Singapore city skyline dusk panorama (Image - Chensiyuan, 2011, Wikimedia Commons)

Future economy of Singapore set by business owners and not economists?

It had been announced on Monday that a committee named, “Committee on the Future Economy (CFE)” has been set to develop economic strategies to position Singapore for the future

The Committee is said to help Singapore be a vibrant and resilient economy with sustainable growth that creates value and opportunities for all.

The CFE is to build on and update the Report of the Economic Strategies Committee of 2010, addressing five areas of Singapore’s future economic development:

  • Future growth industries and markets
  • Corporate capabilities and innovation
  • Jobs and skills
  • Urban development and infrastructure
  • Connectivity

The 30-member CFE will be helmed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and his deputy chairman, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S Iswaran.

Full list of Committee on the Future Economy members:

  1. Mr Heng Swee Keat – Minister for Finance
  2. Mr S Iswaran – Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry)
  3. Mr Azmoon Ahmad – Senior Vice President and Member of Executive Management, Desay SV Automotive
  4. Mr Christian Bischoff – Founder and Executive Chairman, Pan Asia Logistics
  5. Mr Jean-Luc Butel – President, K8 Global, and Senior Advisor, McKinsey & Company
  6. Mr Bill Chang – Country Chief Officer, Singapore and CEO, Group Enterprise, Singtel
  7. Ms Cham Hui Fong – Assistant Secretary-General & Director, Industrial Relations, NTUC
  8. Mr Chan Chun Sing – Minister, Prime Minister’s Office & Secretary-General, NTUC
  9. Mr Edward Chia – Co-Founder and Manager Director, Timbre Group
  10. Ms Chia Yong Yong – Partner, Yusarn Audrey
  11. Ms Susan Chong – Founder and CEO, Greenpac
  12. Mr Vincent Chong – President and CEO (Designate), ST Engineering
  13. Ms Rachel Eng – Joint Managing Partner, WongPartnership
  14. Ms Goh Swee Chen – Chairman, Shell Companies in Singapore
  15. Mr Han Kwee Juan – CEO, Citibank Singapore
  16. Ms Mariam Jaafar – Partner and Managing Director (Singapore), The Boston Consulting Group
  17. Mr Mark Lee – CEO, Sing Lun Holdings
  18. Mr Forrest Li – Founder, Chairman and Group CEO, Garena
  19. Mr Lim Chow Kiat – Group Chief Investment Officer, GIC
  20. Mr Lim Der Shing – Venture Partner, Jungle Ventures, and Co-Founder and former CEO, JobsCentral Group
  21. Mr Harish Manwani – Global Executive Advisor, Blackstone, Private Equity, and former COO, Unilever
  22. Mr Ong Ye Kung – Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills)
  23. Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara – Head, Enterprise Development Group, Temasek Holdings
  24. Mr Saktiandi Supaat – Executive Vice President, Head of FX Research, Global Markets, Global Banking, Maybank Group
  25. Mr Tan Chong Meng – Group CEO, PSA International
  26. Mr Teo Siong Seng – Chairman, Singapore Business Federation
  27. Mr Russell Tham – Regional President (Southeast Asia) and Corporate Vice President, Applied Materials
  28. Mr Fabian Wong – CEO, Philips ASEAN and Pacific
  29. Mr Lawrence Wong – Minister for National Development
  30. Mr Robert Yap – President, Singapore National Employers Federation

“With their diverse backgrounds, experiences and expertise, members can contribute different perspectives and help reach out to different stakeholders,” said the CFE.

But how different are the members from one another?

It is said that the committee members come from various industries, operating in both global and domestic markets, and enterprises both large and small. But take a closer look at the committee and see who do they represent, industry creators or business owners and employers?

Do you spot any economists amongst the committee to provide advice or feedback on whether would the recommendations be feasible?

Apart from the lack of economists to provide sound advice for the proposals, what about the dream that Singapore hopes to achieve, the long outstanding Swiss standard lifestyle for better work-life balance, better labour rights, a more humane society and to reduce the income divide among the population?

The committee is entirely deprived of sociologists, experts on labour rights, representatives of employees and civil rights groups. The composition of the committee might also prove to be a direct conflict of interest given that some individuals would like to ensure that the companies that they represent would not be disadvantaged in any way, even if it meant to the disadvantage of the ordinary folks.

Of course, there might be people who argue that the representatives from NTUC would fit the bill of fighting for workers’ rights in the proposal/recommendation. But without going into a lengthy debate on how that would not happen, one could just ask themselves if they sincerely believe that NTUC is a legit labour union to begin with.

“We will seek the views of key stakeholders on our challenges and opportunities, and draw on their ideas on how our people and enterprises can play an active role in developing our nation’s economic future,” said CFE

CFE too said that it would consult stakeholders. But again, using past records as a matter of perspective. Remember what happened after the national conversation in 2012? Population white paper in 2013. Despite the people clearly yearning for Singapore to develop a strong core society comprising of Singaporeans, the government still went ahead with its ambitious planning of population growth in the name of economic growth.

Singapore has come a long way since its independence and reached to a point where no one expected it to be. Our selfless forefathers pulled through by adopting economic policies that exchanged individuals’ liberty for the sake of national growth.

The world economy and regional dynamics are ever-changing in its dynamics. Adopting an approach of a betterest while cheaper labour to attract foreign investment, might not be a long-term plan for the best interest of the country.

For the sake of future generation and to retain the best brains in the country, should Singapore’s economy policies remain as status quo or seek a new economic model that could balance between personal liberty, rights and economic progress?

But with the committee of 30, it does seem likely that Singapore would continue on its model because it works for the government without addressing underlying issues that are slowly surfacing in social tensions in society.

Singapore would continue to deprive equal rights to migrant workers who contribute equally if not more than local workers, and profit through their low wages while depressing wages of the locals because the system is surviving due to this imbalance of rights between employers and employees.

In the end, it would probably still be businesses and business owners who profit massively from such a labour market and economy, along with the government that dwells so much on the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of performance of its parliament members and political leaders.