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Saturday, February 17, 2007

RH: Why Singapore should NOT have a govt

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: Why Singapore should NOT have a govt
View: Complete Thread (2 articles)

Original Format

Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2003-10-05 08:34:40 PST


RH: In re-reading the above article by Lee Han Shih, I could not help being struck by the thought that perhaps, Singapore would be better off without a govt.

Why do I say this outrageous thought?

If Mr Lee Han Shih is right, and I believe that he is one of the best
[and most courageous] journalists around, then consider these facts:
and I quote LHS: Begin Quote:

"One out of perhaps 10 people in the local labour pool works for the
government (the exact number is not disclosed). These people do not
generate wealth. Their salaries are paid for by the labour of those
who do. On average, one in nine people in the private sector is
supporting a civil servant.

"Put another way, some 11 per cent of every non-civil servant's pay
goes towards keeping the civil service running. This money is collected in many ways - directly through income tax and the goods and services tax and indirectly through levies, licence fees and other charges that work themselves into the salary structure.

"This is a scary figure. Coupled with CPF contributions, nearly half
of a working person's wages (47 per cent, to be precise: 36 for CPF
and 11 for the civil service) cannot be used to meet his immediate needs. Is it any wonder that business costs in Singapore are considered high?" End Quote.

In other words, Singapore is a small city that is ruled
[unnecessarily] by a huge govt that suffers from the delusion that it
is a country and an important govt. If the PAP could rid itself of the fallacy that it is a govt and an important one, then Singapore would be managed better and, with the savings from reducing the govt into a municipal authority, we would all be better off and the economy much better off, too.

For example, there are about 16 cities with a population over 10
million and probably, Singapore is the only one of about 30 cities
with a population over 4 million] that is ruled by a govt, and a very
huge one at that, proportionately, rather than by a small municipal

This fact has tremendous implications for everyone in Singapore and
LHS has pointed out some [see his quote above].

There are much more. For example, as a govt, the PAP gives itself all
the trappings of a govt, from the biggest ministerial salaries in the
world, to an expensive military structure that costs US$4 billion a
year, to a civil service that gives itself the airs of being a govt
instead of recognising that it is and should be more of a municipal or city authority.

This thought, startling as it may be, that the PAP should disabuse
itself of the notion that it is a govt and a country, and instead,
start looking at itself as a mere municipal authority whose main job
is keeping the streets clean and the sewage system running, could mean the difference between a successful city and a failed one, and
Singapore is failing day by day.

What would a Singapore without a govt look like?

For a start, the Ministers would not be able to give themselves such
an obscene salary. Which mayor of which city in the world -- and there are at least 30 in the world with populations over 4 million, earns that kind of salary?

Then, why do we need a Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of National
Development, Ministry of This and Ministry of That, all costing
taxpayers much in supporting Ministries when these should be no more
than small depts within the Mayor's Dept? In other words, all the
Ministries should be cut down into small depts in the Mayor's Office.

If you look at the Ministries, there are all kinds of overlapping or
repeated structures in each of them that would be subsumed under a
Mayor's Office without having to repeat in each Ministry. I leave
these examples to readers more familiar with the structures of

Thus, Singapore is unique in that it is but a small city of 4 million
but governed by a huge govt that has all the trappings of a big govt
from having MPs and a Parliament [these would be non-existent in a
city administration] to a Defence Ministry, Ministry of Law, etc. In
fact, this overkill is partly responsible for Lee Kuan Yew's early
success and current failures. LKY is only a smalltime mayor but with
all the powers to make and enforce laws and to overtax the people.

This alone explains why LKY was able to achieve early success
especially in attracting investors -- which mayor of a comparable city could change or pass new laws to benefit investors who invest here? Or use taxpayers' monies as freebies inducements to attract targeted foreign investment? Thus, LKY could prostitute better than any mayor in the world to foreigners and so achieve some early success – this is now impossible because other countries are doing it better and cheaper, without having to prostitute.

Above all, LKY could legislate and impose hardship on his victim
Singaporeans to constanly cut wages, work harder, etc, all of which no mayor in the world could impose. LKY could even control the monopolies of housing and the prices of flats and to enforce the CPF taking 36% of everyones' paycheck for his own use in the incompetent GIC.

It has often been said that 'big govt is bad govt' because govts tend
to bloat in size and to overcontrol every minutiaea of life and this
is exactly what happened in Singapore and explains why Singapore has
been suffering for the last few years. The PAP is the biggest govt in
the world. If LKY had been only a municipal mayor, Singapore would not now be suffering so badly.

LHS's call is timely. He has called for a cut in the civil service,
rightly so. But this will never happen without a mindset change. The
PAP has to recognise that it is but a mayor's office and not a govt.
Once that mindset is achieved, the PAP would then be able to go about
reducing the unnecessary and vast machinery that is weighing down

If the PAP could acknowledge that Singapore is just a city and not a
country, many current problems would be solved. Thank you, LHS, for
starting this thought.

Robert Ho
5 Oct 03
UK 1632 Singapore 2332