California With The Death Penalty
August 8, 2015 10:58 PM   Subscribe

The nicer a place Singapore becomes, the more it is flooded with outside capital and migration. That raises the cost of land and thus rents and home prices. Imagine if I didn’t own a home and suddenly Fairfax, VA became like Beverly Hills or Palo Alto. I would have to pay more, but wouldn’t benefit much from the proximity of the movie stars or the tech titans.
The political reaction is to make Singapore an even nicer place to live, which is what you would expect from a competent government. That’s great, but in some ways it makes the underlying problem worse by attracting additional foreign capital and labor. The city becomes more Westernized and more corporate and land values rise all the more.
A simple theory of Singaporean complaints.
posted by grobstein (14 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
We're in the middle of a citizenship argument with kids and divorce in the table and when I mention that we might move to people, it turns out they've either just decided to leave or stay or are still arguing too. Almost everyone I know has thought of leaving seriously. It's home but it's also home that is very clear that it doesn't really want me or my children. Only the smart healthy child, only the successful one. I'm tired of not being good enough for Singapore.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:09 PM on August 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

Nice title, I see what you did there.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:18 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

This reads like a great pulling-it-all-together summary for people who are already decently familiar with Singapore and it's issues. But for those of us who aren't, it would be nice to see each paragraph fleshed, probably by an order of magnitude. Is there an Atlantic Monthly or such article that might provide some more detail?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:42 AM on August 9, 2015

Rent seeking behavior. C'mon, it's not that hard....
posted by wuwei at 4:02 AM on August 9, 2015

so, uh, happy national day then?
posted by cendawanita at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2015

anyway, staying on topic for the occasion: Singapore is not 50 years old
While the current administration must be given credit for steering the nation to a point of exceptional prosperity, one of their consistent follies is the need to belittle what was before.

Singapore in 1965 was no fishing village or barren rock and it was not poor. Certainly not by the standards of the region at the time. At independence, we stood only behind Japan as the second richest nation in Asia.

Even more importantly than capita-GDP we had an enterprising population, well-run institutions and a solid economic model.

posted by cendawanita at 7:39 AM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

As a Canadian expat living in Chicago and priced out of Toronto I don't think this is at all a uniquely Singaporean situation.
posted by srboisvert at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2015

This entire post is out of bounds.

Happy PAP Day!
posted by Avenger at 8:20 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

isn't California, California with the death penalty?
posted by dustsquid at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

We haven't killed anyone since 2006, and currently it's under moratorium as a judge ruled it unconstitutional.

There's a decent chance California never executes another inmate ever again.
posted by sideshow at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

The political reaction is to make Singapore an even nicer place to live

Not if you're a minority of any kind.
posted by divabat at 2:56 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

From the article - and I can't believe you didn't include this in the OP - but the Singapore Complaint Choir covers it in a pretty darn catchy way.
posted by Thistledown at 3:45 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Singapore the city had already existed for many centuries, but Singapore the nation is fifty years old. Sure, the swamps-to-skyscrapers story doesn't work for downtown, but it's a fair summary of the story for the last fifty years beyond the inner core, for instance, for the former villages of Boh Beh Kang or Bukit Ho Swee. A (now historic) fire in the Bukit Ho Swee was what set off the eventual migration of the population from kampong's to the now ubiquitous HDB estates.

Co-incidentally, the current HDB estate at what was once Boh Beh Kang is one of the most expensive public-housing projects in the world, with sky-gardens on the 50th floor and other gee-whiz bells and whistles. Therein lies the tale, I suppose.

The Marginal Revolution piece glosses over quite a few crucial details that I think would complicate the story significantly. For instance, Iskandar or Nusajaya isn't where talent is moving to, from Singapore; the net influx from the state of Johor, and Malaysia in general, is still into Singapore, rather than away. Lots of factors at play, not the least of which are things like crime in JB's suburbs - just last month, a couple we know had a house-invasion there - but crucially, about clusters too; like it is in San Francisco, London or New York, in a regional sense the already large pool of talent in Singapore in itself is a draw for more talent.

Indeed, land-prices aren't everything in this game; it's all about network-effects and clustering instead. The article talked about artists, but just to elaborate the point with startup-talent: a lot of folk in the region who want to startup do so in Singapore because of easy access to capital and ease in registering businesses. However, and this is where it becomes difficult for Singaporeans, they usually stop at having a HQ for their executive leadership, preferring to expand the bulk of their teams in Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam. Creative-minded Singaporeans also tend to move to other, bigger clusters; the National University of Singapore and Singtel's investment wing, for instance, have opened up incubation space in San Francisco's SOMA district, mostly for Singaporean startups. Essentially, like other world cities, Singapore's economy has a lot more in common with other world-cities than that of its next-door neighbours.

Singaporean politicians used to talk about Switzerland as a model, but I think a better model now is Finland; a country of 5.4 million, an economy traditionally dominated by a few large employers (Nokia) like Singapore, is fast moving to a startup-based economy. I believe the reason there is cultural; there's a large "safe-space" for people to be different, or try and new things, without suffering too many long-term consequences if they fail.

What Singapore sorely needs is a safe space like that, where people can not live up to the state-sanctioned, HDB-defined ideal and still thrive. Where people, least of the government, aren't judgmental about what you can and cannot do. Ideally, that safe-space would appear before there's more stratification tightening around our throats.
posted by the cydonian at 8:43 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

in why singapore is special, having read (parts of!) the LKY book i found this interesting: "The citizens and leadership of Singapore have an unparalleled knowledge and understanding of economics, engineering, and public policy." i wonder why that is?

also btw...
  • Singapore seeks to export own model - "As rapid urbanisation rips through Asia and the world, the island state is forging a new role for itself by cloning its own skills and models, from teaching maths and treating water to developing airports or entire cities."
  • Singapore sells infrastructure development expertise - "We see immense growth potential and development opportunities as urbanisation gathers speed across China, India and emerging markets in South-east Asia."
hopefully it'll work out better than paul romer's charter cities :P

oh and re: safe spaces for people to be different and try new things...
Finland considers basic income to reform welfare system - "The scheme is of particular interest to people without jobs. In Finland, they now number 280,000 - 10% of the workforce. With unemployment an increasing concern, four out of five Finns now are in favour of a basic income... One obstacle to staging a pilot project is Finland's constitution, which states that every citizen must be equal. Even a small-scale experiment would put its participants in an unequal position. However, Finns may be prepared to waive that principle of equality, if an experiment produces valuable information for society."
posted by kliuless at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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