Friday, January 20, 2006

Addicted to Regulation

Singapore government is addicted to using regulation to solve or forestall problems. In recent months we saw the passage and reminder of a series of laws. Some of these are:

1) some schoolgirls were warned by police that they might break law if white elephant T-shirts were worn en masse. (To me, this really sound like bullying by the police.)

2) potential violent protestors, locals or foreigners, were reminded that they could be caned or jailed.

3) new law to punish Singaporeans who had sex with underaged girls abroad

4) tougher penalties for draft dodgers

5) possible jail term for bus and taxi fare cheats.

Regulation is addictive because:

a) it is a quick fix to solve or preempt problems

b) with all the fines and penalties it fattens the state coffers

c) it is probably gratifying for some to see the populace being prgrammed to become obedient and submissive subjects of the state .

However, like most addictions, it has its adverse effects:

1) the government would appear to be run by 3rd world leaders who typically are unwilling or unable to run the system by any other ways except through threats and the rule by fear.

2) those who find it too restrictive will leave the country, causing brain drain.

3) it leaves no room for flexibility and creativity, which means Singapore will be ill-prepared for the challenge of the 21st century: a race on ideas and innovations.

If the Singapore government is serious about building Singapore into a world-class city, then it should cure itself of its addiction.