Authoritarian rule and the lack of democracy in Singapore are the reasons why innovation does not thrive in Singapore, suggested Singapore Democratic Party’s supremo, Dr Chee Soon Juan, in an op-ed he wrote for the American publication Huffington Post.
Drawing lessons from the direction former South Korean President, the late Kim Dae Jung, set for that country during the economic woes in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Dr Chee said that “innovation does not take place in the halls of government buildings and it cannot be kindled from ministerial pronouncements,” but that it thrives in a culture which celebrates openness, diversity and, dissent.
“It (innovation) flourishes in an environment where people have free and full access to information,” he stated.
In the article, he took the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to task for leading Singapore down a different path from that of the South Koreans.
“Instead of liberalising our society and encouraging the hard work of innovation like the Koreans did following the financial crisis in 1997, the PAP took the easy way out by transforming our city into a tax haven and attracting the super rich of the world,” Dr Chee said.
“Instead of making policy adjustments to retain our local talent and investing in our people, our rulers found it expedient to bring in foreigners by the millions,” he added.
Dr Chee acknowledged that these measures generated GDP growth but that this growth masked deeper structural problems of our economy. Such ways of achieving easy economic growth are however numbered, he asserted.
Pointing out that dismal productivity growth is one such deep structural problems of Singapore’s economy and that the Government had spent $20 billion in different schemes to boost productivity, he suggested that “freeing our society from authoritarian rule”, may fix the problem.
Highlighting China’s economy which seems to be “on track to becoming the epicenter of the next global economic meltdown”, Dr Chee remarked that Singapore is poorly-prepared to “weather the global economic storm that is about to descend upon us”.
“There is gloom in our housing market, our dollar continues to weaken even as we spent $40 billion of our reserves trying to prop it up, our oil-rig builders Kepple and Sembcorp Marine are under severe strain from cancelled projects; our flagship shipping company Neptune Orient Lines collapsed under unsustainable losses and was sold off; household debt of Singaporeans soared to become one of the highest in the world,” he observed.
Stating that Singapore will not be avoid the coming economic upheaval he asked how we will reinvent ourselves after that.
“The question is, when we emerge from it, will we divest ourselves of the many excuses we have put up to defer from opening up our political system, or will we continue down the dead-end alley of authoritarian rule?” -Dr Chee Soon Juan
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