Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Paradigm Shift - Innovate or Perish

Singapore's economy is at a turning point. Local businesses are facing challenges such as digital disruption, labour crunch and high operating costs. We are in danger of losing our relevance in a global economy which is undergoing a 'Third Industrial Revolution'. Latest economic data showed falling inflation and exports. Unemployment is rising as more workers are rendered redundant due to technological disruption and lower global demand. The traditional bellwethers of the STI - banks, property developers, rig-builders - are struggling as property sales remain sluggish and oil price is stubbornly depressed. All these talk on SMEs becoming more innovative is mostly paying lip service.
PM Lee speaking at National Rally 2016

Conventional wisdom dictates that a Singaporean resident must invest in property (usually eating up most of his savings), as if property investment is the sure-win method to financial nirvana. A word of caution. What works for our grandparents (pioneer generation) and parents (baby-boomers) might not work for us and the future generations. Moving forward, local residential property prices are unlikely to see exponential appreciation compared to the 80s and 90s. Those times are not returning.
You might be wondering......why so fearful, DK? In the worst-case scenario, the Singapore government can implement expansionary fiscal policies to 'juice up' the economy. That worked before. Unfortunately, our aging demographics meant that social spending will only escalate in the future, thus limiting the amount of support the government can provide. Besides, we simply could not afford to keep dipping into our national reserves.
Wait a minute! How about Temasek Holdings and GIC? Surely they can swoop in as white knights in their shiny armour to save the day! The hard truth is actually more years of expected lower returns from our SWFs.


  1. Singapore is a developed cost area to begin with. We are pretty luck to have slow growth. A number of industries cost are not competitive to others. Kind of a good problem to have because this mean locals are getting relatively good pay.

    1. In recent years, I think the local wage rise can be partly attributed to a tightening of foreign labour inflow.