Fixing Singapore’s meritocracy for the good or bad?

Kenneth Paul Tan wrote an article titled ‘How Singapore is fixing its meritocracy’ in the Today paper on 22 April. He described the history of how meritocracy first started in Singapore when education was the first leveler, where everyone of merit could get a scholarship and rose through the ranks and became a mandarin in the civil service.  He then went on to describe how this innocent brand of meritocracy got corrupted and drawing cynicism when meritocracy transformed into elitism and cronyism of the elite. Here I quote him, ‘Today, the Singaporean idea of meritocracy is criticized for entrenching structural limits on mobility, for its overly narrow idea of merit and success, and for an increasingly self regarding elite that seems too interested in staying in power and that citizens perceive as arrogant and unresponsive to their needs.’

The powerful political elite took notice of the growing discontent and have put in some measures to redistribute the wealth by straying into a taboo area called welfarism, a slightly leftist leaning policy that was once frown upon.  What is strange is this comment about anti welfarism. ‘To discourage free riding and maintain business competitiveness, the Government developed a strong anti welfare state rhetoric. It started to pay its top officials and political leaders some of the highest salaries in the world…’  Now what is he saying? To me isn’t this welfarism at the highest level, welfarism for the elite? It is a matter of perception of course.

What many knew but refused to talk about in the fixing of meritocracy is the entrenchment of wealth and power of the elite through the abolition of estate duty. Now the elite could own as many properties as they want, in the tune of hundreds of millions or billions to be willed to their natural aristocratic scions.  The act of self preservation and protecting their wealth for generations to come, a practice that eventually led to the revolution in Europe, Russia and China and the rise of Communism, is now fixed into the Singapore version of meritocracy. A meritocratic family could now be meritocratic for generations to come with their wealth preserved and protected forever and ever, to live happily ever after, unless a bloody communist revolution cut them down to ground zero.

This piece of fixing appears to be well received by the landed gentry and elite, all owners of large properties and land and have nothing to complain about.  They would not complain about its negative repercussion to the social cost of the people. When the rich know that they could go on buying up all the land and landed properties for safe keeping and to perpetuate their wealth to eternity, it simply leads to the hoarding of properties and the rise of property prices.

The poor and not so rich would never ever to be able to catch up with the runaway prices of landed properties hoarded by the landed elite. The elite know the rules of the games and how to protect themselves and their wealth. Landed properties are now worth several tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and would soon be the most expensive real estate on earth.

Social mobility and meritocracy appear to be thriving. But how many of the nouveau riche could make that kind of money in a life time to afford landed properties in the future, now in the hands of the rich elite, entrenched and enshrined as their inheritance for generations and generations to come? Even the civil servants and politicians of the future would have a hard time paying for such out of reach landed properties with their million dollar salaries.

But not to worry, the politicians of the future will know what to do if they want to lay their hands onto these prized and exorbitant pieces of landed properties. They could simply reintroduce estate duties all over again to level the playing field. In a democracy, this is the easiest part. Even dynasties could not hold on to their fortune forever.  The landed gentry class of medieval era were wiped out when the extremism of inequalities reached a point of no return. The unproductive land and property owners would not have their cake and eat it. Les miserables would rise to overthrow a decadent system of wealth preservation at their expense.


Anonymous said...

"The poor and not so rich would never ever to be able to catch up with the runaway prices of landed properties hoarded by the landed elite."

But why would the poor and not so rich want to buy landed properties in Sinkieland?

If they really want to, they can still buy landed properties in Matland for the price of a 3 rm HDB pigeon hole in Sinkieland what.

RB, would you want to buy a landed property here if you are not so rich?

Anonymous said...

Why buy in Matland when everything is so uncertain, security is so unsecured?

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

Meritocracy is UNFAIR in a sense that the rewards accrue "unequally". Meritocracy is fair in a sense that the rewards accrue to those who have earned them.

There is no reason to fix Singapore's meritocracy. The property prices should come down to less insane levels in the next economic "correction". However, property in Singapore will be expensive compared to everywhere else because land is seriously SCARCE in Singapore...which makes it IMO more precious than GOLD. (until the people fuck up their cuntry and everything goes to shit)

Meritocracy will always have its detractors. It's just "noise" from the chattering classes, no big deal. Usually form people who are too fucked or lazy to give life "their best shot". This is a common trait of human nature.

The fact is, some people WIN and others DON'T. However humanity resides in a very large tent---as long as you DON'T GIVE UP and keep going, chances are you will "make it".

The best predictors of "success" are a person's self-control and their capacity for TRUE GRIT.

"Meritocracy" essentially is a "contest" where the people with the aforementioned traits play the LONG game.

Anonymous said...

please remember, you are just passing by this planet earth......

why care about how many figures you have in yr banks/investments........

life is really very very very uncertain.......

you may be here today.....tmr up lorry.........

a normal/simple living is the way going forward.......

be happy be happy don't worry don't worry........

简单才是福! 知足常乐!


Anonymous said...

The wages of Sin is death

Anonymous said...

Rb, actually the Super rich does not need the abolishment of estate duty to preserve their wealth. They hue access to very sophisticated estate planning techniques offered by the best tax and legal planning minds. It's only the middle class that normally have to pay estate duties. I remembered my relative who passed away, less than million dollar assets but have to pay estate duty then.

The abolishment of estate duty is good for the middle class as they can never afford the expensive services of estate planning.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Singapore's meritocracy is based upon exam results .... so that you become a scholar and get fast tracked into a million dollar PAP government career?

If yes, then do you think exam success depends upon hiring good but expensive private tutors for your children?

If yes, then do you think hiring good but expensive private tutors will cost a lot of money?

If yes, then do you think it is fair to say that in order to succeed in PAP's meritocracy; you have to be rich?

If yes, then do you think Singapore's society is a government by the wealthy?

If yes, then what is the definition of a government by the wealthy?
ANSWER - "Plutocracy"


Simple Definition of plutocracy
: government by the richest people
: a country that is ruled by the richest people
: a group of very rich people who have a lot of power



Anonymous said...

The abolishment of estate duty is good for the middle class as they can never afford the expensive services of estate planning.
April 25, 2016 10:06 am

Really ah?
Then can I propose we reinstate the estate duty and backdate the implementation date to 15 Feb 2008.


Anonymous said...

Rb //The landed gentry class of medieval era were wiped out when the extremism of inequalities reached a point of no return. //

Sinkieland is otw there?


The ( formal ) education system has more or less degenerated to the point only kids with parents who have the means got ( much ) better chance to make it through with flying ( or at least respectable ) colours?

Anonymous said...

I always think that you have to be an idiot to be a preacher because when you seriously think about what comes out of their mouth, you will start to wonder who the motherfucker who gives birth to them...that's meritocracy

Anonymous said...

meritocracy - Definition
Governance by elites who deserve to wield power because they possess merit (defined as 'intelligence plus effort') instead of by those who merely possess wealth or belong to privileged classes.

Such a system, in theory, forms the basis of an 'equal opportunity' society.
But, in practice, unrestricted meritocracy may result in a society without rules and concentrate power in only a few hands.
The term was coined by the UK sociologist Michael Young in 1958 book, 'The Rise Of Meritocracy.'

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/meritocracy.html#ixzz46nhLdMae

Anonymous said...

Going forward, ( social ) mobility would highly likely be diminishing?

With it ( social ) stratification would highly likely worsen and sharpen the divide between the masses and the elite?

Social cracks would highly likely degenerate into "social craters" maciam hit by asteroids?

Anonymous said...

The abolition of estate duties helped the middle class as well. They can save a few thousand dollars in taxes while the super rich saved in the millions.

A more equitable system would be for everyone to have one property tax free plus some cash, at the moment it is $600k. Some may want to limit the property value to $50m to prevent over accumulation of tax free properties, to release more properties into the market and lower property prices.

Estate duty should be reintroduced for the second property onwards. It should not be unlimited in the number of properties one owns.

Under the present system, some could be owning a few hundred million dollar worth of properties and free from estate duties.

Anonymous said...

10.13 anon, don't be an idiot lar

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Whether one believes in God or otherwise, the natural order of things is that everything, systems and designs will self destruct. Human nature, by its selfishness and greed will want to design a system for self protection and indulgence, to last forever. The very act of doing such a thing is to plant the seed of self destruct and to start a new cycle.

This cycle of build, protect, grow, decadence and destruction will go in cycles and the cycle today is shorter than before.

Anonymous said...

If you keep authoring books about meritocracy in Singapore;
does that automatically make Singapore a meritocracy?


And we are not even counting the innumerable books on Lee Kuan Yew-Singapore by Alex Josey

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" is a quotation from the 1599/ 1600 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to describe someone's too frequent and vehement attempts to convince others of some matter of which the opposite is true, thereby making themselves appear defensive, and insincere.

In rhetorical terms, the phrase can be thought of as indicating an unintentional apophasis—where the speaker who "protests too much" in favor of some assertion puts into others' minds the idea that the assertion is false, something that they may not have considered before.


Anonymous said...

Every system starts with good intention. But finally human nature will take over, all will end in some kind of dictatorship or kinship, where the power elite would be self serving and wanting everything for themselves.

Then the revolt and the breakdown.

Anonymous said...

Estate duty is interesting because you have to pay tax.
Meaning the dead have to reveal their sources of wealth on which the tax will be applied.

Do you think estate duty will be re-introduced in the future ... after an appropriate period of time has elapsed?

Do you think estate duty will ever be back-dated to 15 Feb 2008?

Anonymous said...

If the garment is from a group of very rich people who own many many properties, do you think they would want to change the laws to tax themselves after changing the laws not to tax themselves?

Anonymous said...

Is this what they called ownself check ownself or ownself don't check ownself?

Veritas said...

Estate duty will never be in Singapore for medium period of time. The reason is capital today is mobile. You implement anti capital regime, capital will move away. PAP knew this.

The FT rich wont park their wealth here because of estate duty. The local rich will move their wealth to caymen islands, bermuda...etc

Anonymous said...

Who rules or governs over Singapore?
ANSWER: The government of Singapore.

Who is the government of Singapore?
ANSWER: The PAP Cabinet Ministers

The PAP Cabinet Ministers ... are they all Millionaires?
If YES, then is Singapore governed by Millionaires or the so called wealthy people?

Simple Definition of plutocracy
: government by the richest people
: a country that is ruled by the richest people
: a group of very rich people who have a lot of power



Anonymous said...

The estate duty in an anomaly to benefit some super rich citizens only, not the super rich of the world.

Every country got estate duty except Spore. So if Spore can price its property taxes competitively, the super rich would still be parking their wealth here.

Singapore need not be as tax free as the Bahamas or Virgin Islands.

Singapore's advantage is security, predictability, rule of law, and political stability. But some clowns are selling these advantages cheap, like prostitutes who did not know the value of their cunts.

Anonymous said...

Estate duty may be an anomaly but the ( intentional or unwitting ) "hijacking of the education system" to favour those whose parents have the means, or disadvantage those from humble background may well be the main determinant of the entrenchment and exclusivity of the elites and rich hold to wealth and power?

Estate duty is a good headline news but the "damage" is likely done via daily innocuous processes such as the education system which traditionally is the ( main ) route to social mobility but now significantly narrowed and restricted?

The original objectives of current interventions in the education system are no longer "within reach", leading to a "skewed" outcome that does not utilise its resources well and potentially breeding future societal turbulences?

Veritas said...

Education is another area where elites fake meritocracy. Before they implement English medium instruction drastically without giving any buffer to vernacular speaker.

My first fucking day in Pri one when maths were taught me in English and mofos form teacher talk English. Me a hokkien speaker were treat like a gangster. And speaker hokkien in class was liable for punishments.

I see banana sons excel in class like nobody, and my buddies keep failing and failing.

Anonymous said...

Singapore's advantage is security, predictability, rule of law, and political stability. But some clowns are selling these advantages cheap, like prostitutes who did not know the value of their cunts.
April 25, 2016 11:38 am

Many expats (including PRC expats) want to manage their China supply chain operations from Singapore.
- Clean air and international schools versus China and Hong Kong

But stupid PAP Ministers don't know how to negotiate.
Only know how to bully Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

Rb //The unproductive land and property owners would not have their cake and eat it. //

Are u dreaming?

When wealth and power share the same bed and make love ( from dust to dawn ), what get fixed?

Meritocracy or the masses?

Anonymous said...

Oops ..... spelling typo ....

Should be "( from dusk to dawn )"

Anonymous said...

Rb //Les miserables would rise to overthrow a decadent system of wealth preservation at their expense.//

Uncle RB, it is often a matter of who is smarter and playing a superior game?

Actually, in a way if society views the interaction of the masses ( let it be player 1 ) and the garment ( let it be player 2 ) as between a duopoly strategic repeated games, it could be strategised to obtain a subgame perfect Nash equilibrium outcome for the masses?

Uncle RB, u being a honours degree political science graduate, worked as a strategic airforce officer, and often with great insights on strategic behaviours and interdependence especially your articles on China vis a vis the rest, why not u write an article on Game Theory on the aspect of subgame perfect Nash equilibrium where the garment cannot ride roughshod over sinkies given certain credible counter moves sinkies can make which the garment cannot brush off as they will be worst off if sinkies carry out the counter moves ( such as showing the middle fingers and pack their bags for greener pastures ) and thus the garment not emboldened to suka suka imposed on sinkies such as flooding indiscriminately with aliens influx to the point sinkies cannot tahan or literally hardly any breathing space?

Virgo 49 said...

Hello Anon 9.30

Have you ever live in Matland before??

Don't just hear here say and come to conclusion that Sinkieland is safer than Matland.

If Matland is unsafe, you do not have thousands over weekends and millions over public holidays flocking to Matland. Bearing three or four hours jams as caused by the incompetent Immigration and Checkpoint Susahhati.

Metrocrity only reserved for the elites and the Minsters, MPs and the senior civil servants children.

All sorts of scholarships given to them.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Anon 4:03.

Historically, the masses would not rise until they got trampled until cannot tahan. Not going to happen to Sin for a long while to come. Unless something drastic happens that is beyond our wildest dream.

Game Theory leaves it to the academics that are paid to write such stuff. This is a blog and I just shoot whatever that comes up in my head.

The big power rivalry is more complex than what we are seeing and so many levels of players involved. Not an easy task. Needs a lot of technical info.

Veritas said...

For our good life, we should thank Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro. The rich give socialism not out of charity but out of fear. Initially during Great Depression, President Hoover say government should not intervene while people are starving till death.

USA capitalism is collapsing and communist taking over is not unimaginable until one rich dandy Roosevelt came to power and implemented New Deal. But then New Deal is not automatically socialist if monies were given to banks like what is done today. The monies then were given to the poor.

The European implemented socialism to appease her citizen.

in Asia, Korean and Taiwan implemenemted land reform that save them from communism.

However, Vietnam elites manage to resist land reform.

And in the end Ho Chi Minh took over.

Veritas said...

We also learn from USA media about how ruthless is Vietcong. But the other side of story is 99% of Vietnamese supported Viet Cong. The same thing could have happen in S Korea but S Korean President Synman Rhee land reform basically starve the communist off the oxygen.

In Vietnam 1% of landlord own 90% of land.

That is the reason why Ho Chi Minh won, but you wont learn that.

And today, you go to Takahimaya, Orchard, Shenton and ask who owns these buildings? It must be someone while they have successfully conceal their identity.

Anonymous said...

Noted Uncle RB.

Thank you for your reply.

Obviously not referring to anything remotely confrontational but more of signalling to any "autocratic dictatorial totalitarian authoritative tyranny" that it doesn't serve their purpose for certain course of actions and not assuming the subjects are daft and can be "mauled down and run over blatantly" at will ....?

Thus an equilibrium or some equilibria achieved for a win-win situation and better social outcome than letting things deteriorate to a point of no return like many if not all medieval and feudal societies in the past?

Understand your point of view in terms of the nature of MSN.

Nonetheless, would believe that Game Theory, when applied in sinkies and sinkieland context vis a vis the garment and expounded "transparently" should provide better clarity and a win-win outcome for all?


Anonymous said...

People in power, tasted power, abused power, are very difficult to dislodge from power, unless forced out of power, like Marcos.

Anonymous said...

Hi Redbean, are you in landed property of in a HDB?

Anonymous said...

Rb // Here I quote him, ‘Today, the Singaporean idea of meritocracy is criticized for entrenching structural limits on mobility, for its overly narrow idea of merit and success, and for an increasingly self regarding elite that seems too interested in staying in power and that citizens perceive as arrogant and unresponsive to their needs.’ //

Probably bcos many ( talented yet helpless ) sinkies felt that they can do without "a lot of nonsense" and do not mind trading off being 2nd class citizens for "freedom from shackles on the ankles, ropes around the necks and chains around their wrists", many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands uprooted in the past years?

Many sinkies may not be vocal but they know many ( aliens ) who came from 3rd world, 600++ unranked institutions or worst fake qualifications and resumes are not of the same league or discipline honed since cradle by an ultra-cut throat pressure cooker system.

Thus, as the system evolves as if sinkies are daft and the wealth and power centres getting shut almost tight for "non-insiders", sinkieland society as a whole gets "hollowed out" by brain drain of the best and brightest who felt "disenfranchised", disillusioned, disgusted, disheartened, disappointed, dismayed ........ with the system?

Game Theory, when well applied in sinkieland's case and well propounded should make it clear what's at stake and ultimately who is the "loser"?

The diving NODX in the past year or two is no coincidence?

The few hundred thousands best, brightest, well-trained sinkies who uprooted over the years are now on the other side, "competing" with the paper tigers ...... oops paper generals and jiak liao bee .....?

On first look, it appears the garment is smart to get in "ready and instant trees" cheaply and thus "profitable" for sinkieland?

But when the best and brightest packed up and left, it is maciam an owner exchanged his huge collection of expensive high-grade high-quality arowanas for some 3rd world guppies and tilapias?

Game Theory when well presented and applied to sinkieland's case should let the jiak liao bee wake up that they are the ultimate fools for trading expensive high-grade high-quality arowanas in exchange for almost "worthless" longkang guppies and tilapias?

And now the jiak liao bee 3rd world longkang tilapias and guppies are fighting a losing game in the international market against the arowanas now owned by the other side, as "witnessed in the unstoppable dive in NODX" almost month after month despite world trade growing in the past few years?

Anonymous said...

NODX has been diving for 2 years. This result is the best answer to Singapore s so called meritocracy system. It is a bluff used by some old men to turn down capable candidates whose abilities might surpass the old men s targeted candidates, the people should know who and who are those.

NODX cannot reverse in position. Reason: the things Singapore export are not useful for the money importers have to pay for. Importers have other exporters to buy from. For example, sg export electronic parts are replaced by philippines factories output. Alert readers will question why sg compete with philippines. That is the smart question. That is the result of hiring the selected based on meritocracy set by the old men.
With the selected ones, NOL was losing money and sold. Mrt continue to breakdowns and the accident killing 2 staff reflected the capability of the top selected by meritocracy. Does the same type of accident happen in Japan rail? HK rail?

When I hear meritocracy, i have things in stomach to throw out. I told myself, when can citizens grow up? When can citizens see beyond hiring indians from lousy education standard and use these people to produce products to compete with factories in China, Korea and Taiwanese?

Think about this question: Is there a business man comparable to the "Kwo tong" the ceo of "Hong Hai" that bought Japanese Sharp? Meritocracy cannot replace real working exposure.
Its the exposure to work that counts most. People expose their life in army camps cannot understand what is going on in electronic factories. They will make wrong decision. What PRICE is for meritocracy that citizens will to pay for? The whole future of Singapore industries are gone with this ruling.
Even SIA is not the top airline, the selected only running SIA because SIA has been run that way. NO new stuff, new innovation in services.
Singapore should abundant familee sytle of selection in executives, to hope for turning it around. Nodx is a big price to pay for and will continue to lose to Koreans, taiwanese, and china chinese. When someone tell u meritocracy from the political arena, u can guess, there is a motive to exclude some the speaker dislike, only familee men are fit into meritocracy and the public pay the price. Citizens "maitan", pay the price for the bluff to continue.

Anonymous said...

Swedes Revolt Over Refugees Near Schools: Demand "F##king Answers" From Stockholm City Council
An excellent 13 minute video showing how a real democracy works.


Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous April 25, 2016 7:00pm
//People expose their life in army camps cannot understand what is going on in electronic factories.//

Why not?

Has it NOT been a way of life in sinkieland in the past 30 years?

Look at the numbers of 1-star, 2-star, 3-star in the garment?

If not parachuted from army camps, naval base, airbase, then why did they come from?

So far ok what?

Who not agree, pls kee chiu?

90+ yo grandmothers can exercise collect card board under hot sun sometimes 36+ degrees Celsius or at times quite romantic under thunder storm, minister also say very good what, free exercise and earn money at the same time ...... aka new scheme by TCJ called silver-hair-exercise-as-u-earn scheme .......

NODX only dropped for 2 years what wiped off $200 billion in total merchandise trade value sup sup water lah?

What else bothered u?

Did u say "NOL"?

Aiya, like that u call the 3-star puah kay kia or 丧权辱国败家子?

People just experimenting his army war games in shipping industry nia?


Can give him another "clown jewel" to try out his war games?

This time sure ok de?

As for your accusations about some paper generals being extremely incompetence running the MRT system, have you not heard you "pay peanuts get moneys"?

So need pay more lah?

Demand and Supply?

3-star very rare, hard to come by?

3-star in sinkieland can count in 1 hand?

Dun be so ungrateful?

You very lucky he never quit and go work for HK rail or Nippon Rail?

People all queuing up to snarl him for his rare talents and his big-fart 3-star accolade?

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion. May the government appoint RB as the commissioner of labour to investigate all the degrees of the foreigners engaged here to flush out all the fakes and return the real Singaporean PMETs to take charge.

This would absolve the government from the crime of replacing our good Singaporeans with fakes and would eventually save Singapore from going further down hill.

Anonymous said...

Rb oso bopian lah.

Sin bokiew leow.

jinluan leh.

macham chaosng liewlian
cannot even make candy.

How ?

Anonymous said...

Ano 8:45pm
The phase u used described the whole period of 20 years: 丧权辱国败家子. I think it is 貪权. Someone can thick face till last breath still collecting money from coffer to keep power of related parties. For the high salaries that other wise, those people are unable to get from free market. The way u said "parachute" down is the precise means to achieve this high salaries aims.
The whole scheme relies on confidence and trust on some old fellows who did their jobs honestly with humble salaries. When the salaries are ballooned from $3000pm to $5-10 millions including cpf, bonus, and also pensions that people did not know, the figures paid to these people became attractive. Everyone around the someone called familee want a share on jobs they hardly know how to start. Its a kind of in circle assignments. If a person is not in circle, he desont fit into the "meritocracy" standard.
The whole scheme has gone for 20 over years, now the industries are going do die off. S$ is played too high ($1.2 to 1usd once) based on confidence built in the past. What sg has are pc parts sales in electronics, there is no hope for EU, China and indonesia market. Who use pc? This is singapore s electronic products, omg.
Phamar sales is up and down, that is not a place creating jobs.
Overall, sg is like a dead pool of water, with very high salaries on govt to support, thus high gst, coe, properties, that push away enterprising young people to start off. It will be very difficult to change when the tops end are so expensive and not good at bringing in business.
Got the point? No salesmen or women in sg to sell this locations for foreigners mnc to invest. Or there are far too many places foreigners mnc can go: china is one. Who need singapore if the ang mor can speak fluent mandarin?
Look at fb boss, pretend to take singapore citizenship to avoid tax but go to beijing and married a chinese woman. This is what the current western world, and usa investors can do. They dont need singaporeans. But those invested in singapore need cheap indians executives as rental is too high. And the things produced in singapore like pc parts becomes useless to EU or China market due to poor quality. Si liao lah.