Saturday, 27 May 2017

新加坡的内忧外患,现在才是考验李显龙治国能力的真正时候。


    表面数据显示,经济成长稳定,似乎李显龙政府治国素质可以和前两任总理一样,维持在高水平。但是,如果我们从新加坡目前面对的内忧外患,以及李显龙政府的应对能力来看,我们就能看出一个所以然。

    简单的举几个内忧外患的例子,就可以看出李显龙政府的实力。

    内忧方面,政府在苦恼总统大选,如何在司法,人情世故上做出合理的解释,同时,又要外国人认为,我们不是玩司法游戏。同样的,在处理城市丰收教会的案子上,也面临合情合理的司法问题。
就以经济来说,长期的不平衡发展,现在终于承认新加坡双速经济发展的现实。处于低速经济的人群,很难在高消费的新加坡维持最低的生活水平。我们发现,好多处于低速经济的人,为了技能发展基金的几十元津贴铤而走险。政府也承认,对于低收入家庭的援助增加了,间接说明低收入人群在增加中。
文化上,对于新加坡华人来说,有了自己独特的风味,这个传承甚至和东南亚邻国不同。我们似乎要独树一格,与众不同,但是,这样能够让我们了解大中华地区的发展吗?甚至说当一带一路(以及上合组织)以普通话作为第一和第二商业语言时,我们的独特华文,能够派上用场吗?
文化上出现认同问题,教育上也出现预想不到的危机。如果关心新加坡艺术学院(SOTA)的新闻,我们就不难发现创意如何被打压,自由如何被压制。为何新加坡办艺术教育,人文教育(如:国大耶鲁)会出现问题,而数理教育(如:国大数理高中,其他名校)没有出现管理上的创意,思维问题?

这些内部的忧虑,只不过是表面上,我们在媒体看得到的新闻,不用说其他的我们看不到,或者,政府不愿意让人民看到的。这些忧虑可能多到我们无法想象。长期下来,我们的创意,生产力,竞争力,综合国力就会被拉低,(已经一直在拉低)。李显龙政府,尤其是李光耀过世后的政府表现,能够说高素质的解决这些问题吗?反而我们看到更多的高压手段出现,加深防止忧虑新闻的散布。

内部忧虑没有能力解决,反映在处理外患问题上,就更加凸显出李显龙的无能。新加坡目前已经没有外交人才能够解决新加坡和中国的问题。李显龙没有现身一带一路高峰大会,就是一个例子。事实上,我们在亚细安,也喜欢独树一格,这些作风往往也和邻国不同。这到底要表现出新加坡的风骨,还是不悟现实。
外部投资回报,长期以来就是一个问题。自己监督自己,自己报告财务报表,如何取信于人?最近,政府投资公司和淡马锡双双报告投资失利,难道是一个短期现象吗?由于与中国的关系出现变化,过去一些好的投资,如挂牌前的好处,好的投资地点等,将会失去优先权。不单如此,将来一带一路的投资机会,也将面临挑战。如果我们只是依靠欧美的低回报,政府在应付公积金2.5%的利息上,将会是一个大问题。
一个比较少人注意的外患,来自西方的民主自由思潮。欧盟、英国在和我们签订贸易条约时,已经开始纳入保障人权,民主自由等因素。而美国政府在贸易政策上,也比以前更加务实,退出TPP,就是一个例子。这个外患和我们的内忧互相竞争,李显龙如何平衡这两个矛盾?
我们在文化和教育上的独特选择,也将会是我们在面对外患时,措手无策。单语,单思维,缺乏创意,安乐窝思想,不愿冒险,一切依靠政府,可以出国的,不愿意回来,处处都显示出我们没有一只生力军来应对外患。

李显龙政府的团队,部长们,以及所谓的接班人,处处都显示出他们的无能为力。或许,这是李显龙独特管理方式使然,他的自我监督理念,没有办法把团队的素质提高,无法激发出应对内忧外患的高招。如果真的如此,事情还比较容易解决,就是把他换掉。让另一个人激化团队的生产力,提高团队的管理素质。
但是,我们很难看到自己的缺点,自己的短处。李显龙当然也不例外。他也不会承认这是他的管理问题,领导能力问题。而想挑战这个权威的人,即使知道新加坡面临严峻的内忧外患,也是提不出勇气,站出来为国牺牲。这种心态,变本加厉激化无法处理的内忧外患。

新加坡表面上一切风平浪静,李显龙政府在没有国会制衡下,自我监督,自圆其说的背景下,根本没有内忧外患的认知问题。但是,如果我们检讨李显龙在应对内忧外患的手段、手法的灵活性,应变能力,我们就会发现和上两任总理比较,在素质上就会出现很大的落差。
这些落差,媒体没有指出,反而把矛头指向别人,如:大国欺负小国;新加坡独特的背景,别人需要接受我们的立场; 投资回报低或者失利,是外部环境造成; 创意,生产力问题,和教育和经济政策无关。

这是新加坡版本的“国王的新衣”!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

From two-speed to multi-speed economy, vicious cycle continues and goes deeper.



The ruling People’s Action Party has finally admitted having a  two-speed economy, one for the poor and the other for the rich.

“Calling this a “two-speed economy”, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the challenge is to ensure that a large part of the economy does not get stuck on low gear, because then overall wages will see little growth. “
www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-has-to-deepen-skills-spur-innovation-in-every-industry-8844264

In fact, once we acknowledge the two-speed economy, we are already entering into a multi-speed economy where there are at least two two-speed economies in Singapore, one for locals and the other for foreigners. Each two-speed economy has very distinctive rich and poor representatives.

In the government defined two-speed economy, we can find clear evidence of three-speed or even four-speed economy. This is the big question of middle class - few move up and more move down. When we talk about the distinct identity of Singaporeans, we may have to re-define the distinctive characteristics of Singaporeans living in different speed level of economy. They have different lifestyles, consumption patterns, cultural values and attitudes.

Here are some examples from the consumption points of view:

Speed
Supermarkets
Foods
Transport
Hospital
High
Gourmet, Jasons
Hotels, specialised restaurants   
Big car
Private, A
Upper Middle
Cold Storage, NTUC Finest
Restaurants, food courts
Car, MRT
B1, A
Lower Middle
NTUC, Giant
Food courts, hawker centres
MRT, Bus
B2,  B1
Low
Ang Mo, ABC shops
Hawker centres, coffee shops
Walk, Bus
C

We don’t have so many neighbourhood supermarkets like Ang Mo, ABC shops in the past. However, there is a great demand for such shopping as this can help middle class people to bring down their costs.  However, low income people find no way to cut their living expenses.  This is why there is a need to have C-class beds in public hospitals.


Singapore long decided to practise two-speed economy in 1980s. Singapore went into recession in 1985/1986.  In the Report of The Economic Committee (then chaired by PM Lee Hsien Loong) made the loss of competitiveness as one of the internal factors for recession:

screenshot-www.mti.gov.sg-2017-05-20-16-05-30.png

Wage costs increased was one of the major reasons for the loss of our competitiveness. With this mindset, the PAP government has a very tight control on labor costs. And one effective way to cut down the labor costs is to allow free access of foreign labor.

For Singaporeans, the PAP intentionally maintains a low-speed economy just to keep up our competitiveness. For foreigners, they also do the same thing. We have Singaporeans continue to rent flats from Housing Development Board and foreigners staying in overcrowded HDB and private flats.   

As far as the government maintains this attitude, Singapore cannot avoid not to have a two-speed or three-speed economy. And many people will continue to face the vicious cycle of poverty trap.


Source: Google search

The recent event of oversupply of HDB flats (due to high price in matured areas) indicates the problems facing middle class Singaporeans. We know the unhappiness of middle class led to Brexit and the surprise win of Donald Trump.  There are fewer middle class moving up and more middle class moving down. Singapore, too, faces the same problems.

If there is no change in mindset and constant fear of loss of competitiveness, it is very likely Singapore will become a multi-speed economy, her growth speed will have wider standard deviation than before, i.e. wider rich-poor gap.   

This is perhaps another distinctive achievement of Singapore multi-speed economy.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

从《人民的名义》到《通灵少女》,殊途同归还是殊途不归?



《人民的名义》和《通灵少女》,两部不同背景的连续剧同时在海峡两岸走红。一部是党国、建国建设的大事,大到可以延伸到一带一路。另一部是地方上的民俗人事,局部的发展则是新南向。如果单从这样的背景来分析,九二似乎无法取得共识,发展的结果将朝向分道扬镳,殊途无法同归的道路上前进。

殊途同归还是殊途不归,无人能够说得准?一个是普通话贯穿全剧,另一个则是国(华)语、台(闽南)语兼顾。这个表面现象似乎说明海峡两岸的殊途,渐行渐远的文化认同。还是,儒家道家文化哲理在这两个地方的比重不同。

为什么要拿两部风马牛不相及的连续剧来做比较?难道,它们真的如此殊途吗?没有一点可以比较,没有一点可以串联起来的地方吗?



[真与假】
《人民的名义》号称是最大胆的反腐连续剧。的确,我们从中看到了贪污腐败,官商勾结,这是中国连续剧中非常罕见的现象。因此,它真实的反映了当下的中国,也反映了问题的严重性。或许,我们看到的只是冰山一角,真实的情形比连续剧的情节还要严重。所以,这到底是真还是假,还是假中有真,真中有假。

同样的,《通灵少女》的民俗,也未必是台湾的全貌,不能作为台湾人的代表。因为,也有台湾人过着和剧中通灵少女、议员、医生不一样的生活。台湾人有着不同的文化认同,宗教信仰,民主意识。《通灵少女》也可能是冰山一角。

【爱情-真与假】
《通灵少女》有着很单纯的爱情,随意,自然,真挚。《人民的名义》剧中的爱情,名利、地位、权力成了主要的考量,可以用计算机算出利害关系。这真的是海峡两岸的爱情观吗?未必。两边都有不计较利害关系的爱情,两边都有为利益而结合的爱情。

这不就是红楼梦曹雪芹说的:
”假作真时真亦假; 无为有处有还无。“

《人民的名义》和《通灵少女》只是让我们看到两边的殊途,我们有必要了解,事实上,他们也有同归的爱情观。

【高尔夫球和棒球】
两部连续剧都有外来影响。这也看出它们的大和小。高尔夫球场的大和棒球的随时随地都可以玩。从侧面看,这也是两个不同的经济体,不同的层次。一个是大,因此要稳定着落,而贪污腐败就是前进的一块大石头。另一个是小而灵活,神鬼人之间的穿插。

儒家和道家思想有没有在两剧中出现?《人民的名义》强调法制,为人民服务,虽然没有刻意把传统的儒家精神说出来,但是,却处处强调为人民的利益着想,以人民的名义来执法,为官清廉,追求经济发展。《通灵少女》则是随性,随意,比较不做作,再加上道教的通灵,也没有明显的强调经济发展。因此,两部连续剧都有儒家道家甚至法家的哲理,比重上确有明显的差别。而这种差别会不会成了文化上、政治上的不归路?



【党内监督和国会制衡/无人制衡】
《人民的名义》强调党内监督,第一把手还是被党内的政治机器监督,不能为所欲为。《通灵少女》简单的提到议员的竞选,以及其中的黑暗面。但是,似乎没有提到制衡,尤其是议员有义务制衡政府的运作。党内监督的小圈圈和国会制衡/无人制衡的大圈圈,在个人道德行为面前,如何取得平衡?(这个辩论和新加坡和新加坡有关。)

      《人民的名义》中的高育良无法自我监督,自我约束,结果腐败了。作为教授从政,他的行为儒道皆有。《通灵少女》的无国界医生,看起来没有被约束,也没有人能够制衡他,但是,他有儒家的济世胸怀,又有道家的自由自在。你喜欢哪一个?你心目中的做人理想是哪一个?
【一带一路和新南向】
两部连续剧的格局,层次也反映在一带一路和新南向上。一个就是大,新的丝路,欧亚非连线。另一个是局部发展,方向未明,甚至是自由发展,随意发展。儒家的修身治国平天下的味道对上了道家的自然发展,无为而治。

一个有为,很想做一番事业。一个无为,顺其自然。这么一来,殊途还可以同归吗?

。。。。。。。。。。 我们在新加坡,在海外,看到的是殊途,还是同归?无论如何,有空的话,应该看一看这两部连续剧。


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Lessons from Indian Innovations



India offers different innovation approaches that Singapore can learn from. Her grassroots and inclusive innovations are very unique and worth to consider.

As the Indian initiative heavily involves Information Technology, let’s begin the discussion on Indian Stack.      


[Indian Stack and Internet Access]

To make its IT network more secure, the Singapore government has begun a programme to restrict public servants’ internet access on workstations. It was announced by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore on 8 June 2016. By May 2017, public service officers across all Singapore government agencies, ministries and statutory boards will have internet access “separate” from their computers. (1)

In the name of internet security, we are willing to sacrifice productivity, perhaps, innovations and creativity too.  Is this a good solution?  

Let’s look at India.

India Stack is a complete set of API for developers and includes the Aadhaar for Authentication (Aadhaar already covers over 940 million people and will quickly cover the population of the entire nation), e-KYC documents (safe deposit locker for issue, storage and use of documents), e-Sign (digital signature acceptable under the laws), unified payment interface (for financial transactions) and privacy-protected data sharing within the stack of API. Together, the Indian Stack enables Apps that could open up many opportunities in financial services, healthcare and education sectors of the Indian economy. What this essentially means is that developers and tech startups can now build software and create businesses around the readily available infrastructure offered through India Stack, thus opening a huge potential to tap into the booming smartphone market in the country. Since the consumer market in India is very large, such startups could also hope for institutional funding and gain from the early mover advantage.(2)

Comparing our ‘Internet access restriction’ and Indian Stack, Singapore seems to approach the ‘IT for the people’ problem differently. Will security a concern to Indian Stack which within 5.5 years generate 1 billion users? Certainly, yes. Why are Indians not afraid of internet security issues? In fact, Indian Stack is the faster and cheaper way to reach out to the people. It is a Bottom-up approach. However, in Singapore, we are adopting a Top-down approach. We are worry about the top, the government information, but consider less for the grassroots and inclusiveness.   


[Strong co-operation, lack of understanding]  

Singapore and India had signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005.  The CECA eliminated tariff barriers, double taxation, duplicate processes and regulations and provided unhindered access and collaboration between the financial institutions of Singapore and India. The CECA also enhanced bilateral collaboration related to education, science and technology, intellectual property,aviation and relaxed visa regulations for Indian professionals in information technology, medicine, engineering and financial fields to emigrate and work in Singapore. Singapore has invested in projects to upgrade India's ports, airports and developing information technology parks and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). India has become Singapore's 4th biggest tourist destination and more than 650,000 Indians visited Singapore in 2006. Both nations have worked to collaborate on aviation, aerospace engineering, space programmes, information technology, biotechnology and energy.(3)

Singapore wants to have more co-operations with India. Our Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam listed education, connectivity, smart cities as areas of further collaboration.

The Straits Times made the following report:

{"It frankly gives me confidence in India, not just based on what has been happening in the last few years of GDP growth above 7 per cent, but confidence that this is now a new journey that we in Singapore want to be part of, contribute to and want to benefit from at the same time," he said, listing financial connectivity, air connectivity, education and skills and smart cities as areas of further collaboration.} (4)


We are familiar with India since independence in 1965. India is one of the three major races here and Tamil is one of our four official languages.

Have we capitalised on this historical relationship? Yes. Perhaps, it only takes place in the G-to-G level and the Singapore government-linked companies. Our private sector and small businesses have not benefited from CECA. Again, this is due to the Top-down consideration, quite different from the Bottom-up approach of doing business in India.  


[Indian Innovations]

Singaporeans are too familiar with the government Top-down approach in solving problems. We are called a Singapore Inc. We do things in a very formal and corporate way. We ignore the grassroots and inclusive problems.

It is good to understand there are five types of Indian innovations: Grassroots, Inclusive, Frugal, Reverse and Invisible. For Singapore, we only look at who can afford to buy.  But India is a market that needs low-cost solutions to meet the poor-man demands.   

Here are the video links of the five Indian innovations:







[Top-down approach]

Before we touch on the Indian innovations, let’s look at our national innovation program.  In 2006, Singapore government established the National Research Foundation (NRF) and her vision is to develop ‘Singapore as a vibrant science & technology hub, with R&D contributing significantly to a knowledge-intensive, innovative and entrepreneurial economy.’ (5)

The NRF board of directors are key ministers, international academics and corporate leaders. This high-level council underscores the political commitment to and importance placed on the national R&D agenda.

It is clearly a top-down approach in R&D and innovations. And of course,  NRF is looking for solutions and breakthroughs for the rich and middle-class consumers.

While in India, they are using different approaches, both involving top-down and bottom-up R&D approaches, academic and non-academic personnel, inclusive rather than exclusive markets and audiences.

If we are serious about the Indian market, we need a mindset change. India is a disorganised market, emerging market with a lot of poor consumers. Our NRF is focusing only on rich market and neglects the unaffordable poor market. This will limit our innovation development and potential. And our businesses, if adopting the same attitude, may find no market in India.

We know India and we have many Indians, either citizens or residents, living here. But yet, we have not discovered India in a deeper sense. We only look at the rich Indians and forget the potential of poor Indians.  

Notes:

(1)

(2)
http://pn.ispirt.in/india-stack-takes-the-digital-india-campaign-to-a-whole-new-level/
http://www.slideshare.net/CGAP/what-is-the-india-stack

(3)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%E2%80%93Singapore_relations

(4)
http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/singapore-wants-more-cooperation-with-india

(5)
http://www.nrf.gov.sg/about-nrf/national-research-foundation-singapore/corporate-profile#sthash.NZleP23T.dpuf