I would say we need to find a new, more sustainable balance between economic efficiency and social equity. When you get to Singapore’s level of prosperity and per capita income, the focus can shift from growth to equity and stability. It doesn’t mean growth is no longer a priority – it is. But we now need to maintain our standards of living, and just as importantly, try to improve on the distribution of equity and opportunity.
We know from looking at global markets that without the tempering force of government interventions, growth often can be unequal and cause disruption for certain groups. The correct policy response isn’t to hold back that growth. Instead, we should channel some of it to the groups that wouldn’t otherwise benefit as much. Recent moves to address wage inequity amongst certain professions are encouraging in that respect. I would go as far as to say that achieving growth is less challenging than achieving social equity, which is exactly why we ought to face it head-on.
At the same time, we need to shift our thinking away from simply increasing inputs to remain competitive as a nation. Take attracting top talent to our shores as one example. Talent inflows play a big part in our competitiveness, but we can sometimes get fixated on bringing in these talents and, in doing so, forget to capitalise on areas that we’re truly good at, like robust governance and efficient processes. Tapping into demand for sunrise industries like ESG – creating our own niches – is one example.
We have all these great policy successes: great public housing, a well-designed health and education system, a great airport and port, long-term urban planning. It’s logical that we parlay these capabilities into exportable services and economic growth.