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No Get Out of Jail Free Cards for LHL This Time Round

Coming right after the awful GDP figures for the second quarter (see Hey Lee Hsien Loong Dude, What’s the Plan?), the trade figures announced by Enterprise Singapore on 17 July were equally, if not more, shocking. Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) fell by 17.3% year-on-year in June, an acceleration from the 16.3% decline in May. Exports to all markets except the US fell, led by China, Hong Kong and the EU28. While electronics exports fell the most, non-electronics exports also declined at a double-digit rate.

NODX are one of the main components of GDP since re-exports, which is much bigger category, should contribute little beyond service and handling fees. This is almost the same as the nearly 20% decline in domestic exports in 2009 during the Great Recession of 2008 but is far more alarming. Whereas in 2009 all the major world economies went into recession (with the exception of China whose growth figures are highly suspect anyway), in 2019 the US economy was still growing at the best rate in years (3.2% in the first quarter of 2019) following the stimulus of Trump’s corporate tax cut. While EU growth was much lower it was still positive. Given the unreliability of Chinese statistics, it may already be in recession despite recording a 6% growth rate in the last quarter.

For the last forty years Singapore has benefited from the huge expansion in world trade and its rapid GDP growth, largely driven by more inputs of labour rather than by productivity, has legitimised PAP rule allowing Ministers to pay themselves huge salaries and help their wives and children to spectacularly well paid positions in state-owned companies and the civil service. Leading by example are the family with the biggest sense of entitlement, Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, who are so contemptuous of Singaporeans that they do not think it is necessary to tell us ordinary mortals what they are paying themselves out of state funds nor what assets they have accumulated over two generations of absolute dynastic power.

If global growth is now decoupling from world trade will this spell the end of PAP rule? It is certainly the end of the road for the simple PAP economic model. No doubt PM Lee and his wife and cronies will spin the Great Decoupling as a tale of global trade wars over which they have no control while continuing to justify their entitlement to enormous and secret remuneration on the basis of being the only people who can steer the Singapore speedboat in choppy waters. Will Singaporeans buy these falsehoods? On past form it is very likely they will even though the best way to improve their financial health is to change this Government. Start by voting me into Parliament so I can find out what is really going on.

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