Friday, November 14, 2014

Ho Kwon Ping's Second Lecture: Beguiling Ideas

Only managed to find the time to read his second lecture this morning. I could only read a good summary of his main points from last night.

On his ideas of the economy, a more folksy and approachable way to understand it is Warren Buffett's wide moat against competitors. We are already doing that and continue to strengthen and explore new opportunities. Every business and economy should try to do this but since there is so much dysfunction everywhere this is very rarely achieved much less sustained.

The fatal flaw of Ho Kwon Ping's very attractive ideas was he assumed that the external environment would be supportive. To make sure that our skiff do not sink, we need to invest in resilience. Once you factor this, his ideas become very hard to make practical. He could propose them and probably win support because on the other side the government is so hopeless at selling their strategies.

I like his CPF like concept for foreign workers but how do we get to regulated housing without upsetting the apple cart so completely that we could not recover? Standing close behind real estate is the financial sector. You cannot expect to overhaul real estate without also impacting finance. Conceptually this is also a national wealth redistribution effort which goes to the heart of what Singapore is. His idea is workable if we that was what we wanted from the beginning and we travel from there to now. I am afraid it is too late now. Also we had regulated housing from the beginning I don't think we could have today's prosperity. Actually this isn't just spilling to the ground the apples, it is a revolution. I don't think it is doable. Even Hong Kong couldn't build anywhere near enough public housing, His ideas on housing were far too pie in the sky. Nevertheless this is a provocative suggestion to help more people understand our present situations and practical options open to us.

To be competitive until we are more innovative and stronger at the business ecosystem level, the way to close the income gap between the ITE, Poly and university graduates is to slow the rise of graduate salaries. As we keep producing more graduates, market forces would already narrow the gap. Of course we would have many unhappy graduates failing to achieve the graduate lifestyle. Sometimes I wonder if our low graduate salaries do not act as a glass ceiling for the Poly trained folks at the same time. Overall this depress our salaries except for the very top which is more likely to be FTs who had acquired experience simply because they were not Singapore trained!

A beyond GDP index to me is just wishful thinking unless the rigorous foundation already exist for us to build on. That would be a post economics or economics plus world. A post GDP or GDP plus world lies in the future. Those happiness indices are a passing fad. Any economy that trivializes the GDP as the primary measure of progress will under perform and all other desirable indicators or indices were suffer along as well. Sure man does not live by bread alone, but everything additional to bread needs to be fed by bread. It is the purpose of GDP growth rather than adding new indices which matter.

Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity never ask for money (bread). God has always provided them. On the other hand Dr Goh never believed in the Bible story of Jesus feeding the thousands with a few loaves and fishes. Let's get real here. We are more descendants of Dr. Goh than Mother Teresa. So it is bread, bread and more bread. GDP, GDP and more GDP.

The best way to hear Ho Kwon Ping is over a quiet and private dinner when you can explore ideas the masses would not easily accept and need to be persuaded. We cannot expect to hear such thoughts articulated in public. That would be a foolish way to communicate. The government have no such luxury and it is very easy for bright creative minds to share ideas that make the government ideas appear less attractive.

The government must do better beyond being the top boy in a class of failures, and Ho Kwon Ping's beguiling ideas are except for how to pay foreign workers, very helpful to help us understand our situation better and appreciate what is possible.

1 comment:

  1. what I want is simple

    stop meddling with my pocket and my dream

    I aint anybody slave