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Hard decisions needed for Singapore to stay competitive

The Central Business District on July 15, 2016.
The Central Business District on July 15, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

I agree with Editor-At-Large Han Fook Kwang's view that the instincts of our people have changed ("Does Singapore have the mettle to survive tough times ahead?"; Jan 1).

Our instincts have become flabby as a result of "years of stability and abundance and from having an overly-protective government which took care of most things".

We have also become complacent because of a collective hubris about our place in the world.

We have to give value for money and remain cost-competitive against not only our fast-developing neighbours, but also the rest of the world.

There are several ideas to consider:

  • It is time to soften the Singapore dollar. It may not be a bad thing if imported goods and holidays become more expensive, as it will spur Singaporeans to work both harder and smarter to attain these things. In doing so, our productivity will increase.
  • As the Government is the biggest landowner in Singapore, it can influence land and rental prices across the country, and should take measures to lower the cost of doing business here.
  • It is important to wean our young working adults off the subsidy mentality. For example, housing grants for couples to buy executive condominiums (ECs) are an unworthy expense, as our HDB flats are excellent. Ending EC housing grants will spur them to make their own money in order to enjoy the good things in life.
  • If there is no increase in fertility rate, the maternity and paternity leave policies should be re-examined as these, together with leave for reservist training, are making investors think twice about setting up or continuing their operations here.

These are some of the hard truths that must be addressed.

We must stay paranoid if we are to keep ahead and prevent others from eating our lunch.

Anne Chong Su Yan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hard decisions needed for Singapore to stay competitive '. Print Edition | Subscribe