01 July 2007

Unintended consequences

Singapore is obsessive about planning, but sometimes, the planning is faulty or things just don't go according to plan. For better or worse, it adds a bit of chaos to this city. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

Another example of mindless planning is the new clementi bus interchange. Now, buses have to go through several short traffic lights before reaching the bus depot. It is also no longer convenient to walk to the mrt station. In place of the old bus interchange is a massive 40 storey shopping/entertainment/housing complex. Because we all need yet another mindless shopping centre selling the same old things found at all other shopping centres.

boboshooter said...

Talking about "unintended consequences", sometimes the consequences of over planning and micro management can be dire.

Looking at our population - We are one of the fastest ageing populations in the world outside of Japan. This can be directly attributed to a series of "population policies" over the short life of our nation.

First was a draconian one which reined in the population explosion post independence (i.e "two is enough").

Then, enboldened by their godlike powers which drove to our birthrates going below replacement levels (since 1976), they decided once again to try and play god to reverse the situation.

Not only did they want Singaporeans to have more kids, they also wanted to select WHO should have more kids. So they tried to get the smart ones to breed with smart ones (i.e. the formation of SDU) and the rich (hence successful) ones to have more children ("have 3 or more if u can afford it"). The poor and others deemed "losers", on the other hand, were counselled into sterilization.

The consequence of that was while the poor "losers" were discouraged from making up the numbers, the rich were too busy getting richer (lifestyle changes) to make up the numbers as well.

Today we face many long-term serious problems which are the "unintended consequences" of somebody's failed attempt to play god. And here are familiar "bitter pills" that Singaporeans are being made to swallow every day as a result of ageing population related problems:

1. foreign talents - ostensibly to bring in people who can add value to Singapore, but in fact are here just to make up the numbers due to the shortfall (esp. in our "more Land", "more Labour" and "more Capital" economic growth model). And because we're opening to floodgates so wide, FTs have another "unintended consequence" of displacing local, less-educated people out of jobs.

2. GST - ostensibly to make our economy "more competitive". That is just another way of saying that there are not enough young, working people paying income taxes and another revenue source is required (otherwise they have to raise income tax which will drive companies and talented people away from here). But for a retiree who had paid high income taxes in the past and has no income now, the GST also has an "unintended consequence" of being a double tax - it taxes him when he gradually spends his savings (these savings are after-tax, from income earned in the past). It also taxes his supposedly tax-free CPF, such that today he has on average, 7% less to spend than before, and inevitably more to come soon.

3. Retiring later and withholding CPF till older - The official argument here is that people are living until older so they have to save more. The not-so-funny thing is that the people most affected (who are in their late 40s to 50s today) are the very people who were so successfully indoctrinated into have less children some 30 odd years ago...

What should we call these problems? "Unintended consequences" of yesteryear's extraordinary governance?

Anonymous said...

In their eagerness to solve the problem of enforcing rules that forbid cyclists on pedestrian walkways, the brainy morons have come up with the idea of allowing these cyclists to share the same space as toddlers and old folks enjoying a walk in the park. Perhaps there already have been serious accidents in the past but one fine day, we all stand the risk of being run down by these foot pedal daredevils. This is another instance of "unintended consequences" or perhaps they know the consequences but are going ahead with it anyway for reasons best known to themselves.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree about the Clementi interchange. It is a traffic nightmare for the buses, especially when it rains it takes a long time for buses to get in and out of the depot. The yellow box junction in front of the depot entrance is pretty useless as either drivers don't observe it (what else is new in SG huh) or it get easily clogged just with ONE BUS.

I remember during the construction phase that I was already wondering how the traffic flow would work. Either they didn't think about it, or they didn't care about the problem. And it doesn't reflect well on TPTB either way: either stupid or inconsiderate.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

I think the new Clementi Bus Interchange is a temporary one. When the building is completed (where the old bus depot once stood), I believe the busses will be moving back there.

I vaguely remember reading that somewhere but I could be wrong.

However, I also vaguely remember that the new building will be a 40-storey behemoth, and if we look at other shopping centres/office towers elsewhere, such a building will generate queues of cars and taxis wanting to get in/out.

How the busses will manage to negotiate with all that remains to be seen.

Robert L said...

Dear YB

About the drain covers. I'll make an educated guess that it's part of a larger scheme in the nation-wide collection of Newater.

The fact that Alex does not know about this, and Alex is a person I very much respects, so it makes me form a conclusion that the vast majority of the population does not know about it.

What really, really intrigues me is: why would the govt make it such a big secret? I would have thought the govt would make a huge publicity feature of it with the aim that the whole population would cooperate and make the collection of water from those drains much more cleaner and abundant?

Or does the govt hold the view that some parts of the population is so angry and fed up that they might sabotage the collection of said water?

That is, if my guess is correct in the first place.