Refreshing the Singapore System

by Terence W L Ho (Author)
Buy for $118.00 Excerpt

Singapore's rapid ascent from Third World to First since its independence in 1965 has won it acclaim as an 'economic miracle'. Economic success has been accompanied by impressive achievements in social development, as reflected in international rankings of human capital and human development.The city state's achievements are founded on a socio-economic system characterised by low tax rates, flexible labour markets, and individual 'self-reliance', with state support centred on social investment in education and public housing.Entering the 21st century, however, slowing economic growth, an ageing population, global competition, and widening income dispersion have put the Singapore System under strain. This has prompted a significant refresh of social and economic policies over the past 15-20 years.This book aims to bring the reader up to date on Singapore's socio-economic development in the first two decades of the 21st century. It looks back to the shifts in policy thinking that have accompanied structural changes to Singapore's society and economy, taking stock of the policy innovations aimed at sustaining income growth, economic security, and social mobility. It looks around to compare Singapore's approach to those of other countries facing similar challenges, situating Singapore's experience in the wider international discourse on public policy. Finally, it looks ahead to how the Singapore System may evolve in the years to come.Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction and Overview
  • Socio-Economic Policy
  • Singapore's Socio-Economic Trends and Performance
  • Singapore's Socio-Economic System — Distinctive Features and Adaptation to Emerging Challenges
  • Strengthening Fiscal Progressivity
  • Expanding Social Security
  • Keeping Singapore Affordable for All — Social Assistance and Beyond
  • Improving Education: Access, Quality, and Future Readiness
  • Regulating the Labour Market
  • Capturing Value from Economic Growth
  • Financing State Spending
  • Pandemic, Politics, and Pathways to the Future
  • Index

Readership: Individuals interested in Singapore public policy, social/economic policy, or public affairs, especially in relation to inequality, social mobility, economic growth and development. The book may also be used as a handbook or reference for undergraduate and graduate public policy and Singapore studies courses. Overseas readers with an interest in Singapore issues or comparative public policy. Singapore;Social Policy;Economic Policy;Public Policy;Socio-economic;System;Inequality;Social Mobility;Economic Development;Economic Growth;Welfare;Incomes;Social Contract;Social Compact;Unemployment;Retirement;GDP;Social Security;Social Assistance;Taxes;CPF;Comcare;Workfare;HDB;Self-reliance;Fiscal;Manpower;Healthcare;Housing;Education;COVID-19;Politics;Future'Terence Ho unites technical expertise, historical depth, and personal experience to answer two urgent questions for policymakers in Singapore and around the world: What is the secret recipe that has fostered five decades of miraculous growth in Singapore, accompanied by rising shared prosperity? And how must that recipe be updated — or revamped — to meet the challenges of today and the decades ahead? You won't find a better guide to these questions than Ho's authoritative book.' - David AutorFord Professor of EconomicsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

'This book traces the evolution of Singapore's socioeconomic policies over the past two decades, as it confronted — and continues to confront — the twin challenges of slowing economic growth and rising societal inequality. Ho offers a comprehensive account of the full range of Singapore's policy responses, drawing on his firsthand experiences in the government sector. This essential reference comes at a particularly timely juncture for taking stock, with Singapore at a political and economic crossroads as it navigates the post-Covid world.' - Davin ChorAssociate Professor and Globalization ChairTuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

'How does Singapore manage its social welfare system? Refreshing the Singapore System is now the go-to book on this important topic.' - Tyler CowenHolbert L Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason UniversityCo-host of the Marginal Revolution economics blog

'In an increasingly polarised age, political polemic is often assumed to be synonymous with public policy. What is forgotten is that public policy is a sifting of what is politically and technically possible from the ideal. Terence's arguments for a recalibration of Singapore's socio-economic policy will neither satisfy those who want to adopt a Scandinavian model nor those who want less 'government distortion'. However, for those who are willing to grapple with the practical dilemmas of governing in a real political entity, they will draw insights from Terence's measured arguments.' - Goh Mui PongHead, Monetary Authority of Singapore Academy

'Refreshing the Singapore System is an important contribution to understanding the policy ecosystem in Singapore and how different policy domains interact and interrelate. The book is extensively researched, well-organised and cogently articulated. The policy complexities and conundrums are clearly communicated and aided by visual models which make comprehension of even the most complicated interplays intuitive. Mr Ho has done the policy community in Singapore a significant service through his contribution of this book which deserves to be read by and will benefit both the specialist and the layperson.' - Devadas KrishnadasChief Executive OfficerFuture-Moves Group

'Refreshing the Singapore System is an excellent primer for more informed discourse on Singapore's unique social policy in chat rooms, living rooms and boardrooms islandwide.' - Augustin LeeChief Executive OfficerSingapore Central Provident Fund Board

'Refreshing the Singapore System is an excellent first-hand account and a great primer on the thought processes behind Singapore's well-honed economic and social policies. Terence's book brings to us the unique view of the seasoned policy planner. More importantly, his time in the Service also traces the pressures faced by modern Singapore — an evolving social compact, faster population ageing, a greater need for human capital optimisation amidst a more volatile global financial system, and an unprecedented pandemic.' - Leong Wai HoManaging Director (Research)Modular Asset Management

'During his two decades in Singapore's civil service, Terence Ho was involved in, or had a ringside seat to, many of the more contested public policies. After the pandemic, many of these would have to be rethought as the social contract is debated and renegotiated. A prerequisite of such rethinking is a deep understanding of how Singapore's key socioeconomic policies have evolved in the last two decades. Refreshing the Singapore System is a highly readable, sympathetic and coherent account of these policies, their underlying philosophy, and how they've been enhanced in recent years.' - Donald LowSenior Lecturer and Professor of Practice in Public PolicyHong Kong University of Science and Technology

'This book is informative, fair and, above all, clear. It is written in a style which not only makes it easy to read but a pleasure to read. There is much substance here. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any reader, whether a student, businessperson or voter. All can gain a better understanding of Singapore, the socio-economic policies it has followed as well as the challenges and choices Singapore and its citizens are addressing and will have to continue to address.' - Victor MillsChief Executive, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce

'A fascinating, thorough and thoughtful examination of public policies in Singapore, a country widely recognised for its economic achievements which has also been pioneering important new approaches to social welfare and labour markets. The book carefully examines the data on issues such as poverty, inequality, social mobility and the evolution of a distinctive Singapore model that doesn't fit neatly into categories designed for the Western world, and is particularly interesting on the sophisticated methods developed to align economic and social policies in a fast-changing environment.' - Sir Geoff MulganProfessor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation, University College London Former Chief Executive of Nesta, the UK's innovation agency for social good

'I found Terence Ho's book an honest and balanced treatment of the policy challenges and options in Singapore. It offers a comprehensive and clear coverage of existing policies. It also presents — in a matter-of-fact manner — a spectrum of alternative recommendations, smattered with personal views from Ho's leadership rounds in several ministries. I will be using this book as a key resource for my teaching and research.' - Irene Y H NgAssociate Professor and Director of the Social Service Research CentreNational University of Singapore

'Refreshing the Singapore System presents a ringside view of the many important changes to Singapore's socio-economic policies over the past two decades. Given his involvement in many of these policies, Terence Ho is able to present a highly informative narrative of these changes, carefully documenting the important features, explaining well the rationale for each one, comparing the results with relevant empirical work where available and formulating integrative frameworks to link the different pieces. Policy discussions in Singapore can often be lively, and the book now affords every participant the opportunity to discern the recent Singapore approach across the entire web of key policies. For a small country, this mosaic is both complex and highly deliberative. Terence's work will be a valuable contribution to the needed public discourse on how the system should continue to evolve given the dynamic changes in Singapore society and the environment the country will face.' - Peter Ong Chairman, Enterprise Singapore Former Head of the Singapore Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Transport, Trade and Industry, and Finance)

'For those interested in innovative policy regarding skills development, Singapore has long been seen as an important example. In his book Refreshing the Singapore System, Terence Ho provides a very useful insider's perspective on the components of Singapore's human capital policies and how they are evolving in the face of new labor market challenges.' - Paul OstermanNTU Professor of Human Resources and ManagementMIT Sloan School of Management

'Refreshing the Singapore System presents excellent discussions about the implications and trade-offs of the various policy options over the years, and with specific focus on the policy response to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the challenges confronting this small nation going forward. It is a must-read for anyone who is keen to gain insights into the intricacy of Singapore's economic and social policies.' - Irvin SeahSenior Economist and Head of Strategic Projects, DBS Bank

'The author has skillfully supported his easily understood socio-economic model of Singapore with quantitative evidence. It is a very good addition to the body of writing on the Singapore economy. Anyone interested in public policies that have shaped the Singapore economy into its present form should read this book.' - Mun-Heng TohHonorary Fellow, National University of Singapore Business School

'Terence Ho's book is a useful reference of Singapore's social and economic policies in recent years. It records and analyses exhaustively specific actions taken by the government on both sides of the national balance sheet — enhancing assets and ensuring their fair distribution. Both sides are related of course. Without a fair distribution, which means taxes and transfers, there will be no satisfactory social compact which conduces effort and steady productivity growth. Only then can the asset side show steady improvement. The market is never completely self-regulating. Without good governance, the market undermines itself through accumulation of monopoly power and income inequality. There is perhaps no government in the world which addresses as thoroughly the factors affecting both sides of the national balance sheet as the Singapore Government. If there is a fundamental criticism of the government, it must be that it fine-tunes too much. Ho's book examines in detail the nuts and bolts, including the emergency measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.' - George YeoSenior Advisor, Kuok GroupFormer Minister for Information and the Arts, Health, Trade and Industry, and Foreign Affairs in the Singapore Cabinet

Key Features:

  • The book focuses on recent socio-economic policy developments in the 21st century, thus updating the "Singapore Story" that is well-known from Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs and other books on Singapore's development
  • It adopts an integrative approach that draws out interlinkages across policy domains and how they sum to a coherent system
  • It provides a practitioner's perspective — that of a senior public officer who has observed up close and participated in the policy development process in a range of public agencies
  • It relates Singapore's experience to the international discourse on public policy issues (both academic literature and the experience of other countries)

DRM Protected
Publication date
August 13, 2021
Page count
File size
4 MB

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