Challenges over next 50 years

As a citizen, I rejoice that Singapore will be celebrating its golden jubilee next year in an economically strong position. Yet I am also concerned that our economic success may not last.

I have witnessed Singapore's rags-to-riches transformation in a relatively short period, which I attribute to visionary leadership, lack of serious competition in the region and a purposeful founding population.

These factors, however, could change in the next 50 years.

Fewer capable men and women may be willing to become politicians or civil servants as globalisation opens up more opportunities for them in other fields. An increasingly demanding populace could also make public service jobs less appealing.

The rise of capable and more driven leaders in this economically active and resource-rich region also poses a serious challenge to the Singapore brand and our position as one of the best countries in the world to do business.

As a country and people, we are spending more and saving less, resulting in less emergency funds to withstand a prolonged economic downturn. With no natural resources and hinterland to fall back on, survival becomes a challenge.

Migrant workers, who play a vital role in sustaining our economy, are much harder to come by, as their home countries grow economically and offer attractive jobs for them.

Our productivity growth also lacks momentum.

We are finding it harder to differentiate our products and services, as other countries are catching up fast in creating new products and services and doing things better and quicker. China is one such country.

Also, potential new trade routes through the Arctic between Asia and Europe could badly hurt Singapore's position as a shipping hub, when fewer ships to Europe need to pass through here.

To secure our future, Singapore needs to plan how to survive a severe economic decline.

Strategies might include creating proprietary products to beat the competition, and reducing our dependence on imported food by growing some of our own food and raising animals for meat on one of our islands.

Jolly Wee

This article was first published on November 18, 2014.
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