By: Chua Chin Leng
It was reported that Singapore attracted $9b of foreign direct investment in the year 2016, or was it 2015? This is about the lowest FDI ever attracted to invest here. Duterte paid a short trip to China and went home with $24b and more to come. Najib did likewise and was rewarded with $40b not taking into account the hundreds of billions poured into Malaysia in the last few years. Forest city alone accounted for something like $30b or $40b.
Is this pittance of $9b going to be meaningful to our economic growth? There is this obsession for FDI as if it is the steroid that all countries must have to register growth and a sign of growth. Even China is talking about attracting FDIs while investing trillions of its own resources overseas. In reality, the sum of FDIs attracted into China or Singapore are really insignificant to the sum they invested overseas.
There are definitely benefits to have FDIs coming into a country as these are new money. But when little FDIs are coming in, it is not the end. Just retain a small sum of local capital going abroad would be a handsome sum to replace the FDIs. How much is China investing overseas, trillions.
How much is China receiving as FDIs, a couple of hundred bilions? How much is Singapore investing overseas? Hundreds of billlions! What is $9b? Just invest less of our capital overseas and plough them back into the local economy, $20b, $50b could be had to self inject and pump up the local economy.
What Singapore has is money, though not in trillions like China, but in hundreds of billions and relatively a considerable sum. Bring the money home, just like bringing the Singaporeans home instead of hoping for FDIs or foreign talents when we have our own stuff. FDI is something good to have but not critical except for countries that did not have much of their own capital to start with. There is no need to throw our money crazily all over the world and begging for a little FDIs to come ashore.
Singapore has hundreds of billions in the reserves but investing in funny stocks and ventures overseas, dunno making money or losing money. Why not invest in our own people and industries and no need to fear for the lack of FDI when it is so little to be meaningful?
We can provide our very own steroid to boost the economy. What is there for foreigners to dump their billions here when there is really nothing to invest except properties, shopping centres and food courts?