Singapore turning to populist policy?

The Bukit Timah Dialogues this Wednesday was really thought-provoking. Yeo Lam Keong, the Head of Economic Society in Singapore, laid out very convincingly that globalization has not only been making poverty gap in developed countries wider. Due to the “great doubling” and “great acceleration” of globalization, countries like the US and Singapore are witnessing a more complicated situation for the policy makers i.e. the government.

The top 30% of the population has been growing richer. The 40% of it has been experiencing wage stagnancy. And the last percentage has been becoming poorer. He said that it was inevitable that Singapore government who has been facing such situation must do something.

Such real impact of globalization may lead to people’s restive conscience that any government who would remain the same should be questioned. Meaning, the legitimacy might face a challenge.

Singapore, which has been avoiding the term ‘welfare’ due to the worry that it would only make people ‘spoiled’, has to do something to uplift the people at the bottom of the economic structure. I may say that actually he was saying that ‘workfare’ should be, at least for now, abandoned. The government had to really touch upon welfare programmes and preparing a social safety net.

Given such situation, he said that it was now easy to question our positive belief of globalization. “See what globalization has done to you? Your wages are stagnant. You are becoming poorer. What else can you expect from globalization”.

When this grows wider, it could be very tempting that any government including Singapore would turn to be a populist country to, in the end, protect its citizens from negative effects of this ‘creature’ called globalization.

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