PM Lee still insisting on growing foreigner population to increase GDP, disconnect from reality worrying

By: Phillip Ang

I refer to CNA’s “Singapore economy on steady, stable path, says PM Lee”.

Throughout the article, PM Lee only makes general statements, offers nothing insightful and obviously lacks any plan. This is because PM Lee really has no idea other than to take the same shortcut as he did before the GFC, ie grow the foreigner population to create artificial demand.

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(Singaporeans should not forget that during about the same period when PAP increased new PRs by 320,000, it constructed only 30,000 HDB units. Such a huge increase in population was not debated in Parliament as if consequences didn’t matter.)

PM Lee: “My growth rate is constrained by how many people I have ( 1 )…If you look at foreign worker numbers in Singapore, there are still substantial numbers… but jobs are available and quite often employers can’t find suitable Singaporeans so that’s why they bring in foreigners ( 2 )… But if we can produce Singaporeans with skills ( 3 ), jobs will be there and we will be able to employ them.”

( 1 ) If a country could generate economic growth by simply increasing the foreigner population, PAP would not be the only one doing so. Singapore has experienced the social impact of such a simplistic model but PM Lee seems to think that it’s fine to push the limits even further.

( 2 ) PAP has been reiterating rubbish with regard to available jobs without providing any breakdown of the types of jobs available. Employers obviously can’t find workers for 7-Eleven and Cheers stores when wages are slightly better than a cleaner’s. The reason why employers are hiring foreigners by the planeloads is due to weak labour laws and legislations enacted by PAP which allow foreigners to be employed instead of Singaporeans. PM Lee should not ignore the fact that, through legislations arbitrarily enacted by PAP, wages have been depressed to increase profitability of GLCs. Who wants to accept depressed wages in a country with one of the highest cost of living?

Will PAP ministers, perm secs and CEOs of stat boards accept wages which are considered high only for third world countries?

( 3 ) If we cannot produce Singaporeans with skills, the skills mismatch is due to poor government planning. The courses conducted at learning institutions did not account for future industry demand correctly. Isn’t the government to blame since it controls both the supply and demand of industries?

PM Lee’s Freudian slip “My growth rate is constrained by how many people I have” is confirmation the PAP intends to grow the foreigner population at an even higher rate to grow the GDP. (For those who don’t understand how this PAP magic works: foreigners increase demand for housing leading to an increase in property prices, spends on necessities which benefit GLCs, brings in their families which further increases economic activity, etc. Multiply that by X million and that’s how our economic miracle is achieved.)

If growing the economy were so simple as increasing headcount, why isn’t any democratic government doing so except PAP?

PAP never had any planning, only shortcuts. Or it would not have planned to add 4 million square feet of retail space from 2016 to 2018.

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Source: Bloomberg

Growing the foreigner population has again made news recently because all engines of PAP’s pseudo growth have stalled. PAP is in deep shit.

Singaporeans just need to look around the biggest construction-site country to understand the tens of billions sunk into infrastructure requires payback. How much has been converted from financial reserves to physical assets? Tens of billions loose change to MPs?

PM Lee must be joking to claim that our economy is on a steady and stable path after GLCs like NOL disappeared in a lelong sale, Tiger Airways made so much losses that SIA was forced to take it private, Keppel Corporation’s collapse in earnings, etc. Record retrenchments, record number of empty stores in shopping malls, casino high rollers making a disappearing act, collapse in the O & G and shipping sector, etc but our economy is still on a steady footing? I guess the answer is … steady my foot.

PM Lee’s disconnect from reality and throwing smoke are evident from his comments on port operations.

PM Lee: “We are already competing with Malaysia in terms of ports and it boils down to who can run a port better and more efficiently. Even between Singapore and Port Klang for example, it’s not entirely a win-lose because when business comes into the region, there are opportunities for Singapore too”. (I’ll use the example of PTP in Johore which is closer to Singapore instead of Port Klang)

So who can run a port better and more efficiently?

Port of Tanjung Pelapas (PTP) started from scratch in 2000. Within 2 short years, PSA lost Taiwanese shipping giant Evergreen Marine Corp to PTP. This is on top of having lost Maersk Sealand, which guaranteed about 2 million TEUs, the previous year to the same competitor. link Last year, it was reported that PTP had another record year of 9.1 million TEUs in 2015 and will double its capacity by 2030.

PTP will double its capacity to 22 million TEUs by 2030

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While PTP expanded, PSA local ports slept soundly. In 2015, PSA managed less throughput than it did 4 years earlier and its profit was only $11 million higher than in 2012. However, its investments in overseas ports increased by about 5 million TEUs.

Singapore port on the decline from 2012 to 2015 (pg 18)

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So, who runs a better port and more efficiently? How many think it’s PSA, keechiu! Wow, no show of hands.

Were gains at Malaysia’s ports not at our loss? How many more major clients must PSA lose before PM Lee realises the existence of a win-lose situation? Pray tell how much/what did Singapore gain when PTP’s throughput shot up from ZERO to almost 10 million TEUs.

According to PSA, its 2016 container volume was even lower at 30.9 million TEUs. So much for throwing smoke.

There are of course other half truths, as usual, in the CNA article besides port competition not a win-lose situation.

PM Lee’s putting on a brave front by rehashing the need to have more foreign workers confirms his ignorance. Despite most industries facing unexpectedly strong headwinds, PM Lee wants Singaporeans to believe that our economy is on a steady and stable path. Is PM Lee a joker or what?

PS

Despite having no solution to the intense competition and declining PSA volumes, the PAP has committed tens of billions to construct the Tuas megaport. Will this become another white elephant?

We don’t even have to mention the possible construction of the Kra Canal because China’s aggressive investments in Malaysia’s ports already pose a serious threat to our port. With the RM/S$ exchange rate 20% lower than 3 years ago, PSA has already been priced out.

 

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5 thoughts on “PM Lee still insisting on growing foreigner population to increase GDP, disconnect from reality worrying

  1. 7m population, more land, more infrastructures… Freeing up more land will make it possible. We need an increase of land by 30%, shut down more golf courses, free up the military training land, go overseas for military training, reclaim more land from the sea. Build upward and downward.

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  2. Once the Tg Pagar Port is gone, I hope reclamation will go outward from there, from Keppel, to as far south as the St.John Island. No more port there, we can reclaim land to reach out to the Sisters’ Island, St John Island, to Pulau Bukom. 10% more land can be created in that area.

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  3. 7m people will mean a bigger domestic economy.

    Malaysia aims is to have a population of 30 million for a bigger domestic economy, 4 times the size of Singapore.

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    • Malaysia has lots of resources n land. Is good to hav bigger domestic market. Yes we can reclaim lans but people need jobs wif reasonable pay if the economy is to be sustainable on the long run.

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  4. Ignorance is damaging.
    Statistics can be selectively used.
    Populist policies and Politicians pandering to populist views are not working for the country but to ensure that they continue to be in power.

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