Friday, September 30, 2005

Knowledge Economy vs Thinking Economy

PAP has been harping on "Knowledge Economy" for so long but the world has moved on to "Thinking Economy" or what most people are familiar with, "Innovative Economy".

It is a sad fact that Singaporeans are asked to "re-design" their jobs and "re-trian" themselves to take up menial jobs while PAP's FT policy keep the floodgate open for CHEAP SUBSTITUES that displace our local workforce, in the name of "maintaining competitiveness". No wonder there are disgruntled individuals out there who are asking why we wouldn't replace expensive PAP ministers with CHEAPER "Foreign Talents"!

I have spoken about the new concept of "Thinking Economy" back in May 2004. Initially I have no idea that economists and gurus all over the world were already talking about this transformation from "Knowledge Economy" to Thinking Economy or what commonly known as "Innovative Economy" until a forummer made a search over the net. Thinking Economy is very different from Knowledge Economy. The recent Business Week feature on Innovative Companies has given us a glance on what other countries are depending on in their economic restructuring.

The more easy illustration given is the comparison between an "Engineering based" driven company vs a "Design and Innovation based" driven company. Innovation here does not merely talk about R&D but more on the understanding of WHAT CUSTOMERS want. The insight of what customers want even when the customers themselves could not deliberate on it is what Innovation all about.

Thinking Economy needs a big revamp on the education system, social culure as well as political culture. The whole environment (be it social, cultural, political or otherwise) must tolerate and cultivate diversity as well as creativity and innovative thinking.

I will spend time writing on what I think is necessary to nurture a Thinking Economy as well as WHY it is necessary for us to move forward to Thinking Economy. The next few posting on this blog will concentrate on this topic.

For the time being, the following is past posting and links to the discussion made on Thinking Economy.

Goh Meng Seng
(Part of the content)
The Challenge of the Thinking Economy

As Seth Godin of Fast Company magazine writes, ??The first 100 yearsof our country??shistory were about who could build the biggest, mostefficient farm. The second 100 years were about the race to buildefficient factories. The third 100 years are about ideas.??

To succeed in the long run, Arizona must participate in the processof generating ideasand finding better ways of doing things, ratherthan simply executing economic tasks that are dreamed up by knowledgeworkers elsewhere. In the words of Columbia University??s MichaelCrow, Arizona must become a ??knowledge producer?? rather than aknowledge importer."
Knowledge production is important notonly in dreaming up new productsand processes but also in upgrading products that already exist. It??s true that a growing chunk of production in the modern economy comesin the form of intangibles based on the exploitation of ideas ratherthan material things. But at the same time, manufactured goods, fromMercedes to Nike, have ??knowledge?? embedded in them.

Thus, the twenty-first century economy willfavor areas that are??knowledge producers,??places flush with research and developmentactivities, the creation of new intellectual products and servicesand the most recenttechnologies. Those areas strong in knowl-edgeproduction will be the white-collar,front-office parts of the neweconomy. Areas dependent on knowledge imports ?C manu-facturing andprocessing centers, like Arizonais today ?C will be stuck with theblue-collar, back-office parts of the new economy.

From Discuss Singapore :

--- In, Dr Goh<dogsnpuppieslover@y...> wrote:> Sorry for taking such a long time to reply.
It is ok. Doctors are busy people, I can understand that.

> 1. Why I'm so irritated (of what CSJ did) because it took a lot oftime and effort to establish what the OP (opposition party) is today.Just like a football team, just 1 player's fault could cause thedownfall of the whole football team!
That is why the need to do strong branding inorder to differentiate.

> 2. over the past few days, I was thinking of "freedom of speech",democracy, effect of Taiwan election... And I would like to asksomething, what is the price for freedom of speech and democracy? Tobe pessimistic, will SGP end up like Taiwan's politicians? Esp withbehaviour like CSJ? I wouldn't be surprise he end up in a fight inparliment.

First, you must seriously think about at what price do we pay for notopening to develop democracy? Many may not realize it but we arepaying a heavy price for not developing democracy. Govt, due to thelack of effective checks and balance, spends $600 million to buildtwo durians which need another $50m per year to maintain it? How muchhave we spent on our citizens in terms of welfare for those reallyneedy? We could have lowered medical costs, by using this $600m forinvestment and get a decent 3% returns for medical subsidies.Furthermore, the savings from the $50m per year in maintenance mightbe put into better use somewhere! And this is only one incident, atip of the the iceberg.

And you ask, what is the price for freedom of speech and democracy?To me, the price is on PAP for it will be loosing monopoly power overSingapore. Will freedom of speech inflict any price on us? Well, onlyon racial and religion issues, I guess. But if we could not manageracial and religious issues effectively for the past four decades,then we surely fail as a nation that has strong social cohesions.This racial/religious "harmonious" relationship that we always talkabout is just fake representations, shoving the real tensions behindthe fear of speaking up. If these tensions are not released orresolved instead of supressed down, then it is a matter of time itwill be blown out of proportions.

As for democracy, it is a progressive process that we desire.Besides, could we possibly shy away from developing a more democraticsystem? Some may think we could, but the fact is that we cannotafford not to develop into a democratic system. The reason is simple,due to globalization and a change in economic structure, we cannotafford to put our people in a "cage" anymore.

For countries that are still at the infant stage of economicdevelopment, the only focus of economic-social development is toenhance the effective and efficient use of factors of productions(ie. human resources, natural resources with basic machineries...etc)And to achieve such efficient arrangement of factors of productionsupplied into the industrialization or agricultural reform, a strong,dedicated, efficient govt is required.

This is the model we, Taiwan, Korean and to a certain extend, HK,have adopted for the past 40 years which resulted in the Asianmiracles of the 4 Tigers. A strong, monopoly govt is needed for suchsuccess. This is also why China is booming while Russian, beingintroduced a crush course of democracy, failed or being dragged. Andit is also why, to a certain extend, democracy in India seems to bethe hinderance for its economic development.

However, when your economy matured, litracy rate raises and cost offactors of production raises, the structure of your economy will haveto change. The efficiency of factors of production is at its primerate, thus another "engine" of development must be cultivated. Thisis whay PAP termed as "knowledge based economy", while I disagree; itshould be "Thinking economy" instead. Our workforce are all welltrained and educated, armed with various knowledge, but our economyis still down....what is lacking is the "thinking" process which addsvalue to the knowledge.

A "thinking" work force or people, could only be cultivated in aconducive environment. Democracy is the vital pillar of thisnecessary environment. As I have mentioned in some other posts, thereare four areas which we must open fast, social, cultural, politicaland economy. We tried to open up our economy but our GLCs and civilservice is still controlling more than 60% of the economy, yet,continue to expand. They tried to open up on the social aspect, butthat will add little value to cultivate a thinking people. Culturaland political process are the two most important areas that couldprovide the necessary platform for a thinking people to evolve.

Thus, if we observe carefully, that is why Korea, Taiwan and HongKong have to reform their political and cultural structures.Singapore, however, is still stuck due to the lack of will on PAP'spart. PAP has been talking about opening up for ONE WHOLE DECADE, butin terms of political substance, we are regressing instead ofprogressing. This is a sad development which will bring us down as aNation...look, why do you think there are so many people migratingout?

Thus, to me, for PAP to resist the call for political reform toencourage more active citizenry in political engagement, is totallyan irresponsible act. We do not have a choice at all.

> 3. As to "prominent figure", it's my own dedeuction of his intent
.> 4. Dpennz pointed out something like GCT has never react well. Cometo think of it, quite true as I recalled some incidences when he wasprovoked, or ask to answer "unprepared" qns, he "normally" doesn'tgive very rational and clear answers. Does this implies his speech isprepared? May even be from someone else! If GCT react calmly, SGPwill not be so embarassed!
> 5. The qn pointed out by CSJ, if handled properly, is an advantagefor OP! He wasted a golden opportunity (possibily for his owninterest) and even when similar qn is ask later, eg weeks or monthslater, the effect is not the same. He takes this like a child's play!

Yes, I would agree with you totally here.

> 6. As what you have said, if not CSJ but someone else, GCT mayreact different. But it boils down to how CSJ handles this issue.Knowing GCT doesn't like himself, he shouldn't jeopardize SGP, inmany aspects - reputation, quality of OP, when overseas theyrepresent SGP, power and authority of OP in SGP, ... !

This is merely karma. Look at it this way, who has more stake athand? Obviously GCT who is representing Singapore as its leader.Thus, CSJ may act in a way, irresponsibly, but GCT, as a leader andrepresentative of Singapore, should react in a more rational, ratherthan emotional, personal way.

> 7. I agree with you that in any countries, should encouragedifferent political stands, and ppl express their views and opinionswithout fear, openly. Ultimately the ppl are the one benefitting fromthis.> 8. Need to take into consideration how S'poreans are brought up! Ido not doubt the intelligence of S'poreans but circumstances andfactors influencing their political rights and thoughts. Will NKFscam be of any similarities? So much adverse report is reportedbefore the tv coverage and fund-raising but the "blind faith" (can'tremember who said this) demostrated. When artistes ask them to call,only then can you see they are using their hp. I find thisunbelievable and a miracle!

You see, you ask me if our politicians would ever turn into thoselike Taiwanese politicians or already have an answerhere, nope. Singaporeans are just too rational to vote some crazy,hair pulling thugs to represent them in parliament.

> 9. Good points you raised which I have highlighted in blue. As Iwas about to ask how will ppl not have the impression CSJ representsOPs! Ask 50 people you met at Orchard Road tomorrow and ask themwhich party CSJ is from, or how many OPs are there in SGP, let alonethe differences of OPs, WP, SDP etc. I dare to say less than half cananswer it correctly
.> Not only SGP, but in many other countries, different OPs are lumpas 1 OP! Conveniently.
> I felt this strongly - democracy is still relatively new to me whenI'm in a situation in SGP. However I accept it well when I'm oversea.I was reflecting why I can accept this easily oversea but not in SGP?
> Also, is not that I personally lack or can't tolerate diversity butI lack the foresight to look beyond this!

Reflect on what I have said earlier. US and European countries arethe "thinking" economies now; if you caged them up in dictatorships,do you think their economies will flourish or sustained?

> Lastly, to me, politics are something serious, not diversity,creativity, innovations and vibrancy will boom in a nation. I seethis as "experimental factors". Pardon my ignorance, using this tobuilt platform???

Diversity, creativity, innovations and vibrancy are only the resultsof democratic development. Politics are not mere something serious,but something close to you, your neighbours and everyone else in thiscountry. It could be personal, it could be social
conscience. Itcould be fun too. ;)

The reason why you could not connect these as important targets thatpolitics should aim for because we have been brain washed all thewhile that only "economic well being" is THE single goal of nationbuilding and political aim.
It is due to this singular pursuit that we are suffering a big exodusof citizens emigrating to some other places.

We should ask PAP reflect on this one.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

WP Youth Wing Public Forum

Elections and Your Vote: A Token or Taken Right?

Public Forum organised by The WP Youth Wing
The third Presidential elections has come and gone in a flash. Two out of three Presidential elections in Singapore's history have ended with no votes cast. The nation's Elected President, Mr S R Nathan, had been officially elected without ever facing a contest throughout his tenure.

No emergence of contenders? This Presidential elections saw four applications but only one ruled qualified to be awarded a special certificate to stand as a candidate by three elite men appointed by the government, who had in the process decided the President for three million Singaporeans.

The upcoming General Election is due by 2007. Things are a little different in General Elections; there are no pre-approved barriers. However, again, not all Singaporeans will get to vote, for it is widely known that few Singaporeans are willing to be associated with opposition parties, much less become their candidates.

Default victories in uncontested constituencies, popularly know as "walkovers", have became a definite sight in General Elections in the last three decades. At the last General Election in 2001, only one-third of Parliamentary seats were contested. Opposition politics in Singapore is a "thankless job", and who do Singaporeans have to thank for?

The situation we have is uniquely Singapore. Is this uniqueness churned from the long years of "autocratic measures of the PAP regime" or because Singaporeans have been "cowed by their own free will"?

In short, elections in Singapore are fast becoming signs of going through motions. Is this trend unhealthy but tolerable, or unhealthy and intolerable? Is the Elected Presidency criteria too high (and mightly executed)? Is the Elected Presidency scheme even necessary in the first place? Are walkovers becoming an irritating bugbear? What can Singaporeans do, that is, if they want something done?

Organised by The WP Youth Wing - the official youth wing of The Workers' Party - this public forum discusses elections in Singapore and implications of the current situation, and examines the question of whether it is the authority that has to "open up" first or Singaporeans themselves have to begin taking charge of their own political affairs for it to progress.

Date: 15 October 2005 (Saturday)

Time: 2.30 pm

Venue: Workers' Party HQ, 216-G Syed Alwi Road #02-03 Singapore 207799

Facilitator & Moderator:- Mr Tan Wui-Hua, President of The WP Youth Wing

Speakers:- Ms Sylvia Lim, Chairman of The Workers' Party- Ms Glenda Han, Deputy Secretary of The WP Youth Wing

Guest Speakers:- Dr Kevin Tan, constitutional law specialist- Mr Michael Cheng, youth social activist

You are most welcomed to join us!

For more information, please call us at 6298-4765 or e-mail us at
Tan Wui-HuaPresidentThe WP Youth Wing216-G Syed Alwi Road #02-03 Singapore 207799Tel: 6298-4765Fax: 6454-4404URL:

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Power To The People

Power To The People

This is Workers’ Party’s motto for the past 15 years or so but there is hardly any deliberation on this concept as many see it as “elementary”. I decide to write on this topic basically because it is related to my previous post on Mandate to Squeeze.

I should clarify here that though I am a member of Workers’ Party CEC but what I am going to put up here is solely my interpretation of our slogan “Power To The People” and it got nothing to do with Workers’ Party at all.

The key word of this slogan is “Power” and how it relates to the “People”. There are few questions need to be asked:

1. Why do the people need the Power?
2. Power to do what?
3. Where do the people derive this power from? (Under what circumstances will the people have Power?)
4. When do the people have Power?
5. How could the people exercise their Power?

Why do the people need the Power?

The political scientists will have lots of intellectual theories on the concept of Power but I should not use such theories in my illustrations. I am basically an economically trained person and I should use very elementary economic observations to explain my interpretation on “Power To The People”.

The concept of “Power To The People” most probably come about from the French revolution that fought against monarchy rule. Monarchy rule is basically a despotic, autocratic rule. The characteristics of a Monarchy rule are somehow equivalent to a Monopolistic company. Both of them depend on the monopoly of power, be it in political power or market domination.

These monopolies would and COULD “exploit” the market to the fullest simply because there are no competition in the market. And most important of all, they are in control of goods and services that are a NECESSITY to the people. Good political governance is also a NECESSITY to a stable environment for people to live in. They derive their “power” basically because what they are providing is a “necessity” and they are the only ones who are providing these goods or services. If we view political governance as a kind of “services”, it is not difficult to understand the correlation between market monopolies and monopolies of political power. If the power of these monopolies are not curb, the people will suffer one way or another.

Of course, we could hope for “benign” monopolies just like ancient people always hope to have good Emperors or Monarch to take care of them, but these are rare exceptions from the historical perspective though it is not totally impossible.
The Power to do what?

The reason for people to have “POWER” is basically because they need the “BARGAINING POWER” to balance the monopolies’ power. If they do not have this bargaining power, their needs would be neglected and the products and services will be overpriced.

Many people have wrong understanding of their political power in a democratic political system. Some thought their power as a citizen is “to vote”. This is merely the means to the essence of their power. Some thought their power lies in their ability to “overthrow” or “replace” the ruling party. This is also merely the means to the essence of their power. The essence of their political power is the “BARGAINING POWER” to get those in ruling to provide BETTER and MORE services. This is similar to the “Bargaining Power” of consumers when they could just switch their loyalties to another competitor for better goods and services when the current one sucks. The changing of loyalty is just a mean to the end: to pressure the companies to respond or sensitive to their needs, to serve them better.

Thus it is the power to GET THE BEST DEAL for everyone that matters most.

Where do the people derive this power from?

To curb the “exploitation” of the system by these monopolies, there are two primary ways of going about it. One way is to “REGULATE” these monopolies. The other way is to create COMPETITION by setting up alternatives to the monopolies.

Many goods or services have “Natural monopolistic” characteristics. For example, due to the sheer size of investment, certain industries have Natural monopolistic characteristics. Examples are electrical power, public transportation etc. For these monopolies, we set up a system of rules to regulate them so to make sure that they did not exploit the consumers simply by virtue of the endowment of monopoly power. In the context of political system, there could only be one government at any one time. Thus the governing rules over the government which is endowed with great powers are the Constitution of the country. It is unhealthy for the ruling party to constantly change the rules which are supposed to regulate themselves and most of the time, Constitutional changes in other countries require a National referendum.

The other way to protect consumers’ right is to make sure that there are enough competitors around. Competition would lower prices and increase quality of goods and services. The classic example I could quote is the development of our telecommunication industry. Back in late 80s and early 90s, SingTel is the sole provider of telecommunication services in Singapore. When more players are allowed into the industry, prices start to drop and the quality of services improved. Ten years ago, nobody could imagine that a consumer could get a free handphone simply by registering a line with a mobile phone company! This is the explicit example of how consumers’ bargaining power could be increased tremendously when competition is being introduced.

The same could also apply to the political system. Citizens could only enjoy a tremendously increase in their bargaining power if and only if there are political competition. Although there could only be one government at any one time, but as long as there are alternative parties that continue to challenge the ruling party’s power base, the ruling party will have no choice but to respond. How could they respond in order to keep their power base? There are similarly two OPPOSITE and CONTRADICTORY methods as to voters’ perspective.

One is to kill competition, destroy your competitors. Second is to be sensitive and quick respond to their voters’ (clients or consumers) needs and demands.

Voters must understand that what they want is the later and not the former. The former method of destroying political competitors thus competition would ERODE their bargaining power in the long term. Voters should defend their own bargaining power by sending a strong signal to the ruling party that they reject such unhealthy moves.

When do the people have Power?

Most people have the misconception that they only have this POWER when they have the chance to vote. Consumers’ power does not only exist when they choose to purchase from another company. Their power is extended long AFTER they made the choice to switch. Their switching will send a signal to company that was discarded that they need to improve themselves. This power pushes the company to react and make things better.

Similarly for the political system, it applies. When PAP lost four seats back in 1991, it made them think hard how to improve their approach to win back the seats. Thus the idea of “HDB upgrading”, NSS and stuffs like that are introduced. They have become more sensitive to the masses’ demands by expanding the feedback unit’s outreach.

Thus in this view, the people’s power will have long lasting effects on the ruling party’s behavior even AFTER the General Elections. As mentioned in my last post “Mandate to Squeeze”, there are more things we could squeeze from the ruling party if more political competition is enhanced.

How could the people exercise their Power?

Ideally, the people will have most bargaining power when there is a credible ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT waiting to replace PAP. However, realistically at this stage of our political development, the practical thing is to vote in more alternative parties’ MPs to provide the necessity competitive environment that could provide the base of the people’s power.

Voting in more opposition MPs is only one part of the whole strategic maintenance of people’s power. The only way to protect voters’ bargaining power is to demonstrate strong objections to things that could erode their base of power. Citizens should deprive the ruling party the two third mandate to change the Constitution as they wish. This Constitution is supposed to regulate the ruling party and protect citizens’ bargaining power.

Citizens should also demonstrate strong objections to the ruling party’s hard hit tactic to destroy their opponents in which destroy the necessary political competition that provide the base of the citizens’ bargaining power in the political system.

Demonstration or expression of strong objections or dislike is an important way to get the better deal for citizens’ at large. The recent Eight White elephants saga is one fine example. Although I think it is a non-issue but look at it this way, at least such demonstration of dissatisfaction has force LTA to react and do something. However, the stiffening laws have prohibited Singaporeans’ right to make strong demonstration of demands or objections to various issues. However, those who put up the white elephants are deemed as law breakers under current laws though they are exercising their power to demand better deal from the LTA and transport provider.

PAP has claimed that they are “opening up” and there are many ways for people to feedback. However from my perspective, if such “opening up” doesn’t bring value to voters’ bargaining power in the political system, it is not very meaningful at all. We may not want people to break laws and go on unlawful acts but I think there are good considerations to be made on the right to demonstrate (as guarantee by our constitution but administratively deprived by the ruling party) basically because it involves the bargaining power of the people. Hong Kong has provided an ASIAN example whereby LAWFUL demonstrations do not disrupt economic activities nor chase away foreign investors.

Thus when the reporters who interviewed us ask what do we think about the “open society”, my answer is pretty simple: the ultimate test of openness is whether PAP would give us (the citizens) back the right to demonstrate lawfully in Singapore. Ironically, if law and order is really the main concerns, why would PAP willing to allow foreigners to demonstrate in Singapore when IMF meeting is going to be held in 2006?

Street demonstration is only one important avenue of people’s power. Freedom of expressions in any forms is also very important. Active participation in political discussion and discourse is one way of exerting people’s power. Artistic deliberations of social phenomenon and political concerns are one important ways also. Of course, attending feedback sessions either with ruling party or alternative parties are important. However many people who have attended government sponsored feedback sessions are disillusioned and we should seriously ask why.

Helping alternative parties to strengthen themselves in order to provide credible political competition is also one very effective way of making sure that the people’s power is being preserved. Joining or forming political parties to compete directly at the ruling party’s power base is the most direct way of helping to preserve citizens’ power.


In short, Singaporeans as voters, should fully understand what potential POWER they wield at the end of the day. Giving up their bargaining power to small “incentives” like HDB upgrading or NSS or ERS is really not worth it. There are more substantial things Singaporeans could SQUEEZE or bargain out of this political system if they know how to preserve and maintain their political bargaining power.

We are after all just human beings that is looking forward to better living style, quality of life for ourselves as well as our future generations. I am not prepared to sell my future generation’s power away and thus, I chose to fight it out. I just hope that we could continue to preserve and enhance the Power To The People.

Basically there are few important points:

People derive Power in the Democratic system via the ENVIRONMENT just like consumers deriving their bargaining power in the FREE market place; it is a necessity to have a competitive environment for consumers to get the best deal out of the system, similarly for a citizen.

Any moves by a monopoly to curb competition must be prevented; in the real world, you have the Anti-Trust law. Monopoly also understands that they derive GREATEST POWER by destroying competition/competitors and manipulate laws or rules that govern them. In the political industry, constitution will be manipulated to the monopoly's advantage. The Citizens must realise that such moves are detrimental to their own bargaining power in the long run; in fact, any moves by anyone to curb competition is BAD for them.

What the citizens could do actively to enhance their bargaining power or preserve their power in the democratic system is to prevent monopolistic behaviour and to encourage competition. Only then they could get the best deal out of the system.

PAP has been selling the idea of "MANDATE" to rule effectively which seems to mean to have TOTAL CONTROL of ALL SEATS in parliament. This is rubbish; you don't need to win ALL SEATS in order to show that you have the mandate to rule effectively. This is a monopolistic mindset and citizens should resist it for their own good in maintaining their bargaining power.

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mandate to SQUEEZE

The following is an article that I posted in Sammyboy Forum:

As stated in my interview with ST, we should recognize that voting is the most fundamental and direct effect on the way PAP government will treat us, the citizens.

Some forumites here (Sammyboy forum) have articulated very well on all the policies that have "SQUEEZED" us for the past four years after PAP has won the resounding victory of "MANDATE"... the "MANDATE" to do what? As some astute observers have put it right, SQUEEZING us!

On many occassions I have short conversations with Singaopreans on the street, they have just resigned to the fact that they have been "Sqeezed Dry" by the various policies and price hikes.

I have thought to myself, why should we allow the PAP government to squeeze us dry? And how could we get a better bargain in return? The answer lies in the sacred vote of all Singaporeans. You could only SQUEEZE PAP Government back for more benefits by depriving them the so call "MANDATE"! Once you gave them overwhelming "MANDATE" to rule, they could anything they want simply referring to the "MANDATE" they have obtained!

Prime examples are those freebies Singaporeans staying in opposition wards get. Even those living in PAP wards that are being "threaten" by opposition challenge on the ground, they enjoy lot more than other wards! i.e. their MPs are more hard working and they are willing to spend more resources on these wards. The recent "upgrading" in private estates in Aljunied GRC is one good example. Building of Yishun General Hospital is another.

No PAP MPs could ever help Singaporeans to "SQUEEZE" PAP government! No PAP MPs (at least in my knowing) have ever persue aggressively on the need of social welfare system in Singapore but why did PAP government suddenly come up with "COMCARE" or "WORKFARE" when they themselves have defended vigorously against the ills of social welfarism? This is basically because our Hougang MP Mr. Low TK has raised the need of a comprehensive social welfare system for those who are badly in need of it during times of distress and unemployment!

As for the Yishun General Hospital, it is only when Mr. Low raised again about the acute shortage of beds in Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the apparent mismanagement of overall strategy in providing enough hospital care to the rising population in the North that PAP government has to start to get their acts together!

Not to forget that PAP has always sing the rhetoric that there is no free lunch in this world but they are giving out free breakfast in Hougang and $1 shark fin soup in Potong Pasir!

Thus, these prime examples point to the reality on the ground: Nobody could ever squeeze PAP government enough to make them work harder and give more considerations to the needs of Singaporeans at large!

There are more things we could squeeze out of PAP. Only through a balanced and healthy political competition that the citizens could get the best deal out of this government.

We could only achieve the best equilibrium for Singaporeans through a competitive political system. Any monopoly will be lax, overpriced and insensitive to the needs of its customers. The same apply to the monopoly of power in politics.

To all Singaporeans: Please give us the mandate to help you squeeze more from PAP and NOT the mandate to PAP to squeeze you.

Goh Meng Seng

Friday, September 02, 2005

Cost of Structural Displacement

Cost of Structural Displacement

Recently we have been bombarded with all sorts of “promotion” for some jobs like “toilet cleaning” or “cleaners”, nursing and such. And most of the time, a good “example” and story is crafted out, how an ex-manager become cleaner etc

And this seems to link to the official tone that Singaporeans are just too “choosy” in job seeking. The propaganda is aimed at two tiers of job seekers: first, those older job seekers who may just like those featured in the stories, used to have “high level” jobs. Secondly, it is also aimed at those new young job seekers, to convince that people of “good caliber” and experience also end up in cleaning toilets, don’t be too choosy. This propaganda is aimed to shift the blame of joblessness and hardship to Singaporeans again. The most classic comment so far is, university graduates are only fit to wash test tubes.

I shall not touch on the hardship on job seekers and their plight though I have met numerous individuals who used to be in high corporate positions but have no choice to become taxi drivers. I will touch on the economic cost of such structural displacement, since PAP government will only concern with “facts and figures”, “dollars and cents”.

When one decides to spend money, time and effort to do something, he expects to have good returns from these investments. This is the same for investing in education. As an Asian country, we are taught from young the importance of education. Our parents would save on other luxury spending just to make sure that we get the best education they could afford and we could manage.

Investment in education is a long term plan and it contains two main different input of resources: 1) money 2) time. If one really believes that he is only fit to wash test tubes even if he gets a university degree, would anyone in his right mind ever want to invest in his own investment? Not everyone could become professor for sure!

The structural displacement of jobs will create large wastage of resources, both tangible and intangible. Experiences are something that one could not buy but only accumulate through hard work. Asking individuals to discard whatever experiences and education accumulation to accept “cleaner” job is just an act of desperation. In macro terms, this has important impact on our resource allocation process. As a small country, human resources are our only vital resources and yet, we are ready to waste them all by asking people to “look low”?

The Foreign Talent policy itself has itself caused great resource wastage. If companies are only interested to import cheap foreign “substitutes” to replace our own citizens in various jobs, then why would we want to spend so much money in education but end up working as a cleaner? It really doesn’t make any sense at all.

We need REAL Talents, be it Foreign or Local. However we should practice caution in allowing companies to import cheap foreign substitutes that could replace local workforce. This meaning that the policy must make sure that whatever foreign workers the company wants to employ, they must first seek from local workforce or sources first. They could only be approved to employ foreign workers unless the specific jobs need specific skills that is non-existence in local sources or that there is a real shortage of such skilled workers in local workforce. This is what Singaporean First all about. And PAP has only talked big on Singaporean First but act little on this.

The present system of providing quota to foreign workers is insufficient. It will create resource misallocation or displacement and in the long run, we will suffer badly from such wastage. As long as our foreign talent policy is not restructured, no amount of “upgrading” on local workforce will solve our unemployment and high emigration rate problem. When the government allows companies to employ foreign workers on all levels and assimilate local workforce on all fronts, those from lower skills when upgraded, will face the same problem at higher skill level.

It is amazing that we put so much resources in education, concentrating on a few fields, but in the end, all these resources just go to waste when cheaper foreign substitutes are brought in to replace local workforce. Some of these “displaced” highly educated individuals would have no choice but just emigrate to somewhere else which need their skills and services. To ask them continue to stay in Singapore and take up cleaner jobs is totally irrational to them.

If our overall strategy is about drawing on foreign inputs of labour to everything in the name of “cost savings”, then our education strategy should not waste too much resources and all Singaporeans should be tailored to be entrepreneurs to utilize such “cheap” resources. We should not mismanage our education policy to do something that others could do cheaper and provide better, cheaper end results! The problem is, do we really want to adopt such strategy or not?

Goh Meng Seng