Where we belong…….what is the real Singapore? Who is the real Singaporean?

Published on Feb 19, 2013

With so much rhetoric, politicizing, hate and anger on the ground, what is the real Singapore? Who is the real Singaporean? What are our real sentiments? Why does “alternative media” always have to be about stirring negative feelings? Some people are happy with what they have, some people are just not happy with what they don’t have.

Music: “Come Home” by Vocaluptous

Advertisements

Very very bad sign of things to come : gangsterism. Mr Li YeMing faces harassment.

* Ariticle is about Mr Lee’s resignation from the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Assn due to harrassment calls and emails the clan received with regards to Mr Lee.*

Comments from the net :

  • <记者也尝试联络工人党,但工人当没有对此做出回复>
    It was an exchange between WP’s Party Mr Low and Mr Lee.
    Now that Mr Lee has been harassed, why did WP not have anything to say?
    It doesn’t matter if the harrassment come from WP’s supporters or not, but the fact that WP’s chief is involved, shouldn’t he speak up against such gangsterism?
    Is he condoning such act? 难道这真的就是所谓的 ”借刀杀人“? 若WP真的有朝一日成为我国的领袖,我们岂不成为流氓之国?太可怕了!
  • This is consistent to how WP’s supporters behaved during Elections period – ie – threatening other candidates. Nothing new really.
  • Very very bad sign of things to come.  Extremists called up association n harass staff. I worry about Singapore n my children when WP comes to power, with all these thugs behind them. What must WP do to ‘repay’ them ?
  • repost from Fabrications About The PAP
    After voicing his personal opinion in a letter criticizing The Workers’ Party MP’s Low Thia Khiang’s anti-immigrant speech, Mr Li YeMing faces harassment. A page was set up calling for Mr Li, a new citizen, to be deported. the clan association received numerous harassing phone call and email. Thus, Mr Li has tendered his resignation.

    Now I fear for myself, I have expressed on numerous occasion my disagreement with the WP’s position. When will these hooligans be sent to come after me? 

    This is what Mr Li predicted in this 2nd letter to zaobao a few days ago: “在工人党接连打胜多场选战后,作为国会第一大反对党,可说是气势如虹。今时今日,我写一篇批评工人党和刘程强的文章,都会引来朋友们的关切:“不会惹上麻烦吧?” 原本我想,他们是不是有点“危言耸听”了。现在才知道,他们的担心不是没有道理。刘先生把我定性为“想致工人党于死地”,应该是在煽动支持者对我的不满。可是这场讨论,有必要用这种煽动悲情的手段吗?”

    Translation:
    “Having won a series of election campaign, and becoming the largest opposition in the Parliament, the Workers’ Party is now the darling of the day.
    Many concerned friends have even asked me, “Would you get into any trouble?” for me to write something criticising the Workers’ Party and Low TK’s article at this point in time.
    I originally wondered if my friends were unnecessarily “frightened”. But now I realised their concern is not without basis.
    For Mr. Low to characterise me as “wanting to cause the Workers Party to die/death”, I suspect he is trying to incite discontentment among his supporters on me. Does he need to resort to inciting tragic, on this discussion between us? “

Our home: Think big, plan long term – By Mr Liu Thai Ker

 Straits Times – Opinion – 13 Feb 2013 – By Liu Thai Ker, a director of RSP Architects Planners & Engineers.

THE current debate on population consists of two key aspects.

On the one hand, the Population White Paper touches on issues related to our ageing population, the low birth rate by Singaporeans, the social impact of a high percentage of foreigners and so on.

On the other hand, there is a complementary paper about achieving quality environment for Singapore at an increased population of up to 6.9 million by 2030.

The latter involves the hardware aspect of our nation building – the construction of buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

Let us focus on the hardware issue. In our land-scarce island-nation, where there is almost zero tolerance for mistakes, we have to look at the issues rationally and calmly, with foresight, skill and brave hearts. We have to look past symptoms and identify causes. Only then can we find appropriate solutions with minimum mistakes.

The hardware core issues in the current debate on population size should be about limited land, more people, higher density, quality environment as well as the floor area standard per person for all his or her activity needs.

There are a few factors to consider.

First, it is easier to achieve quality environment with a relatively low population density, and increasingly more difficult to achieve quality environment with increasing density. But higher density does not necessarily equal bad environment; conversely, low density does not automatically equal good environment. The key is whether it is well planned.

As a reminder, in 1960, we had 1.89 million people. To date, we have 5.3 million – an increase of more than 250 per cent. Despite the increase, and the fact that we are among the densest cities in the world, we have managed to be consistently ranked among the world’s most liveable cities.

The message here is, given clear vision, determination and skills, we can manage high density as well as good environment. In other words, we can have our cake and eat it too.

Second, very few city governments are able to stop population growth by sheer decree. This is especially so if the city needs to stay relevant in the global arena. China is unable to stop the population growth of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Even small countries in Scandinavia are experiencing population growth, although at a much slower pace than Asian countries and cities. Therefore, in Singapore, we can only try to find ways to slow down, rather than to stop population growth at an arbitrarily fixed growth rate and for a fixed point in time.

Third, we should bravely face the harsh reality that while our land mass – despite further but not unlimited reclamation – is limited, our nation will last for unlimited years. What should we do then to plan for continuous population increase, even at a lower rate, while retaining and even enhancing the hardware of our physical environment?

By quality environment at noticeably higher density, I mean that we will still need to continue to retain our open spaces, golf courses, institutions, amenities as well as a range of low, medium, high and even higher density housing and so on.

These are the core hardware issues. Let us not be unduly distracted by the current symptoms such as the present problems of short supply of public housing, rising property prices, congestion on our MRT, and the occasional flooding of our streets. Though irritating, these are not fundamental issues. Given careful monitoring of supply and demand, as well as timely implementation, these matters can be resolved professionally with imagination and technology.

But we should not pin our hopes unduly on technology to solve our fundamental problems. Nor should we be persuaded by temporary feel-good factors such as pretty park designs, iconic buildings or busy shop streets. We want them, of course, but on the solid foundation of successfully achieving quality macro-environment, at higher density that is sustainable for a long time.

Looking ahead, the issue of the future population size of Singapore is complex: on the one hand we want a good environment; on the other hand we must continue to grow economically with an additional labour force, domestic as well as foreign, in order to maintain our hard-earned position in the world. What we have achieved is truly remarkable.

Despite our extremely small size, we have managed, over the last 50 years, to earn many and diverse accolades among the world’s top cities. This is the position that we must not only try to maintain, but to enhance as well.

Any alternative to this scenario is to run the risk of becoming marginalised if we stay in our present comfort zone. It is not something we wish to see for the long-term future of our country, and for our children and grandchildren.

We have attained this highly enviable status not only by foresight, determination, consummate skill and sheer hard work, but above all, also by looking at our problems and needs squarely in the eye. In many cases we have found solutions that were against the fashionable trends of the time elsewhere in the world.

One good example of this special attribute of ours is our public housing policy. Against all criticism, we resorted to building high-rise, high-density public housing as far back as in 1960. We knew that we had no other choice if we were to break the “Backbone Of Housing Shortage” and achieve the seemingly impossible goal of “Home Ownership For Everyone”.

Our public housing is now studied by nations all over the world. By 1985, Singapore had become a city with no homeless people, no squatters, no poverty ghettoes, no ethnic enclaves. Not many cities around the world today can make that claim.

We must therefore soldier on to solve our unique problems as we have done many times before.

In summary, we need to look past 6.9 million people and look past 2030. We should tally up how many more buildable sites we have (as big as possible) while retaining our quality environment.

However, while physical planners will play a crucial role in shaping the physical environment, their effort should be complemented by a whole of Government effort.

That is, being mindful of our limited land supply, we should try to accommodate population growth, local and foreign, at as slow a pace as possible, towards the distant future.

To achieve this, we need to take an even harder look at our education system to nurture smarter talent to drive an even higher value-added economy at increasingly higher productivity.

In the end, we have quality talent, high-yield economic activities, very slow population increase, manageable population density, and quality environment – not only to provide a good home for citizens but also to attract foreign investment and foreign talents with their families.

The writer is a director of RSP Architects Planners & Engineers.
By Invitation features expert views from opinion leaders in the region and Singapore.


repost from : Fabrications About The PAP

Reply to Low Thia Khiang.

Lee Ye Ming’s reply to Low Thia Khiang. English Translation by B.Lee. Original Mandarin text follows.

I was deeply touched when I saw the headline “Building A Flourishing Population and A Sustainable Singapore” with Low Tia Khiang’s name clearly in sight in February 18 “Lianhe Zaobao”. Any Singaporean would love to see a bright vision. I eagerly read the full text, but unfortunately I could not find any specific proposal in the content. The content clearly did not live up to the headline. How I wish Mr Low would be putting forward something concrete proposals. After all, this Population White Paper affects the future of Singapore, our future.

I respect Mr Low’s logic. The reason why he has such fear obviously could not be due to me, who is just one new citizen. In fact, he recalled in his article his past where he had indelible fear, a fear which he called the “White Terror”. I am not ignorant of the period of history Mr. Low mentioned. But the world has since progressed, and new history is being written. Singapore has undergone one “watershed” after another. Having won a series of election campaign, and becoming the largest opposition in the Parliament, the Workers’ Party is now the darling of the day.

Many concerned friends have even asked me, “Would you get into any trouble?” for me to write something criticising the Workers’ Party and Low TK’s article at this point in time. I originally wondered if my friends were unnecessarily “frightened”. But now I realised their concern is not without basis. For Mr. Low to characterise me as “wanting to cause the Workers Party to die/death”, I suspect he is trying to incite discontentment among his supporters on me. Does he need to resort to inciting tragic, on this discussion between us? 

Oh no! I used the word “incite” again, would this invite more ‘spanners’ thrown at my direction? Fortunately in today’s Singapore, we have a healthy democratic society based on the rule of law. I should not have to worry about such “alarmist”. Frankly, I was very admirable of Mr Low’s courage in entering politics under the difficult circumstances in those days. But shouldn’t Mr Low leave his grief behind, and start debating issues based on current democratic line of thoughts? Only then perhaps the issues could be discussed in a more rational way. And I believe only by leaving one’s grief behind, one can then embrace a better future.

I like the slogan, “First World Parliament” adopted by the Workers’ Party in the last general election. But from their recent (shoddy) performance in the Parliament, I can no longer give a thumbs-up to them, for reasons I have mentioned in my previous article. For example, just to name a few, the Workers’ Party advocated a complete freeze on foreign workers, is this not an extreme solution? Why is there a need to go all out to oppose migrants? Is economic growth really that unimportant? The Workers’ Party on one hand advocates a further reduction in economic growth, yet on the other hand advocates higher wages; are they not aware of the contradiction between the two?

Who is taking things out of context?

And now to the most critical problem of “post-war baby boom”. The Workers’ Party advocates to increase the labour force participation rate of the resident population by 1% annually. From this, one can see its complete amnesia with regards to the problem of having nearly 1 million of baby boomers entering into silver age in the next 10 over years. Singapore is clearly facing a rapidly aging population crisis, but why did Mr Low avoid addressing this crisis in his rebuttal article? Would we have a better future by turning a blind eye to the real problem and merely shouting a few beautiful slogans and nice sound-bites?

Mr Low also contradicted himself in his rebuttal article. At the front part of his article, he said, “the subject of the discussion is Singapore citizen, not foreign workers and maids”. But towards the end of his rebuttal later, where he counter-attacked my point that the annual growth rate of new citizen population is in fact lower than 1% annually, he stressed, “Do not forget, not only do we need to integrate the new citizens into our fold, we also have to face those foreigner work force who have yet to become citizens.” So, does he want to include foreign workers and maids in his discussion or not?

Mr Low should be very familiar with our immigration and foreign labour policies. He should know that foreign workers and maids working here cannot bring their families here, cannot intermarry with our locals, and any female workers who became pregnant would have to be immediately repatriated. Most of them are not eligible to apply to become a permanent resident, and due to work permit restrictions, it is unlikely they will work long-term in our country. For this group of people, is it necessary to “integrate” them with us like those new citizens? Do we really need to worry if this group of people dilutes the Singaporean core?

Of course I expect Mr Low to say he was not worried about this group of people, but rather, about the new citizens. But the Population White Paper stated clearly that the plan is to approve only 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens annually, which is less than 1% of the total number of our citizens (strictly speaking, 0.46% -0.76%). I am confused why Mr Low needed to question me how did I derive the 1% figure. Are we not talking about the Population White Paper?

As for Mr Low’s denial that he is trying to classify/divide Singaporeans into those local born and bred and those who are not, yes,

  • he indeed said, “It should be equal treatment for the new citizens who obtained citizenship.”
  • And at the same time, he added, “Let’s remember, however, that these (new citizens) are all human, with differing values, outlook of life, outlook of the world and living habits, due to the different environment, national conditions (situation) and customs. They would need not only time to adapt and integrate, but also the appropriate environment to do so.”
  • Yet, crucially, he also added, “Singapore does not have the conditions to allow the new immigrants to be integrated into our fold.”

If one is to read these three sentences conjunctionally,

  • is he really saying that the new citizen and native (local born and bred) citizen are “the same”?
  • Or is he actually saying, “they can never be the same”?

How could Mr Low take what he said in his own article out of context?

Why he stopped short of mentioning in his rebuttal article the crucial third sentence (“Singapore does not have the conditions to allow the new immigrants to be integrated into our fold.”)?

Well, I fully agree with Mr Low when he said, “Most Singaporeans have very strong analytical ability, and are able to distinguish between what is right and what is not.”

Mr Sun Jianmin in his article “What is Singaporean Core Population?” brought up a very good point:

that the real Singaporean core must include native (local born and bred) citizens, naturalised citizens, and those permanent residents – who have worked many years here, are well integrated with our local community and shared the same beliefs and values with us.

In case Mr Low has forgotten that a traditional immigrant society like us should have an open heart, he might wish to refer to Mr Sun’s article. Why is there a need for Mr Low to see the new citizens as a threat to diluting the Singaporean core? Why can’t the new citizens strengthen the Singaporean core?

While I am very pleased Mr Sun agreed with me that “anti-immigrant is a road of no return”, I have my doubt in Mr Sun’s firm assessment that Mr Low and his Workers’ Party are not anti-immigrant.

观点碰撞 – 李叶明

翻开2月18日的《联合早报》,在刘程强的名字跃入眼帘之前,大标题《建设一个人丁兴旺、可持续的新加坡》已深深打动了我。这是任何一个新加坡人都希望看到的美好愿景。我急切地读完全文,可惜没读到一点具体内容,让人颇感文不对题。我多么希望刘先生能就此提出一些更具体的东西。毕竟这关系到新加坡的未来,我们大家的未来。

刘先生在文章中指我“想致工人党于死地”,只因我用了“煽动”二字。我的原话是“煽动排外不是爱国。按出生地划分公民,不会加强国民认同与凝聚力。”这是在指控“煽动”罪吗?只是在表达观点而已吧。用到“煽动”二字就是想致工人党于死地?刘先生是在演示什么叫“危言耸听”吗?

我尊重刘先生的逻辑。他之所以有这样的恐惧,显然不是我一个新公民能造成的。他在文章中回顾了过去、难以抹灭的恐惧感,他称之为“白色恐怖”。我对刘先生所说的这段历史,并非一无所知。

但世界在进步,历史在发展。新加坡也走过一个又一个“分水岭”。在工人党接连打胜多场选战后,作为国会第一大反对党,可说是气势如虹。今时今日,我写一篇批评工人党和刘程强的文章,都会引来朋友们的关切:“不会惹上麻烦吧?”

原本我想,他们是不是有点“危言耸听”了。现在才知道,他们的担心不是没有道理。刘先生把我定性为“想致工人党于死地”,应该是在煽动支持者对我的不满。可是这场讨论,有必要用这种煽动悲情的手段吗?

糟糕!我又用到了“煽动”二字,不会换来更多帽子吧?好在今天的新加坡,已是一个健全的民主与法治社会。我应该不必担心这种“危言耸听”才是。对刘先生当年从政的勇气,坦白说我是非常钦佩的。但刘先生是不是也该走出悲情,用今天的民主思维来说话?这样讨论问题或许更理性些。而且我相信,走出悲情,才能拥抱更美好的未来。

我赞赏工人党在上届大选提出“第一世界国会”的口号,可是对工人党最近在国会的表现,我很难再竖起大拇指。原因我在《刘程强在说什么?》一文中已经提到很多了。比如,工人党主张冻结外劳,是不是一个极端方案?为什么要不顾一切反对外来人口?经济增长真的不重要吗?工人党主张进一步调低经济增长,一面又主张提高工资,他们是否意识到这两者之间的矛盾呢?

谁在断章取义?

还有最关键的“战后婴儿潮”问题。从他们主张增加居民人口的就业参与率,提出所谓每年挖掘多1%的本地劳动力,可以看出他们对“战后婴儿潮”问题完全失忆,没有意识到整百万新加坡人将在未来十多年内达到退休年龄。新加坡正面对人口迅速老化的危机!对这些问题,刘先生为什么在文章中避而不谈?难道喊多几句漂亮口号,对真正的问题视而不见,我们就会有更美好的未来?

刘先生的文章中还有一处自相矛盾。前面才说完“讨论的对象是新加坡公民,不是非公民的外劳和女佣”,后面在反驳我指出新公民人口每年增长其实不到1%时,又强调“别忘了,我们不单须要磨合成为公民的新公民,也必须面对还未成为公民的外来人民”。请问,他的讨论对象到底包括不包括外劳和女佣?

对我国的移民和外劳政策,刘先生应该非常了解。外劳和女佣在我国工作,不可以带家眷、不可以与本地人通婚、如果女性一旦怀孕会被立刻遣返,他们绝大多数没有资格申请成为永久居民,因此受工作准证限制,不可能长期在我国工作。对于这样的人口,有必要像新公民那样“磨合”吗?有必要担心他们稀释新加坡人核心吗?

当然刘先生一定会说,他担心的不是这些人口,而是新公民。可人口白皮书里说得清楚,未来每年批准新公民1万5000至2万5000人,还不到我国公民总数的1%(严格来说是0.46%-0.76%)。刘先生问我数字是怎么来的?我倒被问得一头雾水。难道我们不是在谈人口白皮书?

至于刘先生否认分化新加坡人。的确,他说过:应该对获得公民权的新公民一视同仁。同时他又说:然而要记住,这些都是人,人的价值观、人生观、世界观和生活的习惯都因环境、国情和习俗的不同而有异,需要时间磨合,也需要适当的磨合环境。接着他又说:新加坡没有磨合新移民的条件。如果把这三句话读完整,他是在说新公民与土生公民都一样?还是在说他们永远不可能一样呢?

刘先生对自己说过的话,怎么也会断章取义呢?后面关键那句怎么就不提了?他说:“大多数新加坡人的分析能力是很强的,也懂得分辨是非曲直。”对此,我举双手赞成。

孙建民先生的文章《什么是新加坡的核心人口?》,有一点说得非常好:真正的新加坡核心包括土生公民、包括所有归化的新公民、还有那些跟我们拥有相同信念和价值观,并在新加坡工作生活多年,已融入和正在融入本地社会的永久居民。

我想,刘先生如果忘记了一个传统的移民社会应有怎样的胸怀,不妨参考一下孙先生的说法。何必非要把新公民视为威胁、视为对新加坡人核心的稀释呢?他们为什么不能是对新加坡人核心的加强?

至于孙先生说我把时间搞混了,误以为刘议员是在反对今天的新移民。我看他是误会了。我反对的是刘程强发言的逻辑,与时间是2013年还是2030年关系不大。如果刘议员认为,未来的新公民是对新加坡人核心的稀释,那为什么现在的新公民就不是?逻辑其实是一样的。

孙先生赞同“反移民是条不归路”,对此我非常欣慰。不过对孙先生认定,刘议员和工人党不是在反对移民,我却没什么信心

repost from Fabrications About The PAP 

Germany: A land without children?

By Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent Europe Correspondent
GERMANY remains Europe’s biggest nation and the continent’s most successful economy. However, when it comes to managing its population strategy, the country is a disaster: Every policy attempted over the past four decades has failed to lift the country’s abysmal birth rates.

The German government would love to attract the sort of attention lavished on Singapore’s Population White Paper. But most ordinary Germans no longer seem to care about debating the topic; they take it for granted that their nation is doomed to grow older and smaller. Welcome to a land without children.

The numbers are sobering: An average of 1.36 babies are born for every German woman. Germans who are younger than 18 form only 16.5 per cent of the population, the lowest such figure in Europe. Germany also has the highest percentage of females refusing to produce an offspring: A quarter of women born during the late 1960s and early 1970s have had no children at all.

If such trends continue, it is estimated that Germany’s current 82 million-strong population will shrink to only 70 million as early as the middle of this century. And everyone assumes that’s precisely what will happen: A recent report issued by the German Federal Institute for Population Research concluded mournfully that “children no longer represent a central aspect of life for Germans”.

The country’s politicians can hardly be accused of ignoring the problem. Since 2000, no fewer than 10 White Papers and consultation documents dealing with population questions were issued. Legislation is also frequently tweaked: The latest law came into effect on Sunday, and it’s a revolutionary one, promising every newborn baby an automatic right to a subsidised day-care facility.

Nor is cash lacking, for in typical Germanic fashion, the Berlin authorities are throwing huge sums of money at the problem. A private study commissioned by the German government from a management consultancy firm and leaked to the country’s media last week claims that Europe’s largest economy spends a staggering ¤200 billion (S$330 billion) a year on family-related programmes of one kind or another, roughly two-thirds of the nation’s budget.

Indeed, the consultants claim such vast sums are actually part of the problem, since the tangled web of social welfare payments is so complex that it bewilders even those supposed to administer it. There are child supplements, parental benefits, single-parent allowances, orphan “adjustments”, “sibling bonuses”, child education supplements and the imaginatively named “child education supplementary supplement”. Yet none of these has made the slightest bit of difference to birth rates.

Financial experts pin the failure on purely technical matters, such as a German tax system which punishes people who live together unmarried, thereby unnecessarily raising the bar to the establishment of a family.

And, ironically, some German population-boosting subsidies merely replace other welfare payments, therefore making no difference: Monthly child allowances – currently ¤184 per baby – count towards a family’s total income and are deducted from any other social benefits. So the financial incentive to produce children is often illusory for working-class families.

Still, this obscures the broader dilemma which faces every country embarking on a coherent family policy: whether a government should invest in education and pre-school facilities to boost birth rates, or simply give families cash. Germany’s politicians have always chosen the latter option, partly because it’s easier to administer, but mainly because payments of generous benefits are popular and win votes. Yet there is considerable evidence the availability of creches and other pre-school facilities are better boosters of fertility rates.

And then, there is the peculiarity of Germany itself, which is both a post-modern and a pre-modern society at the same time. On the one hand, most German couples live together without marriage, and a third of all babies are born out of wedlock. Most adults also don’t look after their elderly parents; that job is left to the state.

But, at the same time, there is a strong popular expectation that mothers should stay at home to look after their children, rather than send them off to pre-school facilities. Indeed, the German language has a specific disparaging term for supposedly uncaring mums: Rabenmutter, or “raven mothers” who push their children out of the nest too soon.

So the result is that parenthood provides few advantages later in life, yet is seen as an extremely intense activity. With such attitudes prevailing, it’s hardly surprising that Germans have so few children.

Given the damning record of German family policy, one would have expected the matter to be a major battleground in the run-up to this year’s general election. But that’s not happening: Germans simply yawn when family issues are being debated.

One explanation is that ordinary Germans are tired of hearing about population targets which are invariably missed. Unlike in Singapore, the population debate in Germany is also not tied to other sensitive issues such as land availability, housing and transport infrastructure: Most Germans rent rather than buy their homes, and land is plentiful.

There is also a historic reticence about government-sponsored population campaigns, since these were abused for military reasons during the Nazi dictatorship. But, in the end, while Singapore’s population debate is about the ultimate size and composition of a future nation, Germany’s debate is purely defensive, centring solely on how to halt a population decline, rather than reverse it. And that’s not exactly a crowd-puller.

Still, some initiatives do end up exciting the Germans, albeit for the wrong reasons. That was the case with a recent move by Mrs Kristina Schroeder, the minister for family affairs, who wrote a book criticising feminists for failing to recognise that “children produce happiness”. That created an uproar among women leaders; Ms Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s grand old lady of feminism, dismissed the minister as being “simply unfit for her office”.

The row required the intervention of Chancellor Angela Merkel. But, despite her popularity, Dr Merkel is not particularly persuasive on such issues either, for the twice-married chancellor is childless. Just like most of today’s German professional women.

Jonathan.eyal@gmail.com

The Singapore Cure. An economic, not political, solution to the health care crisis. – Book Review

by : Matthew Continetti is editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon and a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Excerpt :

The place to look for a model is Singapore. That Southeast Asian city-state is smaller than New York City, but its per-capita gross domestic product and life expectancy are similar to those of the United States. Singaporeans spend much less money on health care (4 percent of their economy) than we do (18 percent).

Goldhill identifies three major differences between the Singaporean health system and ours.

In Singapore, individuals contribute much more money at the point of purchase. The payment mechanism varies according to treatment and patient. Government doctors and facilities compete with private health care workers.

Singaporeans are required to contribute to health savings accounts and purchase a catastrophic insurance plan. There is an insurance pool for the severely disabled and a fund to pay their bills.

There are subsidies to providers based on their level of service.

But the thrust of Singapore’s system is individual responsibility for a large portion of direct payment. And the results are positive. “Health care in Singapore is high quality, high-tech, and, by international standards, cheap,” writes Goldhill. “Genuinely cheap, not just misleadingly cheap at the point of service.”

A small group of policy intellectuals are attempting to apply the lessons of places like Singapore to the United States. They are advocates of consumer-driven health plans that combine high deductibles with health savings accounts. Goldhill favors the consumer-driven approach, but he also recognizes that the results, to date, have been mixed. Current tax law puts such plans at a disadvantage. The Democrats in power are obsessed with universal coverage and subsidies for every form of health consumption. The Republicans have been content simply to oppose the Democrats, and GOP proposals maintain the flawed insurance model.

 *****************************************************************************
Source link : THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Singapore Firms Hit by Foreign Labor Laws

CNBC, By: Ansuya Harjani

From designing the decor to drawing up the dessert menu, Venezuelan national Carlina Maldonado and her husband spent months preparing for the launch of their new restaurant venture in the Asian financial hub of Singapore. But as the opening day approached, there was just one thing missing: staff to serve their South American fare.

Hiring challenges, stemming from the government’s tighter controls on foreign labor, postponed the launch of their restaurant, Sur, by a month – an expensive delay that left them with a high rental bill and zero income.

“We had an overwhelming response to the job ads we posted online, but 99 percent of the applications were from non-Singaporeans, mostly Filipinos. They were extremely qualified but we couldn’t employ them because of the hiring restrictions,” 33-year-old Maldonado, a former bartender, told CNBC.

The Singapore government, which is facing growing public opposition to the country’s liberal immigration policies, has announced a slew of measures to limit the influx of foreign workers in the past year, including lowering the foreign manpower dependency ratio for the manufacturing and services sectors by 5 percent each, in addition to steep increases in the monthly levy paid for hiring overseas employees which have taken place every six months since 2011.

For Maldonado, the new policies mean she needs to hire five Singaporeans before she can employ one foreign worker with the appropriate qualifications. Before the measures were implemented in July, the quota was four Singaporeans to one foreign worker.

(Read MoreThreat of New Curbs Looms Over Singapore Property Market)

“The lack of manpower has made the market extremely competitive. Restaurants are entering bidding wars for employees,” she said, adding that higher-than-anticipated labor costs have drastically altered their return on investment.

Singapore, which has topped the World Bank’s global ranking on the ease of doing business for seven straight years, has long been lauded for its business-friendly regulatory environment. But measures to boost domestic productivity, through limiting the inflow of foreign workers, are denting the attractiveness of the Southeast Asian nation as an investment destination, and could weigh on the economy’s growth, according to economists.

Foreigners – which make up almost 40 percent of Singapore’s 5.3 million population – are an important source of cheap employment, particularly for the country’s manufacturing, construction and services sectors.

“Businesses that have not made the necessary adjustments to survive in the country’s high cost environment will find it increasingly difficult to compete. We expect the less productive companies to start to get weeded out as restructuring bites, which should have an impact on GDP,” said Michael Wan, research analyst at Credit Suisse.

Barclays economist Wai Ho Leong expects Singapore’s annual growth to decelerate to 2-3 percent in 2020-2030, from the current 3-5 percent, as a result of the slowdown in overall employment. The annual intake of foreign workers, for example, is forecast to decline from the peak 70,000-80,000 seen in the past five years to around 20,000-30,000 by 2020.

“More labor curbs will be put in place, there is no u-turning – it’s a reality that labor resources will grow at a much slower pace in the future, and costs will go up,” said Leong of Barclays.

Experts say Singapore’s release of a white paper last month, detailing a population target of 6.5-6.9 million by 2030, will put further pressure on authorities to limit access to foreign workers. According to Credit Suisse, this means the expansion of Singapore’s overseas population would have to slow to 2.6 percent per annum from 7 percent in 2012.

(Read MoreSingapore Targets Population Jump as Discontent Rises)

Satish Bakhda, head of operations at Rikvin, a firm that provides company registration and employment pass services, noted that it is harder to obtain employment passes for service sector jobs compared to just a couple years ago.

“Bringing in a manger for a restaurant, for example, is tough. They [Singapore government] want to ensure that foreigners aren’t taking jobs away from Singaporeans – they must complement, not compete,” he said.

“Even banks and multinational companies are being questioned – do you really need this guy? The real problem is the lower end salaries, less than S$4000,” Bakhda added.

Worst Hit

The government’s clampdown on foreign manpower will hit small-to-medium-sized enterprises the hardest, said Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer at Singapore Business Federation, which represents more than 18,000 companies operating in the city state.

“The impact will be felt through the business community and more painful with SMEs because they are the ones that rely on low skilled foreign workers, face greater competition, and profitability isn’t as high,” Ho said.

“These are sectors (that) Singaporean (workers) don’t want to join,” he added, noting that businesses will need to innovate to compensate for the lack of manpower, or think about whether it makes sense to operate in the city. The concept of self-service, for example, which isn’t widely adopted in the country, will likely become more common.

Manpower constraints are expected to contribute to a pullback in investment in the country this year, according to the country’s Economic Development Board, which is targeting S$13 billion in fixed-asset investments in 2013, lower than the $16 billion hit last year.

(Read MoreSingapore’s High Cost of Living May Come at a Cost)

“This is the first time they are targeting a lower figure than the previous year,” Wan of Credit Suisse noted.

While labor intensive businesses could be deterred, Vishnu Varathan, market economist at Mizuho believes Singapore will remain an attractive investment destination for knowledge intensive operations including research and development and legal and financial services.

Ho of the Singapore Business Federation agreed, “If you look at overall factors – it’s still compelling for new businesses in terms of infrastructure and rule of law.”

source link : Singapore Firms Hit by Foreign Labor Laws