• It has come to our attention that some users may have been "banned" when they tried to change their passwords after the site was hacked due to a glitch in the old vBulletin software. This would have occurred around the end of February and does not apply after the site was converted to Xenforo. If you believe you were affected by this, please contact a staff member or use the Contact us link at the bottom of any forum page.

Singapore-on-Thames : can it work?


GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
(Hint : Betteridge's Law of Headlines)

Touters of the unleashed Brexit future for the UK believe that "Singapore-on-Thames" (SOT) is the model to go with. The metaphor appears to me to be based loosely on the idea that Singapore is a country that allows trade with everyone (Cuba and the US, Russia and China, you name it, they're all friends of Singapore) and makes trade straightforward.

The general impression given is that Singapore's wealth is down to this "freewheeling" (actually all regulated, just simply regulated) model. The SOT aspiration is that British entrepreneurship will be liberated to play on a platform of trade that is easily managed and open to anyone who wishes to do business. Cut to the end of the montage and Britain is rich and powerful, striding across the global stage as a rich, friendly and agile colossus.

There are a few issues with this highly simplistic aspiration which I think are worth pointing out. Some are obvious, some not so obvious. But either way, by picking a small aspect of the Singapore economy out and ignoring the rest of the holistic picture, the vision is really no more than a delusional soundbite, full of promise and empty of plans. So let's look at what it takes to be a Singapore (on Thames).

1: No social welfare. There is no dole, no state pension, no single parent allowance, no anything really in the form of an entitlement payment. This is not to say that the Singapore government does not issue financial support, it does for example when there is the odd global economic crash, it helps firms to top up wage packets to keep the ship going. It also contributes interest to the forced savings plan (CPF) for citizens and permanent residents to encourage storing money for home ownership, medical care and special investments. But there is not, and never will be as long as it stays in its current format, any form of entitlement benefit. This is a key part of explaining how Singapore works, and how Singaporeans are incentivised to work and save. Won't work in the UK.

2: Two years army service for all men. The military is a big part of the economy, and all males have to put down two years after secondary school and two week annually until their fifties or thereabouts. Again, it's a big part of how the country works, and how social cohesion is maintained.

3: Cars cost a hundred large. Actually, the same model of car in Singapore costs between 3 to 4 times what it costs in the UK. And you have to scrap it after 10 years or pay 20,000 euros to keep it for another ten.

4: The entire economy is contained in a land area smaller than London (actually about 1% of the island of Ireland's land area). That has significant impact on how an economy gets to be run, maintained and diversified.

5: Intense education. Even primary school children as young as 7 are streamed according to class performance. Tuition for children is commonplace from early on in primary school and can be 7 days a week. There aren't enough university places for locals, so a great deal of school leavers study in other English speaking countries such as Australia, UK or the USA, and always at vast cost for their parents. Nobody is entitled to anything, and it's really hard work getting through school. Once you are streamed down it's hard to get back up again.

6: One party state (effectively). Almost all Parliament seats are from one party, so government strategies are like typical communist government strategies : five year plans, and even specific generations of leaders. It's a democracy and there are a fair few parties out there, but really only one gets all the top performers. In fact, most of the Cabinet studied in the US or UK on scholarships (and these would be only the most prestigious schools). Try enforcing that on the UK.

7: Relatively backwards hinterland. No ASEAN country comes close to Singapore in terms of GDP / capita, or income per capita. Singapore becomes a regional hub city for regional trade and investment as frankly it's the only reliable place to tick all the boxes for investment. In addition, the rich of the region park their money (often in real estate) in Singapore and prefer to use services in Singapore such as education, health etc in preference to their home markets. The UK however has many sophisticated and wealthy competitors on its doorstep.

8: Sober, compliant, educated, ambitious workforce. Singapore is a capitalist's dream because their staff basically live to work, save and spend. The UK on the other hand tends to get people like that form other countries due to the insufficient supply of a similar workforce at home. Singapore firms are indeed "forced" to try to hire locals before hiring foreigners, and the standards of foreign staff (often measured by the pay on offer, or educational background, as well as scarcity of skill) are rising constantly, and the effect of all this balancing of high potential foreigners with motivated local staff means the quality of worker in Singapore is as good as it gets. The UK simply doesn't have the same level of motivation in its indigenous workforce to be able to screen foreigners at this level. It badly needs foreigners just to keep the ship running. Brexit may have been motivated by a feeling of inequality of opportunity with foreign workers versus UK workers, but the solution there was to educate and motivate UK workers, not to remove any competition.

9: Home ownership. All Singaporeans can aspire to owning their own apartment under a government system that uses forced savings as deposit capital and loan repayment giving all working Singaporeans an automatic nest egg once they have put down a few years working (and commit to getting married or supporting a parent, apartments aren't for singles ready to mingle). Loan interest rates are very low, and public transport and community services are built around these neighbourhoods. Everyone is near essential amenities using walking or bus. Apartments cannot be traded for 5 years after purchase, and once bought citizens can own no other property due to the generous and stable financing available. You can own an apartment using purely the forced savings that you can't touch anyway for anything else in many cases, so effectively everyone gets to have a stake in the country by having some real estate there. This is not the UK now and is unlikely to ever emerge. Singaporeans therefore knuckle down to earn money as it frees them to know they will always have a roof over their heads, and affordable healthcare and education are available to them. As the houses built all look the same and exist in a few basic sizes, people aspire to simply owning a place, and it's less important where it is located or what kind of apartment, housing is effectively a utility.

I think we've seen enough, but there's surely more that I could think of off the top of my head that make the Singapore model a little less simplistic than "easy to trade with". Oh yeah, of course, can't forget this one

10: Singapore enjoys an effective tropical monoclimate and same day length, meaning there are practically no seasonal implications for productivity. It's groundhog day every day in Singapore. That sort of situation means momentum can build in doing business. It makes infrastructure building very straightforward in planning, and housing is practically cloned across the island as there are no weather differences to think about.

So, the idea of being a free trading platform doing business with everyone seems like a nice idea (or poorly researched aspiration at best), however this benefits capitalists only, and is part of a nuanced picture where all the parts fit together to make Singapore. Workers in the UK will frankly not survive using this model. You can't have Singapore on Thames without all the above.

Finally, Singapore used to be one of the tiniest appendages of the Crown, and apart from the usual colonial stuff of roads, civil service and port building, it basically used the place for its benefit and got out when it needed to downsize. And yet, the mighty UK should seemingly aspire to be like a small island it once discarded when doing some colonial housekeeping. Just how low has British vision sunk, when that's what it aspires to being?

These are my views on the SOT model. I would welcome discussion from others on the topic.
 

Catalpast

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2012
Messages
26,196
Well at least they wont have to worry about the Rise of the Robots taking their jobs

- they are already ahead of the curve on that 1 petunia
 

willow68

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 8, 2012
Messages
1,932
Singapore has got to be the only country in the world where anyone can walk down the street at 3am with a wallet full of money and not feel the cold shiver of fear down their back. Don't spit your gum on the ground though. I liked it for a short while, but was glad to leave. I cannot see it working in Blighty.
If that is how we are supposed to live, then I am glad I saw the world 30 years ago.
 

Sheeple_Waker

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
419
A fine OP. If I may make one criticism it’s that you haven’t acknowledged the role of immigration in the Singaporean economy- most of the dirty, difficult (c.f. outdoors work) is done by immigrants largely from the Indian subcontinent, Burma or Thailand. Singaporean citizens are a minority in the city, and the idea of Singapore on Thames would entail a drastic cut in wages for the lower classes and/or competition with cheap labour for lower paid manual labour; not sure if those options will be politically feasible in a Post-Brexit UK, especially if championed by the people who advocated a Brexit vote to spend more on social services.
 

NMunsterman

Well-known member
Joined
May 18, 2007
Messages
6,116
(Hint : Betteridge's Law of Headlines)

Touters of the unleashed Brexit future for the UK believe that "Singapore-on-Thames" (SOT) is the model to go with. The metaphor appears to me to be based loosely on the idea that Singapore is a country that allows trade with everyone (Cuba and the US, Russia and China, you name it, they're all friends of Singapore) and makes trade straightforward.

The general impression given is that Singapore's wealth is down to this "freewheeling" (actually all regulated, just simply regulated) model. The SOT aspiration is that British entrepreneurship will be liberated to play on a platform of trade that is easily managed and open to anyone who wishes to do business. Cut to the end of the montage and Britain is rich and powerful, striding across the global stage as a rich, friendly and agile colossus.

There are a few issues with this highly simplistic aspiration which I think are worth pointing out. Some are obvious, some not so obvious. But either way, by picking a small aspect of the Singapore economy out and ignoring the rest of the holistic picture, the vision is really no more than a delusional soundbite, full of promise and empty of plans. So let's look at what it takes to be a Singapore (on Thames).

1: No social welfare. There is no dole, no state pension, no single parent allowance, no anything really in the form of an entitlement payment. This is not to say that the Singapore government does not issue financial support, it does for example when there is the odd global economic crash, it helps firms to top up wage packets to keep the ship going. It also contributes interest to the forced savings plan (CPF) for citizens and permanent residents to encourage storing money for home ownership, medical care and special investments. But there is not, and never will be as long as it stays in its current format, any form of entitlement benefit. This is a key part of explaining how Singapore works, and how Singaporeans are incentivised to work and save. Won't work in the UK.

2: Two years army service for all men. The military is a big part of the economy, and all males have to put down two years after secondary school and two week annually until their fifties or thereabouts. Again, it's a big part of how the country works, and how social cohesion is maintained.

3: Cars cost a hundred large. Actually, the same model of car in Singapore costs between 3 to 4 times what it costs in the UK. And you have to scrap it after 10 years or pay 20,000 euros to keep it for another ten.

4: The entire economy is contained in a land area smaller than London (actually about 1% of the island of Ireland's land area). That has significant impact on how an economy gets to be run, maintained and diversified.

5: Intense education. Even primary school children as young as 7 are streamed according to class performance. Tuition for children is commonplace from early on in primary school and can be 7 days a week. There aren't enough university places for locals, so a great deal of school leavers study in other English speaking countries such as Australia, UK or the USA, and always at vast cost for their parents. Nobody is entitled to anything, and it's really hard work getting through school. Once you are streamed down it's hard to get back up again.

6: One party state (effectively). Almost all Parliament seats are from one party, so government strategies are like typical communist government strategies : five year plans, and even specific generations of leaders. It's a democracy and there are a fair few parties out there, but really only one gets all the top performers. In fact, most of the Cabinet studied in the US or UK on scholarships (and these would be only the most prestigious schools). Try enforcing that on the UK.

7: Relatively backwards hinterland. No ASEAN country comes close to Singapore in terms of GDP / capita, or income per capita. Singapore becomes a regional hub city for regional trade and investment as frankly it's the only reliable place to tick all the boxes for investment. In addition, the rich of the region park their money (often in real estate) in Singapore and prefer to use services in Singapore such as education, health etc in preference to their home markets. The UK however has many sophisticated and wealthy competitors on its doorstep.

8: Sober, compliant, educated, ambitious workforce. Singapore is a capitalist's dream because their staff basically live to work, save and spend. The UK on the other hand tends to get people like that form other countries due to the insufficient supply of a similar workforce at home. Singapore firms are indeed "forced" to try to hire locals before hiring foreigners, and the standards of foreign staff (often measured by the pay on offer, or educational background, as well as scarcity of skill) are rising constantly, and the effect of all this balancing of high potential foreigners with motivated local staff means the quality of worker in Singapore is as good as it gets. The UK simply doesn't have the same level of motivation in its indigenous workforce to be able to screen foreigners at this level. It badly needs foreigners just to keep the ship running. Brexit may have been motivated by a feeling of inequality of opportunity with foreign workers versus UK workers, but the solution there was to educate and motivate UK workers, not to remove any competition.

9: Home ownership. All Singaporeans can aspire to owning their own apartment under a government system that uses forced savings as deposit capital and loan repayment giving all working Singaporeans an automatic nest egg once they have put down a few years working (and commit to getting married or supporting a parent, apartments aren't for singles ready to mingle). Loan interest rates are very low, and public transport and community services are built around these neighbourhoods. Everyone is near essential amenities using walking or bus. Apartments cannot be traded for 5 years after purchase, and once bought citizens can own no other property due to the generous and stable financing available. You can own an apartment using purely the forced savings that you can't touch anyway for anything else in many cases, so effectively everyone gets to have a stake in the country by having some real estate there. This is not the UK now and is unlikely to ever emerge. Singaporeans therefore knuckle down to earn money as it frees them to know they will always have a roof over their heads, and affordable healthcare and education are available to them. As the houses built all look the same and exist in a few basic sizes, people aspire to simply owning a place, and it's less important where it is located or what kind of apartment, housing is effectively a utility.

I think we've seen enough, but there's surely more that I could think of off the top of my head that make the Singapore model a little less simplistic than "easy to trade with". Oh yeah, of course, can't forget this one

10: Singapore enjoys an effective tropical monoclimate and same day length, meaning there are practically no seasonal implications for productivity. It's groundhog day every day in Singapore. That sort of situation means momentum can build in doing business. It makes infrastructure building very straightforward in planning, and housing is practically cloned across the island as there are no weather differences to think about.

So, the idea of being a free trading platform doing business with everyone seems like a nice idea (or poorly researched aspiration at best), however this benefits capitalists only, and is part of a nuanced picture where all the parts fit together to make Singapore. Workers in the UK will frankly not survive using this model. You can't have Singapore on Thames without all the above.

Finally, Singapore used to be one of the tiniest appendages of the Crown, and apart from the usual colonial stuff of roads, civil service and port building, it basically used the place for its benefit and got out when it needed to downsize. And yet, the mighty UK should seemingly aspire to be like a small island it once discarded when doing some colonial housekeeping. Just how low has British vision sunk, when that's what it aspires to being?

These are my views on the SOT model. I would welcome discussion from others on the topic.

Excellent OP - think you've just - very factually and methodically - debunked any remotest idea that the UK could ever, ever duplicate this particular former colony of theirs.

However, as has been noted, much of the rhetoric surrounding Brexit has been heavy on lies and emotions - and light on facts.

As far as Ireland is concerned, the Govt. and our EU professionals have a done an excellent job in Round 1 - as regards Round 2, one Irish objective must be that if Britain reneges on any single commitment then the entire trade deal is immediately off in all respects.


Period.
 

GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
A fine OP. If I may make one criticism it’s that you haven’t acknowledged the role of immigration in the Singaporean economy- most of the dirty, difficult (c.f. outdoors work) is done by immigrants largely from the Indian subcontinent, Burma or Thailand. Singaporean citizens are a minority in the city, and the idea of Singapore on Thames would entail a drastic cut in wages for the lower classes and/or competition with cheap labour for lower paid manual labour; not sure if those options will be politically feasible in a Post-Brexit UK, especially if championed by the people who advocated a Brexit vote to spend more on social services.
Thanks for the compliment, and excellent observation on foreign labour. Yes, I'd neglected to mention that and it's another reason as to why the Singapore machine runs the way it does.

The streets are cleaned, the grass is cut, the buildings are built and the children fed and washed by people who earn a few hundred dollars a month for long hours, scant appreciation and untermensch social status, and who (practically) never take sick days. And they don't complain.

Blighty's brickies expect to be paid pretty well, in contrast.

The Singapore maid enables both spouses to tie down long hours working two jobs while ensuring diddums stays out of trouble, and if there's no maid, well then here's another difference, Singaporeans tend to chain together generations. Living with your parents who do child minding while both spouses work is fairly common (or simply living with them and having the maid do the work). This is partly because elderly don't get a guaranteed cash income from a pension, and as is common in Asians they tend to hoard their wealth to the death. Just in case, I suppose, and maybe to keep the children filial as a carrot by inheritance.

Families in the UK are far more dispersed, and support for child rearing is less likely to come from grandparents as we all like to move away from mum and dad to assert our independence.

All these factors really add up, and the "low touch regulation" trope about Singapore automatically translating into gleaming buildings and prosperous natives is a tiny part of the picture. Also, as I state, Singapore is not low touch regulation anyway, it's simple regulation. If you are naughty, the regulatory touch is pretty strong.

With respect to leadership, note that Singapore's cabinet is formed of people who got scholarships to Cambridge and Harvard (by way of benchmark) for graduate school. The UK's cabinet common thread is a little more based on old boy networks from secondary school. That's another difference that the UK will have to come to terms with.

PS you stated that Singapore citizens are a minority in the city, they aren't. I think about 20-25% of the population is from overseas, the rest are citizens. Dubai is where the locals are a (tiny) minority.
 

Trainwreck

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 6, 2012
Messages
26,809
Singapore on Thames?

Why would the UK want to see London become a much smaller global financial centre than it is today?
 

hollandia

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
30,901
Singapore on Thames?

Why would the UK want to see London become a much smaller global financial centre than it is today?
Because that's what they (unwittingly) voted for?
 

mr_anderson

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2007
Messages
9,966
You left out one of the most important reasons for Singapore's success - their zero tolerance for drugs.
Being in possession of anything more than minute quantities of drugs results in the death penalty.
Given that drug addicts would be in possession of most of these quantities on a daily basis, you don't see any begging for money in the streets.
Nor are they out committing crimes to pay for their habit.
The safety aspect of Singapore owes a lot to this law.
 

GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
Excellent OP - think you've just - very factually and methodically - debunked any remotest idea that the UK could ever, ever duplicate this particular former colony of theirs.

However, as has been noted, much of the rhetoric surrounding Brexit has been heavy on lies and emotions - and light on facts.
Thank you. Indeed, and it think it behoves commentators to pounce on these delusions and soundbites where they can and point out the clear stupidity of them. While this may not exactly reach down to the Daily Mail reader, or cool nationalist euphoria at having finally beaten the Jerries at something (the cut-nose-to-spite-face challenge) it will at least chip away at the bluster put out to distract people with the glorious future they expect to have any time soon.

It was Lee Kuan Yew who once said, "You've got to do one of two things when you've got to keep people happy: either, give them something that will satisfy them, better food, better clothes, better homes; or if you can't do that, then give them the vision of greatness to come”. Clearly, Brexiters have not provided bread to the masses, so they are putting on a circus of "things to come" to fill the proletariat's pangs. But that will only kick the can down the road so far before the grumblings begin. The danger there is how the anger is then pointed elsewhere (usually Johnny Foreigner) to disastrous results.

As far as Ireland is concerned, the Govt. and our EU professionals have a done an excellent job in Round 1 - as regards Round 2, one Irish objective must be that if Britain reneges on any single commitment then the entire trade deal is immediately off in all respects.


Period.
Yeah, I think that's aligned with the EU, because a) everyone knows that Albion has been a perfidious dealmaker for centuries, we are wise to their game, and you simply can't believe their promises (my, to think they got away with so much for so long) and b) if they allow the UK a single get-out, you know the UK will never ever EVER get back in its box. It will be a wedge of division among all the countries it can find in Europe, because that is the nature of this beast. In a way, dealing with the UK will either make or break the EU or the UK's policy of cake and eat it.

To be fair to Boris, cake and eat it has ALWAYS been UK foreign policy. He's just arrogantly stating it as a policy.
 

GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
Singapore on Thames?

Why would the UK want to see London become a much smaller global financial centre than it is today?
Singapore is more than a financial centre, it's historical roots are are a freeport. It's a nexus in the global supply chain, the shipping routes to China and back, and a platform for anyone and anything to do deals. It has diplomatic and trade relations with every conceivable political entity and makes it own mind up as to who to do business with and how.

Certainly, London dwarfs Singapore in size of financial services, however Singaporean incomes per capita and general wealth levels make the UK look a little tatty.
 

firefly123

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 8, 2009
Messages
28,155
I can see the conservatives liking the one party state and zero social safety net aspect. The kicker is the absolute zero crime tolerance *.Once they see that they get a rush of blood and ignore the rest.


* poor people's crimes obviously
 

GDPR

1
Joined
Jul 5, 2008
Messages
224,093
I have a friend who spent six months working in Singapore. He described the place as beyond creepy. Do you know that they have a law that demands that dead bodies be cremated?
 

firefly123

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 8, 2009
Messages
28,155
I have a friend who spent six months working in Singapore. He described the place as beyond creepy. Do you know that they have a law that demands that dead bodies be cremated?
If ever they develop soylent green it will be there.
 

GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
You left out one of the most important reasons for Singapore's success - their zero tolerance for drugs.
Being in possession of anything more than minute quantities of drugs results in the death penalty.
Given that drug addicts would be in possession of most of these quantities on a daily basis, you don't see any begging for money in the streets.
Nor are they out committing crimes to pay for their habit.
The safety aspect of Singapore owes a lot to this law.
There are drugs in Singapore, but clearly a lot less than other countries. Drug users get referred the first two times to rehab, and the third time to jail with a fine. Drug sellers have low benchmarks to hit to qualify as traffickers and yes, to the noose with them.

Drug abuse in Ireland is also symptomatic of depression, former abuse and broken families, in fact homeless people can turn to drugs as much as drug users become beggars. Ultimately, the destination is the same though, and yes crime results from people who narrow their lives to getting hit.

Indeed, crime management in Singapore is another level of difference with the UK. There are cameras pretty much everywhere, and getting away with anything is far harder. Politicians who are caught with extra marital affairs always resign. Society does not reward anti social behaviour in Singapore, while it can be seen as a badge of pride among certain age groups in the West in general and the UK in particular. Also, you can get someone arrested and tried for making racist comments. There'll be no "Send them all back home" t-shirts in Singapore-on-Thames.
 

NMunsterman

Well-known member
Joined
May 18, 2007
Messages
6,116
Thank you. Indeed, and it think it behoves commentators to pounce on these delusions and soundbites where they can and point out the clear stupidity of them. While this may not exactly reach down to the Daily Mail reader, or cool nationalist euphoria at having finally beaten the Jerries at something (the cut-nose-to-spite-face challenge) it will at least chip away at the bluster put out to distract people with the glorious future they expect to have any time soon.

It was Lee Kuan Yew who once said, "You've got to do one of two things when you've got to keep people happy: either, give them something that will satisfy them, better food, better clothes, better homes; or if you can't do that, then give them the vision of greatness to come”. Clearly, Brexiters have not provided bread to the masses, so they are putting on a circus of "things to come" to fill the proletariat's pangs. But that will only kick the can down the road so far before the grumblings begin. The danger there is how the anger is then pointed elsewhere (usually Johnny Foreigner) to disastrous results.



Yeah, I think that's aligned with the EU, because a) everyone knows that Albion has been a perfidious dealmaker for centuries, we are wise to their game, and you simply can't believe their promises (my, to think they got away with so much for so long) and b) if they allow the UK a single get-out, you know the UK will never ever EVER get back in its box. It will be a wedge of division among all the countries it can find in Europe, because that is the nature of this beast. In a way, dealing with the UK will either make or break the EU or the UK's policy of cake and eat it.

To be fair to Boris, cake and eat it has ALWAYS been UK foreign policy. He's just arrogantly stating it as a policy.

100% agree with that.

This is an existential challenge to the EU.

Forget this "lez-all-be-friends" and a "win-win" scenario - the UK has effectively declared war on the EU - and there can be only one winner.

This has to be the EU.

Period.


In the immortal words of Ordell Robbie :

"That, my friend, is a clear cut case of him or me - and you best believe, it ain't gonna' be me".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Spte9v0QlM
 

Orbit v2

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 8, 2010
Messages
11,554
I have a friend who spent six months working in Singapore. He described the place as beyond creepy. Do you know that they have a law that demands that dead bodies be cremated?
At nearly 8,000 people per sq. km I think they have better uses for the limited supply of land.
 

GrimReefer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
614
I can see the conservatives liking the one party state and zero social safety net aspect. The kicker is the absolute zero crime tolerance *.Once they see that they get a rush of blood and ignore the rest.


* poor people's crimes obviously
Yeah agreed on all the above, but that's all part of the same fallacy. Society is just different there.
 

GDPR

1
Joined
Jul 5, 2008
Messages
224,093
They're a very firm ally of the US and along with their compulsory military service, they're very keen to ensure that their interests are protected from grasping neighbours. A very highly educated people who are determined to make the most from their tiny land mass.

Sent from my SM-A320FL using Tapatalk
 

Trainwreck

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 6, 2012
Messages
26,809
(Hint : Betteridge's Law of Headlines)

Touters of the unleashed Brexit future for the UK believe that "Singapore-on-Thames" (SOT) is the model to go with. The metaphor appears to me to be based loosely on the idea that Singapore is a country that allows trade with everyone (Cuba and the US, Russia and China, you name it, they're all friends of Singapore) and makes trade straightforward.

The general impression given is that Singapore's wealth is down to this "freewheeling" (actually all regulated, just simply regulated) model. The SOT aspiration is that British entrepreneurship will be liberated to play on a platform of trade that is easily managed and open to anyone who wishes to do business. Cut to the end of the montage and Britain is rich and powerful, striding across the global stage as a rich, friendly and agile colossus.

There are a few issues with this highly simplistic aspiration which I think are worth pointing out. Some are obvious, some not so obvious. But either way, by picking a small aspect of the Singapore economy out and ignoring the rest of the holistic picture, the vision is really no more than a delusional soundbite, full of promise and empty of plans. So let's look at what it takes to be a Singapore (on Thames).

1: No social welfare. There is no dole, no state pension, no single parent allowance, no anything really in the form of an entitlement payment. This is not to say that the Singapore government does not issue financial support, it does for example when there is the odd global economic crash, it helps firms to top up wage packets to keep the ship going. It also contributes interest to the forced savings plan (CPF) for citizens and permanent residents to encourage storing money for home ownership, medical care and special investments. But there is not, and never will be as long as it stays in its current format, any form of entitlement benefit. This is a key part of explaining how Singapore works, and how Singaporeans are incentivised to work and save. Won't work in the UK.

2: Two years army service for all men. The military is a big part of the economy, and all males have to put down two years after secondary school and two week annually until their fifties or thereabouts. Again, it's a big part of how the country works, and how social cohesion is maintained.

3: Cars cost a hundred large. Actually, the same model of car in Singapore costs between 3 to 4 times what it costs in the UK. And you have to scrap it after 10 years or pay 20,000 euros to keep it for another ten.

4: The entire economy is contained in a land area smaller than London (actually about 1% of the island of Ireland's land area). That has significant impact on how an economy gets to be run, maintained and diversified.

5: Intense education. Even primary school children as young as 7 are streamed according to class performance. Tuition for children is commonplace from early on in primary school and can be 7 days a week. There aren't enough university places for locals, so a great deal of school leavers study in other English speaking countries such as Australia, UK or the USA, and always at vast cost for their parents. Nobody is entitled to anything, and it's really hard work getting through school. Once you are streamed down it's hard to get back up again.

6: One party state (effectively). Almost all Parliament seats are from one party, so government strategies are like typical communist government strategies : five year plans, and even specific generations of leaders. It's a democracy and there are a fair few parties out there, but really only one gets all the top performers. In fact, most of the Cabinet studied in the US or UK on scholarships (and these would be only the most prestigious schools). Try enforcing that on the UK.

7: Relatively backwards hinterland. No ASEAN country comes close to Singapore in terms of GDP / capita, or income per capita. Singapore becomes a regional hub city for regional trade and investment as frankly it's the only reliable place to tick all the boxes for investment. In addition, the rich of the region park their money (often in real estate) in Singapore and prefer to use services in Singapore such as education, health etc in preference to their home markets. The UK however has many sophisticated and wealthy competitors on its doorstep.

8: Sober, compliant, educated, ambitious workforce. Singapore is a capitalist's dream because their staff basically live to work, save and spend. The UK on the other hand tends to get people like that form other countries due to the insufficient supply of a similar workforce at home. Singapore firms are indeed "forced" to try to hire locals before hiring foreigners, and the standards of foreign staff (often measured by the pay on offer, or educational background, as well as scarcity of skill) are rising constantly, and the effect of all this balancing of high potential foreigners with motivated local staff means the quality of worker in Singapore is as good as it gets. The UK simply doesn't have the same level of motivation in its indigenous workforce to be able to screen foreigners at this level. It badly needs foreigners just to keep the ship running. Brexit may have been motivated by a feeling of inequality of opportunity with foreign workers versus UK workers, but the solution there was to educate and motivate UK workers, not to remove any competition.

9: Home ownership. All Singaporeans can aspire to owning their own apartment under a government system that uses forced savings as deposit capital and loan repayment giving all working Singaporeans an automatic nest egg once they have put down a few years working (and commit to getting married or supporting a parent, apartments aren't for singles ready to mingle). Loan interest rates are very low, and public transport and community services are built around these neighbourhoods. Everyone is near essential amenities using walking or bus. Apartments cannot be traded for 5 years after purchase, and once bought citizens can own no other property due to the generous and stable financing available. You can own an apartment using purely the forced savings that you can't touch anyway for anything else in many cases, so effectively everyone gets to have a stake in the country by having some real estate there. This is not the UK now and is unlikely to ever emerge. Singaporeans therefore knuckle down to earn money as it frees them to know they will always have a roof over their heads, and affordable healthcare and education are available to them. As the houses built all look the same and exist in a few basic sizes, people aspire to simply owning a place, and it's less important where it is located or what kind of apartment, housing is effectively a utility.

I think we've seen enough, but there's surely more that I could think of off the top of my head that make the Singapore model a little less simplistic than "easy to trade with". Oh yeah, of course, can't forget this one

10: Singapore enjoys an effective tropical monoclimate and same day length, meaning there are practically no seasonal implications for productivity. It's groundhog day every day in Singapore. That sort of situation means momentum can build in doing business. It makes infrastructure building very straightforward in planning, and housing is practically cloned across the island as there are no weather differences to think about.

So, the idea of being a free trading platform doing business with everyone seems like a nice idea (or poorly researched aspiration at best), however this benefits capitalists only, and is part of a nuanced picture where all the parts fit together to make Singapore. Workers in the UK will frankly not survive using this model. You can't have Singapore on Thames without all the above.

Finally, Singapore used to be one of the tiniest appendages of the Crown, and apart from the usual colonial stuff of roads, civil service and port building, it basically used the place for its benefit and got out when it needed to downsize. And yet, the mighty UK should seemingly aspire to be like a small island it once discarded when doing some colonial housekeeping. Just how low has British vision sunk, when that's what it aspires to being?

These are my views on the SOT model. I would welcome discussion from others on the topic.

In the spirit of your closing sentence.



You wasted your time posting nonsense eon the "Singapore model2", as you would posting on any "XXX model".


Outside the EU custom union (and hence common market), the UK can stop the punitive restrictions and remove the substantial taxes and charges currently placed on their citizens that have the temerity of wanting to trade with non-EU entities.
 
Top