Monday, 17 September 2012
Daniel John Jambun
The latest report which says that Singapore is the wealthiest nation in the world by GDP per capita, beating out Norway, the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland, has further embarrassed our own country, Malaysia, which is Singapore’s closest neighbour and economic rival.
This report is especially painful for Malaysia because we know Singapore started off as an island of fishing villages with no natural resources. It survived and prospered as an entrepot (
a trading post
where merchandise can be imported
without paying import duties), and imported raw materials for its needs, industries and exported processed products to the world. It is still buying nearly everything from other countries, mainly Malaysia, including sand, water, oil, vegetable, fruits, to name just a few.
As of 8 August 2010, Singapore is the fastest growing economy in the world, with a growth rate of 17.9% for the first half of 2010. Malaysia on the other hand is struggling to achieve the official target of 4% to 5% growth for this year. A Reuters quarterly poll in July estimated Malaysia’s GDP growth this year at 4.2 per cent. On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal report is replete with superlatives about Singapore economic performance, among which are as follows:
“Singapore’s GDP per capita – at US$56,532 in 2010, measured by purchasing power parity – is the highest in the world, topping Norway (US$51, 226), the US (US$45, 511) and Hong Kong (US$45, 301). The report also predicts that Singapore will hold its place as the world’s most affluent country in 2050…. Singapore will see a 67% increase in centimillionaires over the next four years – [centimillionaires are those] with over US$100 million in disposable wealth…. Singapore has the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world, a title the city-state has held on to for two years running….”
Some of the factors contributing to Singapore’s forecast performance are its ‘human capital’ – a skilled and educated labour force (which is likely to lead to better long-term prospects for a country’s economic growth), the dynamic business environment (with legislation to match), openness to trade, capital mobility and foreign direct investment…. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea are employing the same Singaporean strategies on Human Capital where the brightest and the brilliant are attracted from all over the world, universities rankings are among the top World 20. Surely something must be really right, as these countries do not have Natural Resources.
In our beloved Malaysia, everything is the opposite, our government legalised 1.6 million foreign unskilled labourers who are non-taxpayer ‘Bumiputras’ consuming all the benefits funded by us taxpayers; our universities rankings have slid from the World Top 100 to unbelievably low levels so much that we have difficulty in competing internationally. Our brightest and brilliant are forced to mass migrate to Singapore, Taiwan and overseas. This is very ironic because we have immense natural resources which were extracted for half a century but our country seems to be always in debt and short of funds. The vast revenues obtained from tin, rubber, timber and petroleum had not done much to secure our economic standing.
It is unbelievable that even Petronas, the supposedly superrich Malaysian corporation, is in danger of going bust. Surely something must be really wrong. A site, tranungkite.net writes that Petronas “has squandered its tremendous reserves for a number of projects it had no business to be involved in. It owns Putrajaya, the administrative capital that is a drain on the public purse. It owns Proton, the F-1 motor racing circuit in Sepang, and a slew of companies and products that is far removed from its main product: petroleum. The US$1 billion sponsorship costs for the F-1 championship in Sepang and the Sauber Petronas F-1 racing team appears to matter more than the future of its 70 IT specialists. It owns the Petronas twin towers, forced on it by the government so the Kuala Lumput City Centre (KLCC) would show the world how developed a country Malaysia is. Its considerable funds are used to cover government shortfalls and other financial needs. I suspect the Petronas management sees red ink dominating its balance sheets after its unrestrained financial profligacy.”
The latest glowing report on Singapore should serve as a warning May Day signal to Malaysia to revamp its system so that its public service is more transparent, honest, bribe-free, absolutely professional, and pro-growth in its approaches when dealing with investors and technocrats. In Singapore, the civil servants have very strict instructions to use all available government means to facilitate the license and permit applications by business people, and to assist them in all technical matters that arise. The civil servants are totally forbidden from accepting any gift of any kind, nor to accept dinner invitations from businessmen. Singapore has the high international reputation of being bribe-free and has a highly conducive business environment. On the contrary, bribes in the form of money and dinner invitation are expected by Malaysian civil servants, and there is a strong culture of ‘undertable’, and even ‘over the table’, dealings to lubricate business with the government.
No wonder Sabah, with all its wealth of natural resources, had become Malaysia’s poorest state. As if it is not enough that the state civil service is so corrupted, it also has to share its wealth with the BN-held states in the Peninsula.