Tuesday, November 07, 2006

So did we win the Biotech bet?

3 years ago:


Our elites are very good at thinking up new bets, it is called helicopter vision. I particularly like the bet on Biotech because it took courage and vision to tell thousands of students to switch to life sciences and spend billions in tax payers money. Biotech took alot of courage ....why? Because Singapore had no comparative advantage in this area at all. Many Biotech companies have been around for decades in the US and they are finding the going very tough because of generic drugs, and the fact they have to now struggle to discover drugs for diseases that affect fewer people(orphan drugs). Even a blockbuster like Viagra has 3 competitiors. US has a large population base, numerous hospitals with patient data on diseases and a critical mass of R&D personel to tap on. Singapore had none of these yet we wanted to take on the Americans. This is because our elites had enormous faith in the ability of Singaporeans to go into this area.

The first step is to spend of millions - on buildings and big name researchers to get this whole thing started. After that using Singaporean tax payers money to fund numerous research projects. Then we train the Singaporeans students to wash test tubes. The next step is critical with all these things set up we now try to attract big biotech firms to set up R&D here, because they like operating in the US we have to offer them incentives to come. A few of them did come to hire the foreign talents and have Singaporeans wash the test tubes. Somehow, this whole setup will benefit Singaporeans because of huge number of test tubes that need to be washed.

So did we win the Biotech bet? .....The PAP govt never loses at anything!! No matter what happens we still have the casino, water research, digital media and hubs to keep us going.


Anonymous said...

We can glamourise test tube washers by renaming them as "TT Executives". Problem solved. Another 2000 jobs created this quarter. Hurray! Long live Lucky Singaporeans!!

Anonymous said...

Test tube washer aka Equipment Sanitarization Specialist (ES Specialist)

Anonymous said...

dont be too harsh, mate.

i think the idea was not to compete with the US. rather, to entice them to come to Singapore, and be based in Singapore.

Rationale - we provide the infrastructure, provide skilled labour, offer tax breaks and incentives, and they will come. It was successful with Manufacturing back in the 80s, and in some ways, the Finance sector.

Its a model that many govts do to get FDI.

There could be many reasons why the US MNCs and Research hospitals, in the end, prefer to stay in the US.

It may even not be these MNCs' fault. There are many strong lobbyists and protectionist organisations in the US working against our goals. Perhaps promises were made with our US FTA that led us to go ahead with this, only for the US to screw us back.

We'll never know - because we, Singapore, are the small fry here, and we definitely cannot expose anything negative the US does to us.

So - my point again - let's be too critical until we know the true picture.

Anonymous said...

one thing i think we can agree on, our govt make educated bets. What we did was because of earlier promises.

Suzhou - we invested heavily there on the back of good faith with Shanghai govt, only for them to play us out.

Shin Corp - probably a well thought out plan, but the team couldn't see the impact of People Power in Thailand.

The lessons to be learnt here

1. the world doesnt operate on Singapore's terms and rules.
2. To do business, globally, we need people who are ruthless and have tons of experience doing business. When you put scholars, or elites, who have been sheltered all their lives, who didnt start from scratch, who execute based on Standard Operating Procedures, or advice from "consultants", then this is the result.
3. Some businesses - may not be appropriate for govt-linked companies to run. Let free market reign. If there's a demand, then the supply will come.

Anonymous said...

and to add another point...

how much do we know on the inner workings of Temasek or GIC?

How are these two organisations managed - Top-Down Management or Consensus-based Management?

When a decision is made - how much is it debated, challenged? Or is the team there just to execute?

Look at recent examples. There was a decision made to expand our hold regionally. Then we saw how SIA bought shares in other airlines, Singtel bought over other telcos, PSA investing in regional ports etc.

If Temasek was run by Koh Boon Hwee, or Kwek Leng Beng, or a foreign talent like Carly Fiorina, or Steve Ballmer, would things be different?

Anonymous said...

joke.no wonder we are easy meat!

whybeillogical said...

how much do we know on the inner workings of Temasek or GIC?

How are these two organisations managed - Top-Down Management or Consensus-based Management?

Neither. Decisions are made at the Lee family dinner table.

If Temasek was run by Koh Boon Hwee, or Kwek Leng Beng, or a foreign talent like Carly Fiorina, or Steve Ballmer, would things be different?

Of course things would be different. These people do not have close relatives holding top government positions to cover their asses when things go wrong. They are accountable for their actions.

Anonymous said...

he is the crowned asian hero that does not give a hoot to what human rights proponent thinks. his credence is proved in the pudding. jobs, hots, stocks and cocks are rising. hubs, subs and clubs are best bets.all indicators are on green and detractors are left steaming ghee. except for falling birthrates;income unfairly paid and nuptial death rate rising; most will care less; shop till drop dead; work old with nothing or little to spare and worse still owe.

MagiSlayer said...

Ok I admit he has done a lot of things for Sinkapo.

But then in return, he has taken so much back from the country and the people.

Asian Hero? Doraemon is also an asian hero!

Foreign Talent said...

What has MM done for Singapore?

Reminds me of the scene from Life of Brian


Anonymous said...

success is determined by what you can see. with jobs, the people are fed, clothed, housed and educated. the streets are clean, green and screened. there is law and order plus high security. the future bright as las vegas, money rolling in - for the lucky few - like new water out of a running tap. the world has become an oyster to be pried open by anyone gunho enough to feed off a much larger population than ours. and if you're still unhappy, success here will buy you a nice place overseas to build your dream home!

how can you not love the man?...:)

freemason said...

Its rather simple. They only want the 'owned' ppl to run stuff. There are many ppl who can do things better and who cost a fraction of them. There were prob many others who could have brought this place here or further. Its just Uneedli Stinkapor.
Just listen to the warbling from the domed building ... garble garble garble. with rocks in their throats...
p.s. I used to be a 'brilliant creative idealogist' who could compose wonderful segments just like this blog and some of its commentors, but now I'm just reduced to a quivering vitriolic hatred for their 'system' and their desperation to eliminate the 'unwanted' and 'undesired'.

Elia Diodati said...

Lucky Tan, you understate your case. If I recall correctly, the amount earmarked for developing the life sciences industry back in 2001 or so is more in the range of five BILLION Singapore dollars.

While there are things about this latest bandwagon that I vehemently oppose, I don't think 3 years is sufficient time to make a judgment about the success or failure of this enterprise. Many of the corporations involved are only just beginning to set up shop and establish a physical presence in Singapore; the scholars selected to staff the labs are still in the middle of their PhD programs, at best.

It takes a lot of time to train qualified personnel to do R&D, and it may seem like so far it's only managed to train people to wash test tubes. But one has to wait and see if a critical mass of life science PhD holders develops in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

I wish to clarify that even being a test tube washer, should not being looked down upon, in fact, they held a great responsiblity in maintaining the cleaniness of the test tube. If not what the results scientist is getting is just load of rubbish, a laughing stock in the end.

Yet, test tube washer should feel pride in their job....should not also give a half fuck job

Anonymous said...

I refer to an earlier comment:

"What has MM done for Singapore?

Reminds me of the scene from Life of Brian


Watched the youtube, nice clip. However, do you understand what the clip is trying to tell us?

Does it say that Julius Caesar built Rome? Or does it say Augustus built Rome? Neither. Throughout the clip, it is always Romans have done this for us, Romans have done that for us ... ROMANS.

To correctly bring the lesson back to Singapore, we would have to say, Singaporeans did this for Singapore, Singaporeans did that for Singapore ... what can MM achieve alone?