Dear fellow Singaporeans,
Before I start, I would like to emphasize that this is purely an opinion and I welcome debate on my train of thought. After all, no one has all the answers.
The title is a localized version of “It’s the economy, stupid” by former US president, Bill Clinton. It is not really nice to call people stupid, so let’s use a bit of Singlish to make things more pleasant to the ears.
It has been drummed into us since day one that we do not have any resources, except our people. It is on this basis that the economy must not falter at all costs. So, what has been done to ensure that the economy will not falter?
In the past, we welcomed MNCs to set up shop here in Singapore. We were able to compete on the basis that we were a hardworking population. Labour cost was also cheap back then. We had jobs in sectors, such as the Civil Service, Finance, Education etc. There were laws, although controversial, essentially to ensure that there will be minimal work stoppages.
Laws regarding strikes, riots etc have been enacted to ensure that Singapore is a good place to invest in, as far as businesses are concerned.
Fast forward to today, where everything we know has shot up in terms of prices. But sadly, the wages of the common man has not kept up. What exactly has gone wrong, you may ask.
The root problem is the notion that economy growth must be maintained at all costs. Notice that I said, at all costs. How, you may ask?
In order to “keep the economy afloat”, the low labour cost strategy has been adopted for as long as possible. While the Swiss cost of living persisted, labour costs have been kept artificially low. This has resulted in the that while we have to contend with high costs of living, we are being pushed into accepting lower wages “in order to remain competitive”.
While one option is to for the individual to take up more jobs, this is not always practical. After all, human beings do not live to only work. We need recreation, time off with families and many other things. This has unfortunately resulted in discrimination against locals for being “lazy”, “incompetent” and “expensive”. This labeling is an unfortunate by-product of the low labour cost strategy, where the excuse is that foreign labour can accept “lower wages” and locals cannot.
Perhaps, you might be saying that the government is promoting higher productivity schemes and also, tightening of foreign labour. We are also working hard on our R&D sector, to help Singapore punch above it’s weight. On the surface, it is certainly true that the government is addressing these issues. But the real devil is lurking elsewhere.
The real devil, in the writer’s opinion is this. The ruling government feels that the economy “cannot falter”. Of late, their true colours have been rather telling. Think about this:
1. Recall that the Population White Paper was passed with ease in Parliament. It is probably to help facilitate the ASEAN Common Market framework (Recall: Free Flow of Skilled Labour). This helps to bring in “cheap” foreign labour to keep the economy running at all costs.
2. Recall that during the National Day Rally in 2013, LHL proposed that he will shift all shipping industries to Tuas and the redevelopment of Paya Lebar airbase to free up the land for new homes. Recently, we also saw golf courses being threatened. The key idea, essentially, is to free up more land for more people to come in.
3. In many strategies, the human factor is often unpredictable and dynamic. It is also because of this that the PAP is indeed “fixing the opposition”. While making the WP wards (Aljunied, Hougang & Punggol East) “repent”, it has also un-invited Tan Cheng Bock, who represents the middle ground voters. It has essentially, kept to those who will support them unconditionally. And also, those who do not support them are labelled as “enemies”.
4. Social & Infrastructure problems have been haunting Singapore for as long as we know. MRTs, FT integration issue and a whole long list of it…….(too long to list).
5. For the PAP, they feel that their strategy of keeping the economy going at all costs should be adhered to. While there are calls to moderate growth to a more sustainable level, the mindset is still stuck onto what worked in the past, not what will work sustainably.
In summary, the take home points are as follows:
1) The cheap labour strategy is ongoing, as far as the PAP is concerned. Nevermind if it works today or if it is sustainable.
2) The human factor is often unpredictable. It would seem that the PAP is unable to handle this particular factor well. Instead of learning how to handle the human factor professionally, it has resorted to “fixing the opposition” and making voters “repent”.
3) The real devil is that of the PWP and the Asean Common Market (which the MSM is silent over).
4) The PAP will never abandon their cheap labour strategy, unless we “slap them real hard”.
Maybe, using the words of former MM Lee, (“…..the army will have to come in and stop it”), perhaps the “army” of Singaporeans should come in and stop this “growth at all costs” mentality.