I’m sure you have read Inderjit Singh’s critick of the Report of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), or at least heard of it. If you have not, read it: v.v. good.
But I’m sure you missed the u/m Facebook critick by Devadas Krishnadas. He’s an ex-bureaucrat who now runs his own consultancy: “Future-Moves Group (FMG) is a client-centric, outcome-driven management consultancy founded in 2012.”
He regularly KPKBs in the constructive, nation-building media and the new media, especially on Facebook.
It’s a good piece but has one very serious flaw, a flaw I hope to discuss later this week. See if you can spot what the flaw is.
The importance of having Indian blood
Btw, other than from Chris K (Look out for Terry’s Online Service to reproduce his FB tots), I’ve not seen a good critick by a non-Indian anywhere. Maybe taz why Indians are the master race in S’pore? And why the presumptive Malay president has Indian blood despite being Malay? Having Indian blood is a genetically good thing fir other races? But these questions are material for several posts.)
Facebook post by Devadas Krishnadas.
AN ECONOMY BY COMMITTEE
The much vaunted ‘Committee for the Future Economy’ released its report today. The most impressive thing about the report is the sheer number of contributors. It is cumulative result of the thinking of 30 main members, 218 sub-committee members, some 700 resource persons or who were involved in focus groups and over 225 civil servants. A total exceeding 1200 persons.
The report itself is composed of 109 pages which works out to about 11 contributors to a page of the report. It advocates 7 strategies comprising of 22 related recommendations. This breaks down to more than 170 contributors per strategy and more than 55 contributors per recommendation. There are also 80 supporting recommendations from the sub-committees which works out to about 15 contributors per supporting recommendation.
Doubtless, the committee chairmen would prefer the large pool of contributors to be characterised as an effort to be consultative, inclusive and comprehensive.
Acknowledging the year long effort and the distinguished and lengthy list of contributors, one could be forgiven for expecting more substance in the report.
A report of consequence should be one that does not merely talk in terms of motherhood statements, of which there are too many to list all, just a few examples – “Press on with trade and investment cooperation”, “Support enterprises to scale up”, “Partner each other to enable innovation and growth”.
It should also not be a report about how many more planning activities need to be undertaken. A major recommendation of the report to develop and issue “Industry Transformation Maps” or ITMs for 23 industries. So even more effort into meetings, focus groups, detailed planning and proposals will be forthcoming internally within government.
A report of consequence should be about thinking in terms of what we should stop doing, how we should be rethinking the roles of government, industry and the civil society in the context of constrained economic growth and acknowledging the limits of ‘crystal ball gazing’ which will be winning sectors.
While the intention to think ahead to the future is always laudable. This report reveals more a fixation with the past. This is in the sense that it continues to reflect a belief system that command planning the economy is still the critical success factor and that generating a plan and achieving a result are synonymous. That mode of thinking has not worked for some time but it does serve an essential self-interest – that of justifying an outsized and expensive Rolls-Royce of a public sector to develop, implement and administrate all these gilt plans.
It is high time that it be publicly acknowledged that the Government does not create jobs or value-added. Only the private economy does. We should be thinking in terms of what the government and only the government can and should do, which are areas of co-creation between the government and the private economy and where the private economy should be left to do its thing.
What is needed is fundamental rethinking of the nature of our economy, the embedded structural considerations – both institutional and mind set – which limit or hinder the full exploitation of our economic potential. This should include looking at how and how much the government should be intervening in the economy and revisiting politically charged issues such as population augmentation.
There is one further, basic but yet critical oversight. This is that the report neglected to identify a 24th industry for a much needed ITM – this is the public sector, currently the single largest employer in the country and whose size and wage structure has shaping effects on the labour market.
One obvious recommendation should be for few thousand of the best qualified civil servants to cross over to the very human capital starved private sector, particularly in the small and medium enterprises, to create products, ideas, companies and the jobs of the future.
This may be the most immediate and practical contribution of any report on the future economy. A pity that this does not feature among the long list of recommendations. But then, it is easier to write about a future than to be responsible for making it.