Failed economic adventures have big impact here

According to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore is not realising its economic potential because of the "kiasu" mindset (Fear of failure holding S'pore back: Study; Nov 8).

The fear of risk-taking and the lack of innovative and entrepreneurial drive have been debated many times. Have Singaporeans become too comfortable, and do not want to take risks? On the contrary, Singaporeans are feeling uncomfortable, and want to avoid more risks.

It is true that for many of us, we do not want to lose what we already have.

But, importantly, failures in economic adventures have huge consequences for our families too.

If we take economic risks and fail, we would not be able to afford tuition for our children, our elderly parents would not get financial support from us if they were to need extensive medical care later, and we could even lose our homes.

In spite of the incentives to be more entrepreneurial, and the many welfare schemes put in place to help citizens, many Singaporeans know that they still need direct access to and control over their own financial resources.

Our system contrasts against the Nordic welfare system.

Over there, failed personal economic adventures will have only limited detrimental effects on the individual and his family. Education and healthcare needs will always be provided for. They will not go hungry.

Hence, these countries' economies remain highly competitive and entrepreneurial.

The family is the social, emotional and economic building block of Singaporean society.

Do we want to disrupt this tenet, to encourage greater personal economic adventurism? If so, the state needs to step in to support those who do, but fail.

Ooi Can Seng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Failed economic adventures have big impact here'. Print Edition | Subscribe