Let us all do more! Can Singapore go beyond First World? – by Alps Tan

Thoughts on Donald Low, Chen Show Mao and Vikram Nair

I was impressed yet saddened to read the piece Donald Low wrote for Chen Show Mao, “Vikram Nair’s flawed economics”. Donald uses words well and his economics training shows. Personally I think Show Mao should have given credit to Donald for such good help, even if Donald did not expect the attribution.

Donald is spot-on that spending can achieve many different kinds of returns and that philosophies used to be different about infrastructure versus social spending. As an economist, Donald would also be familiar with the idea of “stickyness”: some policy decisions are harder to move in one direction compared to another. Around the world, cutting back on big economic projects is generally easier than cutting back on social expenditure. So there’s also a policy case for being careful with moving social spending. It doesn’t mean you don’t spend — but social spending requires care in the same way that big investments need a different kind of care.

Donald also makes good points about how spending upfront can stop a small problem from ballooning into a big problem — thus avoiding much bigger expenditure later on. This is good common sense, which may be why spending on education is regarded as an investment too, such as the generous financial support and subsidy given to Singaporean school students, especially those from low-income families.

So why was I saddened? Because when I read Donald’s article, I felt some kind of anger had shaded his thinking. Donald wasn’t so much rebutting Vikram Nair’s speech, but rather an idea of Vikram Nair’s speech, and an idea of what the PAP was supposed to be a long time ago.

Vikram Nair’s speech might have been uncalled for if Chen Show Mao, in Parliament, had made all the points Donald provided several days later. But Show Mao didn’t do that in his speech. Show Mao’s speech had none of the analysis, none of the detailed explanation you need to understand how an investment will lead to economic, social and cultural returns. Show Mao basically said: “It will pay for itself and there will be returns — take my word on it (but I’m not telling you exactly how).”

The saddest part of all is that Donald and Show Mao are perpetuating some very outdated thinking about what kind of society Singapore should be. When Show Mao says “Let’s Do More” and Donald analyses state expenditure, both are still speaking the ideological language of people versus state, of one against another: they are really saying is that “the state should do more”.

But what about We, The People?

And that’s why Singapore needs better politics and better politicians than Show Mao, and better policy thinkers than Donald. We will have failed, if our First World status comes with First World Taxes and First World Debts and First World Divisions.

I propose a different rallying cry of hope: “LET US ALL DO MORE”.

Because a truly inclusive society isn’t just about the state giving out more.

It’s about all Singaporeans stepping forward and stepping up as proud citizens to help their fellow men and women.

When was the last time you looked around the MRT train before taking a seat, to see if somebody needed it more?

When was the last time you gave a dollar to charity without somebody prompting?

When was the last time you volunteered your time and energy and passion for a cause? (Writing articles doesn’t count.)

And that’s why in the new Singapore, the real rallying cry should be LET US ALL DO MORE.

Because We, The People, make up our Singapore.

Link : https://www.facebook.com/notes/alps-tan/let-us-all-do-more-can-singapore-go-beyond-first-world/257774450970971

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One response to this post.

  1. This has to be the most unbiased, sincere and sensible rally call to date! Singapore will do well with more realistic and sensible citizenry like this. I second the motion!

    Reply

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