(UK community) Why Singapore model won’t work for post-Brexit


EXCERPT: The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, on a visit to Singapore to learn how such a relatively isolated city state has become so successful is only the latest, but most explicit, of a long line of Tory ministers to extol it as the model for the UK post-Brexit.

Quite how Singapore, an authoritarian state capitalist economy akin to China, has become the pre-eminent Tory model for the UK post-Brexit, as opposed other more democratic economies, is puzzling.

Margaret Thatcher was a great admirer of the former British colony, but more recently others who have been intrigued by Singapore’s success [...] Hunt, quickly refashioning his modernising politics to suit an imminent date with a Tory party electorate, is a more surprising advocate for Singapore. [...Hunt hails....] its remarkable transformation from a tiny territory devoid of natural resources into the world’s eighth-richest country, adding it was “a reminder of the tidal shifts that can exist within the ebb and flow of the changing world order”.

In taking this course, Hunt is taking a political risk both for himself and for Brexit. [...] associating Brexit at such a sensitive time with an economic and democratic model that may be anathema to wavering Brexit voters. Brexit critics often claim the Tory party vision is for a deregulated Singapore-on-Thames, and here is a senior cabinet minister only weeks before the key Brexit vote travelling 6,700 miles to confirm this to be the case.

For EU negotiators, anxious that a bargain-basement Britain does not have privileged access to its single market, the warning could not be clearer.

[...] Singapore ... modernised and developed economically, yet its authoritarian rule went unchallenged. As Milton Friedman, the great free-market economist observed in the 1990s, as much of the world succumbed to democratic rule, Singapore demonstrated that “it is possible to combine a free private market economic system with a dictatorial political system”.

[...Singapore's...] wages have been kept low through the use of state-sponsored trade unions and the widespread use of cheap migrant labour, something that Brexit is designed to halt. Income inequality has also widened, even if on most measures it is wider in the US.

[...] Asked on BBC Radio 4 how Singapore fitted into his “invisible chain of democracies” Hunt simply changed the subject. In a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, he resorted to euphemism: “The British legacy of the rule of law, clean administration, independent courts and the English language have all been part of Singapore’s success.”

It is also not clear if Singapore’s transformation into an export-orientated manufacturing base for international capital is relevant to the modern UK. Singapore grew at a time when globalisation allowed multinational corporations to take advantage of different labour and production costs in manufacturing. There is little chance, for instance, of the UK becoming a major exporter of electronic goods based on low wages....

MORE (details): https://www.theguardian.com/politics/201...ost-brexit

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