Saturday, 18 February 2012

From “The End of The Nation State” to Inclusive Society and Stronger State

Just finished reading Ohmae’s “The End of The Nation State” (Chinese edition), I feel confusing, wondering and a bit of frightening so I ask myself is it relevant to Singapore and what have it got to do with Singapore Budget 2012?  

This popular and influencing book was first published in 1995 and it was to provide future trend for business strategies and advisories.   In 2012, when we look back and assess the predictions of the book, I have a mixed feeling – is business consultancy the right way for a state even though Singapore is the most business minded country in the world?

To a country likes Singapore, our leaders are strong believers of international consultants, what will be the outcome after believing and practising the suggested business and management advices?  Perhaps, these advices are more suitable to a business rather than a state, because up to today, we still see border and nation state – countries are still deeply involved in crisis solving like the euro debt crisis, US debt crisis, not to mention the political and military actions. 

Back to our budget 2012, the theme is “inclusive society and stronger nation”. Some describe it as a budget for the poor, a budget with a heart, helping list for senior citizens and disables, more assistances for medical care and housing, pro-Singaporeans and limiting the foreign workers etc.  These measures are quite different from the trend mentioned in “The End of The Nation State’, especially the civic minimum, inconvenient averages, the size of 5-20 million people.     

However, in the 1990s, we were getting (now still getting) advices from international consultants, from EDB, IE, LTA, MOE, to even small public services, you could see foreign consultants here, here and there.  This is not to mention the Singapore government, Temasek and GIC that even engaged more reputable consultants.       

When a country is so strongly believe in international business consultancy, it will also act and behave like an international business, of course also compensating top salary to people running and managing Singapore and Singapore Inc, GLCs etc.  Even they are not top rated and cannot compete in the borderless world as international business manages; they can still enjoy “The End of The Nation State’ world salary.  Just like a Chinese saying ‘同人不同命 - same human being different fate’, so blame yourself not a man in white. 

We cannot deny there are some right predictions and suggestions from Ohmae, especially for international businesses and MNCs.  The 4-I (Investment, Industry, Information and Individual consumers) are good advices and challenges that businesses have to face. To business, they may enjoy a borderless world. But to form successfully regional economy with different countries involved, like the growth triangle of Singapore, Johor and Batam, it is still a real challenge.  Comparatively, regional economy within a big country likes Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang; Beijing and Tianjin; or even Chongqing; all started later than our growth triangle have produced better result.       

As advised we run a country like running a business, so Singapore increases the population to more than 5 million, to avoid to be tied down by the civic minimum we begin to care less about the poor and under privileged, however, when Ohmae said average was not a good indicator to represent the whole country, but to justify our growth, we continue to stress the upward trend of average income.
Only recently, Singapore government has realised (?) policies and strategies that are good for borderless business, good for the end of the nation state, will affect its support level.  The PAP has to face the elections and paying ministers the compensation that is fit for borderless MNCs without supporting qualification and experience has become a burden.

So, the Budget 2012 makes a small U-turn, a belated turning but we will still have to watch the implementation and its result.  When the PAP believed and adopted strategies in ‘The End of The Nation State’ in the 1990s, they fully accepted the idea of no ‘civic minimum’, bigger population and concentrating on the competitive areas. But it had neglected and failed to provide assistances to the citizens - old, young and poor; infrastructure; and also mental preparations.  As a result, the following key budget initiatives which should be carried out longer ago; only appear now.  They are long over due.  If not for GE2011, you may not even see the helping measures for households in Budget 2012.

Measures for Households:

Rewarding Work for the Elderly
Helping Seniors Unlock Savings
Stronger Healthcare Support
Enhancing Affordability of Healthcare
Supporting Singaporeans With Disabilities
Uplifting Low Income Families
GST Voucher
Improving Bus Service Levels
 (For details, see

1 comment:

  1. Omae Kenichi 大前 研一 in one of his book praised Singapore's top decision makers has strong collective wisdom though individually not outstanding as compared to other country. Put in another way, does it mean that SG does not have individually bright local talents?