

In Political economy on 21/12/2013 at 9:12 am

The PAP govt is forever warning that if it loses power, or even loses one more parly seat, chaos will ensure.

Happily 40% of voters no longer believe this self-serving nonsense (hence LKY had to warn Aljunied voters that they would repent; and sneerer of the elderly poor, ACS boy is highlighting every molehill of the WP Aljunied town council), though I must point out that .70% of voters voted for two prominent ex PAPpies in the presidential election. The ex-PAP man who denounced PAP lost his deposit. Dr Chee’s man only got 25%: credible but only ’cause there were two credible ex-PAPpies challenging one another.

So all the more surprising that our constructive, nation-building media hasn’t been highlighting the dire economic situation in Thailand which can be reasonably blamed on Thailand’s more democratic system. Now that BN has closed down, time to bring back Bertha Henson to ST and make her editor? Yaacob’s sis (and Cherian George’s Mrs) isn’t doing the “right” things by the PAPpies, Spock – another bald, pointy ears: SPH’s Managing Editor elder brother?– could conclude.

So far as investors and businessmen crave certainty and predictability, the only thing certain in Thailand these days is unpredictability. The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s sister, now seems to have only the shakiest grasp on power. It’s a fair bet the election she has called for February 2014 will never even happen. She has assembled forums to discuss vague concepts of “reform”, to appease Mr Suthep. At the same time Mr Suthep pushes for a completely new government to be run by an unelected “people’s council”. That is also known as a coup.

For Thai businessmen, this is coming at the worst possible time: the beginning of the tourist season. Tourism is vital to the national economy. Last year the country pulled in about 22m visitors. Overall, the tourism-and-travel sector contributed about $28 billion to Thailand’s economy, which would make it worth 7.3% of GDP for 2012, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Including tourism-and-travel’s indirect impact on the economy would make the sector’s value rise to $64.3 billion, or 16.7% of GDP. The sector employs about 2m people directly, and far more indirectly.

There are already signs that the ongoing street protests and occasional political violence and thuggery are putting plenty of people off coming to the country—hardly surprising, as dozens of foreign governments have issued warnings against travelling to Thailand. The political situation is estimated to have reduced the number of inbound tourists in the month to mid-December by 300,000 people, or 8% of the number expected, says Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel.

That is worrying, as is the thought that the current turmoil could drag on to the election in February, or even longer if that proves inconclusive—in other words, throughout the high season. Mindful of the value of the tourism industry, Mr Suthep’s mobs have promised not to occupy and close down Bangkok’s international airport, as their predecessors, the “yellow shirts”, did in 2008. That is now well understood to have hurt the tourist industry, and the wider economy.

That will not be enough to offset the difference however, as even more tourists are now attuned to Thailand’s problems and willing go elsewhere on their merry ways. Bangkok also makes a bundle as a destination for conferences and conventions, but now organisers are actively considering going to other South-East Asian venues rather than endure the road closures and traffic chaos that accompany endless rounds of street demos (to say nothing of the threat of violence).

The government’s own grandiose spending plans have been thrown up in the air too.A key part of the government’s economic strategy had been to boost domestic demand by Keynesian-style spending, the political failure to have a functioning government has effectively undermined that whole strategy. Plans to borrow as much as $68 billion for new railways and roads are to be put on the back-burner as parliamentary and constitutional approval for these bills is delayed indefinitely. Many businesses, such as construction companies, stood to benefit from those expenditures, and now their plans have been derailed as badly as any holidaymaker’s. Thailand’s growth rate for 2013 is likely to weigh in at 3% or so, relatively modest for the region. The government’s hope to achieve a rate of 7% for 2014 now looks wildly optimistic.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/12/business-thailand

Merry Christmas, all, PAPpies and TRe readers, included.

No other Asean news for this week’s Asean-round-up. Lazy leh.

Ageing population Hard Truth is cock and bull?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 20/11/2013 at 4:25 am

The govt and the constructive, nation-building media keep shouting at us that a rapidly aging population (and the stas do show this aging as a fact, no bull here) will lead to disaster if FTs like two-timing new citizen Raj or Tammy’s killer or the FTs that beat up S’poreans and then fled S’pore*, or a looney, violent bank director are not allowed in by the container load. They point to Japan as what can happen if FTs are not allowed in: economic stagnation. The truth is more complex. As I reported here HSBC, a bank, in 2012 published research that Japan is doing pretty well when compared to other developed countries, including immigrant friendly countries like the US and the UK (though the UK is now repenting its liberal immigration policy)

Whatever the impact of an ageing population on S’pore’s prosperity, here’s a piece of evidence casting doubt on the assumptions (stated or unstated) behind the need to have a population of 6.9m by 2030. It comes from academics from the University of Edinburgh.

The idea that dependent older people represent a great demographic challenge of our age has been turned on its head …The research questions an assumption behind arguments for health, social care and immigration policies … The paper demands society rethink some of its assumptions about elderly dependency – drawing a distinction between the ‘young old’ and the ‘old old’

Here’s more from the BBC’s Home (i.e. domestic affairs) editor (Note that the paper in question is based on British statistics but the argument seems applicable elsewhere as he points out)

“The extent, speed and effect of population ageing have all been exaggerated and we should not assume that it will strain health and social care systems,” Professor John MacInnes and senior research fellow Jeroen Spijker write in the article ‘Population Ageing: The timebomb that isn’t?’

Healthier and fitter

The mistake people have been making, the paper suggests, is to assume that all pensioners are dependent and all working-age adults are workers.

They point out that, while it is true there are now more people over 65 in the UK than children under 15, rising life expectancy means older people are effectively “younger”, healthier and fitter than previous generations.

Instead of simply looking at how old someone is, the research focuses on how long they might be expected to live.

“Many behaviours and attitudes (including those related to health) are more strongly linked to remaining life expectancy than to age,” it says.

In 1841, life expectancy at birth was 40 years for males and 42 years for females.

By 1900 it was 52 and 57 and today it is 79 and 83. So the point at which we enter ‘old age’ has also been changing.

Equally, using age to define the adult working populations makes little sense, the authors suggest, because “there are more dependents of working age (9.5 million) than there are older people who do not work”.

So they calculated an alternative measure, what they call “the real elderly dependency ratio”, based on the sum of men and women with a remaining life expectancy of up to 15 years divided by the number of people in employment, irrespective of age.

Important implications

Using this measure, the paper calculates that old-age dependency in the UK fell by one third over the past four decades – and is likely to stabilise close to its current level.

The measure suggests similar falls in many other countries.

“Our calculations show that – over the past four decades – the population far from ageing, has in fact been getting younger, with increasing numbers of people in work for every older person or child,” the authors say.

“The different story of population ageing told by our real elderly dependency ratio has several important implications for health policy and clinical practice.”

In policy terms, this analysis to one of the central challenges of an ageing population might be something of a game changer. Rather than seeing longevity itself as an expensive problem, focus could shift towards managing morbidity and remaining life expectancy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24921171

The continued refusal of the govt to accept that the issue of ageing population is a complex one and the unwillingness to question its Hard Truth on the issue continued in the face of evidence that the Hard Truth is doing real harm looks all too similar to the intellectual fetters that led central bankers to persist in tighten monetary policy in the early 1930s when faced with a global Depression.

It also shows that they are unlike LKY and Dr Goh Keng Swee who were willing to challenge the conventional wisdom that allowing MNCs in amounted to neo-colonialism. And demographics is not the only issue where the PAP govt is wedded to Hard Truths. Take welfare, where there is evidence that gd welfare systems do not reduce the will to work: they do not make people lazy e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24974745: another University of Edinburgh study.

Maybe, time to send scholars there to learn to walk on the wild side, and think unHard Truths? After all  University of Edinburgh is a great university. It juz doesn’t produce the ruling elite of the UK or the US. Our scholars to to unis where the UK and US ruling elite are educated.

BTW, here’s an article on using robots to as carers for the elderly: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24949081

*PR was given to one after he beat up the S’poreans.

Gaming the system: Unsaid assumptions of PAP, NTUC MP

In Political economy on 18/11/2013 at 5:29 am

This call by a PAP,NTUC MP provoked me and someone else into some chim tots, MWC [Migrant Workers' Centre] cautions workers and employers alike to access the Work Injury System honestly and fairly so that it can provide meaningful compensation to workers who have suffered physical incapacity or impairment from legitimate injuries suffered in the course of their work.

(http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/change-mindsets-employers-workers-needed-20131115)

Someone posted on Facebook: From the way the statement by MWC is phrased, I think they should seriously rename themselves the Migrant Worker EMPLOYERS’ Centre, as it is clear they are more concerned about the employers’ interests than they are with the workers they claim to represent.

If the employer alienates the migrant worker for fighting for what he believes he truly deserves, shouldn’t the MWC take the employer to task for such a clearly discriminatory practice that is against MOM’s employment guidelines? Why side with the employer?

I responded to the poster: The unsaid assumptions (reasonable for a NTUC and PAP MP) are that the employers are usually fair-minded people, while migrant workers are out to cheat their fair-minded employers. LOL

I also posted:No matter how gd any system is, it can be gamed. The only way out is to give someone discretion to catch the gamers. Problem is that this leads to other problems*. BTW, gaming the rules is the reason the govt gives as an excuse not to legislate rights to many things that in other societies are accepted as part of the social fabric. Sadly the co-driver tends to agree with the govt. Only the SDP is prepared to challenge this self-serving excuse, not that I’m saying gaming will not happen. We juz have to accept that fact and change the rules, and accept that there will be abuses. Juz try to minimise it.

And as cutting and pasting this post, it struck me that the MAP, NTUC MP does not take into account in the statement, the imbalance of power and resources between the aggrieved migrant worker and an employer. One is on subsistence wages (by our standards at least), the other most probably drives a BMW or Mercedes and owns an apartment or two. This PAP, NTUC doesn’t know the meaning of social justice, and the need to level the odds in favour of the migrant worker.

*I was thinking of corruption. S’poreans are always complaining of the rigidity of the public service. One reason for such rigidity is that giving discretion to public servants, opens the doors to their exercising their discretion in return for monetary and other incentives. Hence the rule book.

Proof that FTs displace S’poreans?

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance, Public Administration on 28/10/2013 at 4:52 am

And ST reported the proof.

Can someone from govt, or its running dogs* in the think-tanks or the constructive, nation-building media explain this ST headline (and accompanying story) on 24th October?

ITE graduates in demand as SMEs face manpower crunch

 Job-matching scheme places ITE and poly students in local firms

ST went on

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are stepping up efforts to recruit Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates in a bid to combat the manpower squeeze.

The aim is to place some 300 with local companies every year over the next five years, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck yesterday.

The job-matching, which is part of Spring Singapore’s SME Talent Programme, has sent 32 polytechnic and ITE students to 15 firms since it was launched in June.

Seven trade associations and chambers have also reached out to more than 1,600 students to apply for jobs such as retail associates, clerks and technicians. Employers are eager for more.

(Backgrounder: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/10/24/demand-for-ite-grads-picks-up-when-foreign-quota-reduced/)

It’s reasonable to conclude from the ST story that this demand for ITE and poly grads is the result of the govt’s very slight retreat from its “We love FTs, first, last and always” policies**. So whatever happened to the Hard Truth that the the more FTs, the more and better jibs for locals? Seems more like BS doesn’t it? But then the line between a Hard Truth and BS can be pretty thin.

(Gd related article: http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2013/10/where-are-the-good-jobs-prime-minister)

for the record, Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist at GIC, has called for the immigration policy to be reversed. “What we need to do is to be much more stringent on admitting such unskilled labour. We’ve really got no excuse to be so relaxed about this kind of immigration.” (BTW, he has also called for the government to return to its roots to meet and serve the needs of ordinary citizens over public housing, education, healthcare, welfare and other services.)

If readers want to read, good, evidence-based critiques of govt policies, not the usual rhetorical rubbish that appears from most of the usual suspects most of the time, Uncle Leong excepted, follow “Lam Keong Yeoh” on Facebook.

Related posts:

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/rewriting-lkys-views-on-fts-and-if-so-why/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/sccci-sme-survey-proves-lkys-point/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/alternative-to-fts/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/alternative-to-fts-ii/

——
*No disrespect to Tammy and other dogs.
**OK, OK, I exaggerate. But if the govt and its allies can exaggerate, why can’t I?

Financial centres’ curses

In Economy, Internet, Political economy, Political governance on 13/10/2013 at 5:10 am

For all the highfaluting talk of govt and talk-cock artists especially in the local media, we don’t do things like this even though Burma is in Asean (our backyard):

[I]n Burma – or Myanmar – social media sites and the whole internet have been inaccessible for years.

For one Canadian-Vietnamese woman that has provided a unique business opportunity to found the Burma’s first-ever social networking site.

However, Rita Nguyen had never been to the country before this year as BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head heard.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24393043

Why?

(Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/a-very-high-tech-inventive-low-population-country/)

Are we are more comfortable as serfs slaves PMETs in a financial centre?

A recent article, interestingly, makes a compelling argument that places that depend on the financial industry (like S’pore) are like resource-rich countries, and like them suffer from the triple problems of a high exchange rate that causes problems for manufacturers, revenue volatility and poor governance.

Is finance like crude oil? Countries rich in minerals are often poverty-stricken, corrupt and violent. A relatively small rent-seeking elite captures vast wealth while the dominant sector crowds out the rest of the economy. The parallels with countries ‘blessed’ with powerful financial sectors are becoming too obvious to ignore.

http://taxjustice.blogspot.sg/2013/09/is-finance-like-crude-oil-resource.html

Another US innovation to breed entrepreneurs

… has designed I-Corps as a way of converting the most promising science and engineering projects in American universities into start-ups. The I-Corps teams … comprise just a principal investigator (usually a tenured professor), a younger entrepreneurial lead (undergraduate, graduate or post-doctoral student) and an experienced entrepreneur or venture capitalist as a mentor. Each of the 100 or so teams has received a [US}$50,000 to cover a crash course on how to avoid the pitfalls common to all new ventures … New ventures, they are taught, are all about finding customers, what distribution channels to adopt, how to price the product, who to partner with, and more. From day one, the mantra is “get out of the lab” … The I-Corps programme is based on the premise that all new ventures are little more than a series of untested hypotheses—in other words, optimistic guesses about market size, customer needs, product pricing and sales channels. With so many unknowns, the programme teaches participants to treat their start-up as if it were a typical research project, amenable to the same iterative process of hypothesis testing and experimentation.

http://www.economist.com/node/21559734

PM’s statement that’s so very wrong

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 02/10/2013 at 6:45 am

PM’s comments, “there are countries like China, Vietnam and India which are hungry and anxious to steal the lunch from us”, is pure inflammatory rubbish worthy of Gilbert Goh. They are not trying to steal from us. They are trying to improve themselves, by working harder (and perhaps smarter) than us. PM should leave anti-foreigner comments to Gilbert Goh and friends. Even TRE, TOC not into this kind of rubbish. The PM shouldn’t. But maybe he wants to talk on 5 October at GG’s “regime change” day.

Three other things wrong about his comment:

– Why is he comparing S’pore to these countries esp Vietnam? Tot, PM and his govt say we first world country like Switzerland, or global city like NY or London? I mean even manufacturers from China are moving to Vietnam because labour is cheaper there? What next compare us with Bangladesh or Burma?

– Productivity is more impt than working hard

And it seems that more productive—and, consequently, better-paid—workers put in less time in at the office. The graph below shows the relationship between productivity (GDP per hour worked) and annual working hours:

The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours

It’s all about working smart, like the decadent Japs that LKY mocks but who outperform the ang mohs. http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/honest-conversation-on-fts-lets-have-it-not-juz-pretend-that-weve-having-it-iswaran/

– “Insatiability, and the 15-hour week — Lessons in life and work”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/insatiability-and-15-hour-week

The most stinging rebuke to PM’s line of reasoning comes close to the end of this longish, but intellectually entertaining piece.

BTW, if PM is genuine about wanting us to trust the govt, in addition to not imitating Gilbert Goh and friends, he should

– ensure that this kind of inflammatory rubbish doesn’t appear in our constructive, nation-building media

I am Singaporean, therefore I am entitled
While there is nothing wrong with policies that are based on a ‘Singaporean first’ principle, it can be taken too far. Abuse of this principle could lead to racism, xenophobia and aggressive nationalism. By Wu Zijian
It’s stuff like this that makes me thing GG has a point (which he doesn’t) about FTs being the problem. The problem is the PAP govt’s “FT Tua Kee” attitude.
– not juz talk the talk on limiting FTs coming in. Using, govt stats, Uncle Leong shows the flood is still rising, not receding. http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/09/27/new-citizenships-increased-by-31-in-2012/

Why rising inequality shows that things are working

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 24/09/2013 at 4:52 am

No, not the PAP or one of its running dogs talking; but the Economist (Err OK it is part PAPpy friendly ecosystem http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/sporeans-avoiding-low-paid-jobs-are-not-lazy-or-daft-juz-rational/, on economic and financial matters, though not when it comes to things like human rights, hanging, democracy, drugs, gays and media freedom.)

The regeneration of Manchester regeneration hasn’t benefited the whole population of the city equally. This is certainly true. The authors of the Manchester Independent Economic Review, published in 2009, found that in the first decade of the new millennium, while in absolute terms, every part of the city improved, inequality in the city had actually sharply increased. The richest bits of the city got richer at a much faster pace than the poorest bits.

I’m not sure that is a bad thing however. Even if we accept that growing inequality across the country is a bad thing, in this case, it strikes me as evidence of success. After all, as this Work Foundation report found, the most equal parts of Britain are towns such as Burnley and Sunderland. Those places are not more equal because the money is spread out more fairly. They’re more equal simply because everyone is poor. Manchester’s growing inequality, like London’s, is proof that it has managed to create well-paying jobs for at least a minority of its population.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2013/09/manchester

Surprised our constructive, nation-building media, and the Breakfast Network and Independent are not telling us that rising inequality shows things are working. Maybe the media are waiting for media guidance.

But unlike Manchester, S’pore doesn’t have Manchester’s culture life that students find attractive: Cultural life feeds off economic success. After all, Burnley and Sunderland are not known for their great independent record shops and nightclubs. And it doesn’t have too EPL teams. BTW, for MU fans, the explanation for the defeat is simple: Allah and the Pope had the better of Yahweh on Sunday.

On the clubbing scene attracting students, I knew a German gal who chose to study in Manchester because of the nightclubs. She hated the weather though when she got there. BTW, while she was a party animal, she did very well in the IB exams, a perfect score.

Related posts:

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/the-pap-govt-has-lost-output-legitimacy-discuss/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/ingratitude-uniquely-sporean-blame-the-internet-not-really/

The PAP govt has lost “output legitimacy”: Discuss

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 23/09/2013 at 5:18 am

The ST has for several weeks been writing about the loss of trust between the people and the govt, and laying the blame on the people (“daft”) who are distracted by the new media’s DRUMS beating the RAVII theme ( OK I exaggerate but juz a little). (BTW, here in a different context, I’ve looked at the role the new media plays: amplification, not distortion of the dissenting, inconvenient voices to the PAP’s narrative which the local media propagandises, while suppressing the former.)

Actually, the loss of trust is due to the PAP govt’s loss of “output legitimacy” since the 1990s.

“Output legitimacy” is the idea that elected leaders make decisions that are unpopular in the short term but will be approved by voters once their success has been demonstrated.  A govt aiming for “output legitimacy” (most govts don’t, but the PAP is an exception) is a bold, self-confident govt because the govt and the politicians need to be proved right by events.  Sadly for S’poreans and the PAP, the record doesn’t look that great for one LHL. He had been DPM, and in charge of economic and financial issues, and the civil service, since the 1990s, until he became PM in 2004.

Yet events have showed that S’poreans are discontented, not happy with the achievements of his govt. The PAP only polled 60% (lowest ever) in the 2011 GE, and three cabinet ministers lost their seats, with the WP winning for the first time ever a GRC. In the subsequent PE, the PAP’s “preferred” candidate and a challenger (ex PAP man too) polled 35% each. The preferred candidate won by a very short nose.

This yr, the PM promised to meet our concerns (housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education) is like that: “Crashed the cars, trains and buses we were on – and then wants us to thank him for pulling us out of the wreckage using our own money, by voting for the PAP”.

– http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/analysing-pms-coming-rally-speech/

– http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/govt-needed-natcon-survey-to-find-these-things-out/

After all S’poreans concerns that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education are the result of govt policies

His dad introduced the concept “output legitimacy” to S’pore (although not the term: too highfaluting perhaps?), partly because it suited LKY’s personality (intellectual thuggery, the belief that “leaders lead” and shouldn’t be governed by opinion polls, and micromanaging**), and partly because while S’pore was a leading Asian city in the 50s and 60s (as LKY and PAP haters like to remind us ad nauseum), that wasn’t saying much for most S’poreans: err bit like now, one could reasonably argue. Examples:

– When the PAP came into power in 1959, unemployment was over 10%; and

– in 1960, 126,000 man-hours were lost in strikes as compared to 26,000 in 1959.

Source: book reviewed here

There were then things that had to be done that would upset many people most of the time for a while. But if the policies worked, then the results would be visible. Well, at the very least, the voters were prepared to give LKY and the PAP, over 70% of the popular vote and all the parly seats for over a decade.

The world’s now a bit more complex since then, and S’poreans’ expectations have rightly risen, so whether it is ever possible that the PAP govt can ever recover “output legitimacy” is open to question even if it has the ‘right” people leading it. But at least it’s willing to spend more of our money on making life a more comfortable for ourselves. Maybe that should be its articulated goal, to frame our expectations of its “output legitimacy”.

Maybe the constructive, nation-building media, and new media outlets that believe in constructive criticism, like the Breakfast Network and the Independent*** can help the PAP govt? Better than flogging the dead horses of trust, daft people and that the internet beats DRUMS to the RAVII theme.

*Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications, Insinuations & Insults

**Remind me of the bible verses: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” or “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

***Independent sucks because it got its branding wrong. Name is so traditional media. In fact there is an established UK newspaper by that name.

Names with a whiff of the establishment seem old hat. Chris West, founder of Verbal Identity, specialists in linguistic branding, says that “they appear to be hankering after a debased culture of corporate magnificence”. Consumers think of them as pompous, self-serving, impersonal. The advantage of calling your business Wonga and GiffGaff lies in the rejection of superfluous formality. We perceive them as younger, more in-touch, less “corporate”. As Mr West concludes, “they sound like words we might hear at the pub”.

Then there is the quality of its writing. But that shows up the pedigree of two of its founders.

As for BN, it’s a work-in-progress, and it’s a gd training place for budding journalists: got ex-TOCer who has learnt to write proper, readable English. So I wish it well, even if I’ve heard allegations about its funding. And it has a great name. Spent a lot of cash getting its name right?

NS and the welfare state: two sides of the same coin in the first world,

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 19/09/2013 at 4:55 am

including Switzerland and Israel

S’poreans are rightly asking why they should do NS to defend two-timers like new citizen Raj who openly boasted on how his son will avoid NS, while still getting his PR status. (Related post on two-timer Raj)

In return, the govt has been moaning that S’poreans no longer believe in the value of NS. It tries to make NS more “valuable” for us via gimmicks rather than hard cash (“Money talks, BS walks”) and addressing the the issue of defending someone like new citizen Raj and his family.

Apart from addressing the issue of defending people like new citizen Raj and his son, methinks the ministers and ESM should reach for a 6th September article in FT (behind a pay-wall). It is an opinion written by Mark Mazower, professor of history at Columbia University and author of ‘Governing the World”. It is entitled, “The west needs a replacement for the warrior spirit”.

Cutting to the chase, I quote the following:

The late Charles Tilly demonstrated in a series of brilliant sociological studies the extent to which warfare and welfare have historically been tightly connected. Rulers who wanted citizens to fight learnt the hard way that they had to give them something more concrete and appealing to fight for than the privilege of dying in their name. That is why the advent of mass conscript armies, unified around allegiance to the nation, coincided with the dramatic 20th-century transformation in the nature of the state and the swift post-1945 expansion of social rights in the shape of public housing, healthcare and schooling.

During the two world wars, military service resulted in the percentage of the population in uniform in the UK and the US approaching an extraordinary 10 per cent. This kind of warfare accustomed entire societies to new egalitarian norms and demonstrated the indispensability of the state itself as mediator in industrial relations, and as economic strategist and planner. The lessons were learnt and applied after the war as well, underpinning much of the west’s managed capitalism in the years of the post-1945 economic boom.

Get it PAP govt? NS and the welfare state go together. Israel and Switzerland, countries still with NS, have gd welfare systems, BTW.

Maybe, since the PAP doesn’t want a welfare state, scrape NS? Has the additional benefit to the PAP of getting rid of the issue of us defending new citizen Raj and his family. We might be willing to be more amenable to more two-timing new citizens, like Raj.

Get it PAP govt?

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/where-ns-leads-to-successful-high-tech-start-ups/


A very high tech, inventive, low population country

In Internet, Political economy on 25/08/2013 at 4:46 am

No, not us. We are none of these, though we got many of the u/m conveniences, sort of.

Estonia (population 1.3m) is a world leader in technology. Estonian geeks developed the code behind Skype, Hotmail and Kazaa (a precursor of the Napster file-sharing software). In 2007 it became the first country to allow online voting in a general election. It has among the world’s zippiest broadband speeds and holds the record for start-ups per person. Its 1.3m citizens pay for parking spaces with their mobile phones and have their health records stored in the digital cloud. Filing an annual tax return online, as 95% of Estonians do, takes about five minutes. How did the smallest Baltic state develop such a strong tech culture?

Mr Ilves, a co-founder of Skype the president says Estonia’s success is not so much about ditching legacy technology as it is about shedding “legacy thinking”. Replicating a paper-based tax-filing procedure on a computer, for instance, is no good; having such forms pre-filled so that the taxpayer has only to check the calculations has made the system a success. Education is important, too: last year, in a public-private partnership, a programme called ProgeTiiger (“Programming Tiger”) was announced, to teach five-year-olds the basics of coding. “In the 80s every boy in high-school wanted to be a rock-star,” says Mr Hinrikus. “Now everybody in high-school wants to be an entrepreneur.”  Mr Hinrikus is a co-founder of Skype.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/07/economist-explains-21

Interestingly, some time back ST had a piece entitled “Generating bright ideas in S’pore”. It mentioned Google and Facebbok but not Skype. Wonder why?

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/estonia-doing-it-spore-still-talking-about-it/

Related link on why S’pore can only talk cock: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/02/07SINGAPORE394.html

Analysing PM’s coming rally speech

In Political economy, Political governance on 16/08/2013 at 5:08 am

So PM is working hard on his National Day Rally speech, at least he said so about a week ago. (He shouldn’t be working hard, he should be working smart: hard work is no substitute for using one’s intellect, which PM has in spades, effectively. If working hard were all that mattered, the FTs toiling on our work sites would have it made.)

We have been told that he will focus on public concerns that housing, healthcare and public transport will remain affordable, and on education (I assume, affordability and the stress it causes pushy parents with average kids). He will most probably talk about jobs (including low or stagnating salaries, and how the govt is tackling these issues), as the concerns for good jobs has also been raised at these talk cock sing song Our S’pore Conversation sessions.

Interestingly in February 1958, this was written by an ang moh reporter: “But, governors may come and may go: but the problems of government are the same. The problems that remain in Singapore are housing, health services, education and expansion of industry.”*.

Well the PAP won the 1959 general elections and have governed S’pore since then, and the problems are the same.

By addressing the issue of affordability, will he implicitly be sending the message that he is be ditching dad’s Hard Truth that populism is bad**?

Not if Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, the minister in-charge of Our Singapore Conversation (OSC), is to believed. He told the media this week that OSC is not a knee-jerk, “populist” policy-making exercise. It is not a “major meet-the-people session”, with the govt collating a wish list and then giving the people what they want. He emphasised that OSC does not sacrifice any strategic thinking on the part of the govt for the sake of showing empathy with the people.

But, he would say this wouldn’t he? Let’s juz ignore the DRUMS and the noise, and focus on the effects. “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice,”, said one Deng Xiaoping.

Anyway, Simon Johnson, once the Chief Economist at the IMF, home of austerity’s the answer to almost any economic problem, and now the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, Populism and irresponsibility are not, in fact, synonyms. Populism can be sound, he argues. He argues that populism is often used in a pejorative way – as a putdown, implying “the people” want irresponsible things that would undermine the fabric of society or the smooth functioning of the economy.

So what if the people are to be “pampered”? If it is right thing to do by them, do it. According to Simon Johnston, the issue is whether  a ”populist” measure in question is a responsible one. If it is, then the label doesn’t matter, juz do it. (http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/a-populist-measure-can-be-a-sound-measure-ex-imf-chief-economist/)

“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.”

Filial piety aside, he should openly embrace, or at least quietly hug in the dark, responsible populism, given the measures he has been taking like civil service pay rises, help for poor in renting flats etc etc. (http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/minister-you-thinking-of-yr-govt/)

Next, hopefully (from the perspective of PAPpies, and those of us S’poreans who treasure stability, efficiency and rent-seeking over human rights and democracy), PM works smart on his “likeability”, not on his power point presentation. One of these days, I’ll blog on why he has a great personal story to tell. A preview: overbearing, overachieving father with high expectations who refuses to retire gracefully into old age. And there is more.

PM’s dad was respected and feared. But PM’s not his dad, and times have changed. Kind-heated intellectual thuggery, bullying and hectoring are no longer in fashion with voters. So being “likeable” is very impt.

An analogy with the Catholic Church (Dad used to claim that PAP cadre system was based on the way the cardinals elected the pope, while the pope chose the cardinals, though analysts have pointed out that the PAP’s cadre system more closely resembles the Leninst way organising a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The best example of this is the way Chinese leaders are elected to run the ruling party and the country.) shows why PM needs to be likeable if the PAP is dominate S’pore politics and life for another 50 years.

So far people have generally taken at face value the image of Francis as a “barefoot pope” who is personally modest, feels compassion for the disadvantaged and is endowed with a basic human warmth that his predecessor seemed at times to lack. He is simply likeable, and that ensures that he commands some respectful attention (even from those who disagree with him) when he seems to be speaking from the heart.

In the leader of a religious organisation whose core beliefs are not open to negotiations, style matters a lot. People can sense hypocrisy and pomposity, and they can also sense the opposite. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/07/pope-gays)

As he works smart (not hard) on his speech, he should remember the recent Cambodian elections where the opposition united against a strongman leader who brought prosperity to his country and who sued his opponents for damages and who keeps the media on a very tight leash. It has at least deprived the govt of its two-thirds majority (if not winning the election). (http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/cambodian-elections-harbinger-of-sporean-ge/)

All to play for PM.

And keep up the good work of reforming the system. I may not always agree that he is doing the “right” things but I will concede that are trying hard, whatever his motives. But, like the Red Queen in “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”, he is running to keep up with S’poreans rising expectations of change and a better life. To quote Tocqueville as I did here:

experience teaches us that, generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways….Patiently endured for so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.*

And there is the problem of changing a party where there are people like Kate Spade, Charles Chong and VivianB (Don’t do compassion, and sneer at the poor), Lee Bee Wah (Doesn’t do meitocracy at STTA, and her dog used to run away. She now keeps her gates shut tight. My dogs lead such a gd life that one even refuses to leave the house for daily walks), Seng the MP with hearing problems, Ong Ye Kung and Lionel de Souza.

PM would have heard Dr Goh say, as I have, “Oppositions don’t win elections, govts lose elections.”

To sum up: What S’poreans need and want to hear from the PM is what the PAP govt stands for, what it believes, how the govt now would be different from the one before. And that needs to be set out with absolute clarity in a language that S’poreans can understand and empathise with.”

The problem is that PM has been part of the govt since the 1980s, and DPM, and economic, financial and civil service czar in the 1990s and early noughties, and PM since 2004,  making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to say move on from the past. He was a major creator of the problems that caused the disconnect between a substantial number of voters and the PAP govt, that he as PM now has to repair.

Even dad would find this impossible to do.

Churchill and FDR juz might have managed to do it, but our PM is no Churchill or FDR, let alone his dad.

*Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962)

(http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mai/new-book-singapore-correspondent/)
by Leon Comber*

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

Singapore Correspondent Book CoverSingapore Correspondent” covers five years of Singapore’s colourful political past – a period of living turbulently and sometimes dangerously. It is a collection of eye-witness dispatches, sent from Singapore to London, spanning a time when Singapore was emerging from British colonial rule and moving forward to self-government and independence. Many of the early struggles of the People’s Action Party (PAP) are described as the focus is on the political struggle taking place in which the PAP played a major part. Many important events which have long been forgotten are brought to life. These dispatches prove that political history need not be dull, and indeed can sometimes be entertaining and lively.

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow

Reviewed here: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/im-invested-in-spore-spore-in-50s-60s/

Related: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/

**Coming a few days after dad launched his latest book on Hard Truths, it may look like he’s giving dad a very tight slap+. Tot that was job of co-driver? Trying to make WP redundant? Or Low and gang not doing enough, preferring to share out contracts and enjoying their salaries? And this reminds me of: Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s views expressed in his new book, One Man’s View of the World, are “obsolete,” said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The views represented the Mahathir generation, he added.

“We should not always look at the dichotomy between rights and race, black and white.

“For example, he (Lee) talks about race-based policies, but there is very little understanding of the discourse in the last decade,” he said.

Anwar said Lee was still “trapped in the old mindset,” when he used to be in the opposition during Malaya before Singapore was established.

“His thoughts are not so relevant now in the context of the present day. That is what prompted him to make sweeping statements to generalise the situation in Malaysia,” Anwar told reporters … [Star]

+Filial piety? What filial piety? At least PM learned the lesson from dad that eggs must be broken to make omelets: that the ends justifies the means.  LKY should be proud that his son has at least learned this.

Low productivity: LKY and the DRUMS agree on its cause

In Economy, Political economy on 15/08/2013 at 5:11 am

I kid you not, miracles can happen. LKY agrees with the Blogging 7, Uncle Leong, E-Jay, s/o JBS, NSP, SDP and all the usual players of DRUMS. The latter have always argued that low productivity is the result of the FT policy. Not included Low or WP among the latter as I don’t know itheir stand on this issue.

Stoolies Foils, Comedy Straightmen ST: On the issue of making productivity gains, we lag behind many developed countries. In manufacturing and services, Singapore’s productivity is only 55 per cent to 65 per cent of that in Japan and the United States.

LKY: Because we have large numbers of migrants who do not fit into the workforce so easily and who do not speak English.Some hold work permits and do not stay for long – they leave within a few years, after developing skills.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={1072294113-18605-1765558123}

This appeared in Tuesday’s BT:

Manufacturing firms in Singapore relied on low-skilled foreign workers as substitutes for machinery between 2003 and 2008, sacrificing productivity levels in the process, according to a study.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) study released yesterday, however, found that other factors – unrelated to foreign workers – could have also caused the decline in automation, underscoring the need for greater R&D and product innovation.

The five years in question mark the government’s most recent period of liberal foreign labour policy. Between 2003 and 2008, the dependency ratio ceiling – which specifies the maximum proportion of foreign workers that companies can hire – was raised to 65 per cent; levies for unskilled work permit holders were reduced; and firms were allowed to hire work permit holders from China.

In its study of 1,500 manufacturing firms over that period, MTI found that those which hired relatively more low-skilled foreign workers relied less on machinery for production.

Doesn’t LKY’s words  and the MTI study show that the govt talk of increasing productivity over the yrs (from 1990s onwards) was juz that: talk? And now, the guy that was charged with leading the productivity drive in the late 1990s is now the chairman of Temasek? Isn’t S’pore a meritocracy, unlike M’sia?

Where LKY and the DRUMS would disagree is what would have happened if FTs didn’t come in by the cattle-truck load:

But you ask yourself how many small and medium-sized companies will pack up if we cut off the foreign workers?

But isn’t it a chicken-and-egg situation? Precisely because it is so easy and cheap to hire foreigners, the SMEs continue to rely on them. If the tap were tightened, they would be forced to find new ways of operation. There will be some that will shut down, but maybe some level of churn is necessary so that the economy can go on to be more productive.

You cut them off and you find the SMEs just caving in.

Would that be a bad thing, or could that just be a necessary transition?

If our SMEs collapse, we will lose more than half of our economy.

In a way, that is what the Government is now trying to do. They are trying to slow down the growth in the foreign labour force.

Yes, because the Singapore public feels uncomfortable with so many of them. Not because of the economics. From an economic point of view, we should grow.

So how do you see this ending now that we have started to tighten the tap? Does it mean that we will lose half of our economy?

As you bleed out the present workers on work permits, the economy will shrink. But we are keeping the same level and just slowing down the inputs of new workers. Not stopping them. You stop it, you are in trouble.

The DRUMS would argue that the SMEs wouldn’t collapse or move on. They would adapt. I don’t think any elected govt would dare take the risk of allowing SMEs to collapse. It could lose power. As Dr Goh liked to say, repeating a Western political aphorism, “Oppositions don’t win elections, govt lose them.”

Related posts:

Jokey

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/why-productivity-is-so-low-here/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/no-wonder-spores-productivity-so-low/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/productivity-ntuc-learn-from-china/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/singas-ft-replacement/

Serious

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/us-experience-on-growing-gdp-via-productivity/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/insufficient-public-data-a-reason-for-our-low-productivity-numbers/

 

:

Where S’pore is not first world: not reported in MSM

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 10/07/2013 at 5:18 am

S’pore is richer (per capita) than Japan. Yet as this chart from the Economist shows, its welfare spending is below that of Japan, and is clustered with Thailand and China, with only Indonesia worse-off. Korea is slightly better than S’pore but the president there has promised massive welfare spending. S’pore has not made such a promise.

We should be aiming to be clustered withJapan. And as Temasek’s recent results help show, we got the money. Prosperous Japan is the only country that protects its people both well and widely, according to the index. In Singapore, now richer than Japan, social protection is spread broadly but thinly, the index shows.

For the geeks:The Asian Development Bank’s newly published social-protection index shows both the breadth of coverage (the percentage of potential beneficiaries actually covered) and the depth (the amount of spending per beneficiary, expressed as a percentage of the country’s GDP per person).

Estonia doing it, S’pore still talking about it

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy on 19/05/2013 at 7:39 am

The inventors of Skype came from Estonia. More importantly, the economy there is using IT to leverage its productivity. Not like S’pore where FTs are thrown at any problem.

Estonian schools are teaching children as young as seven how to programme computers.

Estonia’s e-revolution began in the 1990s, not long after independence. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, then the country’s ambassador to the United States, now Estonia’s president, takes some of the credit … He read a book whose “Luddite, neo-Marxist” thesis, he says, was that computerisation would be the death of work.

The book cited a Kentucky steel mill where several thousands of workers had been made redundant, because after automatisation, the new owners could produce the same amount of steel with only 100 employees.

“This may be bad if you are an American,” he says. “But from an Estonian point of view, where you have this existential angst about your small size – we were at that time only 1.4 million people – I said this is exactly what we need.

“We need to really computerise, in every possible way, to massively increase our functional size.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22317297

Err, why not invented here?

In Political economy on 14/03/2013 at 6:57 am

This was republished from a UK paper by MediaCorp’s free sheet. I think it was meant to show that we can make things cheaper (all those FTs by the cattle-truck load) and better than the UK:http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/why-we-invent-britain-build-spore .

But, a true blue S’porean might wonder why despite all the money thrown on R&D, and all the praise that our MSM reports on our “innovation”, things like this get invented in the UK, a place that one LKY used to rubbish regularly.

 

Subsidising wage rises good, Minimum Wage bad

In Economy, Political economy on 13/03/2013 at 6:40 am

As usual the grumblers are out on TRE, TOC and Facebook. The question they are bitching out loud is, “Why is the govt spending our money on subsidising wage increases?”. And asking, “What about introducing a Minimum Wage?”

I’ve this fantasy that when the govt introduces a Minimum Wage scheme, these same people who say that this scheme is bad for S’pore: which it is*.

Coming back to subsidised pay rises, other than to win votes from the many S’poreans who don’t belong to Team “Govt, PAP are bastards” or “PAP govt is always wrong” or “We always bitch against the PAP, govt”, there is a good economic reason for the govt subsidising wage rises.

Rising wages give employers an incentive to increase the return to recruiting and training, if they can no longer bring in FTs by the cattle-truck load to off-set rising wages for locals. At the same time, rising wages make it more attractive for older S’poreans to look for work, rather than go online and complain about everything, while making it more attractive for employers to drop their prejudices and discrimination against the elderly.

(Having said all that, there is an educated oldie at the Marine Parade polyclinic that I wish wasn’t working there.)

And given that the SMEs are screaming that the govt is killing them by cutting off the supply of FTS, how else to give S’poreans a wage rise, on top of CPF employer rate rises.

And better to spend our money on fellow S’poreans rather than giving it to our SWFs who will spend some of it on ang moh investment bankers who bring them lousy deals.

Post on Workfare: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/minimum-wages-missing-the-point/

*I wish all those MPs who talked cock about a Minimum Wage would read http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/02/minimum-wage and I’m shocked that the PAP didn’t ensure that its MPs understood elementary economics. (BTW, the piece is entitled “The minimum wage- The law of demand is a bummer”)

Most relevant excerpt: There are conditions under which raising the minimum wage will increase demand, as well as economic efficiency. According to one story, monopsony conditions for low-wage labour, ie, imperfectly competitive labour-market conditions in which there is but a single buyer of low-wage labour (or a colluding band of buyers) that is able to set wages at a level workers have little choice but to accept. Good old Econ 101 shows that under such conditions, a bump in the minimum wage, within a certain range, can boost employment and enhance efficiency. So there’s that. And such conditions no doubt exist in some sectors at some places at some times. One famous, and egregiously misused, study suggests that monopsony-like conditions applied to fast-food restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the mid-1990s. But there is basically no reason whatsoever to think that such conditions apply generally, across all sector and regions of the American labour market.

In the absence of special conditions, we have every reason to expect the law of demand to hold, such that raising the minimum wage will make it harder for inexperienced workers—workers whose output is worth less to employers than the mandated wage, and especially teenagers from low-income families looking to get a first footing in the labour market—to find work. And this is, in fact, what empirical studies tend to conclude. A comprehensive 2008 survey of the empirical literature from David Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine, and William Wascher, an economist for the Federal Reserve, found that, as one would expect, “[M]inimum wages reduce employment opportunities for less-skilled workers, especially those who are most directly affected by the minimum wage.”

Again, it doesn’t have to work this way. Employers can cut hours rather than hiring fewer workers. They can turn down the air-conditioner, strictly police the length of breaks, and otherwise reduce the cost of amenities previously enjoyed by employees. They can shift to off-the-books employees willing to work for less than the legally-mandated minimum. They can raise prices, passing on increased labour costs to consumers. It’s conceivable that the only consequence would be that a larger share of profits gets distributed to low-wage workers. Conceivable and exceedingly unlikely. In reality, we probably get small adjustments along each of these dimensions.

Of course, there is some newish empirical research contesting the disemployment effect of increases in the minimum wage, and then there is even newer research debunking it.

S’pore can learn from BMW

In Economy, Political economy on 28/02/2013 at 6:28 am

And Western countries on how to create the conditions to optimise the working environment for an older work force. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21535772

ST editor calls leading economists and us daft

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 12/02/2013 at 6:06 am

According to ST editor Han Fook Kwang in his weekly SunT column (pg 37) “it isn’t possible for ordinary Singaporeans to absorb and fully understand all the arguments and implications. arguments and implications highlighted in the Population White Paper”. Hence our opposition. Hello Mr Han, so how come four leading S’porean economists, scholars all wrote this http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/02/09/economics-myths-in-the-great-population-debate/ (I’m linking to this republishing ’cause of the comments section)

So these four are daft too?

He was riffing on what the PM said, “Govt could have presented Population White Paper better”. And going further anddaring to call us openly what PM didn’t dare?

So how come,

– the Chief Communications Officer of the govt, s/o the former disgraced president,

– an unemployed MP who was the head of the regional business of an int’l PR firm,

– the editorial teams at SPH and MediaCorp,

– CoC Yaacob and his team at the Ministry of Truth & Spin, and

– the numerous PR senior managers in the govt and its agencies,

didn’t advise the PM and DPM Teo to take account of our daftness when presenting the PWP?

They too out of touch with us daftees? Or they dafter than us? Or did PM and DPM Teo ignore their advice? Hence they more dafter than everyone else in S’pore.

The ST Managing Editor, as a member of the Dark Side, should be using his skills to prevent us from thinking? Not provoking us to think “unhealthy”, non-constructive tots: like there are daft Men In White on the Dark Side.

Wanted: Expertise on organising a legal strike

In Political economy on 03/02/2013 at 7:02 pm

Late last week, four FT PRC SMRT drivers appeared in court again. They had been charged for inciting and participating in an illegal strike.

On Sunday, I read the following on Facebook: “What a tale this is. Clandestine meetings with ministers, secret agreements with shadowy power-brokers. The Last Great strike is an uplifting, thoroughly Singaporean story that belongs on the shelf of every Singaporean home and classroom.- Singapore’s top-selling author NEIL HUMPHREYS commenting on THE LAST GREAT STRIKE.”

As I’ve written before, this book is written by a friend, Clement Mesenas. His dad grandfather was a Pinoy FT who came here in the 1930s early 20th century. The book “looks back on eight eventful days in 1971 when a group of young reporters staged a historic strike that shut down The Straits Times” for the first time ever in its 120-year history.

I joined the two dots: the book should have been subtitled: “How to organise a legal strike”.

I mean, Clement and his other Indian Chief friends (no Indians among the core team, so no racism intended) were so good that Labour Minister Ong Pang Boon told the Indian Chiefs: “All right gentlemen, let’s plan a strike.”

Wow! That’s endorsement! That’s support!

So social activists and other kay poh do-gooders, go buy and read the book. And don’t be put-off that LKY’s “favourite editor”, Cheong Yip Seng,says good things about the book: http://www.ilovebooks.com/ebooks/home/BB13CC1B-D14B-455B-A4F5-E78C2F6FB53F/The_Last_Great_Strike

And so should the rumoured wannabe prime minister, MOM Tan, his MOM bureaucrats, SMRT’s managers, other managers, and NTUC officials, go buy and read the book, because the book explains why strikes happen:

– poorly paid workers (“Most of us in the newsroom were broke well before the end of the month … An egg could be cracked onto roti prata for an additional 20 cents, but that was a luxury as those 20 cents could be saved for the bus ride home.”); and

– “parsimonious, disdainful … management”, Tan Wang Joo, former editor of The Sunday Nation, and a deputy editor of The Straits Times.

Sounds familiar?

Thinking about it, so should the PM. Someone pls send him a copy. LOL

(Earlier version got it wrong about his ancestry)

White Paper fiasco: Who goofed?

In Economy, Media, Political economy, Political governance on 03/02/2013 at 6:39 am

So we now know that the 6.9m figure in the White Paper is a “worse-case scenario”

– “Reiterating that the 6.9 million figure should be viewed as “the worst-case scenario”****, Mr Khaw wrote: “We hope we do not reach that figure; we may never reach that figure.”

–” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said … he fully agrees with Mr Khaw’s explanation that a 6.9 million population is not a target, but just a worst-case, aggressive scenario the Government must prepare for.”

(Excerpts from MediaCorp)

So why didn’t the media tell us this when the media reported the White Paper? The media reported the figure of 6.9m as though it was set in reinforced concrete that had platinum bars rather than steel bars. Surely when the staff of the s/o the disgraced president, and Yaacob*gave the local media their instructions local journalists and editors the customary briefing, they made it clear that the 6.9m figure is a “worse-case scenario”? And that the figure was used to ensure that there would be adequate infrastructure should this happen, which the government didn’t want to happen. And that if it didn’t happen, S’poreans would have even better facilities for which they should thank the PAP on bended knees.

But these messages were never reported. They came to the attention of “the inhabitants of cowboy towns” who were happily shooting holes into the White Paper, and other S’poreans only when the PM Facebooked and Khaw blogged these messages.

Then the local media parroted reported what the PM and Khaw had said.

Either the local media are staffed by stupid people, or are full of subversives, who take their 30 pieces of silver ** while saboing the PAP government. Or maybe the going rate is a lot more than 30 pieces of silver? And they are not getting it? Hence the government’s messages didn’t get broadcasted.

Or were the minions of s/o Devan Nair, and Yaacob, incompetent, stupid spinners? Journalists and editors are claiming that they were never ordered briefed that the 6.9m figure was a “worse-case scenario”. They claim to be as surprised as us netizens that the PM and Khaw are now making this claim.

Whatever it is, if WP Low is to get his wish of continued PAP hegemony, PM should get a grip on the PAP spin machine. He and his ministers can’t do all the spinning themselves. Maybe Auntie Sylvia or Show Mao, in emulation of a Tang dynasty official, can whisper this to the PAP, “behind closed doors”. Remember WP, yr mission is to preserve PAP hegemony.

**He used the phrase “worse-case scenario” when one LKY gave his Hard Truth on Malay Muslims not integrating.

Book PM could cite in validation of “Growth, ‘cheong’ all the way”

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance, Property on 01/02/2013 at 7:37 am

In “Planet of Cities”, by Shlomo Angel*, a professor of urban planning at New York University, argues that cities must prepare themselves for rapid growth, citing New York and Barcelona: In the 19th century both cities decided to prepare themselves for rapid growth. In 1811 New York’s city council approved a plan which allowed all of Manhattan to be built up and included the island’s now famous street grid. In 1859 Barcelona followed suit with a similar concept to expand the city nine-fold.

Err PM not planning to increase the population that much.

And on why working-age population matters:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/01/demography-0

Netizens, pls realise that the intellectual underpinnings are there for the White Paper. It’s the conventional wisdom. Raving, ranting and screaming will do no good.

Nothing will, not even the ballot box: “A vote for the WP is a vote for the continuance of PAP policies” says WP Low. So lie back and enjoy being raped. Think of the value of your property when you cash out and move on overseas.

PM, what about asking the right questions? Or at least different ones

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance, Private Equity, Temasek on 29/01/2013 at 7:52 am

“Do you want faster growth or do you want fewer foreign workers? Do you want more hard work or more leisure? Do you want more competitive schools and good results and good futures, or more relaxed schools and fall behind? How can we find that balance in between?” the Prime Minister asked. Whatever the hurdles, he emphasised that the PAP had always been open with Singaporeans, even when these trade-offs may be unpopular – SPH.

I got two gripes with the above remarks by PM.

Firstly, as usual he is framing* the issues in such a way so as to try to get us to answer the way he wants us to answer them. Dad used to do this successfully when we didn’t have the best education system in the world, when issues were less complicated, and when there wasn’t the internet. But times have changed, but PM hasn’t shaken off daddy’s influence.

– “Do you want faster growth or do you want fewer foreign workers?” Well how about asking, “How can we have faster growth without FTs? Can we substitute robots, or pay higher wages?” And more fundamentally what about, “Do we need faster growth? What about better quality growth?”

– “Do you want more hard work or more leisure?” What about asking,”Can we work smarter to have more leisure?” Or more fundamentally, “Are we working smart? Or are we working harder because we are not working smart?”

– “Do you want more competitive schools and good results and good futures, or more relaxed schools and fall behind?” Shouldn’t we be asking, “Are there other ways of educating S’poreans that ensure national prosperity and self-development?”

Now the answers to these alternative questions may well be those that the PM thinks are the solutions to the problems that we face. Fair enough, then. But let’s ask alternative questions, think thru the answers, and also think blue sky. The great and the good don’t always have the answers. Even Bill Gates got Google wrong, badly wrong http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/prophesies-made-in-davos-dont-always-come-true/

And lest the PM forget, the PAP has not always been open with us.

The FTs came pouring in on the quiet. The government was not open on this issue, public housing and transport, and inflation.

Mah Bow Tan was telling us that his HDB building programme was sufficient when S’poreans were saying it was insufficient. Well fact that Khaw has accelerated and expanded the building programme shows that Mah was wrong, if not in denial.

And remember Raymond Lim said GST had to rise when we bitched about overcrowded trainds and buses: he implied that we juz wanted more comfort and so should pay for it. He was wrong or in denial about the problem. Well the massive spending plans, shows that we were right to get upset.

And inflation. I’ve gone on and on about Tharman and Hng Kiang saying that higher inflation doesn’t affect S’poreans who don’t buy cars. That is obfuscation, not openness.

But never mind, the PAP can remain complacent because Low has publicly implied that a vote for the WP is a vote for continued PAP rule.

Not that I’ll complain too much. The low-tax environment and the emphasis on making sure property prices “cheong all the way” have allowed me to stop working in my 40s. And have the time to think; and grumble, constructively, I hope.

And oh, keep on spending our money on ourselves. And double it, or triple it. Better return on investment for the PAP, then letting Temasek lose it like in here http://www.breakingviews.com/tpg-runs-rings-around-li-ning-shareholders/21064940.article. And anyway, , potential returns for investors are not going to be that great anyway http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/01/investing. So it’s a better investment for us and the PAP: make life more comfortable for us using our money.

*Read this on the science of framing questions, to get the “right” answers http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20512743

When 55% of voters were FTs

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 25/01/2013 at 5:03 am

(Update on 29 January 2012 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-21/singapore-turns-against-itself-as-pressure-for-babies-irks-women.html

http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/01/29/population-white-paper-projecting-6-9m-u-turn-on-influx-of-foreigners/)

TRE readers are forever screaming that the PAP govt wants to swamp S’pore with citizens born overseas. They might like to know that  in 1959, according to the u/m book, only 270,00 out of the 600,000 voters were born here. If TRE readers are correct, the PAP is only restoring things to as they were when the PAP came into power. Is that so wrong? LOL.

Interestingly the author reported that when one LKY revealed the above fact in 1959, LKY also said,”we must go about our task (of building up a nation) with urgency … of integrating our people now and quickly”. Maybe he repented building up a nation?

Singapore Correspondent. Political Dispatches from Singapore (1958-1962)

(http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/mai/new-book-singapore-correspondent/)
by Leon Comber*

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish International Asia

Singapore Correspondent Book CoverSingapore Correspondent” covers five years of Singapore’s colourful political past – a period of living turbulently and sometimes dangerously. It is a collection of eye-witness dispatches, sent from Singapore to London, spanning a time when Singapore was emerging from British colonial rule and moving forward to self-government and independence. Many of the early struggles of the People’s Action Party (PAP) are described as the focus is on the political struggle taking place in which the PAP played a major part. Many important events which have long been forgotten are brought to life. These dispatches prove that political history need not be dull, and indeed can sometimes be entertaining and lively.

* MAI Adjunct Research Fellow
 

.

More FTs on way, a lot MORE!: DBS

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy on 22/01/2013 at 6:29 am

OK, OK, I exaggerate: only 8% more of population if S’poreans don’t start breeding like rabbits.

DBS Vickers expects an upcoming white paper on Singapore’s population to raise its population target to 7 million from 6.5 million, which will benefit construction, land transport, property and healthcare companies. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/18/markets-singapore-stocksnews-population-idUSL4N0AN3GR20130118

SMRT is not on the “buy” list. It too has concerns about SMRT, like me and many others.

Govt may be right on limiting access to uni education, discuss.

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 19/12/2012 at 5:46 am

Given that Christmas is the season of goodwill to all men (including the PAPpies) and given that the PAP has had a torrid time, and given that Fabrications about the PAP is not doing its job, I tot I should post some facts and analysis (not Hard Truths) that support a policy that has pushy parents and netizens upset.

Sometime back, when

– PM said the desire  for “personal growth” 9i.e. a university degree has to be balanced with jobs; and

– the education minister said that while the govt would increase the number of places in local universities for locals, there would be a limit (I think he said 40% of some “mark”),

both were given a hard time by netizens and pushy parents.

I was reminded of the above recently, when I surfed across a few articles recently that discussed the skills needed to get jobs in a developed economies.

In a McKinsey survey of Western countries, nearly 70% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, yet 70% of education-providers believe they suitably prepare graduates for the jobs market. Similarly, employers complain that less than half of the young whom they hire have adequate problem-solving skills, yet nearly two-thirds of the young believe that they do have such skills.

Perhaps the young and their teachers need to take a reality check said the Economist writer who reported this.

Then there is thisAs some Canadian industries struggle to find skilled workers, others face a glut of qualified candidates and not enough jobs to go around. University professor Peter Fragiskatos says emphasising the importance of a university education only makes the problem worse.

He writes: Notions of success in Canada have been, and remain, intimately connected to obtaining a university degree. Why? After all, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be discovered just as easily at a public library and for a much cheaper price.

All of this might sound strange coming from someone who teaches at a university. While the joy I feel when working with my students cannot be put into words, the experience has made me realise that a love for learning is not their leading motivation, if it ever was.

Most have been raised with the idea that a secure future will only be possible with a BA or a BSc, and they enrol in university for this reason. As they get older, today’s students are likely to pass along the same message to their kids.

The reality is that Canadians are living in a new era, one where a technical education – usually obtained at a community college – has the prospect of delivering not only a steady job but better pay than what university graduates typically make.

Engineering, mining and many health-related professions – the three areas identified by Tal’s report as most in need of qualified applicants – do not require a university degree.

Finally from an Economist blog  the work of Cambridge economist Chang Ha-Joon, has noted that Switzerland*—one of the richest countries in the world and the nation with the third-highest ratio of Nobel scientists per person—has a lower rate of college enrollment than every other rich nation, as well as other beacons of prosperity like Argentina, Lithuania, and Greece. In fact, once a country has crossed some very low threshold, there is no relationship between the number of graduates and national wealth. The explanation is simple: a typical college education does not linearly increase labor productivity. This is not necessarily a bad thing—there is more to life than making money, after all.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/09/college-enrollment

So maybe, the govt is right to put the emphasis on vocational education, with scholarship schemes like this?

Fat chance that most readers of TRE and TOC, and pushy parents would concur. For the former, the govt, PAP, NTUC and related entities are always wrong. Take Zorro Lim’s statement that NTUC says ‘no’ to equal pay for all nationalities because “Same job-equal pay” rule will put local workers and families at a disadvantage. Facebookers and some bloggers were bitching about this. If he had said “yes”, they would be bitching too.: S’poreans must come first. Wonder how these people feel, now that ST (whom they rightly bitch abt) agrees with them that sMRT should only use the English station names in its public announcements. LOL

—————————–

*S’pore’s spending on education is only around 3% of GDP (about halve of Switzerland which is in line with developed countries), so we got to spend a lot more to have a Swiss-style standard of education. Unless the govt wants us to be third world in education, like on workers’ and refugees’ rights.

 

Meritocracy’s feet of clay: Ong Ye Kung

In Corporate governance, Political economy, Political governance on 10/12/2012 at 5:29 am

(Update on 3 January 2013: He has joined Keppel Gp, a TLC, and not as expected his father-in-law’s property company. I’ll be blogging on this next week. Want to try to find out if his in-laws scared that their workers’ will go on strike or be unhappy if he joined them. I mean his record at SMRT/ NTUC not too good.)

Our nation-building constructive media are ignoring the white elephant in the space where of the circles of TLCs/GLCs, PAP, NTUC and the civil service meet: sometimes also known as S’pore Inc.

Once upon a time, Ong Ye Kung, was S’pore Inc’s poster boy of meritocracy.

Just in April 2011, before the May GE, our nation-building constructive media praised him as an example of meritocracy at work. Son of a Barisan Socialist MP (and no friend of one LKY), he was a scholar* who rose to a senior civil service post**, then became a senior NTUC leader, and then a PAP MP candidate. It was whispered that he was Zorro Lim’s anointed successor as NTUC chief; and was tipped by ST as a future candidate for ministerial office. He did became the NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General in June 2011.

But by then his slave worker drawn chariot had gotten stuck in the mud . He was a member of George Yeo’s losing Aljunied GRC team. Worse was to follow in 2012: the wheels came off his chariot of gold and ivory and he was thrown-off, and cast into the darkness and mud and became a person that the constructive, nation-building media knew not.

Earlier this year, SMRT’s S’porean drivers made known publicly their unhappiness over pay proposals that had his endorsement as Executive Secretary of NTWU (Nation Transport Workers’ Union). As he was also a non-executive director of SMRT, if he were an investment banker, a US judge would have rebuked and censured him for his multiple, conflicting roles.

Then he resigned, effective last month, from NTUC to “join the private sector”.

In perhaps a farewell, good-riddance gesture, FT PRC workers went on strike (illegally) and we learnt:

– they lived in sub-standard accommodation (SMRT admitted this);

– unlike most SBS FT PRC drivers, most of SMRT’s PRC drivers were not union members; and

– Ministry of Manpower reprimanded SMRT for its HR practices.

All this reflects badly on Ong: NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General,  Executive-Secretary of NTWU and SMRT non-executive director. And on the system that allowed him to rise to the top. After all his ex-boss said the following reported on Friday, which given Ong’s multiple roles in SMRT, can reasonably be interpreted as criticism of Ong:

In his first comments on the illegal strike, which saw 171 workers protesting over salary increases and living conditions, the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said the labour dispute “shouldn’t have happened” and “could have been avoided”. [So where was Ong: looking at his monthly CPF statements and being happy?]

NTUC is thus reaching out to SMRT’s management to persuade them “to adopt a more enlightened approach to embrace the union as a partner”, he added. [Hello, NTUC's Deputy Secretary-General was on SMRT's board, so what waz he doing?]

Mr Lim, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Labour Movement Workplan Seminar, cited the example of SMRT’s rival SBS Transit where nine in 10 of its China bus drivers are union members. Only one in 10 of SMRT’s China bus drivers are union members, according to union sources. [So, why didn't Ong advise SMRT to help unionise these FTs, and if he did, why didn't NTUC push harder ehen SMRT refused?]

SBS Transit’s management “recognised the constructive role of the union”, while union leaders “played the role of looking after the interests of the drivers”, said Mr Lim.

“And as a result … they work very closely as one team, it’s a win-win outcome. In terms of how workers are being treated and respected, how management are responsive, how they work together, I think it’s a kind of model that we ought to see more and more in Singapore.” (Today)

Apparently, Ong is supposed to join his father-in-law’s property development business: but with this revelations, it should come as no surprise if his in-law’s family has reservations about him: he might mismanage and upset the workers. Property development companies are fragile because of their leverage: they can’t afford executives who can’t execute.

And if anyone is wondering about the origins and meaning of the term “feet of clay”:

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. (Daniel 2:31-33)

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)

…………………….

*From 1993 to 1999, he was in the then Ministry of Communications, where he helped develop the Land Transport White Paper and was part of the team which established Singapore’s Land Transport Authority. Taz right, he was there at the beginning of the great SMRT cock-up.

**He was the Principal Private Secretary to one Lee Hsien Loong, then became the CEO of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

S’pore: A great place to be born in

In Economy, Humour, Political economy on 05/12/2012 at 5:39 am

In 1988, S’pore was the 36th best place to be born in: same as East Germany. M’sia was 38th and HK was 7th. In 2013, according to an article (The lottery of life) in an Economist publication, S’pore will be the 6th best place to be born in, M’sia will be 36th and HK 10th.

Switzerland will be 1st, followed by Oz, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Bang yr balls in frustration S’porean self-loathers: KennethJ, Goh Meng Seng, Tan Kin Lian, Tan Jee Say, Ravi, and born- loser readers of TRE and TOC.

Maybe the WP MPs have a point in being so supportive of the PAP govt? Maybe NSP is right that the party is not ready for govt: PAP still going strong?And maybe PM Lee and Chief Clerk Goh ain’t that bad?

I’m surprised that ST didn’t see fit to publicise this. Must be full of subversives.

But this good ranking does raise a question: If so good leh, home come S’poreans are refusing to breed? Shumething must be wrong? Maybe with S’poreans?

Or do the stats leave out things that matter most to S’porean couples that decline to breed or stop at one.

NatCon: Dialogue in the Dark

In Political economy, Political governance on 03/12/2012 at 7:09 am

“Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) is a social enterprise that aims to educate the public on the experience of blindness, ” writes MSF S’pore (Kee Chui Chan’s ministry)

Tot it should be appropriated as a description of NatCon.

Now to more serious matters.

PM on Wednesday talked of the need to have a government prepared to plan long-term. Bit rich of him to talk about this given the admitted problems in public housing and public transport that the govt’s policy of bringing in FTs by the container-loads have caused. I mean what were Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim doing? They even denied there were problems in public housing and public transport.

And waz the point of long-term planning if the plans are  lousy or execution bad? I’ve remarked before that the drive for greater productivity began around the time I started work: in the late 1970s. I’ve retired since then, and still there is a problem about productivity. And in the early 1980s, one LKY was ordering graduate S’porean mothers to breed, lest S’pore depopulates. His son is pleading with S’poreans to have more babies.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the National Conversation important in govt’s decision making. So important that the govt finds it necessary to frame the questions that we can ask it? “By early next year, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat expects to announce themes which the committee spearheading a national conversation about Singapore’s future will focus on,” CNA report.

Might as well prepare model answers? From the papers coming out from the Institute of Policy Studies (like the one setting out various growth scenarios dependent on the level of immigration) and government ministries (like the one on growth and population by the National Population & Talent Division of the PM’s office), and the articles in the constructive, nation-building ST by its economics correspondent and various senior writers, I will not be surprised if “model” answers will soon be available.

(Even the BBC and BBH, an ad agency, are helping out on the birth rate issue.)

And there will be prizes for the WP MPs who recite these answers perfectly. Yes, yes I know WP will not take part in NatCon, but they regularly support the PAP, after saying they disagree with the govt (instances).

And yesterday, PM highlighted three key goals (OB markers?):

–  “a vibrant economy by creating good jobs for everyone, as well as a harmonious society where people can enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life.”

– “a meritocratic system where people succeed based on their effort and contributions, along with special effort to help those who start off with less to do well in school and upgrade at work.”

– “to build a Singapore where citizens belong and feel as one, as well as an open, cosmopolitan city that welcomes foreigners with the skills and talents to help the country succeed.”

Mr Lee said the balance between these goals — just like yin and yang elements — will change will over time.The government, he said, is in the process of adjusting them.”

Right, so on top of given questions and model answers, boundaries are set. We can only talk about asking govt to adjusting them.

Err, is there anything left to discuss?

And if get scared by all the talk about the future doom and gloom if the PAPpies don’t the rule the roost, this is a useful antidote from America: it may not be our problem. We might be dead by then.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”

In Economy, Infrastructure, Political economy, Political governance on 27/11/2012 at 6:01 am

Well, well. So 102 FT drivers recruited from China (5% of all SMRT’s drivers) refused to work yesterday, disrupting SMRT bus services. They were not happy about their pay. Happily for commuters using the affected bus services, they agreed to return to work while talks continue.

Whither the FT policy, and LKY’s pride in FTs? Striking was a no-no for workers (except, as I recounted yesterday, when the govt had another agenda). S’porean sheep workers did not strike partly because they were afraid of retribution. Now FTs have led the way and have so far got away with it. They might even get more money. If they do, will locals realise that they too can get away with striking? If immigrants whom LKY respect can strike, why can’t they?

And if S’poreans start striking, will the MNCs move on?

Something for the cabinet, PM and his dad to ponder.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”

As for SMRT, time to forget about the stock. Management is still dysfunctional, despite having a ex-SAF chief and scholar in charge. Err might even turn into another NOL, where as I have recounted another ex-SAF chief and scholar has run it aground (Search “NOL”  on this site).

Typical S’porean way

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 21/11/2012 at 6:29 am

In a 2010 paper in the journal Tobacco Control, a group of Singapore-based cancer specialists proposed phasing-out tobacco by denying access to tobacco for anyone born from the year 2000 onwards. The researchers said their idea introduced the concept of tobacco-free generations that would “never legally be able to take up the harmful habit of smoking, at any age”

So very S’porean.

I came across the above when I read Should you need a licence to smoke?  This is something experts in the West are now thinking of recommending.

S’pore’s juz the place to introduce it, less draconian than banning youngsters from smoking.  We got licences to own cars (COEs) , licences to drive into the city (ERP charges),  licences to buy “subsidised” public housing (got to have marriage licences first), and local media journalists need licence to think (juz kidding).

And the govt could introduce the mandatory death penalty for smoking without licences. Shan could justify it on the grounds that smokers are all going to die one day, anyway.

Pricing is not the only way PM! Try cooperative game theory?

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 05/11/2012 at 4:57 am

The Economist, a British weekly newspaper, seems to the PAP’s bible*. It believes that pricing is the best way to allocate scare resources and long before the government introduced road pricing, the Economist was advocating it: just like high taxes on petrol (we got this) , permits to drive cars (our COEs), consumption taxes with rebates for poor (GST and rebates) , low rates of corporate and personal income taxes, and no tax on savings (All present and reporting). Oh yes and it believes low fertility rates are bad and that immigration is to be encouraged, screw the social problems.

But even the Economist accepts that there are limits to using prices to allocate resources. It recently wrote:

People often exclude financial considerations from their most important decisions, from the person they marry to the foster child they adopt. Even some transactions that do involve money are not really about price. Universities in America do not admit students based on who pays the most, for example. Rather, they select students based on complex criteria that include grades, test scores and diversity. Similarly, students choose their university on more than just financial factors.

Money is not essential to a market. After all, economics is about maximising welfare, not GDP. But the absence of a price to allocate supply and demand makes it harder to know whether welfare is being maximised. This year’s Nobel prize in economics went to two scholars—Alvin Roth, who has just joined the economics department at Stanford University, and Lloyd Shapley, a retired mathematician at the University of California, Los Angeles—who have grappled with that very problem http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21564836-alvin-roth-and-lloyd-shapley-have-won-year%E2%80%99s-nobel-economics.

– Mr Shapley’s and Mr Roth’s Nobel prize illustrates a larger point about economics. Undergraduates often study “utility functions” to learn how people choose alternative consumption baskets in a way that makes them better off. Once they go on to graduate school and then a job, they deal almost exclusively with priced transactions: for wheat, autos or equities.

Yet in countless private and public policy questions, welfare can be improved in ways that do not show up in the price. Mr Roth’s work on public school admissions and kidney donations are an obvious example, but there are countless others.  I recall reading that Starbucks had a plan that would let an employee in one store trade jobs with an employee in another so that both could work closer to home. The result would not change either employee’s output or wages, or Starbucks’ profits. Conceivably GDP would fall because the employees would spend less on petrol or bus fare. But provided the swap was voluntary, the welfare of both would without question rise http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/10/understanding-economics.

(Cooperative game theory is waz the above is all about. It looks at how well people can do when acting together; by examining all the possible combinations, theorists can spot outcomes that individuals acting alone cannot achieve http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/10/microeconomics)

Well one hopes that the government too recognises the limitations of using prices to allocate everything. And that bit about “maximising welfare, not GDP”. It’s in the PAP’s bible. Juz read it, not juz Hard Truths which incidentally is derived from this book book.

*Where they differ is on democracy and a free media. The Economist is a strong advocate and proponent of both these principles, unlike the PAP. BTW I used to joke that the government doesn’t need high-salaried ministers and civil servants to think up policy. They need to read the Economist. Declaration of interest: the Economist is my favourite source of info and analysis. I like its combi of social liberalism and conservative economics and its style of prose, entertaining, and irrelevant irreverent.

It says things like: “The branding function of philosophy in politics is to give individual conscience a form congruent with group interest, to transform the mathematical necessities of coalitional partisan politics into many millions of separate acts of self-congratulating private virtue. It’s a neat trick. It would be neater still if fewer pundits played along.”

Dr Goh’s Diamond Hard Truth reaffirmed

In Economy, Political economy on 19/10/2012 at 6:49 am

As a retiree, I was getting worried that PM, Tharman and gang had abandoned a Hard Truth that Dr Goh Keng Swee had laid down (and which has served us well, unlike some of Hary’s Hard Truths): Singapore’s exchange rate policy cannot be used as a tool to manage the country’s export competitiveness.  It was a Diamond Hard Truth, engraved in granite, that the Singapore dollar is a key macro-economic policy tool to keep inflation under control.

Increasingly based on the comments of forecasters and the central bank’s actions, I had gotten the impression that the exchange rate policy was being used as a tool to manage the country’s export competitiveness.

This worry got worse earlier this year with inflation above 5%, ministerial jokes about inflation (that even BT contradicted), and the tightening of the FT policy that had employers screaming.  

Until last Friday that is, when the central bank, in a decision that surprised the market, decided not to ease its monetary policy in spite of slowing exports due to a weaker global economy. (The S$ has appreciated since January by 6% against US$.)

And the  Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said on Monday, “The [central bank] recognises the need to strike the right balance between ensuring exporters are not unduly hurt by a stronger currency in the short-term, and capping underlying price and cost pressures in the economy. However, the exchange rate cannot be used as a tool to manage Singapore’s export competitiveness.”

 Over the longer term, he added, competitiveness could only be achieved through higher productivity and innovation such as creating new products that the market demands. (Ya been hearing this rubbish since the 1980s but the new products and productivity never appear, bit like Godot)

(He could, and should, have added that S’pores exports require imports. Dr Goh used to emphasise that a cheap S$ means export costs go up because the prices of imports used to make the exports goes up. Minister Lim did not make this point. He should have reminded S’poreans of this Hard Truth.)

Mr Lim was responding to a question posed by an economic literate NMP, Tan Su Shan, who is MD of wealth management at DBS Bank. She asked if the central bank would “consider recalibrating its strong Singapore dollar policy and allow the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate to appreciate at a slower pace”.

“The strengthening of the Singapore dollar is a key macro-economic policy tool to keep inflation in check over the medium term,” he added.

Finally, readers might want to send this BBC clip  about local inflation fears to the junior minister who talked rubbish on inflation in August http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/err-lee-what-did-you-say-abt-food-inflation/. It’s not juz me, it’s the BBC

A plug for something S’pore from Chilean official

In Economy, Political economy on 18/10/2012 at 7:18 am

Hernan Cheyre, the boss of CORFO, a government body that oversees Start-Up Chile and other initiatives to support entrepreneurs, argues that while Brazil will inevitably be seen as the China of Latin America given its size, Chile can become the region’s Singapore, which has prospered by welcoming foreign talent and providing businesses with a stable, well-regulated base for their operations throughout Asia.

Singapore, however, has a long track record. Start-Up Chile is only two years old, and it is closely identified with the current centre-right government, which may be turfed out at the polls next year.

(Excerpt from article in Economist’s latest issue)

I’m sure those S’poreans who hate S’pore’s success (thinking of the many TRE readers) will be banging their balls.

Cost effective ways of keeping us healthy?

In Infrastructure, Political economy on 17/10/2012 at 5:36 am

Yesterday, I read that the government is planning to do more to help the depressed and I remembered that I chanced across this (see below) response to an Economist blog piece on escalating medical costs in the developed world. It suggests (among other suggestions) adding various soluble drugs to the water Americans drink as a way of keeping healthcare costs down: one of the drugs is Prozac which is a drug that helps control mild clinical depression. Other drugs suggested are statins and aspirin.

Now that VivianB (a MD) is water minister, he may want to help out the Health minister. These measures seem to be in line with S’pore’s policy of spending as little as possible on health (around 4% of GDP) without upsetting economic efficiency or upsetting the masses compared say to Switzerland (around 8%).  And we already drink recycled water. LOL.

Seriously I hope the SDP looks into these suggestions. SDP has a very gd team of doctors helping out. (BTW what do these MDs have to say about:

this plug for govt health policy;

the latent flaw in any public health insurance scheme; or

innovative ways of helping the elderly in ways that don’t cost too much money?)

(Note writer below is talking of the US, where fluoride is already added to the water they drink. Always wondered why this doesn’t happen here.)

America comes up short in international comparisons of health statistics principally because life expectancy lags despite the highest spending for healthcare. For less than one dollar per capita , I propose Ten Inexpensive Health Interventions WILL Improve Health Outcomes. These will lengthen life expectancy, improve health, increase happiness and decrease dysfunctional behaviors.

We already fluoridate the water to prevent dental caries. And chlorinate to reduce bacteria. We can use the water supply as a medication distribution network by introducing very tiny or trace amounts of medicines that have been known to reduce major diseases.

1.) Simple cheap ASPIRIN dramatically cuts rates of Strokes, Heart Disease and now recently proven in a longitudinal study, reduces Cancer death rates by 20%! Put ASA in the water supply–if would be cheaper than fluoride.

2.) Put STATIN drugs in the water supply. Heart disease and stokes are declining for the first time in history. And it is despite the epidemics in Diabetes and Obesity. It is due to widespread use of effective anticholesterol drugs known as ‘statins.’ ie. Lipitor. High cholesterol is endemic and contributes to strokes and heart attacks. Just about everyone benefits from lower cholesterol.

3.) Water Born Oral VACCINES. Up to 30% of parents do NOT believe in the value of vaccinations and many act on this belief. Utilize water borne vaccinations in the water supply, such as the oral polio Sabin Vaccine. Put Folate in H20 to prevent neural tube defects in fetuses.

4.) PROZAC to decrease Dysfunctional Behaviors and improve Mental Health. Far more common than crime is non-criminal personal dysfunctions. Up to 40% of Americans will experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime including Depression, Alcohol abuse, illicit Drug abuse, Anxiety disorder, PTSD, Obsession-Compulsion, Eating disorders. Half of these will remain undiagnosed. And love ones suffer by enduring the mental ill relative like an affliction. Virtually all these maladies would benefit from Prozac type drugs which increase brain serotonin neurotransmitter. It is a vital tool in psychiatry: ‘Vitamin P’. Put Prozac in the water supply and we will be less sad, less depressed and less dysfunctional. It will shrink dysfunctional behaviors, criminal behaviors, afflictions and addictions. It would save BILLIONS in the Criminal Justice System. Lead to more productive fulfilled citizens who are happier. Less alcohol and drug addictions. Less DUI, trauma and killing sprees.

5.) Perhaps an effective future drug to treat or prevent Diabetes or Obesity–put it in the water. We have a new Epidemic of Obesity never before seen in the history of civilization. All interventions have been stymied to reverse the epidemic. We have to be creative about how to address this problem. The water supply is a simple and effective vector that treats the entire population. Observe the effectiveness of fluoridation on cavities for pennies per capita per year.

6.) Ban Tobacco Products, the leading Preventable cause cancer deaths, heart attacks and strokes. It would cost nothing in health care but would literally overnight vault the US life expectancy over the #1. Japan.

7.) Restrict television broadcasts to 2 hours a night of quality programming from 8 pm to 10 pm. We get 24 hours of 1000 channels–98% is garbage programming. It would force Americans to find other more healthy forms of recreation like walking, exercising, reading and even talking with each other. We undersleep and spend 4-6 hours of waking hours watching TV.

8.) Make Supermarkets reflect a Vegetarian Diet. 80% of floor space for Produce. 10% for dairy. 10% for the meat department. Vegetarians live longer and are more active. We have to make it easier and more desirable to enjoy vegetables Likewise encourage walking, exercise, and activity.

9.) Tax Alcohol extremely regressively to the point that consumers have to hurt to make a purchase. They will value that little sip of brandy or Chardonnay even more. Make bottles much smaller at around 100 ml. Like a Coca Cola at the turn of the century: medical tonic amounts. Yes people can drink, but moderation(less than two drinks) is best.

10.) Milk-Based Nutrition/ Beverages. To increase calcium in young persons, make all flavored beverages and hydration drinks MILK BASED. A milk based Coca Cola. We will see taller, more active, healthier citizens. Perhaps the best way to combat osteoporosis in the elderly is fortifying bones in teen age girls. And using high impact sports like simple rope jumping. This will make a difference in the wide spread osteoporosis of the elderly. Your skeleton will thank you decades later.

This is a radically different way of thinking about Public Health, Medicine and Wellness.

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures.

Make Public Health medication an automatic feature by incorporating it into normal plumbing.

Let people OPT-OUT by buying their own water and we will have 95% participation.

We now have an OPT-IN system for medicine that is not working.

Healthcare delivery is a complex problem requiring smart solutions, but sometimes solutions can be as simple as fluoridating water. We need a Fluoridation System for the 21st Century.

PAP-like quotes on Salaries

In Financial planning, Humour, Political economy on 15/10/2012 at 6:51 am

PAPpies will agree that these three quotes apply to the masses but that the second one doesn’t apply to ministers, the senior civil servants or senior GLC executives.

“Senior management’s job is to pay people. If they fuck a hundred guys out of a hundred grand each, that’s ten million more for them. They have four categories: happy, satisfied, dissatisfied, disgusted. If they hit happy, they’ve screwed up: they never want you happy. On the other hand, they don’t want you so disgusted you quit. The sweet spot is somewhere between dissatisfied and disgusted.”  Greg Lippman, banker, quoted in The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2010)

“Currencies fluctuate; commodity prices fluctuate. Why should we expect earnings to rise in a straight line upward?”  William Shenkir, academic

“The real minimum wage is zero.”  Thomas Sowell, economist (1930–), Controversial Essays (2002)

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/10/z-business-quotations-0

Tot those of you slaves who have to go to work need shume cheering up.

A natural topic for national conversation

In Political economy, Property on 11/10/2012 at 5:49 am

An article in SunT ST last week on farming on the rooftops of HK reminded me that I had written in My S’pore: A greener & more pleasant land about using the roofs of our HDB blocks and other high-rise buildings to create a greener S’pore using examples from Switzerland. I also added, “This being S’pore, we could use HDB roof-tops to be self-sufficient in basic veggies, and range-free eggs.”

Well not only are the Hongkies now farming on the top of high rises, but I have since learnt that the Americans were already doing it for some yrs now: The idea to grow more food within city limits has spread in recent years along with increased awareness about the quality of our food and where it comes from. Advocates say urban farms can also provide important green-space and, when built on roofs, help reduce energy use and storm-water runoff. In dense cities like New York, with high real estate prices, rooftops represent enticing, unused space. Several cities, including New York and Seattle have revised zoning and building codes to help encourage the practice.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/19/us-farms-urban-idUSBRE86I0U120120719?type=smallBusinessNews

Maybe Khaw can get his planners to see if leasing out the roofs of HDB blocks to wannabe farmers can help lower the cost of the HDB flats to S’poreans?

And this is a natural topic for our National Conversation (Ya silly pun, I accept). It is a non-political topic of conversation for the S’pore of 2030.

Only SDP and NSP activists, Ravi the lawyer, KennethJ, Goh Meng Seng and TJS will strain out gnats to find a political angle to this issue. LOL.

Related link: Parks along abandoned railway tracks in the sky (NY) and on the ground (England)  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19872874

A plug for Team PAP

In Political economy, Political governance on 05/10/2012 at 7:22 am

Many have castigated (self included) the ruling PAP for being mean to S’poreans despite its our money that it refused to spend. Things are changing as I’ve been blogging recently (example), even if others don’t appreciate or notice it.

But here’s shumething to reflect on from  a blog of PAP’s favourite “running dog” int’l publication (it advocates things like CoEs and road-pricing and GST and low corporate taxes):  Here lies a problem that has dogged nations all through this crisis (and still dogs nations outside the euro zone like Britain and America). The collapse of tax revenues in 2008 and 2009 caused deficits to soar, and made public finances look unsustainable. But when you start from a very large fiscal deficit, it is hard to get back to balance. Do it too quickly and you squeeze the economy too hard; do it too slowly and the markets may not finance you. I am not aware that Keynes dealt with this problem (although I’m happy to stand corrected, if anyone has chapter and verse). Of course, the best answer is growth (a consummation devoutly to be wished) but we are very good at talking about it, and a lot less good at producing it.

The PAP avoids fiscal deficits. So taz one problem we don’t have. But look out for my Monday piece on the problems that the government created for the economy. Not me but from DBS Bank.

“Honest conversation” on FTs: Let’s have it, not juz pretend that we’ve having it, Iswaran

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 05/10/2012 at 6:16 am

S’poreans must have honest conversation about immigration: S Iswaran late last week. But will we be allowed to, minister?

No, I’m not talking abt what Uncle Leong pointed out about the growth in FTs despite all the talk of by the government of it being curtailed. The analysis and comments of Uncle Leong and many others based on the government’s very own data has resulted in this attempt via originally new media (then amplified by the constructive, nation-building media) at damage control.

And let’s ignore what rogue scholar, TJS, has somewhere analysed*: that it’s not true declining population lead to economic ruin. He is after all, as Lawrence Wong, would put it “anti-PAP”. And he could even, at a stretch, be classified as one of Sim Ann’s  demons who  “spew hate and prejudice against individuals or groups”. Remember, he bitched against bungalow owning ministers, when, I’m told, he too has a bungalow.

No: My complaint is why don’t we get told how well Japan is doing?

A country has three choices when its TFR (total fertility rate) drops Get the TFR back up; encourage immigration; and do nothing i.e. let the population age.

Most countries try to increase TFR, some succeed. Japan tried it, failed and as it doesn’t do immigration, it prefers to use robots, it is managing the decline in population.

Japan has shown, a country with a declining population can still do better than other developed countries as figures from HSBC (published earlier this year) show which contradict the doom and gloom that one LKY says abt Japan.

Growth per capita in the 2001-2010 decade

Japan 1.6%

UK 1.2%

Germany 0.8%

US 0.7%

France 0.6%

And looking at the overall GDP numbers, Japan’s record is as good as that of the Germans, who now have created the Fourth Reich in Europe.

US 1.6%

UK 1.5%

France 1.2%

Germany 0.8%

Japan 0.8%

So the Japanese have well, considering their aging and declining population. Perhaps our PM should be listening to them, and trying to take some tips, especially on the use of robots (say to replace Lawrence Wong and Sim Ann who seem to be stuck with some PAP robotic messages that are a throwback to when LKY ruled the roost). And get dad to stop talking rot on Japan.

As to the need of the elderly population needing younger S’poreans to pay taxes to keep the place going, that both PM and Tharman mumble about, ain’t the governing PAP forgetting that it instituted the CPF system precisely to avoid a “Pay as You Go” social security system. (OK, OK, I’m unfair on the PAP on this but two can play the BS game.)

It’s you die, if you got no CPF (Don’t look to VivianB for help. He will only sneer at you for being poor) So by the PAP’s own account, the elderly (like me) don’t need a growing and younger workforce to support.

So Minister, although you are a Hindoo, somehow I think this verse from the bible is applicable to you (and your fellow ministers) when it comes to having an “honest conversation” about FTs:

(Note “mote” means “a particle of wood or chaff” i.e. it’s very, very tiny)

Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

—–

*Sorry no link as I’m not too impressed by his analysis. He left out that his favourite Nordic countries tax its people too much for my taste.

SDP groupies, other do-gooders and TJS ACHTUNG

In Political economy, Political governance on 20/09/2012 at 9:48 am

Read this http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2012/09/fiscal-policy

[M]odern states have tended to extend benefits to the better-off, partly because of lobbying and partly as a way of buying the support of the wealthy for the welfare state. All this is well illustrated in Suzanne Mettler’s book “The Submerged State”, which shows how these hidden subsidies can distort voters’ view of the way that government policy works; a 2008 poll found that 57% of Americans denied ever using a government programme. But when shown a list of 21 actual programmes, including student loans and home-mortgage interest deduction, 94% of the deniers turned out to have benefited after all.

[Would be interesting if TJS's research centre could do something on whether the middle class benefits from govt subsidies: could kill the PAPpies pt abt housing and education subsidies]

Universal benefits are very expensive. But targeting benefits requires means-testing, an instrusive process that causes hard cases at the margin. And restricting benefits to the poorest may weaken political support for the whole system, along the lines highlighted by Mr Romney; people may believe that the hard-working “us” are subsidising the feckless “them”.

 

Why the moderately well-off don’t feel that rich

In Economy, Political economy on 19/09/2012 at 5:37 am

The rising inequality of incomes mean that even moderately well-off people do not feel that rich; not least because the elite have driven up property prices in desirable areas … to levels that those not working in the finance sector cannot afford. Meanwhile, the very elite can insulate themselves from everyday life. Think of the experience of the average first, or business, class air passenger. They sit in a different lounge from the other passengers, enter the jetway through a different door, sometimes enter the plane through a different door as well, sit in a curtained-off section and then leave the plane before everyone else. They could make an entire transatlantic flight without coming into contact with the hoi polloi.

The problem is that the political elite tend to mix with the financial elite … and, for security reasons, also have to cut themselves off from the average voter. So it may be doubly hard for them to understand the pressures of those who are actually on median incomes.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2012/09/economics-politics-and-financial-markets

Rewriting LKY’s views on FTs? And, if so, why?

In Humour, Political economy on 17/09/2012 at 5:57 am

(Or “LKY has repented? No we got him wrong” or “LKY, no FT lover, no hater of locals”)

I came across this about a month ago, but didn’t comment, waiting to see if anyone other self had picked it up No blogger did, and I forget abt my plans to blog on it until a few days ago.

“If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms …
accept migrants at the rate at which we can assimilate them and make them conform to our values, ” LKY.

I was stunned and shocked to hear him talk of  wanting “original citizens” (who he said need spurring ’cause they are less hard-working than his beloved FTs)  “to form the majority”, and that his beloved FTs (“new citizens, new PRs’) cannot and should not “settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms”.

I had tot he wanted S’pore to be over-run with FTs because he was liked the solution proposed (ironically) in this poem

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed …

Stating that the people

Had thrown away the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

(The writer, Bertolt Brecht, was a famous playwright,  a Hollywood screen writer in the golden years of Hollywood in the 1930s) and a Marxist activist.)

What next from him? Malays are loyal to S’pore?

A few days ago, I was reminded of the above remark when I read this from a PAP apologist from the top of our constructive, nation-building ST: seems as far back as 1971, LKY has been concerned abt FTs over-running S’pore. If so how come his acolyte Wong Kan Seng when he was head of Home Team allowed PRC hawkers, a slutty looking, violent, cheating shop assistant, and an ang moh awaiting trial for beating up a S’porean PR status? Or that the government from the late 1990s onwards imported FTs by the cattle truck load.

Well the piece fooled many thinking S’poreans.  S’poreans who saw it as vindication that even a worm like a true blue ST man can turn on a  PAP policy i.e. ST is changing for the better. I had no such tots. I focused on the dates when LKY said:

– “And if you take too many, then instead of our values being superimposed on them, they will bring us down to their values because it’s easier to be untidy, scruffy, dirty, anti-social than to be disciplined, well-behaved and a good citizen.” (1971)

– “There will be cultural, linguistic, social and political problems. /Well, those cultural, linguistic, social and political problems have now come to roost, 40 years on.” (1978).

Err, these were the two examples quoted in 1971 and 1978. Then we have to jump to to August 2012 for the third one which I quoted above. Nothing in between?

A cynic could conclude that there is some rewriting of history, that despite all his praise of FTs and denigrating locals, and the pro FT policies, LKY cared about S’poreans being swarmed by FTs, and that he expressed this in 1971 and 1978.

Possible motives:

– To correct the perception (or is it misperception?) that LKY prefers FTs to S’poreans in S’poreans. The aim is to protect his legacy as one of the founders of modern S’pore. Bit difficult to have an icon of S’pore who prefers FTs to locals, even if he did a lot for S’poreans, which he did, and all but the likes of KennethJ and Dr Chee would agree he did.

– Another could be to show that when he was in charge, he had different views on the role of FTs then Goh Chok Tong or his son.

The spin doctors have to do better. They had better look for statements post 1978 but pre August 2012, expressing the view S’poreans should not be swamped by FTs. LKY was PM until 1990, and S’poreans believe that until recently, he had the final say on any important policy. And then there are all the pro-FT statements. And those denigrating locals.

Whatever it is, join me in a belated birthday greeting to LKY. The team that he headed in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and S’poreans made S’pore a developed world city. Too bad abt the team in the 90s and noughties, of which he was a part. And the son’s doing a decent job of correcting the mistakes of the 90s and noughties (despite being a leading player in the mistakes). But I wish he hadn’t started NatCon.

BTW, I taking up the challenge of compiling a list of things that the WP did not do in response to a challenge from a WP groupie upset with last Fri’s piece. Looking for sponsors to fund it (No peanuts pls). Or for help to draw up the list. Against my principles to do anything for free for the PAP, who always say, “No free lunch”. But who have a freebie via the PA, widely perceived as an arm of the PAP, even if it is tax-payer funded.

NatCon: What Dale Carnegie & dad can teach PM

In Economy, Humour, Political economy, Political governance on 10/09/2012 at 4:46 am

Two quotes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, that could teach PM, Heng, Sim Ann and other ministers a trick or two:

– “No one likes to feel that he or she is being sold something or told to do a thing. We much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas. We like to be consulted about our wishes, our wants, our thoughts.” (Actually Auntie Sun’s hubby, pastor Kong, could teach them this, what with his Sentosa Cove penthse to prove it. But PAPpies prefer to learn from FTs.)

– “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

The second quote explains why PM’s dad (and a hero, flawed, of mine) was successful in getting S’poreans to vote for him and the PAP despite his bullying, thuggish ways.

He spoke to S’poreans of his and older generations what they wanted to hear: “A better life for yrself and yr family.”

And how to achieve it: “Vote for the PAP and accept my policies be they throwing dissidents into prison without trial (anyway they are commies who want to steal yr money or work you to death), and have union leaders like Devan Nair who are my running dogs, and accept my lectures, hectoring, thuggery and bullying.”

He got the message right* and delivered the prosperity bit (whether or not the prosperity was the result of his** policies and methods is open to debate***) for most elderly S’poreans. True, there are some elderly S’poreans who missed the prosperity (and who now need to be helped), but in general, many are reasonably well-off, especially if they suffer from severe illnesses. I’ve relations much older or juz slightly older who have benefited from the then HDB housing policies of the 70s and 80s. And who are benefitting from the present healthcare system.

(One said during the Chinese New Year, “We were poor when we were young. Thank the Lord (her family are Christians) that in our old age we are comfortable. Nothing worse than being poor when old.”)

They are the first to admit it, their children and grandchildren are not finding life that easy. But hey LKY’s only a mortal, even if at times the constructive, nation-building media, esp ST, portrayed him as a demigod.

———————–

*And he is a genius when it comes to marketing “Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make.” Philip Kotler, academic (1931–), Marketing Management (1967)

Above and more marketing quotes from http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/09/z-business-quotations

The problem. is that since the late 1980s or early 1990s, the PAP wants S’poreans to do want the PAP wants them to do; but it is unwilling (and unable) to promise S’poreans material prosperity in return. It is only willing to say,”We will try to help you achieve material prosperity. But we still want yr soul.”

The governing PAP used gimmicks, like asset enhancement inflation and indiscriminate importing of , that have backfired on the PAP because of their negative consequences, intended or otherwise, on S’poreans.

**And don’t forget the role that Dr Goh Keng Swee, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen and Ngiam Tong Dow played in the economic policies. They wisely left the bullying, lecturing hectoring and thuggishness to LKY.

***Remember that in the 1960s and 1970s, S’pore was one of the few places (HK was another) that welcomed MNCs to set-up factories. MNCs were looked upon as a form of neo-colonialism by most of the developing world. Today, every developing country wants MNCs to set-up factories. So credit must be given to the PAP for this policy. But as we know, this policy resulted in the lack of home-grown companies like Foxcomm and HTC in Taiwan and Samsung in Korea. But breeding these cos led to problems in these countries.

More tots on the National Conversation

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 07/09/2012 at 5:09 am

Shumething I came across on Facebook: To be frank, I think the default is now, “Why should we listen to the government?” and we should all realise that they’re listening more and we’re listening less. Old knee-jerk political reflexes are not useful anymore. We need to be clear-minded and work on both qualitative and quantitative data and input, not just the same old stories on all sides.

He is spot-on.

Then this: “S’poreans [are] urged to share and listen with open minds and  hearts” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat who “is heartened by the many conversations that are going on about the national conversation and follows them with great interest.” Mr Heng had been tasked by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to lead a team of younger ministers to engage Singaporeans in a national conversation about the country’s future direction.

So how come

– a “CNA producer rescinds invite to bloggers to a forum with Prime Minister because her ‘bosses bosses have decided not to have bloggers on the forum because apparently bloggers have already had a private session with the Prime Minister already” http://www.raviphilemon.net/2012/09/because-pm-has-engaged-dr-jiajia-he-has.html

–” TOC was uninvited to the Singapore National Games”

Now to a suggestion of a topic.

The conversation, to be meaningful, must include the issue of public access to govt data bases. This explains why it should give access: In knowledge discovery in datasets, the major barrier to entry is access to the data. When corporations, governments or other private firms jealously guard their proprietary data, the number of people playing with the data and trying to discover valuable things, or putting that data to good use, will remain small. When data is made public, anyone can put that data to work. In recent years governments have begun making large troves of their data publically accessible. The U.S. government’s open-data project, data.gov, for example, has begotten over 200 citizen-developed apps. Similarly, the city of Vancouver, an early mover in the municipal open-data space, opened up their data in 2009, spawning valuable mashups of transit data, the water grid, and common spaces.

It’s gd for a knowledge-based economy.

Netizens who want to take part should take time to read this http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/ips/docs/events/p2012/SP2012_Bkgd%20Pa.pdf. Written by some of the best economists in S’pore (Jedi Knights all: wonder who is their Yoda? Tommy Koh?), it gives plenty of information to counter the governing PAP’s Hard Truths.

Finally, the calls by some netizens for a debate rather than conversation are misguided. Debates are by their nature rigid. The emphasis is on point scoring. This format suits the government. So better to keep it at the conversational level.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/nation-conversation-nah-sounds-like-another-attempt-at-conversion/

PM’s speech: Not juz a change of format

In Political economy, Political governance on 31/08/2012 at 6:32 am

(Or “Why LKY would not have made this speech” or “Two cheers for PM”)

It’s been five days since the speech and the air is thick with analyses and commentaries of what PM said last Sunday. Most of them are noise or smoke or hot air.

While the constructive, nation-building media gushed (like a teen-ager about her puppy love) over the PM’s speech, netizens were not too impressed. Typical reactions:

PM Lee, to no one’s surprise, did not address the root cause of the many issues troubling Singaporeans. The lack of accountability and transparency, civic and political freedoms, freedom of the media, human rights failings, gerrymandering and discriminatory upgrading projects have their roots in repression.

How can there be hope, heart and home when the real issues – foreigner, infrastructure, housing, transport and healthcare – are still outstanding?

Come on netizens: Look on the bright side. He

– Pledged to ensure sufficient affordable housing for citizens, and built more nursing homes for the elderly.

– Said the government will decide on measures to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have more children after consulting the public. Areas being considered include better work- life balance, flexible work arrangements, priority housing for couples with young kids, paternity or shared maternity leave, defraying childhood medical expenses, better pre-school, childcare and infant care, and improving cash benefits for having children known as baby bonuses, he said.

– Pledged Singapore will have two more universities to increase educational opportunities and the government will invest S$60 billion over ten years on the island’s subway system. Bloomberg report.

What this means is that the government is finally going to spend our money on us. No more of his dad’s “frugality”* on spending S’poreans money on S’poreans.

He is saying, “It’s yr money, let’s spend it on making you happier”.

To reinforce the point, he implicitly promised that there would be no near time tax rises, saying (correctly) that Singapore will need to raise taxes in the next two decades (but not now) as the government boosts social spending to support an aging population.

In the past ministers like Tharman and Raymond Lim (remember him?) threatened to raise GST whenever S’poreans asked for more govt spending.

So netizens, give the PM more rope to hang himself or show us that things are a’changing. The assumptions and prejudices of the PAP remain (see here) but at least he is spending our money on things that we want or need to make life more comfortable.

For that let’s give him two cheers. Give him a third if he rethinks the aforesaid prejudices and assumptions inherited from dad.

*An economist lecturing at SMU once commented (when LKY was MM and in rude health) that LKY would die if the government spent a cent more than absolutely necessary on making life more comfortable for S’poreans. Having read his daughter’s comments on his wanting Mrs Lee to change the elastic band on his underwear when she was recovering from her stroke, I think the economist had a valid point, and wasn’t joking.

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