Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Real Meaning Of Productivity

According to Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the government will spend $7 billion to transform the economy by building "superior skills, quality jobs, higher incomes."

Then he gives an example of a target job skill he had in mind: mixologist. That's his high falutin' expression for a bar tender - the guy who concocts drinks for patrons too drunk to tell what is in the glass. You will be excused if you thought the Minister had one drink too many. By his scheme of things, the road sweeper will be called an environmental engineer, and he will be next in line to upgrade to toilet washer, since latter job does not require long hours in the sun. Not for them $45,000 pastry cooking lessons in France; that's for permanent secretaries who can be away from his office for months and still keep his job. And that's not all, they are have tasked another expensive Minister, Teo Chee Hean, to form a new National Productivity and Continuing Education Council. Meaning there's going to be another bunch of civil servants drawing high salaries.

Singapore did undergo a period of job ungrading years ago, when labour intensive industries were replaced by capital intensive ones like printed circuit board manufacture. Then the old guard like Goh Keng Swee turned the swamps of Jurong into factory complexes overnight.

But this generation of politicians has once again proved to be bankrupt of ideas. If they are really serious in increasing productivity, they should reduce the size of the bureaucracy, the number one cause of high operating overheads for businesses. Does the Prime Minister really need a Minister Mentor, two Senior Ministers, two Deputy Prime Ministers and 15 Ministers (two of which are without portfolio) to help him run the country?

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