I have seen the future . . .

. . . and it works.

I just go back from a week in Singapore (and being on the plane – hence the 3:00am blogging). Singapore is better than here by virtually any reasonable metric.

The same party has been in power for the last 40+ years – since independence. The party is viewed favorably by 86% of the population – a stable number over this period.

The city is beautiful. All the roads were well maintained, well lit, and well decorated (with perfectly spaced and perfectly groomed trees). The city is the cleanest you will see. It’s also the safest you will find. My first cabbie told me it was safe. He said you could walk any where in the city at any time of day or night. I asked him if he would really let his wife or daughter walk around any neighborhood at 4:00am. He looked confused and then said "of course."

Their highest tax bracket is 20%, but 20% of your income must be saved in a private account. The account can be used to purchase stock or a house and it can also be used for medical expenses, otherwise, it’s for retirement.

The government carefully manages virtually everything, from the number of cars on the road (permits to buy cars are auctioned) to the price of alcohol (high to discourage drunks). The government is starting to relax the ban on gambling, but the country as a whole has a very conservative outlook (my first tour guide said that there were a couple places where they were allowing table dancing – and then she blushed, deeply). I didn’t see a single homeless person or street performer. I spent a big chunk of one day walking around the city and no one spoke to me besides people whom I initiated contact with – it was surreal and wonderful.

I can’t see how any can argue that giving up the right to chew gum isn’t worthwhile, if in exchange you get a beautiful, orderly, safe, and efficient city AND a big reduction in the amount you have to pay for taxes.

5 Responses to I have seen the future . . .

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I’ve been to Singapore a number of times. I agree that it is a nice place and probably one of the best cities in the world to live in. If I left the U.S. permanently, Singapore would probably be the number one choice on my list of places to live.

  2. Handle says:

    Except, they derive 5/6ths of their considerable energy needs from oil. The increase in price from $55 to $110 a barrel this year means an additional expense of $4,000 per person just to maintain things and lifestyles as they are. Long term that’s only going to get worse, and it’s not sustainable. They’ve got a good “Zion” advanced-nationalism social vision going on there, but their independence is not sustainable, and sooner or later they’ll have to capitulate to someone. I’m guessing China.

    • Foseti says:

      We’ll see. They’re working pretty hard on a public transportation system. If any place is suited to public transportation, it’s Singapore.

      • Handle says:

        Sorry, I reveal my inner “international energy analysis” geek. If your agency would like to hire someone like this with grad. credentials, just let me know. Singapore is often used as a case-study for energy-geopolitical issues because it’s such an extreme case.

        Singapore’s own long-range policy wonks fret about several major issues, (e.g. Demographics) and their foreign oil imports dependency is one of them.

        It’s not a matter of refined motor-fuels for automobiles – they are just too tiny a city-state – smaller than a typical US county.

        Their energy problem is mostly electricity and industrial-heat related. They use over 3 times more electricity per capita than China, but they have to produce it from oil-burning plants using a fuel that is now 10 times more expensive than cheap coal (not an exaggeration).

        They don’t have the land for wind or solar, no nuclear plants, no hydroelectricity, frequently tense relations with the Malaysians, and sufficient coal deliveries by ship are impractical – so their entire economy is almost exclusively oil based.

        In fact, the Singapore Power Group determines electricity rates according to a formula based on the volatile price of oil for this reason. The current rate is about 20 cents (US) per KWH – anywhere from 3 to 5 times more expensive than Chinese industrial power.

        The major problem with that is that when the price of oil goes up it makes their energy-intensive exports prices uncompetitive on the world market – and that’s a healthy portion of their economy, especially the chemical industry.

        Also, they make a lot of their cash from shipping and port-related activities, but the demand for those activities is also inversely proportional to the price of oil – and so the BDI is already bumping along its lowest point ever.

        Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big Singapore fan and I wish they well, and I think they’re doing almost as good a job in governing as it is possible to do, but we’ve all got our strategic dilemmas and vulnerabilities, and this is certainly one of theirs.

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