ERC report: Old wine in new bottle

February 11, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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The Governments latest Economic Review Committee (ERC) report is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.

The ERC was set up soon after the 2001 general election. It has taken more than a year for the Committee to come up with its recommendations. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the recommendations are not very much different from the policies of the past.

For example, the Government continues to believe that GLCs should spearhead the domestic sector of our economy. This is in spite of the extensive evidence that the state-owned enterprises are, and have been, performing poorly. The Government has shown no inclination to allow the private sector to take the lead in Singapores economic development.

Worryingly, such a decision is based more on political than economic considerations. The PAP knows that as long as it controls the economy, it also ensures its political control. Unfortunately, such thinking is ruinous for Singapores economy, as signs are already indicating.

The ERC report also touches on nurturing private entrepreneurs. Singapore seems to be the only country where entrepreneurs need to be nurtured through a ministry of entrepreneurship. Would it not make more sense if the Government just left enterprising Singaporeans to do what all good entrepreneurs do best generate ideas and wealth in an innovative society? Instead the Government insists on keeping the citizens in a political straight-jacket just so that it can satisfy its obsession to control society, and then sets up a ministry to encourage creativity!

The report also mentions housing and CPF without offering solutions to tackle the issue of the shortage of CPF funds for retirees which is in a state of crisis.

The recommendations talk about what Singapore would be like in 10 to 15 years from now. Present reality is that the average Singaporean is facing an uncertain future with unemployment and retrenchment at an all time high. Instead of alleviating the sufferings of the people, the PAP increases prices of essentials so that it can achieve a surplus budget at a time of a crippling economic recession.

The report also talks about, among others, competition from China and India. Whatever happened to the PAPs promise of a Swiss standard of living? What about the promise of more good years? What about the vaunted second wing of our economy?

Whats the use of setting up committees in which the same set of people with the same fossilized views express the same ideas that do not tackle the root cause of the present economic malaise? In truth, the PAP has no answers. All it can do is to wait for the U.S. economy to recover. And yet, the Government claims that its ministers are the best, deserving the highest salaries in the world.

What we need in Singapore is a government that is transparent and accountable, a system that is receptive to input from all sections of society, including the opposition. No amount of re-packaging of old policies from so-called high-powered committees will extricate Singapore from its current economic problems.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General