Singapore is NOT No. 1 or No. 2….maybe No. 8

Jan 16, 2017 08.39AM |

That’s what a new World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness report now says. Singapore used to be second, behind Switzerland. What happened? The WEF has included a new component in its indices: social inclusion.

ST reported that this was part  of “the WEF’s call to governments to shift their economic policy priorities to respond more effectively to the insecurity and inequality that accompany technological change and globalisation.

“This means countries that prioritise widespread enjoyment of the fruits of economic growth rank higher than under the old gross domestic product-prioritising competitiveness model.”

Singapore was actually unplaced in this new report because of “missing data”. But the WEF said average scores put it about eighth place.

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The report gives ammunition to those who think Singapore is gunning for growth at the expense of spreading the rewards around. But what was the data that was not available? The ST report didn’t say. The areas where Singapore scored near the bottom among the 30 advanced countries surveyed are access to education and skills, how concentrated wealth is and social welfare.

Access to education and skills? Policymakers are probably scratching their heads over this given the amount of attention paid to opening the education door to all children, right from pre-school level. Then what of SkillsFuture and SkillsFuture credits which gives citizens $500 in credits to spend?

In the area of fiscal transfers, Singapore was placed 29th; that is, second to last, in a sub-category known as social protection. How does this square with the amount of “transfers” that go to the lower income classes here, which the G is quick to enumerate when it is attacked for not helping the lower income group enough?

The G has always touted the rankings as evidence that Singapore is doing well. It will be interesting to see its response to this latest report, especially with the Budget announcements due next month. Can it be that steps to make Singapore more inclusive doesn’t go as far as those implemented in the Nordic countries which hog the top slots? Or that inclusiveness and economic output don’t go together? If so, it’s worth noting that Switzerland, which was No. 1 in the old ranking method fell to just No.3 now, which isn’t too bad at all.

What’s nice to know is that Singapore is No. 2 in basic services and infrastructure and the top scorer in health services.

Is this nice or not nice to know? In ST ‘s continuing coverage of the taxi industry, it reported that the total taxi fleet has shrunk: from 28,300 in 2015 to 27,500 now, with the average rate of unhired taxis going up from 4.2 per cent in 2015 to 5.9 per cent at the end of last year. It’s not good for the cab companies which have to decrease its rents to keep cabbies, but the increased numbers of Grab and Uber cars might well give plenty of part-time and flexible work opportunities to others. But what of those who drive for a living? Will they make enough money?

What’s not reported might be good news too. We’re talking about the haze, which is NOT here. It seems that after alerts were sent out about hot spots in Sumatra and the Riau islands last week, the Indonesians have gotten the fires under control. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


Featured image from TMG file.

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