Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Value of Citizenship ---- $5000?

The Value of Citizenship ---- $5000?

The recent STORM of a pianist Melvyn Tan getting off the hook of NS liability simply by paying a mere fine of $5000 is flooding internet forums fast.

On my personal side, as an infantry logistic officer, I really do not know how would I face my men when I go back to my next ICT! Although I think the primary problem lies with the Value of Citizenship, but the $5000 fine is really an insult to the many sacrifices made by many NS men all over Singapore. This incident will surely affect the morale of all military men (being current soldiers or reservists) in Singapore. An army with low morale is an army doomed to lose a war.

Ultimately, I think the root problem lies with the value of our citizenship. This is especially critical in the face of huge army of foreign workers competing for jobs in Singapore?s small market.

The recent moves by PAP government in increasing polyclinic fees for PRs and foreign workers are targeted to arrest this growing perception that there is no value in our citizenship. Foreign students are only paying 10% more fees than local students in universities, despite the fact that they have serve 2 years of National Service.

This growing subtle discontent of Singaporeans have suddenly exploded in the face of this ?outrageous? ?exception? made for Melvyn Tan.

People are venting anger at Melvyn Tan (one who has decided to quit Singapore in his early life but chose to come back 30 years later) but I say, they should instead look at the issue with cool logic. The problem lies with the very low esteem and value of our citizenship.

How would one feel if the NS policy states that for all of those who have completed NS and serving reservist, they will be fully subsidized for their medical bills? This is turning NS from a liability to each individual into an asset to those who have served them!

Thus, to me, the question doesn?t lie in how severe the punishment has been meted out to people like Melvyn Tan, but rather, what is our INTRINSIC value of our citizenship!

Besides, if we could increase the value of our citizenship, there will be less people willing to emigrate out. This is a very realistic aspect of life. PAP government has tried to enhance our values of citizenship by embarking on ?asset enhancement scheme? back in the 90s but failed miserably. It has created a property bubble instead and subsequently negative assets for many people.

If PAP government has not been that ?stingy? on benefits for Singaporeans at large, I think Melvyn Tan saga would have been a non-issue.

I would encourage Singaporeans to think beyond the emotional knee jerk reactions to Melvyn Tan?s case and see clearly the root of tbe problem lies in the low value of our citizenship. And the only way to make PAP government realizes that they need to enhance the value of our citizenship is to squeeze them more via the ballot box.

The following are some of my replies and thoughts expressed in Sammyboy forum.

Dear lambaste2,

Sorry that I gave you the wrong impression.

Although this issue could "anger" alot of Singaporeans at large, but I am asking this question to form a logical conclusion.

What is the main difference between a person like him who is now no longer a Singapore citizen and do not need to serve NS or reservist and a person who gave up his citizenship?

The main mistake he made was not to surrender his citizenship "EARLIER" to avoid the NS liability. But wait, it is an offence not to heed the NS call for the 2.5 years service even when you decide to surrender your citizenship, but it is ok for Singaporean to call it quit and avoid the reservist liability half way of his life (even though he has served 2.5years)? Does it really make any difference between avoiding 2.5 years of NS as compared to possibly 10 to 15 years of reservist liability?

Take it this way, for every year of reservist liability, you have to go back for about 2 weeks each year. Thus, it would be 20 weeks for 10 years. 20 weeks is about 5 months. So it is not an offence to avoid the 5 months life long reservist liability? For officers, it would be worse as technically speaking their potential liability goes up to 55 yr old.

My point is that if we are not going to charge any individuals who avoid his potential reservist liability of 5 months when he become citizen of another country, is it consistent to charge any individuals that avoid 2.5 years of NS liability?

Of course, the law is written such a way that you could commit a crime if you avoid 2.5 years NS liability by becoming citizen of another country but not the reservist liability but is this law logical and consistent in any sense? It doesn't matter when or at what age you give up your citizenship but the fact is, you would be avoiding NS or reservist liability in doing so. But one is punishable while the other is not?

I am not making any stand here yet, if some of you want to jump the gun and accuse me of anything.

To me, it is pretty straight forward. If one would go to the extent of giving up his citizenship for whatever opportunities or monetary rewards else where just to escape NS or reservist, his heart is not with Singapore. Period. It is totally irrelevant with regards to when he gave up his citizenship.

I understand the emotional side of many of us who have gone through NS and still struggling with the every year reservist recall. You feel angry, unfair and mentally unbalanced...whatever, but we should look at this from another perspective.
The system is flawed and the law is flawed.
The value of citizenship does not lie on how severe the punishment is meted out to those who desert their service to our country. Instead, the value of citizenship depends on the benefits we enjoy as a citizen as compared to non-citizens. If one chose to give up his citizenship just because he does not want to do NS, so be it. Why need to punish him for something that he is not willing to do and willing to sacrifice his benefits as a citizen?
Thus the next question, WHAT IS THE VALUE of our citizenship? The $5000 fine is an insult to our service to our nation as NS men. It should not happen that way at all. It practically means that our life long service as NSmen (including the 2.5yrs) is worthless. Comparing to some of us in Singapore who are willing to be jailed for 3 years just because they are not willing to do carry arms, this law is totally flawed.

The value of our citizenship is how much our govt takes care of us in return. This is the social contract. I think most Singaporeans who have done NS won't be that angry if they enjoy more benefits in return for the National Service that they have done for Singapore.
This is the key and root of the problem. It all starts with the Value of Citizenship.

Goh Meng Seng

Dear mips4,

Why would one "owe" the country the obligation of National Service if he is willing to give up his citizenship? This is crux of the matter.

If there are many people who are willing to give up their citizenship just because they do not want to do NS, what does that mean?

1) This country is not WORTH their effort in defending
2) They feel that there are better options than being Singaporeans
3) He is just a whimp that is just too afraid of "hardship" in NS

Whatever the reasons, it simply means that Singapore's citizenship "WORTH NEXT TO NOTHING" in their perspective. You actually expect these people to "defend" your family in the event of war?

Fighting a war is not about having the number standing in the firing line. The strength of the soldiers' psyche normally determines the ultimate outcome.

You must always remember there is a difference in your rhetoric...yes, every citizens agree that we should do NS. But those who refused to do, have given up their citizenship and technically, they are no longer citizens.

You must also remember that it is not just $5000 that he has given up to exchange not to do NS; he has given up his citizenship as well.

I would agree that one is to complete his part in NS if he wants to be part of this nation. But that does not mean that you are "slaves" to this nation just because you are born in Singapore. If one chose not to become the citizen of this nation, you also expect him to oblige to do NS for this nation? Such logic is flawed.

Well, whatever moral authority one has over the others, the bottom line is, we must make our citizenship ATTRACTIVE enough for others to feel the WORTH to make sacrifices for it. This lies in the value of citizenship.

Goh Meng Seng

Dear techpk88,

I do agree with you totally that it is an insult to our effort in serving NS by putting a fine of $5K on him.

Thus, my personal stand is the system is flawed and inconsistant. I would say that if you want to be "fair", then one would be allowed to decide whether he wants to keep his citizenship and complete his NS or that he gives up his citizenship and thus, no need to do NS. Alot of other variables could exist. In fact, in a way, the present system gives you the option, really; you could just refuse to come back to Singapore for NS and then give up your citizenship just like what he did. On top of that, exile is imposed on these people. The system is flawed in the sense that the exile part has been breached by the simple fine of $5000. And of course, to insult us further, he is being appointed to our Arts Council. We are sending the wrong signal that you could be a quitter but at the end of the day, our country could stay "beg" your return even if you abandon the country and refused to oblige to the country's standard NS liability.

The question is, even if the govt allows people to give up their citizenship in exchange of not doing NS, how many people have the ability or could well afford to do just that? I believe that this is no easy question.

I believe this is a very emotional thing for everyone who has gone through NS, same for me. But dispelling the emotions aside, you look at the situation with cool logic, you will see where the problems lie.

A simple example: If the govt say all those who have serve NS plus reservist will enjoy more subsidies for their medical fees, will you feel as angry as you are now?

NS cum reservist right now are being considered as "liability" instead of "assets" to us. If we change them into "assets" to everyone who have gone through them, who will complain?
Thus, the root problem is here and the whole system that make NS and reservist as "liability" to us is totally flawed and inconsistent.

Goh Meng Seng

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Blogging : The New Political Frontier?

During each and every elections right from 1990s, alternative source of information on the political contests have been put online.

Independent reports on opposition rallies have been written and posted on forums and websites. These reports are a source of information alternative to local media. I was one of those who benefited from such alternative sources. I attended my very first rally in Potong Pasir back in 1991 after reading certain independent reports on opposition rallies which claimed that local media had grossly misrepresented the real situation on the ground. With an independent mind, I decided to see for myself what really happened on the ground and thus, I made my first ever trip to a political gathering. This trip is a very important step in my political awakening process in which I have confirmed the accurracy of previous alternative reports on opposition rallies.

It was also only then I realize fully the propagandus nature of local media which is skewed totally towards the ruling party PAP. From the experience of 1997 election bias reporting by local media, I decided to form a small group of local reporters when Sintercom decided to call it quit after it refused to succumb to PAP government pressure to register itself as political website. This alternative reporting organized by me was obviously drown by the full blast of biasness of local media.

Political battles are fought on various fronts but the media that projects messages to the voters is the crucial arm with strategic importance. In the past, communist and autocratic government could prolong their monopoly of power in their country with little opposition from their people basically because they could control information flow within their country. The most obvious tactic they used was control local media, shut out external foriegn media. In Singapore's context, though foreign publications are allowed to be distributed locally, but political content has been tightly controlled. The local media is also crucial for the autocratic government in social engineering and brain washing programme, so to cultivate the "political correctness" of public mindset. It is a powerful tool of political evangelism.

However, the rapid growth of the internet has somehow prevented autocratic government from effectively control information flow unless they want to be like North Korea that sacrifices their nation's growth and development just to protect its autocratic government. PAP wants to have the best of both sides; it wants the benefits of having internet but at the same time, protect its monopoly of power from the potential harm of this medium which could be used as alternative source of political information.

I suspect that they have changed strategy in recent time. They are trying to project an impression that the local media is "CREDIBLE" when it comes to coverage of political issues. That is why local media started to engage opposition parties, especially Workers' Party so to garner political trust from its readers/clients.

This could mean several things. First, it means that they realize that they could no longer play the game of total control of the media anymore else they risk losing all credibility at one go. Controlling access to alternative source of information which may be easily confirmed as credibility in contrast to the bias reporting of local media is not easy in this globalized and internet-linked world. My personal experience of "political awakening" due to consciousness of the unfair reporting is a prime example of how alternative source of information could destroy the credibility of local media almost INSTANTLY.

Secondly, the only way out for them is to change strategy. They will try to gain "political trust" by portraying themselves as "fair and just" by giving some coverage to opposition parties during "off election time". Only by doing so will prevent a total "unconscious boycott" of local media during GE by the masses and forcing them to turn to alternative sources of information from the internet. A more delicated, sophiscated and calibrated approach may be applied to gain trust from the masses and at the same time, promote the "preferred" ruling party in a more subtle ways instead of past "hard selling".

How successful are they in moulding a positive perception to local media? In the past, there are more people who are skeptical or even have total distrust of local media's political reporting especially during GE. But now, more people are "praising" or at least "admit" that the local media is "opening up". They have succeeded to gain a level of trust from the middle ground to a certain degree.

Having said that, we will not know what will happen in the coming elections. My personal belief is that a leopard will not change its spots, no matter what.

It is thus my wish that more Singaporean Bloggers will contribute to our democratic process by actively engaged in providing alternative sourcesof information and commentary in the coming General Electinos. The Monopoly of Power is derived from the Monopoly of Information flow. For the good of our future generations, we should seek democratic advancement by depriving any attempts of monopoly of power. Thus, as a socially awared citizen, what we could do is to deprive them the monopoly of information flow thus the monopoly of power by coming forward bravely to blog about the general elections.

Well, PAP government will try to "control" bloggers in this context. There are two tier strategies. First, they will try to discredit the blogsphere with whatever apparatus they have. It is in their interests to control the information flow in order to maintain their monopoly of power. But I think we will have to be brave in rejecting such scare tactics. The recent legal suits against bloggers are prime examples on how the blogsphere could be totally discredited by exposing a few "black sheeps" among the whole blogger community. This is a similar tactic they used against non-PAP parties. Each parties are different but they chose to lump them together as "Opposition Parties" for the convenient of hitting the whole group of parties that are contesting against them. What they need to do is to find fault with a few guys in these "Opposition Parties" and blow them out of proportion, to create an impression or perception that ALL in the grouping call "Opposition Parties" are just like that. They are using the same methodology against bloggers now. Bloggers at large are portrayed as "whiners", "complain king", "bo liao people", "irresponsible people", "rebellous" etc etc. For every report that they made bad about the blogsphere, they hit hard on the "credibility" of the blogsphere.

For those who are in the knowing, we know there will always be good and bad apples in the basket. For the local media and authority to systematically discredit the whole blogspere is just too skewed. It is of course self interests that make them do so... to protect their stand as the sole "credible" source of information.

The second strategy is of course using the FEAR factor. Constant demonstration that "irresponsible blogging" will get you in trouble. This subtle threat of lawsuits and criminal charges are similar to the rule of FEAR they have exerted on the "Opposition" group. What they need to do is to sue a few guys and the rest who may be interested to join non-PAP parties will think many times. This rule of FEAR is pretty effective in stiffling the growth of political participation in non-PAP politics but unfortunately, it also affect PAP's recruitment of good candidates.

We have to fight against these two strategies. The first one is easy. Promote ourselves as reponsible bloggers by action through our writings. The second one is a bit more tricky. One have to conquer his own FEAR to arrive to that enlightenment stage. One way is to have a strong belief in what you are doing is GOOD for Singapore. This Moral High Ground will be the source of your Moral Courage. The other way is to believe that you are not only doing for your own good; you are doing something that is going to benefit your future generations. We have been living in this subtle FEAR for so long in Sngapore. It would be irresponsible for us to continue to let our children and future generations to continue to live in this FEAR.

The Blogging sphere will only become a credible political front of initiating change in our country if and only if bloggers at large are willing to contribute towards the democratic process. Yes, simply by providing credible alternative views to local media, we will be contributing tremendously to our Nation's democratic progress.

James Gomez has written an interesting article on political blogging. The link is as follows:

We will be putting up links to blogs that are willing to provide alternative source of information and commentaries. If you are willing to take the crucial step towards a better Singapore for everybody and your future generations, please email me so that I could make arrangement.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Talk

After the PAP convention held over the weekend, suddenly everyone hots up with election talk. There are few main reasons:

1) From PAP Secretary General Lee's speech, it is obvious that PAP has found all the "NEW" blood they are looking for. This is one of the main criteria for PAP to go for General Elections.

2) If you trace PAP's historic behaviour, it is obvious that it will start its "strategic maneuver" about two to three months before the actual battle, General Elections. First of all, you will see all rosy reports in the local mass media. Then goodies given out. Third, reassurance of PAP's good work and leadership. Fourth, there is always an unusual surge in ministers making speeches which "address" citizens' concerns. All in all, very "predictable".

3) You will suddenly realize that "bad news" have been minimized in local mass media. The white elephant issue and the NKF issue has disappeared from the main stream media overnight. People living in void decks and without electricity and water have suddenly disappear from the mass media.

4) There is something usual this time round. One of my friend makes an interesting observation. PAP has NEVER made "SPECIAL MENTION" or "CONCESSION" to any constituency PRIOR to General Elections campaigning. The special announcement and constant harping of the $160 million development plan in Aljunied GRC is FIRST OF ITS KIND in PAP's governing history. In view of "short memory" of human nature, no political party would want to make such "relatively big" commitment with no calculative gains in sight. This has been shown in 1997, whereby HDB upgrading was only revealed right before the impending GE. In 2001 GE, the plan of taking precinct support level into account linking to HDB upgrading was also made known during the campaigning period. Thus it is obvious that the $160 million is the "Trump Card" which is targeted specifically on Aljunied GRC would not be made without the link to the coming GE. The obvious sign is that it is linked to "5 year plan" which means, it crosses over to the next term after the GE. Unfortunately, the PAP team has been pre-empted by my slogan, "Mandate to Squeeze" and thus, in order not to reinforce this new theme of mine, they play down the "winning votes" part.

5)PAP and the media have covered almost all aspects of Workers' Party themes: People Power vs Power to the People, Party of Choice vs Having a Choice, all sorts of welfare handouts vs New Poor. A party that believes in elitism, ultra capitalism suddenly embracing social welfare needs of the citizens? Just not so long ago (during this year's budget debate), PAP has just chunk out statistical data trying to justify that there is no need of social welfare for Singaporeans! They are trying to skirt around the question of the success/failure of their economic policies but the simple fact that they are giving out social welfare (comcare or workfare) is a subtle admission that their economic policies are failing and resulting hardship on a substantially big number of our citizens! To "soften the ground", they have no choice but to start giving handouts to those bear the brunt of the present economic situation.

6) Despite the high rising oil price, PAP has resisted to raise public transport fare further. This is "illogical" as they have more reasons to raise fare right now. Why so? I would predict that fare hike would be proposed right after the coming GE.

All the signs are there. It is just a matter of HOW SOON? It could be sooner than you thought. From various sources I gather, PAP's election machinery has been oiled, election material has been prepared and ready to go. My take is that it would happen in December, first three weeks of December.

In view of the impending GE, I would urge Singaporeans to step forward to contribute to the process of democracy in our country. To make sure we have a successful, clean and just electoral process, we need citizens to come forward to volunteer themselves as polling agents. Your one day sacrifice will make a great difference to Singapore's democratic process for the benefits of our children and future generations.

Goh Meng Seng

Monday, November 07, 2005

Innovative Economy II

I was about to write the next piece on Innovative Economy and I found this article on the Nordic countries' success.

My initial interest in Thinking Economy or Innovative Economy was actually inspired by Finland's (a Nordic country) success in overcoming its economic difficulties back in early 1990s when its dependency on trade with its Russian neighbour was disrupted by USSR's disintegration.

Most people would only know Nokia in Singapore but not many people know Nokia comes from Finland. In fact, Finland's economic model is always termed as "Nokia Economy".

The following article has crafted out correctly the few aspects of an Innovative Economy. It is "socialist" in nature which helps to prevent brain drain. Secondly, it is the education system as well as REAL political consensus making structure (they have truly multi-party system) that created the necessary dynamic social atmosphere that allow creativity and innovation to take root. Third, they understand the need to maintain a good herd of local SMEs without crowding them out with Government controlled companies. Ultimately, it is the PEOPLE of the country that matters, not MNCs or just tax structures.

Of course, nothing is perfect in this world. A socialist model is open to abuses and excess.

However, the article has missed out one important crucial point, the effect of European Union. EU has provided these relatively small Nordic countries the critical mass market for their products. In Singapore's context, it is the integration of ASEAN economies that matters for us. We will need to re-adjust our foreign policies and strategies. American-centric form of economic-diplomatic strategy may not work well for us in this rapidly globalized world.

As the General Elections is coming soon, I may be busy with alot of preparation work. However, I will try to write more articles on election-related issues in the coming weeks.

Goh Meng Seng

The secret of Nordic success
The Danish model emphasises the quality of human resources, from kindergarten level to life-long learning


Email this article
Print article

THE recent World Economic Forum report on global competitiveness listed all five Nordic countries among the top 10. Finland was ranked one, Sweden three, Denmark four, Iceland seven and Norway nine.

In most countries, kindergarten is a place where parents park their children while they are at work. But in the Nordics, a wide spectrum of measures and teaching aids are used to ensure that children learn how to learn, work with themselves, with other children and with adults, and to take initiative.
This cannot be a coincidence. So what is the secret? First of all, the report demolishes the myth that high taxes and high social welfare are necessarily an impediment to growth, innovation and competitiveness: the same five countries would be in the top positions on lists of social welfare providers and high taxation.

To my mind, there are two lessons. The first is that countries like the Nordic ones - and this also applies to Singapore - cannot compete on prices and costs. Any country with high cost levels must produce something nobody else can offer. This calls for innovation, creativity and imagination. A variant of this is to offer goods and services of a higher quality and/or performance to more than compensate for price differentials vis a vis low-cost producers. In the global economy, the possibility of imitation means that constant and continuous innovation is required.

Second, the Nordic countries have managed to persuade their best and most creative minds not to move abroad - non-economic societal links override the lure of higher post-tax salaries elsewhere. The Nordic experience shows that the quality of life, in a broad sense, plays a major role in creative people's decisions on where to live.

Another reason for the Nordic success has to do with their industrial structure and institutions. The Nordic countries' shift, around 1980, from manufacturing to the service economy emphasising infocomm, entertainment and knowledge-related industries, worked dramatically in their favour.

Moreover, all of the Nordics were dominated by small and medium sized enterprises, which were highly adaptable. They had the benefit of a malleable workforce that had emerged from education systems that had been finetuned for 200 years. Thus, while many countries had to grapple with painful restructuring of their industries, the Nordics were spared that task. They were well placed from the beginning.

But the most important reason for the success of the Nordic countries lies in their emphasis on the quality of human resources.

This starts at kindergarten level. In most countries, kindergarten is a place where parents park their children while they are at work. The children are taken care of - full stop.

But in the Nordics, a kindergarten is much more than that. A wide spectrum of measures and teaching aids are used to ensure that children learn how to learn, work with themselves, with other children and with adults, and to take initiative.

At kindergartens, every day is supposed to be an eventful day where the human being inside the child is 'unwrapped'. As almost all children go to kindergarten and the costs are affordable - thanks to the generous welfare state - the large majority of children go through this tremendous confidence-boosting process from about the age of two to the age of six. They develop intellectual skills, respect for others, an ability to adjust to others and teamwork.

The staff at a typical kindergarten consists of teachers that have gone through 3 1/2 years of training, leading to a bachelor's degree. The ratio of teachers to children is about one to 15-18. University-level tuition is also free and every student gets a monthly lump sum from the state - enough for basics. Thus, nobody who wants to enter university in Denmark is prevented from doing so by financial constraints. Studies show unequivocally that a large part of the present elite, in fact, had parents with only rudimentary education.

After entering the labour market - regardless of their position and/or sector - almost all Danes go through constant skill upgrading. Danes are considered the 'world champions' in life-long learning.

Denmark spends about 4 per cent of its gross national product (GNP) on life-long learning and as much as half of the Danish labour force at one stage or another goes through some kind of learning every year. While some other countries have embarked upon life-long learning programmes, Denmark is unique in having launched special education for those who teach at life-long learning institutions. It takes two years for such teachers to graduate. More than 5,000 teachers have gone through this education.

The Danish tradition of life-long learning reflects a deep understanding that people will often not be doing the same job in a couple of years' time and if they are, they will be doing it better, or differently. Moreover, as with kindergarten, Denmark realises that without qualified and specially trained teachers, the objectives of life-long learning may not be achieved.

Across the Nordic countries, the mentality inculcated since kindergarten has led to a workforce with a high degree of self confidence, independence and respect for others - and a capacity to combine creativity, individualism and teamwork. Subordinates do not ask superiors for guidance or orders merely because they are superiors, but only if they feel the superior can add some value. The ambition is, wherever possible, to settle any issues on the spot rather than refer them upward. In a fast-changing knowledge economy, it is easy to see how this attitude leads to higher productivity because of savings in time, energy, financial and administrative resources. The Nordic economies have also honed to a fine art the ability to provide not just products in isolation, but accompanying services that enable a product to satisfy buyers' needs for a long period of time. Thus, for example, if some machinery is provided, it will also be accompanied by guarantees that it will work, that it will be repaired quickly if it fails, that staff will be trained to use it, and that it will be upgraded regularly.

As most machinery now runs on software, the ingenuity put into the software takes over as the decisive competitive parameter from the machinery itself - the hardware. In developing this software, 'soft' human skills often override technical skills. This explains why the Nordic countries, despite high costs, are still able to succeed in manufacturing.

So what can other countries learn from the Nordic experience? To be sure, what works well in one country may not work so well in others. The American model, for instance, would lead to a disaster in the Nordic countries, while the same fate undoubtedly would befall the Nordic model if tried in the US.

But that said, there are some lessons. First, the shift from manufacturing to knowledge intensive sectors reverses the relevance of old competitive parameters - costs become less important while the quality of services and human resources become more important.

Second, competitiveness nowadays is primarily determined by long term factors such as educational standards, how people work together and the quality of human and social capital - a result of many years of investment. Turning around a country's competitiveness is only partly a question of managing economic parameters such as tax rates, depreciation allowances, etc. Instead, microeconomic considerations like labour market reforms, life-long learning institutions, the education system and a culture of innovation are increasingly important. This calls for long term and strategic thinking.

Third, a country has to analyse its own strengths compared to other countries and concentrate on them.

What are the drawbacks of the Nordic model? The major drawback is social waste. Some people cannot resist the temptation to abuse a generous welfare system. Students may go to university, benefit from the free tuition and receive their monthly cheque without really pursuing their studies. Some of the unemployed may try to dodge work. Some of these abuses do happen in Denmark. However, they are part and parcel of the system, and in the end, the pros and cons have to be weighed.

Danes have chosen to live with the disadvantages of a social welfare system to reap the considerable benefits. Any tinkering with the model risks undermining the fine balance and unsettling the institutions and arrangements that have turned Denmark into one of the strongest, most vibrant and most buoyant economies in Europe.

The author is visiting senior research fellow, ISEAS, and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School. He was the former ambassador of Denmark to Singapore. His website is