Foreword: Chris K (A S’porean FT living in Japan) commented on Facebook on this piece. I’ve worked his comments into the original piece and added some background info. Hence this retitled piece which is an expanded and reworked version of the earlier piece.
Prime Minister Abe … in his latest op-ed in the WSJ says that if developed countries are facing a future of low or no growth, and shrinking populations, then perhaps governments should focus on improving living standards and not simply chase high economic growth rates.
Well as S’pore is now facing a future of low growth and a shrinking population, unless FTs are let in by the cattle-truck load, the PAP administration should focus on improving living standards and not simply chase high economic growth rates?
After all Goh Chok Tong said we should be like the Japanese. And PM and ministers cite Japanese practices: here, here and here.
But then the PAP can’t let in its beloved FTs to eat S’porans’ breakfast, lunch and dinner and all snacks in between. FTs are needed to spur S’poreans to be as cheap to hire as FTs are, despite the higher cost of housing etc here. Hard Truths are more important than the well-being of S’poreans?
Here’s what Chris K says about life in a stagnant, past its prime Japan
Lived in Japan 1990-1995 and then again from 2006, the difference between the 2 periods in my view is that it is more livable today than before despite all the “bad news” of stagnation and deflation. Working hours have steadily declined despite shortage of labour. Total Fertility Rate has gone up.
(Btw, a few yrs ago I reported that HSBC showed that Japan was doing pretty well)
Life can be good in a country with a shrinking population and deflation. The PAP juz doesn’t like stagnation, deflation and a shrinking population.
Chris K then goes on to criticise the PAP’s administration policies here. Pay attention to (and think hard about) the section beginning the entire pension and healthcare proposition have under LHL been tied to ever-increasing real estate prices …
But I completely agree with Cynical Investor, the PM won’t be heeding Abe’s advice. Why? Just 2 simple things.
First the government salaries are marked to GDP growth despite the factthat in today’s digital economy GDP is a terrible measure of progress since many improvements and convenience in life comes free (think on-line shopping vs going to shops) or below cost, thus understating the impact on GDP growth. So nuts and bolts, brick and mortar still rule their head even if they have to accept the digital challenge.
Harry and Dr Goh has things easy when running S’pore. They grew the economy and jobs and wage rises followed.
Nowadays GDP is decoupled from jobs and wages. I wish someone would do a similar chart for S’pore.
Second, far more importantly, the entire pension and healthcare proposition have under LHL been tied to ever-increasing real estate prices (think downgrades and LBS to finance you and your parent’s healthcare and pensions). That means forget about quality of GDP growth, quantity is the game where large increases in population are required not just for those nuts and bolts, brick and mortar but with the benefit of keeping real estate prices elevated.
If you think we have a real estate bubble that may or may not be deflating, then equally we then must have a bubble in the government’s projections for our retirement and healthcare. Both are inexorably linked, one cannot exist without the other because of the use of CPF for housing. So 6.9m is a done deal, 10m a very likely eventual outcome. More foreign labour supply to hold down wages, a more crowded country, more stresses and greater wealth disparity. At some point this will stop and then this country will have an almighty day of reckoning.