Archive for the 'economy and finance' Category

In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap

There are three huge hurdles to making anything worthwhile out of the national conversation that the government has launched.

The first is the attitude the government brings to it. Early indications are not encouraging; there is reason to suspect that they dearly want the outcome to more or less confirm what they want to hear, but there is possibly a second motive which I will write about soon. Consequently, the process is being tightly managed. A related issue is the lack of open data and access to information. How can the public meaningfully participate if the government insists on releasing only such information that suits its agenda? Continue reading ‘In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap’

The future according to sushi

Sakae Sushi’s $3,000 cleaner-and-dishwasher job has many of the characteristics of poor human resources design so prevalent in Singapore. Even if they manage to fill the ten positions that the company has, I suspect it is not a sustainable solution. Employees will not stay long or will call in sick with little notice, causing disruption to operations. Singapore bosses often pin blame on employees’ poor work attitude but few bosses interrogate their own attitudes towards their staff and their own limitations when it comes to designing jobs. Continue reading ‘The future according to sushi’

Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?

Another one? Education minister Heng Swee Keat will lead yet another committee that “should review what needs to change and where we should act more boldly”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day message.

“We will engage Singaporeans in this review, and build a broad consensus on the way forward.”

Rachel Chang of the Straits Times spoke to academics, political observers and ordinary Singaporeans, and reported in her blogpost that there were two main reactions:

First: “Another committee?”

Second: “Will they really do anything radical?”

People remember various other committees in the past that had grand-sounding names but produced forgettable reports. Continue reading ‘Heng Swee Kiat committee – behind closed doors and closed minds?’

Why people didn’t care to be the richest country in the world

It must have annoyed a lot of people to see on the front page of the Straits Times, Wednesday 15 August 2012, the boast that Singapore was the ‘richest country in the world’, validated by another hitherto unheard-of ranking study.

There might have been a time when people here would have taken pride in such an accolade. What better proof that all the sacrifices made in the decades post-independence had paid off, and that our city-state had arrived? But several people I spoke too pointed out that not only do we know it isn’t easy to be the richest country in the world, we look around us and we can clearly see so much that is wrong. “Richest country in the world” can’t possibly mean what it means in plain language.

It can only mean another empty boast. Continue reading ‘Why people didn’t care to be the richest country in the world’

Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 3

In this third segment of the video forum, the ten guest discussants voice their thoughts. Their names are shown in the still picture after the break.

Links to the earlier parts are: Part 1 and Part 2

Continue reading ‘Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 3’

Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 2

Although it’s a longish segment, the discussion here largely centres around one theme: the trade-off between economic growth and population stability. All panelists agree that any discussion about population policy must involve the question of the economic model, though also that it’s not a simple trade-off. Naturally, each one has a different take on the question. Continue reading ‘Online|Offline: Video forum on xenophobia, part 2’

Top 20% pay 84% of taxes

According to Minister Shanmugam the top 20% income earners, companies, and non-Singaporeans pay 84% of the total taxes in Singapore to finance our $52 billion government budget expenditure. The rest pay only 16% of the total taxes.

— Gintai blog, 16 June 2012, My meeting with Minister K Shanmugam Sc, Link.

I think when Shanmugam flung those numbers out like so many rose petals at a wedding, he was expecting people to appreciate how the government cares for the “common man”. Perhaps the numbers might blunt some of the criticism that there is not enough redistribution? Continue reading ‘Top 20% pay 84% of taxes’

Can Singapore seize new manufacturing technologies?

The above picture represents a revolution. It is also a window to fresh ideas about the economic directions available to Singapore.

As most Singaporeans may recognise, the picture is of a board at a bus stop listing the route details of buses that call there. Almost all bus stops in Singapore have boards like that. But did you realise that no two of them are the same? Every bus stop has a different set of route listings, with details commencing from that particular bus stop. Thus each printed board is unique.

How is that revolutionary?  Continue reading ‘Can Singapore seize new manufacturing technologies?’

In a market economy, wages aren’t determined by wishful thinking

It hit me yesterday that we are at risk of brandishing the term “productivity” as if we truly understand what it is and, more importantly, how it is measured. It is a very technical thing, and from what I understand, there are serious difficulties in measuring it. I myself am in no position to explain it to you. But I am given to understand that while methods for determining Total Factor Productivity are reasonably advanced and established at the level of national accounts, they can get devilishly difficult at sectorial or industry levels. Even more so at the level of a company.

And yet, the prime minister’s rejoinder to economist Lim Chong Yah’s idea to raise the wages of low-income workers by 50 percent over three years, was to link the wages of lower-level workers to productivity gains.  Continue reading ‘In a market economy, wages aren’t determined by wishful thinking’

Softly, softly, will not narrow income gap

The debate that Lim Chong Yah kicked off is a welcome one. He has argued that if Singaporeis ever to make progress on narrowing the income gap, it is going to require strong affirmative action by the state. He has proposed double-digit increases for the bottom wage earners over a few years coupled with a moratorium on salary increases for top earners.

Predictably, the government has megaphoned its opposition. It will be economic suicide, it says, touting its own plan for improving productivity through financial incentives while gently tightening up on the import of foreign labour instead.

Look away from the specifics and you’ll see a fundamental issue being debated. Look harder and you will see another fundamental issue NOT debated.

Let me begin by dealing with the first.
Continue reading ‘Softly, softly, will not narrow income gap’

For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.




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