Monday, October 14, 2013

Singapore. An economy for foreigners, not Singaporeans

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore has an thoroughly absurd economic model which has been created to further the interests of foreigners, not Singaporeans. This is why.

Lee Kuan Yew and his son whom he appointed the Prime Minister brought out some scholars who had passed exams and were serving out their careers at million dollar salaries in the government to develop a plan to boost the economy.

Since Singapore is nothing but a dictatorship run with the help of handpicked scholars in high places, they had no need whatsoever to discuss any of this with their ordinary citizens whom Lee Kuan Yew had once described as mere "digits".

If they did, I don't think they would find themselves in the pickle they do now.

So here comes the utterly nonsensical plan, and you don't have to be a professional economist to know how stupid it is.

During the past 30 years or so, Ministers were asked to come up with economic sectors which showed prospects. They had given them the name "hubs".

One of the chosen areas was off shore banking and tax haven business, "banking hub" since there were embezzlers of state owned corporations from China who had lots of questionable money to put away, and since Singapore had a Chinese population, it seemed very probable they would choose Singapore. So, the idea of turning the island into a banking hub took off in a heart beat.

But the only problem in this case was Singaporeans had as much knowledge of off shore banking as they would have of a donkey's backside. But that didn't deter these million dollar ministers who run around the legs of the Lee family who dishes out the millions.

So what do they do? They not only allow these multi national banks to set up shop in Singapore, they also allow any number of foreign specialists in banking to staff these banks.

And what about the Singaporeans? Have they any part in this economic explosion of money and wealth? Sadly none at all.

Up till today, local Singaporeans haven't a clue what happens in international banking and they are lucky if they get jobs as petty junior clerks working under the English banker from London who has not only the academic qualification in banking but also 20 years experience in it. So in time to come, do the pathetic Singaporean digits have any hope? None at all. Why, because Singapore colleges don't have programs such as these, and even if they did, there is no way they can get the exposure needed to run these international transactions.

And do I blame the Singaporeans for not knowing this business of high finance? Of course not. Singapore is a tiny island with not more than perhaps two million local Singaporeans. And in any case it does not have the long history of banking as London Geneva or Zurich have.

So you can see, I hope, why this idea is so silly, even a ten year old boy can see how silly it is. You simply don't create plans and programs out of the blue simply because it seems profitable.

You create programs that take into account your own peoples skills and abilities and allow the market to grow in the direction it wants through market forces; not by some handpicked scholars deciding that tomorrow we are going into the diamond cutting business, even though the locals has no clue about how it is done.

Simply put, you leave the Singapore market alone to grow by market forces; not by some scholar sitting in some backroom deciding that tomorrow the island will become a banking hub! It is like Vanuatu, a small Pacific atoll saying tomorrow we will be like London. How silly.

As a result of this banking hub nonsense, which has left the local Singaporean citizen completely behind; what you see are British, Swiss, Australian and a slew of other Western expatriates sipping expensive champagne along the waterfront cafes and driving around in their Ferrari's doing just about anything they want, while the locals looks upon them drooling with envy.

The local has to be content being the low down secretary or office boy to the Swiss millionaire expatriate. This banking hub is not furthering the interests of locals; it furthers the interests of foreign expatriates on employment passes.

It is the same with every other harebrained "hub" in the tiny island. Singapore is the bio tech hub which claims to manufacture all sorts of miracle medicines. But who are they anyway? They are all scientists from the United States and elsewhere who work these businesses for large sums of money while the local is employed to run errands and pass the beaker.

True the Singapore government is trying to educate Singaporeans into becoming scientists. There is only one problem. Once they become scientists, they no longer have any desire to live in Lee's dictatorship and emigrate at the first opportunity. They are Singapore's biggest headache; the brain drain.

And then you have the health care sector. Call it the health care hub. Some Lee Kuan Yew's minion decided to come up with this nonsensical idea.

They reckoned, that as market for health services is probably going to grow, with rich Asians wanting to come to Singapore to be treated rather than going to London, why not become a health care center and make tons of money.

Only one problem; they don't have the doctors or the specialists to run the show. So what do they do? They simply import thousands of doctors and nurses from around the world to work them.

So what about the Singaporean? There are none around. Singapore doctors have either emigrated or there are not enough around. In fact, if you take a look at any Singapore hospital, you would notice that if the foreign workers left, the hospital would close; no doubt about it.

And then they have the legal hub. Only problem is that no one wants to come to Singapore for their cases. Why should they come to a judiciary made up of Kangaroos. So the idea of legal hub has died a natural death.

So what do I say? I say that you don't go around sitting in some high rise glass tower in down town Singapore and come up with economic plans which simply has nothing to do with the reality on the ground.

Instead, you let the economy grow by itself assuring Singaporeans that they have a country which cares for them and treats them like human beings, not "digits". And let them decide what is good for them instead of the government coming out of the blue and deciding that Singapore is going to be a banking hub with the locals working as coolies for the Swiss banker in downtown Singapore.

Is it too late? Unfortunately yes. These minions who are only too happy to please Lee Kuan Yew's son the Prime Minister so much so that they have expanded the economy at such break neck speed that they simply don't have a choice but to continue bringing ever more foreigners to run these businesses or rather "hubs". Otherwise these businesses would just fold for lack of manpower.

Despite the fact that the government has recently put out claims to reduce the intake of foreign labor, it is simply not possible. If they seriously went ahead, it would undoubtedly lead to a recession and it does not take much for a tiny island like Singapore to completely collapse. A tiny island like this will fold if you have businesses closing at such a rate.

Unfortunately they are in the grip of the vise. They simply have to go on bringing even more and more foreigners, and with the numbers of locals leaving the island continuing to mount in a huge brain drain, and with the almost zero fertility rate, this nonsensical policy will inevitably lead to the total disappearance of the local Singaporean in Singapore island. I have no doubt about it. A tragic irony indeed.

This is the sort of thing that happens with all dictatorships. Why, because they are not accountable to anyone.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They, i.e. the PAP ministers will grow the economy at any cost as their multi-million dollar 'salaries' depend on increasing the GDP and the profitability of the GLCs, which produce more than 60% of GDP.

One way to improve profits at the GLCs is to reduce the cost of labour by bringing in cheap labour from PRC, Philippines, Bangladesh etc, and drive wages down.

Bad luck if this screws the 'digits' which is what LKY refers to Singapore Citizens.