Previously, I was tasked to wrote about the most urgent policy challenge facing the world today, as well as analysis of an article which can offer a solution.
In my opinion, the most urgent policy challenge facing the world today is addressing the sense of displacement and injustice experienced by its people due to globalization and technology disruption.
It arises from the neglect of human and sociological factors which influence economic growth. Mass migration of people, such as refugees, expatriates, and migrant workers, is causing unease among people of the host countries.
The indigenous people experience worries, fears, and indignation that their privilege of being the majority will be eroded, grapple with the loss of their national identity and woes from a stiffer job competition.
On the other spectrum, the migrants and minorities feel discriminated and unjust when their talents and performance are overlooked due to their supposed differences.
The article ‘Man and Economic Development’ by Dr Goh Keng Swee may offer a solution to this policy challenge. In this article, Dr Goh succinctly stated that the purpose of economic development is to make man better off materially and to achieve a fuller live.
He noted that inadequate attention was paid in the human motivation to carry out the economic expansion.
There is a sizeable majority around the world who are rejecting the economics benefits of international trade agreements and globalization, in attempt to mitigate the perceived social costs and upheavals.
This is evident by results of the Brexit, political demonstrations and unexpected political outcomes in elections around the world where rejection of immigrants and nationalistic sentiments are so popular.
Dr Goh raised several factors which the government should adopt to achieve the changes in society that were necessary facilitate economic development.
Firstly, the spread of general education sets the foundation of literacy and social discipline among the population.
Secondly, through vocation schools and tertiary education institutions, the government must provide its citizens with the same opportunities to make the best of their talents.
Third, ensuring that the public service is well administrated and corruption free and ably lead by political leadership.
Fourth, the society is receptive of changes, social mobility and practices meritocracy where those with talent, ability and skills can rise to the position for which they are best fitted.
Lastly, the production and expansion of entrepreneurs.
These proposed solutions underline the importance of the Government as a social leveller. Egalitarianism policies are quintessential for the society to progress in tandem with economic development.
One of the caveats of the article is its relevance in today’s context. It was published in 1961, and the urgent challenges Singapore Government faced was to lift its citizens from abject poverty, following a post-war and independence from Malaysia.
Today, the world faces the issue of societies which are fragmented by the income inequalities, privilege gap, the racial faults, and conflicting aspirations and value systems among groups.
While insightful, the purported solutions raised by the article are not backed by empirical evidences and further reading is necessary to chart the progress of Singapore.
The usefulness of this article may be limited to sparking an intellectual discussion among the Governments to relook at the fundamentals of their policies, determine whether they still serve its intended purpose, and make necessary changes moving forward.