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In a recently published Straits Times op-ed titled Meritocracy and how to manage its downsides, veteran journalist Chua Mui Hoong reopened the evergreen debate on meritocracy in Singapore (Chua’s well-written piece quickly provoked a thoughtful response from NUS Professor Ben Leong).

Why is meritocracy such a big deal in Singapore? Local discussions of meritocracy are rooted in a unique context due to the heavy credit and emphasis the PAP government has historically placed on “merit” for guiding its public policy. There is no shortage of quotes and policy examples to showcase this, but for non-Singaporean readers, I will supply just…


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Many carbon tax advocates — such as the Workers Party economist Jamus Lim — tend to hedge their support for the tax hike on a conditional rebate (see here). It stems from the recognition that making energy more expensive will create some negative consequences such as higher consumer prices, job loss etc, so there is a need to compensate the ones whom are hurt by the tax via rebates, tax reductions, etc. We can all at least agree on that.

The problem is that cash rebates to the poor don’t easily compensate the long-term costs of carbon taxes. Carbon taxes…


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The most recent spat in Singapore’s media sphere involves local environmentalists and NGOs pushing back against the government’s decision to clear a 33-hectare forest for residential housing. As I write this, a viral change.org petition appealing to the state to reverse its decision has garnered an impressive 37,802 signatories.

Students of Singapore’s environmental policy might find these circumstances familiar. In 1993, the very same environmentalist NGO Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) pushed back against the government’s plans to clear forestries in northern Singapore Senoko. That saga too, generated a petition that racked an impressive 25,000 signatories in a pre-Internet era.


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The best book I’ve read in 2020 is without a doubt Huang Yasheng’s 2008 “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics”. I credit Adam Martin for turning me on to it as an assigned paper in a Free Market Institute class that I had the privilege to attend in 2018 but never got around to reading the full book until my co-author Bryan Cheang reminded me of it recently. This is a book on the history of China’s post-communism economic growth. …


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An image of a Singapore Armed Forces outfield training

I find much of Singapore’s public policy praiseworthy. I’ve written a book about it. But one big exception are its conscription policies, which is perhaps its most draconian yet rarely talked about.

Jailing people for doing drugs is deplorable. But conscription is far worse. At least with drugs, there is some element of free choice involved. You knew the laws, yet you did it anyway. You should’ve known better. Conscription on the other hand, does not give avail you a choice. If activated for war, there is a very real risk of death or at best, permanent injury. …


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At a recent Singapore Tech Forum, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded LGBT individuals as “valued members of society”. PM Lee’s comments quickly drew the ire of the local LGBT community across social media (see Kyle Malinda-White’s commentary here) for an obvious reason: the Singapore government’s attitude towards gay and lesbian people has always been one of reluctance. At best, moderated acceptance. As reported in Bloomberg:

“These things shift, but we have to give them time,” Lee said during a question-and-answer session at the Singapore Tech Forum, where he used a keynote address to promote the country to the…


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Source

Local environmentalists have a tendency to go overboard in their accusations of the PAP government when it comes to the environment. The image being painted in the popular media of the government is that it has largely neglected environmental preservation at the expense of unbridled economic growth.

Yet, a cursory study of the history of Singapore’s environmental policy and you will find this narrative to be largely without basis. In truth, the government has long committed to environmental efforts since the city-state’s independence. And it has performed relatively well.

The general approach Singapore has taken can be summarised as such:


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Football hooligans

Broadly speaking, Singapore’s politics is dominated by two distinct groups of political hooligans.

The PAP IB hooligans

The first are the pro-PAP hooligans, or what is sometimes referred as the “PAP Internet Brigade” in derogatory fashion. These guys believe in an abstract form of Singaporean “exceptionalism”, where the bedrock of this belief is Singapore’s rapid ascendancy along the road to riches from developing to developed status.

They tend to revere Lee Kuan Yew to the point of being a demigod, and gloss over the PAP’s early authoritarian tendencies as “necessary” with very little knowledge of the countries that have descended into dictatorships in the…


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I’ve always been generally critical of the opposition parties, and a lot of my friends (and haters) tend to stereotype me as a diehard PAP voter.

In fact, and some of my older friends know this, I used to be a bit of a CSJ fanboy. I remember reading “A Nation Cheated” back in the day and thinking his books were like the Holy Grail. I even wrote articles defending him in his 2016 by-election.

My views have obviously changed drastically since then. If you ask me today, I would argue that his policy platform is terrible. …


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Singapore’s 2020 General Elections are in full swing. Brought to the forefront of the conversation again is the minimum wage policy that has been soundly rejected over the years by the PAP, while continuously being championed by parties on the opposition.

For instance, the minimum wage has been heavily pushed by the latest darling of the Internet, Dr. Jamus Lim, a newcomer in the Worker’s Party. His charismatic and down-to-earth manner has won much public support. He also boasts a stellar background in economics that his fans have been rapidly reproducing across social media.

Unfortunately, economists rarely remain economists when…

Donovan Choy

Classical liberal. I love the Wu-Tang Clan, Spaghetti Westerns and anything Aly & Fila.

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