Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Individual Competitiveness and Prosperity at Risk under SingaStore.com?

‘If firms in the U.S. became more able to compete globally because wages and living standards in America fell, this would be a sign that the U.S. as a business location had become less competitive.’
-    PROSPERITY AT RISK Findings of Harvard Business School’s Survey on US competitiveness #1

Singapore Inc., supported by the pro-business government, is one of the most competitive countries in the world. However, it looks quite similar to big businesses in USA; our model is built on the low wages and third world standard of living for the poor.

Although the Prism Report paints a beautiful Singapore dream for SingaStore.com#2, the reality is the situation in 2022 will be similar to the above statement.  It is putting old wine into a new bottle and SingaStore is a continuing effort of the past PAP economic practices.

As a country, Singapore is very competitive but as individual Singaporean, we are not. Consistently, the PAP government has warned low wage workers, in order to have more pay, they must raise their productivity. 

How can it be? Just image a child having a PSLE T-score of 250, usually the top 10% in the cohort, still has difficulty passing the mother tongue. The way to be competitive for him is to do away the mother tongue or adjust its weight.   This is what big businesses in USA are doing. They move their factories to overseas to reduce their costs (e.g. T-score without mother tongue).  American companies become competitive by shifting their production outside America.

While in Singapore, we are also helping big businesses to reduce costs by allowing them to bring in manpower from overseas.  Some are in the name of foreign talents, and more are permit holders.   This is to make businesses less dependent on local manpower, or like lowering the weight of the mother tongue in PSLE.

In PSLE examination, it is possible to make a child to become competitive by adjusting the weighting of the subjects tested or simply removing the most difficult subject.  

In the pursuit of excellence and competitiveness, the PAP government is adopting the same strategy from the PSLE examination. They are removing or downplaying the importance of the poor, sick and old in the making of Singapore. The government considers them as low productivity workers or Singaporeans and can be easily replaced by foreigners.

[Luckily the government has not announced any PSLE subject removal so far. However, we don’t know how the T-score is added up.  Without a certainty, parents have to send their children for tuition, and even more coaching for weaker subjects.  Parents know they have to spend more time and money to improve the weaker subjects of their children, otherwise, their children T-score in PSLE will not be competitive. How come our government does not know?  To be competitive overall, the weaker Singaporeans must receive assistances, just like the PSLE examination.
PSLE may be a bad example in this case. It shows rich people can afford more tuitions and coaching for their children.  Anyhow, the aim is to achieve competitive T-score by all means.]

Different directions same goal

USA is a big country and they restrict inflow of foreigners. Singapore is a small country and we allow inflow of foreigners.  Both ways can make the big businesses competitive by reducing their costs. But both have a common result: low wages and low standard of living for their citizens.

By this definition, may be the PAP government is smarter than the American government. Wealth creation is within the country and Singapore government has better control over the created wealth (?).  While US big businesses are using all the tax heavens (including Singapore) in the world to avoid paying taxes in their home country.  

Prosperity at Risk and Prism Report

If we only look at the competitiveness from the points of big businesses, then we will face the issue of “Prosperity at risk” in SingaStore.com.   The Findings of Harvard Business School’s Survey on US competitiveness ends up with a title: Prosperity at risk. Big businesses may be competitive somewhere inside or outside USA, but many Americans including middle class people will face an uncompleted American dream.

“The survey, entitled "Prosperity at Risk", was authored by Michael E. Porter, and Jan W. Rivkin, both Harvard Business School professors, and received over 9,700 responses from alumni in Oct. 2011 which contributed to the report.
The authors cited the respondents as being a "diverse" group of leaders, which included 2,500 in senior leadership positions. Additionally responses came from 49 states and 121 countries in multiple industries and the age range for those who completed the survey was 24 to 99 years of age. 
The authors state in their executive summary, the in-depth survey concludes "a multi-year project on U.S. competitiveness, which aims to lay out facts and realities of international competition and implications for the U.S. in a nonpartisan way."”

Come 2022, will more middle class Singaporeans be able to fulfill their Singapore dreams under SingaStore? Yes, perhaps, for some scholars and CEOs if we can still afford to pay the highest salary in the world to our ministers.

HBR’s “Prosperity at risk “uses an open approach to get feedback and information from their alumni. They never gave things like Prism Primer as a guide. However, IPS’s “Prism Report” adopts a close approach. They only open the public discussions after they have finally coined 3 scenarios.

Not to forget HBR is engaging the competitiveness issue as a multi-year project and IPS, on governing Singapore, for less than a year.        

Perhaps, competitiveness of a country is a sustainability issue while running and governing a country is not.  People can change the government and the way of governing if they see their dreams cannot be fulfilled under SingaStore. No matter what Singaporeans need to maintain our competitiveness down to individual level.  


The first scenario is called “SingaStore.com”. Here, the public’s trust in the government strengthens as it prioritises economic growth and ensures that growth translates to better-paying jobs for all Singaporeans — from year to year, people see improvements in their material well-being. To do this, the government reinforces its influence over all state agencies, business and even community associations to make Singapore more pro-business in its economic and social policies than ever.
40. The country’s leaders are not only the best and the brightest scholars, civil servants and army officers but also former business titans who now seek a different form of fulfilment through public service after earning their millions.
41. Private entrepreneurship thrives on its links to big business and emerging multinational companies in new business fields, including those in which the government had previously invested. Singapore is “the store and more” for everything from clean technology and pills to stave off Alzheimer’s, to robotics and immersive 3D gaming.
42. Globally, Singapore scores a double first — the highest GDP per capita, and the highest Gini coefficient, reflecting both the highest wealth and the significant income inequality in the population. The government gives relatively generous assistance to households in the lowest income brackets.
through their breadwinners. It does so through vouchers, surplus-sharing programmes and insurance schemes that reinforce the role of the private sector or more broadly, the market, rather than undermine it. The government’s fiscal position is kept on an even keel by making personal income taxes more progressive and by the increased corporate tax revenues generated by what is considered healthy economic growth for a mature economy. The slight increases in taxes are worth it, say those in the higher income rungs, for “The Singapore Premium”. Enormous incentives are given to scientific, business, creative and sporting endeavours that promise the greatest impact on Singapore’s economic future. Critics have said that this is “Singapore of the 2000s on steroids”.
43. Pragmatic and realistic Singaporeans are reconciled to having foreign labour at the two extremes of the skills ladder. All sorts of incentives from the private sector and newly corporatised state entities are provided, so that demand on the physical and social infrastructure emerging from the growing population is spread out rather than bunched up at certain locations or peak hours — work, recreation and even seeing the doctor or pet groomer are priced differently at different points of the 24-hour day. There are incentives galore to foster pro-social behaviour from philanthropists — each tycoon has his or her favourite cause. For example, the man on the street can garner points (exchangeable for cash) for separating trash or eating more vegetables. It appears we can buy “good society” in Singapore too.
44. In reality, as the clock ticks towards 2022, society becomes more stratified but there are enough “rental flat to Sentosa Cove” stories to keep “The Singapore Dream” alive. Singapore attracts those who hunger for economic success; people who want more out of what money can buy, and more money for what they want out of life.

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