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Jamus Lim argues for more ‘soft infrastructure’ investment despite Singa Bill focus on ‘hard infrastructure’

Funds needed to build human capital, he says

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Singapore — Workers’ Party MP wants the new Bill to allow investments not only in physical infrastructure but also in human capital.

There has been a lot of chatter among the intellectual and policy classes worldwide about investing in infrastructure….

Posted by Jamus Lim on Tuesday, 11 May 2021

The Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Act (Singa) will allow the Government to borrow money to invest in the infrastructure needed for long-term development.

“Traditional thinking on infrastructure, of course, is focused on hard stuff, like roads and rails, ports and power plants,” says Mr Lim, one of the four Workers’ Party MPs representing Sengkang GRC.

However, Mr Lim, who is also an associate professor of economics at ESSEC Business School in Singapore, says more important for the future is “soft infrastructure” that “builds human capital”.

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“It’s about spending to educate our kids and raise them well, about tending to our sick and those with healthcare needs, about training the next generation of scientists and researchers,” he says.

He notes the importance of investing in the long-term future of our children and students and patients.

“That’s why I suggested that Singa bonds shouldn’t be just directed to hard infrastructure, but also soft ones. Because we want to sustain our global #1 ranking not just in regular infrastructure, but also in human development,”  he adds.

“What’s more, soft infrastructure investments offer much more bang for the buck. Payoffs are usually higher in the former, whether in terms of rates of return, or contribution to national output.”

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While not all investments in healthcare and education are considered infrastructure, it is possible to define clear conditions where certain projects would meet the necessary criteria, he adds.

“Most crucially, these are investments that will more than pay for themselves over time, mainly in the form of higher tax receipts,” he notes.

“While Finance Minister Heng cautioned against the imprudence of loosely classifying all manner of recurrent spending as infrastructure, I remain hopeful that we do not rule out human capital projects from Singa,” says Mr Lim.

The Workers’ Party “believes that there is no reason to privilege buildings and bridges over the raw potential of our people, as we take advantage of low-cost financing to invest for the future”, he adds.

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Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISGFollow us on Social Media

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