[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, June 24, 2007

[The Rising Tide Will Not Raise All Boats]
1. I had an interesting session with YP members of Aljunied GRC last Saturday. We were briefed on the visit to Taiwan late last year by Yeo Guat Kwang, Cynthia Phua and other Aljunied Party members to observe the elections.

2. I spoke about the challenge of globalisation to countries, companies and different social groups. With some three billion people joining the global marketplace after the end of the Cold War, global GDP will grow for years to come. The global pie will become much bigger. However, whether a country or company or social group will get more or less of the pie will depend on how it responds to globalisation. Those who see the trends and seize the new opportunities will do well. Others who are unwilling or unable to do so will be disadvantaged and may become worse off because of competition from China, India, Vietnam and other countries.

3. Being a city-state, Singapore has been quicker to react and our economy is now taking off to a new level. Foreign interest in Singapore has shot up. All the international schools in Singapore have found themselves running out of places. Just the other day, the British High Commissioner told me that there is a line of 600 students waiting for places at the British School. The American School and United World College are already filled to capacity.

4. Within Singapore itself, not all Singaporeans will benefit as much from globalisation. This will create new social tensions in Singapore which must be addressed politically. I talked about how we had lost a strong leader in Nithiah Nandan. When I was responsible for the restructuring of the power industry some years ago, which was critical to the efficiency of energy use in Singapore, Nithiah played a critical role in the unions, explaining to the workers what we were trying to do and helping them. At that time, I offered to go down myself to explain the policy changes. He said, no, that was his job. It was precisely at such difficult moments that the union leaders themselves had to take charge. I respected his decision and asked him to come back to me if he felt we needed to adjust our policies. Right to the night before he passed away, he felt a deep sense of responsibility for the people he led.

5. Many countries find it hard to shift position because of difficult domestic politics. The leaders know what they should do but are afraid of losing votes. As a result, important long-term moves are sacrificed to short-term political considerations. Very often, there are vested interests who hold back change because they stand to lose from it.

6. I also talked about how some social groups are more 'global' in their mentality than others. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many of those who saw the new opportunities and seized them were Jews. In Indonesia, it is the Chinese who often react more quickly to a fast-changing environment. We see the same phenomenon in India where certain social groups consistently do better. Sometimes, as in Uttar Pradesh, there is a strong reaction from the lower castes which makes it harder for the community as a whole to benefit from globalisation. In Singapore, we must make sure that the relationship between different groups stay soft and harmonious. We need a good balance between equity and development.

7. When the tide rises, the boats which are leaky will take in water. Those which stay anchored go nowhere. It is the boats with the ready crews with sails unfurled which will streak ahead.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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Sunday, July 01, 2007 12:44:00 am


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