Singapore’s many weaknesses

By Eddie Choo

Our global orientation and openness is our great strength but our greatest weaknesses as well. Despite the administration’s many attempts in minimising the weaknesses, it is inevitable that Singapore will still suffer from any global slowdown in the economy.

We are connected to the global economy, and because we are export-oriented, our economic growth is subject to global demand, in particular, the US and those more developed nations. However, if massive environmental changes occur, the more developed nations will also be subject to great damage, slowing or even reversing economic growth as countries recover. This will result in Singapore suffering from slowdowns, as global demand lessens.

What Singapore has done is to diversify its prospects of economic growth by tapping the growth of emerging markets, notably China, India, and the Middle East. Other emerging markets, though less emphasized, include Vietnam and Latin America. However, if climate change is really global, then it means that even these countries will be subjected to severe economic costs, and may even be worse off as they do not have the capabilities to alleviate damages.

It is likely, that in the event of global climate/environmental change, countries will turn inward, not outward as they handle domestic catastrophes. The global market will start to disintegrate as countries opt out of global trade regimes as trade itself becomes disrupted and as economic capability becomes severely compromised. Trade shipments will gradually consist of basic necessities, and even these will become limited.

The prospect of global pandemic is really not as severe as the prospect of climate change. Once the cause of the pandemic is certain, it can be expected that countries will immediately impose travel controls and quarantine centres will be set up. There will be a global effort in sharing research effort in treating and finding the mechanism of the pathogen. We will get around physical barriers by relying more on the virtual infrastructure that we have set up. In these terms, a global pandemic isn’t really that much of an issue.

Terrorism? Not an issue. Because the more this ‘war on terror’ drags on, the more people will become desensitised by it. Psychologically, it will cause us to be more alert in the short term, but in the longer term, we just shrug our shoulders and move on. The ideologies of terrorism will not be viable in the longer term as people begin to get tired of the destruction and the lives lost. In fact, even suicide terrorism might be even seen as just a fashion fad.

We are affected by changes in the world. We are affected by changes in commodity prices, by global demand shifts, by disruptions posed by technological breakthroughs. Regional and global pollution will inevitably affect us, as incidents such as the Haze remind us. We are vulnerable to these things as we are really too small.


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