Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sorry, Prof of Strategy, Linda Lim of University of Michigan, I dun agree with you.


Published October 25, 2008

Is Singapore trying to excel in too many areas?

WHY aspire to be a second Boston or second London and not a first-rate Singapore?

PROF LIM S'pore's growth model may not be sustainable as it tries to do too much and achieves too little in terms of delivering returns --
It's time - particularly during a global crisis - for Singapore to rethink its economic model and employ niche targeting right where it has unique strengths to become a world leader, rather than stay a follower in various sectors, an economist suggests.

While highly successful so far, Singapore's growth model - built on wooing multinationals to drive key sectors here - may not be sustainable in the changing environment, says Linda Lim, professor of strategy at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and director of its Center for South-east Asian Studies.

A Singaporean academic who has been in the US for some four decades, she was a speaker at the Singapore Economic Policy Conference yesterday.

In her view, the Singapore growth model has both tried to do too much - going against what theories such as comparative advantage and diminishing returns propose - and achieved too little in terms of delivering returns for Singaporeans relative to foreigners and foreign firms.

'Singapore cannot be internationally competitive and a world leader in semiconductors, life sciences, healthcare, education, financial services, creative industries and casino tourism, all at the same time,' she says in her paper for the conference.

Speaking to BT, Prof Lim said: 'Of course you can make an argument for doing 10 sectors instead of three; you say diversify. But if we do all, everyone becomes uncompetitive; all face rising costs as they compete with each other for scarce land and talent.'

Outlining her alternative strategic vision, she says that the starting point is to take stock of 'what you have, including your geographic location'.

Then look for a strategy of differentiation: 'What do you have, what can you do that nobody else can do? You want to develop a blockbuster drug? Any number of places in the world can do it. You have to look at what is specific about you.

' Perhaps it may be that if we want to have financial services, then we cannot have life sciences, integrated resorts. You have to make a choice, you cannot have everything. You choose the thing you can do better than anybody else.'

And one indicator of a 'market advantage', she says, is whether a country needs to provide 'inducements, or investment incentives, otherwise known as subsidies' to attract talent.

'If people are naturally coming here, that's fine.'

And not least, 'let the private sector do it', she says, suggesting that capital and talent be released to local entrepreneurs, to be allocated according to market forces. When and if private enterprise fails, it will take only small parts, rather than big chunks, of the economy down with it, she argues.

Singapore is particularly well-placed for a whole cluster of economic activities 'from finance to forestry and fisheries', Prof Lim says.

'Where are we? We're next to the biggest forests in the world. Why not be a carbon finance centre? People are doing this in San Francisco! They are doing Indonesian . . . avoiding deforestation . . . out of San Francisco! Why can't we do it from here?

'Why do we want to be a second Boston or second London? We want to be a first Singapore. There are already second, third and fourth Singapores all over the world - people are copying our strategy.'

Singapore could also be a centre of expertise in creative fields such as traditional and modern Asian arts and culture. Already, Singapore is the best place in the world to do South-east Asian studies, Prof Lim says.

Economic growth here has focussed on quantitative targets, but it may be time to look at the qualitative aspects such as its 'purpose' and nature.

'I'm saying, look at net value creation for citizens. 'People for growth' - growth as an end in itself - is not the same as 'growth for people', growth as a means toward greater welfare for people.',4574,302734,00.html?


I seriously dun agree with her. I think one a many of you guys might be "duped" by her simply "make-sense" analysis but here we examined why her words cant be taken at that.

First, despite her superb resume of being the ,professor of strategy at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and director of its Center for South-east Asian Studies, bombastic isn't it?; we must take into account that she is a "Singaporean" whom had been living and looking at Singapore half a globe away (physics will tell you she can only see stars), for 4 DECADES. 



So how is she to judge when she didnt even live through the struggles and miracles of this little red dot called Singapore?

Being Singaporean doesnt make one an expert in Singapore's affairs.

She quoted saying that Singapore's current policies  are "going against what theories such as comparative advantage and diminishing returns propose" is inaccurate and simply a wild shot hoping that it could hit something.

If one were to predict Singapore will become a first class port, handling a huge percentage of cargo, boasting the World's Best and Most Valuable Airline, being the only country that have 0 slums, a financial center in the middle of turmoil-easy neighbours in the laid-back waters of South East Asia; any sane guy will tell you, you must be crazy.

Same for the current pursuit of the country. We are no longer the cheap and highly trained labours who manufacture goods and electronics efficiently; that role is now China's area of expertised. Singapore had transformed from a manufacturing nation to one which must depend heavily on service-centric businesses and acting as the safe-water for MNC to park their regional HQ as well as their funds; all together with what we already had been doing. 

To further our livelihood and survivability, we need explore into the tourist dollar, which had already shown to be a important contributor to our GDP; we must get a head start into new sectors like Life Science, Health Science R&D, Nano-Tech, as well as the ever bigger Electronic Gaming & Animation industry. All the just mentioned are new frontiers, and for a country as nimble and flexible, coupled with strong financial backing, we must not wait for these technologies to flourish THEN we get into it.

We cannot beat India and their army of IT experts and really smart ppl, nor the economic power of China with their limitless resource making them almost near god-like in their potential to become a powerhouse in nearly every industry you can imagine (think Baidu vs Google). So for Singapore to have an edge in the global stage, WE MUST engage into all these various sectors.

We cant make every Singaporean financial ppl nor, just concentrate on just 3 sectors like the writer mentioned; what about ppl like me who majored in Design? What I eat then? There are always ppl for every industry; foreign investment remains as important as ever, Singapore must not slow down an compromise. 

Like most PAP's decision, most of the time, they are going to be right.

I glad this Mdm Linda Lim still cares for "her country", but be realistic, we no need to be a 2nd Hong Kong. (HK is mainly a financial center, with service sector being the biggest GDP contributor, other than that, nothing.)

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