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General Election results and the stock market.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I have kept politics out of my blog. It is an investment and personal finance blog. However, some have asked me what I think the General Election results would mean for Singapore and for the stock market.  Well, I guess we could talk about this while having "tea".

The PAP had the slimmest of margins since 1963, capturing 60.1% of valid votes, but they did manage to retain 81 out of the 87 seats in Parliament. The loss of the Aljunied GRC helmed by BG George Yeo who was our Minister for Foreign Affairs is perhaps the biggest setback for the PAP. However, politics aside, to me at least, losing Aljunied GRC would not derail Singapore's economy. Nor would it affect the local stock market adversely.

There is no doubt in my mind that Singapore's economic miracle since independence is the result of the astute leadership by the PAP and their founding members like Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Goh Keng Swee. Over the decades, the economy strengthened, the country prospered and the people's lives improved under the leadership of Mr. Goh Chok Tong and Mr. Lee Hsien Loong in their terms as Prime Ministers. Things have definitely changed for the better over the decades but, in the last couple of years, a mood of discontent became more evident.

This General Election was a very emotional one and the electorate have sent a strong signal to the PAP that not everything is well.  When did things start to change? If the election had taken place right after the recovery from the global financial crisis in 2009, I am willing to hazard a guess that the PAP would have done better, being responsible for myriad ideas like the Job Credits which helped to keep hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans employed during the depths of the crisis. Human beings have a short memory and a focus on the immediate is quite normal.

So, has the PAP fallen short? I would say that their position weakened as they did not keep up with the changes on the ground. In so many aspects of life, change is the only constant. Ignore change and we become irrelevant. It is either we change together and stay relevant or we get left behind. I certainly hope that the PAP learn from this experience and emerge a stronger and more sensitive government.

We are investors and, naturally, we are concerned about the economy and continuing prosperity of the country. We have vested interests. The PAP has been good for the economy of Singapore. Will the investment community lose confidence in the Singapore economy because the PAP has lost a GRC? I do not think so.

The PAP's leadership over the decades transformed Singapore into a small economic powerhouse but Singapore's domestic economy remains very small (yes, even with five million people living and working here) and we are more affected by externalities. Our economy remains very open and vulnerable to externalities. If the stock market should suffer a decline, more likely than not, it would be because of some global shifts in liquidity or fundamentals. Soon, GE 2011 would just be a memory and I would not dwell on or read too much into the results.


financialray said...

After this election, Singaporeans must start to worry that with our population probably at its max, we are having few talents willing to be ministers. The solution is not to increase ministers' pay and their pensions. The solution is to give more incentives to encourage families to have children. Its a win-win by making life conducive for families with children and with a bigger local population, talents will be born and bred here. Perhaps start by extending child care leave to parents with children below 10-12 years old.Don't rely too much on immigrants. They may not sink their roots here and they maybe gone the next moment economy takes a dive.

AK71 said...

Hi financialray,

I believe that if we want the best, we have to pay the best. Plain and simple. The trick is in making sure that those who are paid the best are deserving.

Trying to increase Singapore's population by encouraging locals to have more children, I believe, is an uphill task. In some advanced economies, there are many family friendly laws in place and even then, they are hardly replacing their own population. Why? The taxes are typically very high in such countries. Too many family friendly laws in place and we could drive away investors as well because the cost of doing business goes up.

Should we be overly reliant on immigrants? Well, that's how Singapore started. A vast majority of our ancestors were immigrants. Mr. Chen Show Mao was an immigrant and decided to come back to Singapore after 30 years of being abroad to serve our country. So, being overly reliant on immigrants in these contexts does not seem like a bad thing. ;)

financialray said...

Hi Ak,
If you depend on immigrants,there will be many problems.
For one, Singaporeans will not be able to accept even MPs who parachute in without doing NS.
Can you imagine them accepting a minister or even a Prime Minister who is not local bred and born?
That will trigger a freak result and spell the doom of Singapore.

AK71 said...

Hi financialray,

I do not think that whether someone has served NS or not is a determining factor in whether he would be any good at running a country although it is a very emotional topic for many. This line of thought is also somewhat sexist. What if the person were a female? ;)

I, for one, have no problem with accepting a naturalised citizen of Singapore as an MP and do not see how it could spell doom for the country if one became Prime Minister.

Like I have said, Mr. Chen Show Mao was an immigrant too but he chose to do NS when he was not yet a citizen. However, he was away for 30 years before deciding to return to run for office. Would someone who had been living and working in Singapore in the preceding 30 years be a better choice as MP even if he did not serve NS since it could be argued that he would have a stronger feeling of belonging? ;)

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