Friday, 30 November 2012

Bumbler in a Bubble Home for Retirement

It looks like a Singapore bumbler is in the making or we may already have one.

After reading the Bloomberg’s report “Lee Rues Singapore as Retirement Home Unless Birthrate Rises”, we could find some similarities comparing with another article “Ma the bumbler” by The Economist. 

The Economist has called President Ma a Bumbler recently due to his indecisiveness or inaction. In Taiwan, newspapers there translated the word ‘bumbler’ as ‘stupid’. A check with the web has the following meaning for “bumbler”: 
Someone who makes mistakes because of incompetence

PM Lee Hsein Loong spoke to Bloomberg about the property market but he took no action even he recognised it was a bubble. He said there were difficult trade-offs to encourage people to have more babies but our birth rate had been declining since 1987. Is he still waiting to see the trade-offs? It proves that economic growth is the always the key in Singapore and only now he realises having more babies is the greatest challenge for the government! 

Here are 2 relevant parts of the article “Ma the Bumbler’ that look very similar to Singapore situation:

“Ordinary people do not find their livelihoods improving. Salaries have stagnated for a decade. The most visible impact of more open ties with China, which include a free-trade agreement, has been property speculation in anticipation of a flood of mainland money. Housing in former working-class areas on the edge of Taipei, the capital, now costs up to 40 times the average annual wage of $15,400. The number of families below the poverty line has leapt. Labour activists have taken to pelting the presidential office with eggs. 
Exports account for 70% of GDP. So some of Taiwan’s problems are down to the dismal state of rich-world economies. Yet Mr Ma’s leadership is also to blame. He has failed to paint a more hopeful future, with sometimes hard measures needed now. Worse, he frequently tweaks policies in response to opposition or media criticism. It suggests indecisiveness.”

PM Lee is lucky as he faces weak oppositions inside and outside parliament.  No wonder he is able to talk about “inclusive politics and decisive government”.  

Retirement Home or not, Singapore is our HOME

However, the most interesting point that he raised during the interview is Singapore should not go down as a retirement home.

Bumbler or not bumbler, most of Singaporeans will have to retire in Singapore and spend the rest of lives here.  Retirement or not, this is our Home – a nation state in building since 1965.  Yes, we have ageing problem, but where can we go for retirement if we have no money?  Even we have money, the bond is here.    

Think deeply, PM Lee is still thinking of money. With no increase of babies, dependency ratio will go up and social expenses will go up too.  So, he prefers some Singaporeans to go overseas for cheaper retirement, for example Malaysia or Indonesia. 

The government is trying very hard at one stage to do this and encourages Singaporeans to go overseas for nursing cares.  But as a bumbler, they keep it a low profile after receiving criticisms from Singaporeans. Now again, PM Lee brings out the idea of retirement home. Is he suggesting old Singaporeans should go overseas so that we can maintain a young Singapore by either having more babies or more foreigners?

In the past 50 years, Singaporeans have slowly building our own identity – singlish, emotionless, kiasu, kiasi, …… And it is why the Singapore Home concept arises – the bonding, the belongingness, etc.

PM Lee may not notice this development that Singaporeans have called the red dot home.  Perhaps, he is thinking spending his retirement elsewhere.  Fortunately or unfortunately, majority of Singaporeans will retire and die here – the lion city, the little dragon. 

To be fair to Ma and Lee, the world is changing and changing rapidly. It seems no world leaders are competent enough to solve the world problems right now.  Perhaps, Obama and Xi Jinping will become the next bumblers.

Some quotes from Lee Hsien Loong from the interview with Bloomberg:

On low birth rate:
“It’s an issue which many countries are dealing with,” Lee said. “None of them have come to any very satisfactory solution because the trade-offs are difficult ones.”

On property bubble
“We have had a property boom, almost a bubble,”
“It’s because liquidity is sloshing around worldwide and real interest rates are negative,” he said. “That’s a difficult problem for us on the overall property market.”

On falling support for the PAP
 “It’s what you would expect to happen as we have a change of generations amongst the population -- you are in a new age, much more open and interconnected,”

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