New chapter in the Singapore Story

Dear Dr Ng,

I refer to the 8 Mar 2011 Straits Times report of your Budget 2011 speech.

You referred to Singapore’s 100-fold increase in nominal per capita GDP from US $400 in 1960 to US$ 40,000 in 2010 as the Singapore story. Kindly refer instead to the University of Pennsylvania’s Centre for International Comparisons for the increase in real per capita GDP from 1960 to 2009:

Country Real per capita GDP 1960 Real per capita GDP 2009 Number of times real per captia GDP has increased
Equatorial Guinea 74 33,125 448
China Version 1 72 9,198 128
Botswana 104 9,897 95
Taiwan 344 31,131 91
Korea, Republic of 314 26,464 84
Hong Kong 641 38,563 60
China Version 2 162 9,229 57
Singapore 973 51,833 53
Indonesia 106 4,647 44
Thailand 203 8,771 43
Malaysia 302 12,876 43

If we set aside Equatorial Guinea and Botswana which struck oil in the 1990s and diamonds in the 1970s respectively, the race to see who can multiply per capita GDP the most is won, not by Singapore, but by China. In fact, impressive as our GDP multiplying has been, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong have all out multiplied us during this period. Once again, we are faced with the compelling truth that the Singapore story is just one segment of the overall East Asian story. It has never been a one and only story wrought by a one and only party.

Some of the $6,200 three-room Queenstown HDB flats in the 1960s are fetching more than $300,000 today. That works out to be about 9% HDB price inflation every year. Did Singaporean salaries increase by 9% every year? Since HDB price increase has outpaced salary increase, HDB flats have become more and more unaffordable as the years went by.

The dramatic increase in home ‘ownership’ from 30% in 1970 to 90% in 1990 can be attributed to the equally dramatic increase in government land ownership from 40% in 1960 to more than 80% by the turn of the century. Having acquired so much land on the cheap from the people, is it any wonder most people ended up being housed by the government? With most of the land taken away by the government, where else could the people have lived? On the water? Moreover, the 9% HDB price inflation over the last five decades guarantees that the government has been making a hell lot of money through housing Singaporeans.

You referred to our founding fathers as though they were the ones who fought for and won independence for us. Yet, they were not the ones who fought for our independence. That accolade goes to David Marshall. While David Marshall didn’t win independence for us, no one else did. We literally had independence thrown at us when we were thrown out of Malaysia. Therefore, as far as fighting for and winning independence is concerned, we have no founding fathers. But the Singapore story started with Sir Stamford Raffles. It was he who gave birth to Singapore. If there is one person who most befits the title of founding father, it would be Sir Stamford Raffles.

Finally, half of pupils from the bottom one third of society scoring within the top two thirds in the PSLE appears to be an outstanding achievement until we note that only 15% of the cohort lived in 1- to 3- room flats. In other words, of the bottom 33%, only 15% stayed in 1- to 3- room flats while the other 18% actually stayed in 4-room flats or better. What difference is there between 4-room flat pupils in the bottom 33% and 4-room flat pupils above the bottom 33%? An exchange of places between 4-room pupils in the bottom one third and 4-room pupils above the bottom one third would already have accounted for half of bottom one third scoring within the top two thirds. Yet that merely represents a redistribution within one social stratum, not across social strata.

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5 Responses to “New chapter in the Singapore Story”

  1. Lenox Says:

    Can you provide the url link to the source of your statistics and is there a reason you use Pennsylvania University from other reputable international sources?

    • trulysingapore Says:

      Just google “university of pennsylvania center for international comparisons”.

      Is there a reason why university of pennsylvania is not reputable?

      Other sources quite often don’t show Taiwan because Taiwan is still not recognised by many international organisations. Without Taiwan, the picture won’t be complete.

  2. defennder Says:

    That’s amazing. I never knew there was a study which did comparisons like this. Thanks for publicising it.

  3. Lenox Says:

    Becos the figures from this source is pretty much different from other sources…..

  4. trulysingapore Says:

    Not true. GDP figures are pretty standard across agencies.

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