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.
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.”