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Posts Tagged ‘NS’

NS: Taiwan’s way

In Political governance on 07/04/2014 at 4:45 am

Netizens have recently (again) been voicing their opinions on NS and on the amount S’pore spends on the military. Most views are against the status quo. Sadly, a lot of comments are juz noise, if not rubbish: of the “PAP is always wrong” variety. The PAP may often be wrong, it isn’t always wrong.

Hopefully, an extract from the transcript of an interview that the Economist did with the president of Taiwan will help inform the debate on NS and S’pore’s military spending. Some comparisons are in the Appendix but before cyberwarriors  mindlessly attack the PAP because Taiwan spends less than ours in $ value, and as %age of budget and GDP, they should note that the US has voiced its concern that Taiwan is freeloading on the US, spending too little on its own defense despite Taiwan facing (unlike S’pore) an existentialist threat (China reserves the right to invade Taiwan if it seeks independence),

Taiwan has cut NS down to four mouths. Not all males of enlistment age will now be required to serve, but rather only a small proportion. Others will be able to follow their own career interests … a more reasonable use of human capital.

It realises that NS  is a cost to society, and wants to reduce this cost. When all the males of a certain age are serving in the military, this naturally places a cost on society. Many businesses will lack the manpower they need, which will limit our overall development. There is, therefore, a great social cost.

Does the govt here realise that having cheap labour for public event (any idea in F1, a commercial enterprises, has access to NS men as cheap labour?), and security involves a social cost?

The extract

In the context of the third line of defence, how problematic is the shift to an all-volunteer army proving? I understand that there are some problems with recruitment.

President Ma: Let me first clarify that we are not moving to an all-volunteer system. Ours will be largely a voluntary force, but not an all-volunteer force. We still have conscription. All males of enlistment age are obliged to spend four months in military training, following which they become part of the reserve. During wartime, they can also be called up to active service.

The Constitution states that the people have the duty to perform military service. Were we to do away with the four-month requirement, we would be in danger of violating the Constitution.

All nations that go by a volunteer system, especially those that had practiced conscription, experience a temporary dip in personnel numbers. With such a systemic change, it is natural that supporting measures will be insufficient. We have just made our change, and are tackling difficulties as they arise.

We have three main goals. First is to enhance the military’s combat readiness. Second is a more reasonable use of human capital. Last is reducing social costs.

As to enhancing combat readiness, let me explain by way of an example. Take a private. Under the old system, he would serve for a year. He completed his service just as he was getting a feel for things. Under the new system, volunteers serve for four years per enlistment. This means that mature soldiers will serve for a longer period. This will naturally increase combat readiness.

We also want to attract young people into the military, which requires improvements in three areas. The first is pay. A private under the old system would have been paid about NT$6,000 per month as basic salary [S$250]. Under the volunteer system, that same soldier will receive NT$33,000 [S$1375], a better than fivefold increase. Second, is honour. We must, on many fronts, increase soldiers’ social status, that they get the respect they deserve. Third, is career path. During the four-year enlistment period, soldiers will be given all manner of vocational training. Our hope is that they end their time in the military with at least one professional certificate, that when they re-enter society, they will not have trouble finding a job.

Of course, we hope to retain such people, and we have seen a retention rate of nearly 60% following these recent developments. This is no small achievement since the changeover to the new system. And we have been resolving difficulties we have encountered one by one by implementing our strategy.

Second is the reasonable use of human capital. Not all males of enlistment age will now be required to serve, but rather only a small proportion. Others will be able to follow their own career interests. This is, of course, a more reasonable use of human capital.

Third is reducing the cost to society. When all the males of a certain age are serving in the military, this naturally places a cost on society. Many businesses will lack the manpower they need, which will limit our overall development. There is, therefore, a great social cost. Through the changes we have overseen, we will reduce this cost.

Two months ago, the Executive Yuan raised the salary for voluntary military personnel, which has had an amazing result. Some 60 years ago, our military personnel numbered over 600,000. Today, they stand at roughly 200,000, a number that may fall a little further. This size of military is sufficient to defend Taiwan given modern self-defence methods.

BTW, here’s an antidote to the PAP’s claim that S’pore outperforms Taiwan:

If you look at the four economies that we used to club together as the original Asian Tigers—Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong—they are all having to reinvent themselves. Do you think that those four economies can still learn from each other? Does Taiwan have any other economic models in mind that it wants to emulate?

President Ma: I believe that the Four Asian Tigers can still learn from each other, even though their specific situations may be slightly different. For example, our situation is similar to that of the Republic of Korea, and rather different from those of Singapore and Hong Kong, because the latter are basically cities. Nonetheless, in terms of their strategies for economic development, they can still serve as a valuable reference.

Looking at the economic performance of these four countries and regions over the past six years, our economic growth rate has been 2.91%, second to Singapore. This is based on nominal GDP. If we look at GDP in terms of purchasing power parity, we have had the highest growth rate.

We also have had the lowest CPI among the Four Asian Tigers. Our unemployment rate has been relatively high, but our misery index—calculated by adding the inflation rate to the unemployment rate—was the second-lowest amongst the four.

Our problem is that we have made insufficient progress in terms of liberalisation, and the pace of our industrial restructuring has been too slow. With regard to regional economic integration, we have to make up considerable ground to be able to compete with Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Republic of Korea.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2014/03/interview-taiwans-president

Related article on NS in Taiwan: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25085323

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Appendix

S’pore, Taiwan military expenditure

In 2013, the estimated military spending was US$10.5bn for Taiwan, and US$12bn for S’pore.

In Taiwan’s case this represented 16.2% of the budget and 2.1% of GDP.

In S’pore’s case the US$12bn represented 20% of the budget and 6% of GDP.

Even if Taiwan is spending too little, surely S’pore is spending too much? I don’t know. What do you think?

Related article on S’pore’s military might: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101393982

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


Where NS leads to successful high tech start-ups

In Uncategorized on 17/09/2013 at 4:48 am

In S’pore, NS is often seen (esp by those doing it) as a waste of time and a source of cheap labour for public events like National Day, F1 and the Kiddie Games.

In Israel, which is surrounded by hostiles threatening to destroy the nation, NS is seen as impt not only for the defence of nation and the Jewish tradition, but also as a training ground for budding high tech entrepreneurs:

Inside the HQ of the Mamram, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) technical support unit in nearby Ramat Gan, computer training course commander … says new recruits on a six-month intensive programming course study from dawn till night and are taught programming skills, teamwork, project management and – most importantly how to be creative. It’s like a school for start-ups.

“When you do a degree in computer science you study the technical things,” she says. “You study how to write a code, mathematics. We don’t focus on that. We focus on how to work in a team. How to understand what your client needs and make software that fits his demands. How to write good code that you will be able to de-bug and maintain.”

Tal Marian, founder of the TechLoft, a commercial shared workspace just off Rothschild, says the results of the military training are obvious. “Some of the military units work like a civilian organisation,” says Marian. “They encourage entrepreneurship, the feeling that if you come up with a good idea that answers a real need of that unit’s mission, you will get the funding and manpower and the time you need.”

After years of helping to solve the nation’s major security threats, the challenges of gaming and mobile apps pale by comparison, he adds.

And

“Entrepreneurs in Israel are unique,” he says. “Their approach to problems is different to others because the army is a huge incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship. The army gave us a few million dollars at the age of 18 and asked us to build technology and systems that address problems that only people 10 or 20 years older are dealing with in other parts of the world. That kind of pressure and challenge really brings a lot of things out of you.”

Tal skipped university to work at a start-up before launching his own, but another important driver of the tech scene is the fact that Israeli university students pay only about $3,100 (£2,000) a year in tuition fees. They emerge from military service and three years of studying with zero debt, eager to take a year off to pursue their dreams.

That youthful exuberance, combined with the rigorous military training in technology and project management, has found a natural home among cafes running down the centre of Rothschild.

When one Tony Tan was DPM a few yrs back, he visited Israel to learn the secrets of building a high tech entrepreneurial culture. Obviously he wasn’t brought to Rothschild Boulevard, or the IDF unit. Obviously, they must have been state secrets then. We know he visited Israeli research institutes and signed shume MOUs.

Related

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16787509

The IDF has already changed enormously in recent years. Its largest unit, 8200, is focused on cyber-warfare. http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21583317-israels-armed-forces-are-shifting-emphasis-mechanised-warfare-toward-air-and