Tuesday, May 1, 2012

PM: Labour Day and missing the point totally

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.


  1. The govt is in shit up to its eyebrows. If there ever was uninspiring leadership here, PM Lee takes the cake.

    The senile Lee senior was so anxious to ensure that his progeny takes over the family heirloom that he refused to see that his son is anything but a leader. How could he when every step of the way from day one, daddy and mummy were always there to hold his hands. The last emperor of China it was alleged did not even know how to tie his own shoe laces!

  2. in an attempt to illustrate good governance, i recall LKY saying how a good orchestra can still function even if he puts a dummy to play the role of music conductor.
    somehow i surmise LKY was actually referring to PM Lee...LOL

    but sadly the orchestra that LKY had in mind for his analogy is at best 3rd rate....and has been getting from bad to worse with a dummy as maestro.

    1. That is crap. Anyone who enjoys good orchestra performance would know the true importance of the conductor. Did LKY really said that?

    2. @ Anon 12.59am,
      I read about the music conductor analogy as well, not BS. I believe it is a matter of time you will find all his famous quotes compiled by the many passionate bloggers. The old fool has been saying alot of things over the years. Remember he proclaimed Spore is in a golden period ? Your wives and daughters will become maids if Spore's economy tanks, as a result of under paying his PAP ministars? PM Lee would have been PM much earlier if he was not LKY's son ?

    3. "MM Lee said: "To be the prime minister, you don't have to know every instrument, but you got to recognise, ah, he's a good violinist, he'll be the first violinist, he'll be the double bass. He will play the viola, he will have the trumpet, he will do the drums. Then you coordinate them and then you have great music. And if you already have a great orchestra, you can put a dummy there and you still got great music."

      Direct from the horse's mouth.


      The statement can't be wrong as it is from CNS, the online mouthpiece of establishment.

  3. Dear Pengyou,

    I can agree whole heartedly with your observations. Maybe another view may be in order. Has this generation of Singaporeans lost the drive to stay ahead? I am not eloquent or much of a thinker, and it is better to give a eyewitness account of my observation:

    4 years ago, I visited Chonging in China for the first time. I visited a Starbucks outlet and had a coffee there for 10- 15 minutes. In that short time, I observe something which made me realised that Singapore workers had lost "it". When one visit the Singapore Starbucks, there is always someone "hogging" the seats around the one power point, charging the laptop or Iphones. And it is not uncommon to see someone waiting in line for this seat. This is Singapore. Back to Chongging, they don't have this problem of "hogging" the seats around that one power point. One of the worker in Starbucks or the Manager of this outlet in Chongqing had inserted a multiple extensions cable so that 4 people can use one power point. What do you call this? Many years ago, someone in Singapore would have done this also.

  4. Heard he has gone on holiday. So much for enjoying his life and left Singaporeans to our own demise. I wish someone else is my PM. Really hate nepotism.

  5. Excellent article. We are really going downhill when we resorted to cheap foreign labor!

  6. "One of the worker in Starbucks or the Manager of this outlet in Chongqing had inserted a multiple extensions cable so that 4 people can use one power point. What do you call this? Many years ago, someone in Singapore would have done this also."

    Yes, its a no brainer and I strongly believe that we would have done the same...if not for:

    The operations dept, who thumbed the idea down because they are uni grads with a focus on KPI only.. customer satisfaction is measured by sales not by qualitative feedback.

    This template also exists in SQ and other 'customer orientated business'.

    Well.. its all about what has been measured.. and as far as criteria is concerned, we ( singapore ) meet the criteria for:

    Best City to live in ( placed 4th)
    Best City to do business in ( after NYC )
    and a host of other "bests"

    It all depends on the criteria..