Archive for May, 2012

Why a US columnist is rooting for Singapore

May 25, 2012

Dear Mr Matt Miller,

I refer to your Washington Post article that was published by Straits Times on 12 May 2012.

Our rise wasn’t from Third World to First but from a middle income status to First World status [1], [2]. It had more to do with good fortune than savvy, talented government officials. Our supposedly talented, savvy government took the import substitution route when they first came into power in 1959 like all the other newly independent Third World nations did. It wasn’t until we were kicked out of Malaysia in 1965 that we had no choice but to embark on export industrialization instead [3], [4], [5]. We were thus forced upon the right path instead of having conscientiously chosen it. Other strokes of good luck include the Cultural Revolution in 1966 which, according to Dr Goh Keng Swee, scared investors away from countries bordering China so they avoided South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong and came to Singapore instead [6] and the oil exploration boom in the region in the early 1970s which contributed to oil rig construction [7]. Besides luck, we also had the good counsel of Dr Albert Winsemius who was the real talented and savvy one [8], [9], [10].

Our million dollar ministerial salaries are much more than generous, they are obscenely excessive. The US is not alone in eschewing million dollar salaries in public service. All other First World nations eschew million dollar salaries in public service but still do well in the Corruption Perceptions Index. New Zealand, Denmark, Finland and Sweden actually do better than Singapore without million dollar ministerial salaries.

Rank Country / territory CPI 2011 score
1 New Zealand 9.5
2 Denmark 9.4
2 Finland 9.4
4 Sweden 9.3
5 Singapore 9.2
6 Norway 9
7 Netherlands 8.9
8 Australia 8.8
8 Switzerland 8.8
10 Canada 8.7
11 Luxembourg 8.5
12 Hong Kong 8.4
13 Iceland 8.3
14 Germany 8
14 Japan 8
16 Austria 7.8
16 Barbados 7.8
16 United Kingdom 7.8
19 Belgium 7.5
19 Ireland 7.5
21 Bahamas 7.3
22 Chile 7.2
22 Qatar 7.2
24 United States 7.1
25 France 7

Linking ministerial pay to median income and the bottommost incomes isn’t rocket science that only Singapore technocrats are capable of coming up with. Our opposition parties have been arguing for this for years before it was finally implemented in a limited way.

It’s not right to refer to our post-independence leaders as the founding generation for Singapore was founded 146 years before we gained independence. It is also not right to say that our post-independence leaders rebelled against the Western welfare state because at least one of the four key post-independence leaders, Dr Toh Chin Chye remained convicted of socialism right to the end [11].

This mighty island country has churned out a lot of fairy tales for the world to read. If you fail to see the tale behind the fairy tale, you might end up learning the wrong lessons and continue to learn the wrong lessons all your life.

[1] Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, Page 166
Singapore had already attained a middle income status in 1960 with a per capita GDP of $1,330

[2] Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26
Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy. The King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century. A fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911. Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s. LKY had already acknowledged in an Aug 1967 speech to American businessmen in Chicago that we were already a metropolis.

[3] Jacques Charmes, In-service training: five Asian experiences, Bernard Salomé, Page 21
Singapore at first adopted the industrialisation policy of import substitution, followed after 1966 by the export of labour intensive manufactured goods.

[4] Robert Fitzgerald, The Competitive advantages of Far Eastern business, Page 55
Singapore’s industrialisation strategy was originally dependent on policies of import substitution within the Malaysian common market, but the attainment of political independence in 1965 led to export industrialisation.

[5] Eddie C. Y. Kuo / Chee Meng Loh / K. S. Raman, Information technology and Singapore society, Page 87
Import substitution was adopted in the early 1960s in anticipation of the Malayan common market. However, Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 dashing the hopes of the common market, hence an export strategy was promoted instead.

[6] Goh Keng Swee, Asian Pacific Economic Literature May 1996, page 2, “The technology ladder in development: the Singapore case”

[7] Diane K. Mauzy / Robert Stephen Milne, Singapore politics under the People’s Action Party, Page 66

[8] Ngiam Tong Dow / Simon Tay, A Mandarin and the making of public policy: reflections, Page 66
Dr Winsemius and I.F. Tang made extraordinary contributions to the economic development of Singapore as leader and secretary of the first UN Industrialisation Survey Team in 1961.

[9] Philip Nalliah Pillai, State enterprise in Singapore: legal importation and development, Page 30
With Singapore’s secession in 1965, the United Nations Proposed Industrialization Programme for the State of Singapore became the basis for Singapore’s industrialisation strategy.

[10] Danny M Leipziger, Lessons from East Asia, Page 240
The 1960-61 United Nations mission led by Albert Winsemius helped develop a blueprint for Singapore’s industrialisation and development plan and recommended the establishment of EDB.
[11] Straits Times, 4 Feb 2012, Dr Toh Chin Chye: No ‘dumb cow’ but a vocal critic in the House
Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said his early Cabinet was divided into two camps: on one side were the pragmatists like himself and Dr Goh Keng Swee; and on the other, there were the instinctive socialists, emotionally drawn to the ideal of equality, like Dr Toh Chin Chye. Long years in government did not change Dr Toh Chin Chye’s democratic socialist bent.

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The S’pore takeaway for Uncle Sam

May 23, 2012

Dear Mr Matt Miller,

I refer to your Washington Post article that was published by Straits Times on 5 May 2012.

The table below shows that it is not just Singapore that offers a hassle free, clean airport experience; a number of East Asian airports offer the same excellent experience.

Airports Council International
Airport Service Quality Awards 2011
Skytrax
World Airport Awards 2012
1 Incheon 1 Incheon
2 Singapore 2 Singapore
3 Beijing 3 Hong Kong
4 Hong Kong 4 Amsterdam
5 Nagoya 5 Beijing

The following table shows that it is not just Singapore that has low healthcare expenditure. East Asia in general has low healthcare expenditures compared to the West.

Economy World Bank 2010 healthcare as % of GDP UN Population Division 2010 % population between 25 and 64
Singapore 4 59
Hong Kong [1] 6.3 62.5
Taiwan [2] 6.6 59.8
Republic of Korea 6.9 57.8
Luxembourg 7.8 54.5
Australia 8.7 51.5
Finland 9 51.5
Ireland 9.2 52.6
Norway 9.5 51.3
Japan 9.5 50.8
Italy 9.5 52.5
Spain 9.5 55
Sweden 9.6 49.2
United Kingdom 9.6 50.6
New Zealand 10.1 50.2
Belgium 10.7 51.4
Austria 11 52.9
Canada 11.3 53.9
Denmark 11.4 51.1
Switzerland 11.5 53.6
Germany 11.6 52.3
France 11.9 49.8
Netherlands 11.9 52.8
United States 17.9 51

Not only that, the table also shows that economies with low healthcare expenditure tend to have a higher proportion of population aged between 25 and 64. Regressing healthcare expenditure on population between 25 and 64 yields a coefficient of -0.49 and a p-value of 0.0009. This shows an almost certain negative relationship between healthcare expenditure and population between 25 and 64.

So part of the reason why Singapore or East Asian healthcare expenditure tends to be lower than those of Western societies is because our populations comprise a higher proportion aged between 25 and 64, which is the most economically active group. In the case of Singapore, this is unsurprising considering that 20% of our population are foreign workers who contribute more to GDP and less to healthcare expenditure since they have to be young and healthy in the first place to get a job here. The US too can easily lower its healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP by simply importing 20% or 60 million young, healthy and economically productive foreign workers.

Instead of looking at what Singapore has delivered for its five million people, we can also look at what its five million people has delivered for Singapore. The government hasn’t always taken the long term view; the recent grow-at-all-cost approach isn’t a long term view. Singaporeans deliver goodness despite benevolent dictatorship.

Singapore’s embrace of global firms was due to Dr Albert Winsemius, the Dutch economist sent by the United Nations to help us industrialise. If GDP growth is matched by population growth, there will be no improvement in GDP per person. That is why GDP growth itself is seldom used to compare countries. It is per capita GDP that is used instead. The following table shows that other East Asian economies registered more impressive growth in real per capita GDP over the last five decades.

Economy Growth real per capita GDP from 1960 to 2009 (ppp) [3]
Equatorial Guinea 8.80%
China Version 1 6.90%
Taiwan 6.40%
Botswana 6.20%
Republic Korea 5.90%
Hong Kong 5.70%
Singapore 5.50%
China Version 2 5.10%
Thailand 4.80%
Malaysia 4.70%

The plan Mr Philip Yeo said we have is Dr Winsemius’ plan. Even the globally admired EDB was set up in accordance to Dr Winsemius’ plans.

The following table shows that the Singapore government isn’t the cleanest:

Transparency International 2011 rankings
1 New Zealand
2 Denmark
3 Finland
4 Sweden
5 Singapore

Neither is it the most exceptional.

Tim Geithner wouldn’t have had the opportunity to handle the Global Financial crisis if he wasn’t talent. He shows that talents don’t need million dollar salaries. If Tim Geithner’s approach to Wall Street reform is to cash in when he leaves, he might as well leave now and cash in now.

The table below shows that the Singapore Airlines is not the best and that the best airlines tend to be East Asian:

Skytrax Best Airlines Award 2011
1 Qatar Airways
2 Singapore Airlines
3 Asiana Airlines
4 Cathay Pacific Airways
5 Thai Airways International

While our subways are gorgeous, the following table shows that our MRT isn’t always the best regarded and that our fellow East Asian economies have gorgeous subways too.

Year Best Metro Asia Pacific Best Metro
2011 Seoul Metro London Underground
2010 Singapore SMRT Copenhagen Metro
2009 Singapore SMRT Singapore SMRT
2008 Hong Kong MTR Copenhagen Metro

Furthermore, our trains are squeezy and break down easily nowadays so much so that MRT is now facing a public inquiry. Electronic Road Pricing is described by some as paying to get caught in a jam. Digital signs are a waste of tax payer’s money.

Singapore public housing is pricier than American private housing and should therefore be compared to American private housing instead. Virtual home ownership means Singaporeans don’t really own their homes but are merely leasing them from HDB for 99 years. High home ‘ownership’ also means high level of indebtedness and the emptying of our CPF retirement money to pay for housing. In recent years, rise in home prices have far outstripped government mortgage assistance.

The Marina Bay feat of engineering is really the work of external consultants and foreign expertise, as long as we can afford to pay the price.

Founding isn’t the right word to describe the legacies LKY and his colleagues, for Singapore was already prospering long before they arrived on the scene. Behind the so-called ‘giants of independence’ stood even greater giants who are collectively our Singapore pioneers.

It is not just Singapore that has huge surpluses; East Asian economies tend to have good surpluses too.

Country IMF average per capita current account surplus from 1980 to 2010 (US$)
Brunei Darussalam 7,138
Luxembourg 5,959
Qatar 3,460
Kuwait 3,415
Norway 3,344
Switzerland 2,913
Singapore 2,495
United Arab Emirates 1,609
Netherlands 1,214
Sweden 1,011
Hong Kong SAR 988
Libya 924
Trinidad and Tobago 789
Japan 780
Taiwan Province of China 630

Singapore’s exceptional performance need not necessarily be attributable to our government’s exceptional performance. Thus far, all that Singapore excelled in, our fellow East Asian Tiger economies have excelled in as well. Singapore is no more exceptional than what you’d expect of East Asian economies. There is no evidence that our government has significantly improved our lives beyond what could be achieved by East Asia.

It’s fashionable but ultimately wrong to say that Singapore catapulted from Third World to First. Singapore had already attained a middle income status in 1960 with a per capita GDP of $1,330 [4]. Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy. The King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century. A fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911. Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s. LKY had already acknowledged in an Aug 1967 speech to American businessmen in Chicago that we were already a metropolis [5].

[1] Hong Kong 2010 healthcare expenditure as percentage of GDP obtained from Economist Intelligence Unit report “Side effects – Challenges facing healthcare in Asia” page 7

Hong Kong 2010 percentage population above 65 obtained from Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department

[2] Taiwan 2010 healthcare expenditure as percentage of GDP obtained from Taiwan Today, “Ma pledges increased health care spending”, 20 Jan 2012

Taiwan 2010 percentage population above 65 obtained from National Taiwan statistics website

[3] University of Pennsylvania Centre for International Comparisons

[4] Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, Page 166

[5] Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26

NG: Show Singaporea​ns some respect

May 12, 2012

Dear Ms Ng E-Ching,

I refer to your 9 Apr 2012 Yale News article “NG: Show Singaporeans some respect” [1].

You used your own experience of discussing banned articles within the confines of your own classes to show Yale academics what they can do in Singapore – practise academic freedom within the confines of their classes to stay out of trouble. But doing things on the sly is not freedom. If you’re free to do it, why do it on the sly? Why not do it openly? Your so-called ‘freedom in practice’ is really just freedom behind closed doors, which is no real freedom at all. All that you are preaching to Yale is to do things in secrecy which is quite pathetic really.

You feel that the best way for Yale to effect change is not to stress differences between Singapore and the US but to stress commonalities instead. Yet, in your attempt to change Yale perspective on Singapore, you ended up stressing differences in attitudes towards arms bearing, film censorship and Quran burning. While these are real differences, they are not the ones that are at the crux of the issue. The crux of the issue really is the lack of respect for press and political freedoms.

I don’t see the Yale resolution as asking to get kicked out of Singapore but a sincere, good natured attempt at pointing out a fundamental weakness in our society. I don’t find the resolution annoying and it is my honest opinion that Singaporeans who are patriotic towards fellow Singaporeans rather than towards their rulers will feel the same way.

While recent events show that the government does respond to the people’s desire for change, that desire for change has been driven by the recent proliferation of information and opinion online. If such free information and opinion had been made readily available in the press over the last 50 years, the people may have desired change much earlier and our ruling party may not have held power for 50 years.

The reality of our political culture doesn’t make it right and doesn’t justify its continuity.

Singapore is extremely open to foreign influences only in certain respects. Many foreign newspapers have been sued and their influences curtailed.

The Yale resolution isn’t the preoccupation of hecklers but the sincere expression of basic goodness that all human societies including that of Singapore deserve.

[1] http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/apr/09/ng-show-singaporeans-some-respect

An unnatural country’s take on democracy

May 6, 2012

Dear Ms Chan Heng Chee,

I refer to your 8 Mar 2012 speech at Yale Law School [1].

Singapore isn’t the only economy cited for success. We are just one of four East Asian tiger economies collectively cited for success. The Singapore model isn’t the only one we hear reference to. Taiwan too has been referred to by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman in his New York Times article [2]. On other occasions, the Singapore model is being questioned for lack of home-grown technology giants, little to show for heavy government investment and failure to commercialise products [3]. All see, not just a Singapore that enjoys sustained economic success but an East Asia that has been enjoying sustained economic success.

Our foreign minister Mr Shanmugam always emphasise the need to compare Singapore with other cities rather than with states comprising several cities. Singapore’s per capita GDP lags behind those of many Western cities:

City 2008 GDP ($bn PPP) Population (millions) per capita GDP ($000 PPP)
San Francisco/Oakland 301 3.5 86.5
Washington DC 375 4.4 85.5
Boston 363 4.5 80.5
Seattle 235 3.1 75.5
New York 1,406 19.2 73.3
Philadelphia 388 5.5 70.1
Dallas/Fort Worth 338 4.9 69.5
Atlanta 304 4.6 66.4
London 565 8.6 65.8
Houston 297 4.5 65.8
Chicago 574 9.1 63.3
Los Angeles 792 12.6 62.9
Detroit 253 4.1 61.1
Paris 564 9.9 56.9
Miami 292 5.7 51.6
Sydney 213 4.4 48.9
Singapore 215 4.5 47.9
Toronto 253 5.3 47.7
Hong Kong 320 7.3 44.0
Tokyo 1,479 35.8 41.3
Madrid 230 5.6 40.8
Osaka/Kobe 417 11.3 36.9

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global City GDP Rankings 2008

While Singapore is well governed and well run, it is by no means best governed. Countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are simultaneously better governed than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both well-governed and democratic at the same time.

Country Government effectiveness Democracy Index
DENMARK 2.37 9.52
NEW ZEALAND 2.36 9.26
SWEDEN 2.25 9.5
SINGAPORE 2.18 5.89
FINLAND 2.15 9.06
NETHERLANDS 2.15 8.99
NORWAY 2.07 9.8
CANADA 2.06 9.08
AUSTRALIA 2.06 9.22
SWITZERLAND 2.06 9.09
LUXEMBOURG 2.06 8.88
HONG KONG 1.94 5.92

Government Effectiveness Worldwide Governance Indicators 2011

Our invitation to US Education Department summits could simply be due to the easier adaptation of our English based education materials for the US compared to education materials from Taiwan, South Korea, Germany or Finland. For all the knowledge industries and cutting-edge stuff we are doing, we haven’t got a thing that comes close to the IPhone.

Our top five ranking for non-corruption means there are four other nations less corrupted than us. These four are New Zealand, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. These nations are simultaneously less corrupted than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both non-corrupted and democratic at the same time.

Country / Territory CPI 2011 Score Democracy Index
New Zealand 9.5 9.26
Finland 9.4 9.06
Denmark 9.4 9.52
Sweden 9.3 9.5
Singapore 9.2 5.89
Norway 9 9.8
Netherlands 8.9 8.99
Australia 8.8 9.22
Switzerland 8.8 9.09
Canada 8.7 9.08
Luxembourg 8.5 8.88
Hong Kong 8.4 5.92

Corruption Perceptions Index 2011

The Yale-China association was founded in 1901 as an essentially missionary movement, hardly comparable to the Yale-Singapore partnership in question today. The association’s move to Hong Kong in the 1950s coincided with the end of democratic China and the rise of communist China, an event not inconsistent with the concerns of Yale academics today. The return of Yale-China to China in 1979 was primarily for collaboration in English and medicine, not liberal arts. Once again, this turn of events doesn’t really contradict the concerns of Yale academics today.

It is wrong to say that Singapore is a democracy because information flows freely. A sizeable chunk of information is missing from our press and can only be found online. Reporters Without Borders ranks us 135th in the world for press freedom. It is also wrong to say that Singapore is a democracy because it is egalitarian. Our Gini coefficient is amongst the world’s highest. Many Western nations are simulaneously more egalitarian than us and a lot more democratic too. They show that we can be both egalitarian and democratic at the same time.

Country Income GINI coefficient 2000-2010
Hong Kong 43.4
Singapore 42.5
Qatar 41.1
United States 40.8
Israel 39.2
Portugal 38.5
New Zealand 36.2
Italy 36
United Kingdom 36
Estonia 36
Australia 35.2
Poland 34.9
Spain 34.7
Ireland 34.3
Greece 34.3
Switzerland 33.7
Belgium 33
France 32.7
Canada 32.6
Korea, Republic of 31.6
Slovenia 31.2
Netherlands 30.9
Austria 29.1
Germany 28.3
Finland 26.9
Norway 25.8
Czech Republic 25.8
Slovakia 25.8
Sweden 25
Japan 24.9
Denmark 24.7

Income GINI coefficient from Human Development Report 2010, UN

If Singapore is a democracy, why does the Economist Intelligence Unit classify Singapore as a hybrid regime between flawed democracy and authoritarian regime? Why does Freedom House classify us as only a partly free country?

Singapore falls short even when considered against the Westminster model. Does the Westminster model allow all newspapers to be grouped into one company with the majority of shares held by government linked companies and chaired by important ex-ministers? Does the Westminster model allow political opponents to be locked up without trial? Does it allow several constituencies to be lumped together to be contested as one? Ours is but a mockery of the Westminster model. The confusion in our presidential election arose from an attempt to dumb down the president. Please explain to our friends in Yale that our president is not allowed to speak with his conscience unless approval is given by the government and see if that does not cause confusion.

Democracy is more than just free and fair elections; it also requires a free press which we do not have. The GRC makes our elections less than fair as it allows one minister to win five, six constituencies. We are no more egalitarian than the US or India as our GINI is higher than theirs:

Country Income GINI coefficient 2000-2010
Singapore 42.5
United States 40.8
India 36.8

Income GINI coefficient from Human Development Report 2010, UN

The many less liberal Asian democracies have fundamentally different societies, culturally and religiously. We should compare ourselves with Asian democracies like South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong that have similar cultures. We pale in comparison to them.

While it is fashionable for the ruling party to portray our independence as a matter of survival, the truth is that we have been prospering long before our independence. In 1960, our per capita GDP was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status [4]. Post-war Singapore was never a backward fishing village waiting to be transformed by Lee Kuan Yew into a modern economy; the King of Thailand wouldn’t have sent 20 of his sons to a fishing village for education in the late nineteenth century; a fishing village could not have staged a manned air flight as early as 1911; Singapore was credited with the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s and in Aug 1967, while speaking to American businessmen in Chicago, Lee Kuan Yew had already acknowledged then that we were already a metropolis [5].

Whatever the link between democracy and growth, the case is clear from the examples of South Korea and Taiwan that embracing democracy is no impediment to prosperity. Singaporeans voting on the performance of the government does not preclude their voting for democracy.

Populist movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street embody the spirit of democracy and show that democracy is alive and kicking in America. Americans can always count on their democratic DNA to turn their country around whenever their elites steer them off course towards destruction. Singapore too needs democratic DNA to rein in an elitist government bent on growing our nation to destruction.

While ministers can lose seats, only two ministers have lost their seats over the last 47 years, hardly typical of democracies. The slight progress made in democracy over the last few years was in spite of PAP policies.

Singapore is no more unnatural than Israel, another small nation surrounded by much larger Muslim states. Israel’s situation is much worse considering that they actually fought three wars of survival and continue to experience rocket attacks today. Yet, Israel’s democracy index of 7.53 is much higher than Singapore’s 5.89. South Korea too is in an unenviable situation of having to live with a militant, nuclear capable North Korean neighbour while Taiwan has to live under the shadows of the China juggernaut. Yet both South Korea and Taiwan have relatively high democracy indexes of 8.06 and 7.46 respectively. Israel, South Korea and Taiwan show that an unnatural situation is no excuse to sacrifice democracy.

Our being surrounded by 200 million Muslims is no excuse to take away our right to assemble in groups more than five persons, no excuse to restrict press freedom beyond religious matters, no excuse for the GRC when only one out of the five or six constituencies in the GRC will be helmed by the minority representative. We might as well dictate that one particular constituency to be minority contestable only.

Singapore wasn’t born but became independent in 1965. Our birth goes back to 1819. Neighbouring hostility amounted to no more than two bomb blasts.

We may not have oil, gas or water but we are gifted with one of the most valuable geographical locations that became the basis of our prosperity. All four East Asian Tiger economies prospered without oil or gas. Hong Kong too depends on China for water.

The Scandinavian nation corporations cited by Professor John Ruggie score very high in democracy index. They show that the tendency for smaller nations to corporatize is no excuse to sacrifice democracy.

Country Democracy Index
Norway 9.8
Sweden 9.5
Finland 9.06
Singapore 5.89

Democracy Index 2011, Economist Intelligence Unit

Our government may be responsive but its response is increasingly detrimental to the wellbeing of our people. Social rights are still at their infancy. Greater openness is an illusion as are accountability and transparency. Accountability is meaningless when based on misrepresented data. Transparency is meaningless when the truth is polished until it disappears.

It has always been convenient for the government to blame inequality on globalisation until the recent Institute of Policy studies which showed that our construction workers are severely underpaid compared to those of other nations exposed to the same forces of globalisation.

The West’s continued prosperity and dominance in creative innovation shows that democracy doesn’t necessarily impact competitiveness. Despite China’s rapid rise, it is still a net recipient, not creator of technology. In this technological world, it is the technology leader that leads the world.

The Singapore government may be responsive to the needs of businesses and corporations but not the needs of the people. People were asking for more to be done to rein in property prices years before the government finally took action. People were asking for more to be done for public transport but nothing significant came about until the recent major MRT breakdowns. The government is not responsive enough to the needs of the people that befits a democracy. Singaporeans are not demanding for more and more entitlements but merely seeking fairness and dignity in our own country.

The 2012 Global City Competitiveness Benchmark commissioned by CitiBank shows that New York is more competitive than Singapore despite US political discourse. The IMD 2011 World Competitiveness Report also lists USA as being more competitive than Singapore. Thus, the notion that too much democracy affects competitiveness is misplaced. India’s problems aren’t so much of too much democracy but the fact that it is a complicated nation as LKY once explained.

Country World Competitiveness Scoreboard
Hong Kong 100
USA 100
Singapore 98.6
Sweden 94.1
Switzerland 92.6
Taiwan 92
Qatar 90.2
Australia 89.3
Germany 87.8
Luxembourg 86.5
Denmark 86.4
Norway 86.3
Netherlands 85.7
Finland 84.4
Malaysia 84.1

IMD 2011 World Competitiveness Report

Besides Singapore, all other First World nations have embraced democracy without sacrificing economic development. Economic development need not come at the expense of democracy.

Whether it is governance, non-corruption, egalitarianism, unnatural geopolitical situation, tendency of small nations to corporatize or the need to maintain competitiveness and economic development, there is no lack of examples of countries that have either outperformed us or are in a more dire situation but have not sacrificed democracy. There is simply no excuse to sacrifice democracy.

[1] Straits Times, 20 Apr 2012, An unnatural country’s take on democracy

[2] Straits Times, 12 Mar 2012, Having no oil may yield the best resource

[3] Straits Times, 9 Mar 2012, S’pore growth model in spotlight

[4] Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, Page 166

[5] Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26