I thank Lucky Tan for his eloquent blog entry, saving me from not only writing the same myself but writing better too. I shall only need to highlight the points I differ with him.
As far as I know George Yeo, Raymond Lim and Lim Hwee Hwa did not leave their minister jobs for any government linked entity. They are now with the private sector. The exception is Mah Bow Tan with Singapore Post.
Even as we are trying to up productivity, which this government has an abysmal record we may already be failing in an even more important task: the competition for customers.
Productivity is so yesterday. You need it to stay in the race for the long haul. If our inputs are equal or greater than out output, we are no different from the Soviet Union. Don't be deceived by the boom town you see in Singapore. They are created with humongous inputs in foreign labor and capital. Of course the output is large otherwise there must be plenty of waste and theft.
It is useless if you raise productivity but lose customers to those who simply change the game. Even as I write this, Microsoft is spending $300 million investing in Barnes & Noble ebook division to compete against Amazon and Apple. It is hard to beat Amazon in productivity. Not even WalMart could compete. Clearly Microsoft will fight with a strategy of differentiation and fresh value proposition. What that might be, there is no need to speculate here.
To be fair productivity is important in running old industries, especially heavy legacy ones. Bukom will continue to be in business if its productivity is high. There is little need for innovation beyond what had been done previously integrating with petrochemicals. But these days most of the wealth generation comes from ideas and services. That's the newer and light (as opposed to heavy industries) economy.
Be careful even as we are working on the extremely difficult task of raising productivity, we fail to keep our eyes on innovation, retaining and looking for new customers. If I may, we are putting the cart before the horse, i.e., in this new economic logic, productivity comes after we have innovated and found the customers. No where is this clearer when digital companies release beta products and try to get it correct fast by failing and retooling quickly.
I am flabbergasted at the PM grasp of economics. He cannot be so dumb. So what politics is he playing with workers here?
I agree with Lucky Tan this is not a Happy Labor Day for our workers. They do not know that CHEAP has been Singapore's value proposition to the world: Offering First World services at Third World prices because we are not capable of across the board innovation to create alternative value propositions. We copy what is winning and offer it cheaper. That's why we always have to retool at the flip of a switch, no wonder life is so stressful here. No the PM isn't dumb. He is aware we are basically a one trick pony. The PM's problem is that he doesn't have his father's courage and is taking a huge discount for what he could be capable of. He is a technocrat wearing politician's shoes. Now he is bereft of ideas and trying to preserve the government's economic strategy hopefully with productivity improvement which they never succeeded before.