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Thread: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

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    Red face Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    July 11, 2017 9:00 am JST
    William Pesek
    Why Singapore is struggling to reinvent itself
    Roots of today`s problems were visible in the city-state over 20 years ago


    A general view of the Central Business District of Singapore and the Merlion, illuminated with a projection during the iLight Marina Bay on March 23. © Getty Images


    There is a hot new industry in Singapore: Kremlinology.

    Paul Krugman once compared the city-state to the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the Nobel laureate had a point. He was not referring to communism or to mass killings, of course -- but the art of observing, deducing and obsessing over a secretive organization is again consuming the nation of 5.5 million people. The subject of the latest intrigue is a bizarre spat within the family at the core of Singapore's astounding success and the row is fueling an unprecedented scandal that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says could dent the nation's squeaky-clean image.

    As far as Singapore's budding Kremlinologists can tell, the tiff concerns the estate of Lee Kuan Yew, who died in 2015. Some of Lee's children accuse their brother, the current prime minister, of preserving a family home that Singapore's founding father wanted demolished. They took to social media to air the dirty laundry of a family that long maintained a facade of having none. Many are asking what is really going on and what the first family brawling means for the trajectory of Singapore's top-down political and economic system.
    The echoes of Krugman's 1994 critique are impossible to miss. His over-the-top comparison was this: Lee Kuan Yew's model of appropriating domestic savings, championing state-linked companies and steering the workforce into moderate-paying jobs "would have done Stalin proud," but would ultimately prove unsustainable. The fallout from that unsustainability is now the biggest challenge facing the younger Lee. Efforts to recalibrate the engines of growth away from demographics to greater productivity and innovation are not doing Singaporeans proud.

    Singapore long ago realized that mobilizing domestic talent and importing more was the secret of rising living standards. Whereas Hong Kong and other "tigers" championed productivity, Singapore harnessed migration. There are limits, of course. Tiny Singapore cannot reclaim land, build housing and expand subways fast enough to accommodate the roughly 7 million people the government expects by 2030. In 2010, Lee Kuan Yew said "we have grown in the last five years by just importing labor," an admission that says everything about the limits of the Singapore model.

    Singaporeans are being squeezed at both ends: the high-net-worth set -- from bankers to tech entrepreneurs -- pushed property prices into the stratosphere, while lower-skilled labor from neighboring countries restrained middle-class incomes.

    The nation Lee built needs new ways to boost incomes, competitiveness and innovation as upstarts around Asia raise their economic games. Lee's son has yet to come up with a compelling vision. Certainly tourism is filling government coffers, as are the casinos that altered the feel of the downtown Marina Bay district. But Singapore must transform the economy by moving towards higher value-added industries, encouraging entrepreneurship and investing far more in research and development on biotechnology, energy, health care, logistics and software innovation. It must also reduce the dominance of government-linked companies to give startups more oxygen.

    This moment should be Singapore's for the taking as capitalist Hong Kong clashes with Beijing. The buzz surrounding the 20th anniversary of Hong Hong's handover on July 1 is how its free-market spirit is being broken by communists -- not Stalin's, but Xi Jinping's. As China goes further to remake Hong Kong in its image -- greater opacity, less press freedom, dousing hopes for democracy -- Singapore should be an obvious winner. Unfortunately, Singapore is fumbling efforts to reinvent itself.

    The Lee family drama might get less attention if it were not for the fundamental questions hovering over Singapore. The sense of rudderlessness that Lee Kuan Yew's death wrought is best addressed by bold and visionary leadership, not more of the same in a fast-changing global economy. A political system stacked in favor of the Lee-dominated People's Action Party -- and against conventional opposition party challenges -- is proving no match for the forces of globalization

    It is troubling, for example, how reliant wealthy Singapore is on exports 20 years after the 1997 Asian crisis. Even if gross domestic product expands 2% this year, as hoped, consumer spending contracted in the last two quarters amid tepid wage growth (slowest since 2009), rising household debt (now 75% of GDP) and increasing unemployment (highest in eight years).

    The way forward is harnessing new ideas, industries, processes and fostering greater risk-taking among the ranks of the twentysomethings and thirtysomethings. In top-down Singapore, that means a new tack by the government. Why not try additional tax inducements to catalyze a fresh startup boom and support small enterprises? Stronger safety nets might encourage a risk-averse society to risk failure.

    Even now, 17 years after he stepped down, it is hard not to marvel at what Lee Kuan Yew accomplished. Through sheer force of will, he marshaled a place so devoid of natural resources that it long had to buy drinking water from Malaysia into a financial power. The merits -- or drawbacks, as Krugman would argue -- of his soft authoritarianism are still a matter of lively debate. But as Lee's children brawl and Singaporeans become concerned, the blueprint Lee used to build Southeast Asia's richest economy is no longer enough.

    The rivalry with Hong Kong, the race to lure multinational companies to headquarter in Singapore and to draw in talent to staff them, increases the urgency for Lee Inc. to get its house in order. The fact that it is fighting over a house, literally, augurs poorly for the retooling process needed to move beyond today's malaise. That will not stop Singapore's fledgling Kremlinologists from poring over the mysteries surrounding the first family. It is no secret, though, that Singapore needs to regain its ability to think big.








    William Pesek is a Tokyo-based journalist and author of "Japanization: what the world can learn from Japan`s lost decades". He is a former columnist for Bloomberg.

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    very nice.....this guy seems to understand SG issues and economy better than our ministers.

    other journalist always bring up governing style and freedom of speech and the willingness of the citizenry being buttfucked but this guy hits the point right on its head.

    former columnist for bloomberg no wonder.
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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Trader View Post
    The way forward is harnessing new ideas, industries, processes and fostering greater risk-taking among the ranks of the twentysomethings and thirtysomethings. In top-down Singapore, that means a new tack by the government.
    They are already doing this….but it doesn't work due to one fundamental flaw…the way singos are brought up.

    Innovation, entrepreneurship comes from questioning old ways of doing things….which is anathema in SG.

    Singo kids are brought up overprotected and fed shit from birth and during their educative years ….is it any wonder they are the way they are?

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    LKY was too successful in clamping down on anyone who disagreed with his family run business. The Sporeans who might have led the needed change are now ex-Sporeans & have traded their Sing passport for the ones from Australia, Canada, USA,....

    In the old days this process was known as the brain drain.

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    Time to put on the eurobeat cd and put our capitalist drive into first gear.and elect a capitalist as our prime minister,not some highly paid honcho whose never made a single cent in his life but talks like one.even lhy is more qualified as he is a investor.time to separate capitalism from politics as well,that breeds too much leeches and cronyism.

    Also sinkies are not as greedy and money minded as the communist chinks.they love money too but are not willing to go to the ends of the world for it.sinkies are too passive and too squarish too textbookish and too repetitive and follow old formulas over and over again.and true love of money only comes when u are willing to do anything,cheat lie and copy if u must,only then will creativity innovation and entrepreneurship arise.look at the chinks they have a finger in almost every pie now,and even their copied tech are developing it's own variants and original mutations.
    Last edited by frenchbriefs; 12-07-2017 at 10:25 AM.
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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    The only thing I'm worried is even if there are more homegrown companies and sinkies are more in control of their economy,we would still need more labour.the capitalists might end up importing more trash anyway and we are still headed down the same path.

    How to remain homogenous like Japan and still remain a economic power with the gene pool we have?
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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    Hk vs Spore comparison is a good one. HK entire wealth and economic wellbeing is fueled by individuals from the private sector not by the public service. There is also no single political party that operates in a monopolistic manner that controls individuals through a pervasive net of grassroots organisation and thought control.

    Singaporeans have been conditioned to wait for ideas, approval and official support to do anything. And the cost of even running a stall is ridiculously high because we have the likes of Mapletree that have taken over JTC estates etc.

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    "The way forward is harnessing new ideas, industries, processes and fostering greater risk-taking among the ranks of the twentysomethings an
    thirtysomethings. In top-down Singapore, that means a new tack by the government. Why not try additional tax inducements to catalyze a
    fresh startup boom and support small enterprises? Stronger safety nets might encourage a risk-averse society to risk failure "

    The pappy went in the opposite direction and instead of providing stronger safety nets to the people, they import millions of low quality foreigners to create more competition and uncertainty for locals.
    But for themselves and the scholar/military elite they provide pension and/or the highest salaries and a second career in top management position in GLC's with a "no blame culture". Safety net, high salaries and cushy jobs for the elite BUT low salaries ,severe competition and high job uncertainties for the man in the street.

    Of course there are other factors like a stifling political/education system and the monopoly of power by a single group of people.
    The adverse effects of monopoly is well documented in economics and it is no different in politics.

    My argument would be for political change before economic/social changes that the author talk about can happen here.
    The LHY/LWL saga or Oxleygate provides a spark of opportunity-but are the people brave enough to do it?
    "The Taiwanese are ruthless, Hong Kongers are shameless and Singaporeans are ignorant."

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    Vision. What a joke. If they stopped killjng business things would already be much better.

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    Default Re: Angmor Journalist: Why Sinkapore is struggling to reinvent itself after LKY

    bs lah. for those in u.s. don't need to look too far at sg, hk, tw, sk or even jp. just look at sf and ny. extreme wealth on one side and extreme poverty and homelessness on the other. the sg model works for at least 69% or the super majority of sinkies while the sf and ny models don't work for more than 69% of their respective population. the operative word is "sustainable", and to be fair with stats, data, and results over time, the sg model is way more sustainable for super majority of sinkies over time than the sf and ny models are for majority of americans over a shorter time period. in just the last decade (9.6 years to be exact), there is more homelessness, misery and gridlock in sf and the rest of the bay area than it has ever been the last 96 years. high income earners working for generous tech firms trying to raise families cannot even have decent roofs over their heads. i'm seeing more google and facebook employees who earn upwards of us$150k a year resorting to living in rv's parked near their campuses. i'm a landlord and i know the details and real conditions very well. prospective tenants even look for housing on the east bay where schools are good and rents cheaper than the peninsula. and they would rather spend at least 2 hours commuting to work each way. but east bay rents have gone through the roof, and these folks without securing a home are desperate. even for rentals it's a bidding war with applicants who easily make over us$200k per household or per couple. where on this planet can you find highly qualified professionals and technicians who make us$150k a year become so stressed and desperate to the point of begging and pleading for a humble hovel to stay in? it's a broken model, and i shudder to imagine sg becoming like sf or ny. meanwhile the 3rd high density and luxury condo project in oakland just got torched and burned to the ground as arson by anti-gentrificationists and homeless activists is suspected. it's war between rich and poor, and we're witnessing tragedy and disaster at the frontlines......at america's own backyard. sg, please don't follow america's ruin.
    6.9 k's of sinkies: kopi, kaya toast, kueh kueh, kio kway, ktv, kpkb.

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