Yes, what do you get with a committee of 25 people - 9 ministers + 1 MAS guy + 1 PAP MP representing NTUC + business leaders? People who are too busy or too much part of the establishment to come up with too many original ideas. So after 6 months of deliberation, we get more or less the same old ideas - raise productivity, skills upgrading, be more innovative and build a distinctive global city. Really scratch my head to figure out what is new - can someone please help me here. Even that part about being a globalised city was a National Day theme or slogan a few years ago. However, before I run down the entire thing, I would like to point out 2 ideas which I think are pretty decent. The first isn't exactly new but the idea about raising foreign worker levy to discourage the high level of foreign labor import is a reasonable one. By increasing the levy, the govt will discourage businesses importing labor purely for reducing cost - they will have to be more selective and bring in labor with higher skills or skills not available in Singapore. The higher levy will also push up the income of low wage Singaporeans by making this segment of the workforce to be tighter. Employers will be more willing to train Singaporeans rather than just import foreigners. The other idea is to use nuclear energy in Singapore. It will lower our energy costs tremendously thereby increasing out competitiveness and lower our cost of living. It will also make electric cars viable and help to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. Nuclear energy, however, is a little hard to sell to the public because there might be unfounded fears about its safety due to Chenobyl incident. If you have been to Europe, say France, you will see them in operation at scenic countryside and they have been there for decades. Singapore has the 2nd highest electric tariffs in the world so there is room to improve competitiveness by having a much cheaper source of energy.
What is wrong with the report? It recycles the same old ideas and they are still thinking within the same box as the past 30 years. The entire plan does little to restructure Singapore's export dependent economy putting us in direct competition with countries like China. The whole plan is similar to Lim Swee Say's cheaper, better and faster - only they drop the "cheaper" part giving greater emphasis to "better and faster". However, the ultimate goal of an economic system or the only goal worth pursuing is not to make more and more money by generating endless growth - we have done that already for the past 40 years! The ultimate goal has to be to improve the quality of life of Singaporeans. Unless we break out of a highly export oriented economy dependent on external demand, we will have to contend with the whole lot of Asian countries - Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, Vietnam, China - all going for the same pie - our children have to out-study theirs, our factory workers have to outwork them...and whatever income we make we spend it the same way they spend it ..mostly on property. Its about being cheaper, better, faster and also working longer - so how does this formula lead to a better quality of life? It doesn't. Going with this old tired strategy can only lead to a faster pace of life, higher stress and later retirement( or never retire).
We can only get to our goal of better quality of life - less stress, healthier pace of life etc by doing things differently. We need to expand our domestic economy by increasing the disposal income of Singaporeans i.e. lowering the cost of living such as housing cost so that domestic demand can rise and the services sector can expand and make our economy less dependent on exports. In other countries with similar population size , the domestic economy has a far larger share of economic activity than ours. The domestic consumption share of our economy has slowly fallen to below 40% in contrast with many small nations where it is above 60%. If we don't change our economic model, we will not see significant improvements in our quality of life.