SINGAPORE is second on Ernst & Young’s Globalisation Index 2012, behind Hong Kong and pushing Ireland back down to third.
In the previous two years, Hong Kong and Ireland had clinched the top two spots on the index, which ranks the world’s 60 largest economies according to their degree of globalisation relative to their GDP.
Singapore – which had topped the 2009 index – is, however, one of only two economies in the latest rankings to see a decline in its 2012 overall score. (The other is Egypt, ranked in the bottom third of the 60 economies.)
The index tracks performance using 20 indicators that capture key aspects of cross-border integration of business. The indicators fall into five broad categories: openness to trade; capital movements; exchange of technology and ideas; labour movements; and cultural integration.
First, globalisation has helped Singapore attain actual economic growth through increased international trade. Actual growth means an actual increase in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a shift in Aggregate Demand (AD) to the right. An increase in net exports (X-M) to the rest of the world raises AD, which in turn leads to a more than proportionate increase in GDP via the multiplier effect. Singapore has relied heavily on exports for economic growth. In fact, net exports make up the largest component of Singapore’s GDP. Increasing actual growth also helps Singapore achieve full employment, or alternatively low unemployment.
Second, large amounts of foreign direct investment (FDI) have helped Singapore achieve potential economic growth. Potential growth is the increase in the economy’s potential capability to produce output. Transfers of physical capital, human capital, and technology from Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) have helped increase the Singapore economy’s productive capacity, and thus shifts Singapore’s long-run Aggregate Supply (LRAS) curve to the right, increasing her potential economic growth.
Increased Labour Flows
Third, Singapore has also benefited from increased labour flows across international borders. Importing foreign labour leads to an increase in Singapore’s labour which raises the economy’s productive capacity. This is a relatively efficient and cost-effective way of increasing potential growth.
Fourth, globalisation has helped Singapore keep inflation low. Inflation is defined as a persistent and sustained increase in the general price level, and it is generally seen as a problem. By importing raw materials from other countries at low prices, Singapore has been able to lower her costs of production which translates to lower prices for final products. Importing necessities and other finished products helps keep the general price level down. Also, globalisation increases the Singapore economy’s productive capacity which lowers prices. This is reflected by a rightward shift of the Long Run Aggregate Supply (LRAS) curve, which increases Singapore’s productive capacity in the long run, lowers prices and prevents cost-push inflation.
Fifth, globalisation helps to keep Singapore’s unemployment low. Increased export levels shifts AD to the right which in turn leads to higher equilibrium national output. This means that actual growth occurs, which shifts AD towards the full employment level, which lowers unemployment.
Finally, Singapore is able to have a positive net-export position by importing cheaper raw materials from abroad and exporting high value-added products. For example, Singapore imports crude oil from abroad, refines the oil, and then exports it to different countries. Because the value of Singapore’s exports exceeds the value of her imports, she has a current account surplus, which could translate into a BOP surplus, assuming the deficit in the financial or current accounts are not huge.
Yet, despite all its apparent benefits, globalisation has some downsides which could possibly derail Singapore’s macroeconomic aims.
Vulnerable To External Shocks
First, Singapore’s dependence on exports makes her vulnerable to negative economic conditions in other countries. If one of Singapore’s trading partners were to experience a recession, demand for her exports would fall. This reduces AD which leads to lower equilibrium national output. Thus, the Singapore economy is susceptible to demand shocks. For example, Singapore’s GDP decreased during the financial crisis of 2007/2008. Thus, while globalisation might confer growth, it also means that same growth could potentially be more volatile.
Vulnerable To Competition
Second, while globalisation gives Singapore a bigger market for her exports, it also means that she could face more competition. Developing countries, like China, are catching up quickly. Singapore has already lost her comparative advantage in low- to medium-end manufacturing to rapidly industrialising countries. If exports decrease due to competition from low-cost countries, it will result in a fall in AD, which would lead to a drop in output. Over the years, Singapore has had to move up to higher value-added goods and services like biomedical or financial services in order to remain competitive.
Vulnerable To Global Business Shifts
Third, increases in Singapore’s productive capacity brought about by globalisation might not be permanent because she is highly reliant on MNCs which are by nature internationally mobile. They could shift operations to a lower-cost location, taking capital with them. There is also no guarantee that Singapore’s “foreign talent” will stay in the country for the long term. Furthermore, importing foreigners to increase Singapore’s labour is also unsustainable in the long term givenSingapore’s small land size because the influx of foreigners, perceived to be competing with Singaporeans for jobs and space, has become a major source of political and social discontentment and political acceptability is a major issue. Thus, potential growth might be illusory and fraught with many potential political perils.
Fourth, if the Singapore economy is already operating at or near full employment, then a rise in AD due to increased exports could possibly and realistically lead to demand-pull inflation. Singapore’s persistently low unemployment rate suggests that her economy is operating at close to full employment already. Thus, inflation could be a potential problem.
Vulnerable to Supply Shocks
Fifth, importing raw materials from abroad also leaves Singapore vulnerable to cost-push inflation, more specially imported inflation. For example, Singapore was affected by the rise in oil prices due to political uprisings in the Middle East. Hence, Singapore is vulnerable to supply shocks.
Sixth, should Singapore lose export competitiveness, (X-M) will become negative which would mean a current account deficit and a likely BOP deficit. Weak demand for exports would result in a depreciation of the Singapore dollar which would increase the price of imports. A depreciation of the Singapore dollar is likely to be inflationary given Singapore’s dependence on imported raw materials, and because it becomes more expensive to buy imported inputs which Singapore needs to produce goods. A deficit in the BOP also means a decline in the country’s foreign reserves which means that if Singapore has few foreign reserves, her currency will be vulnerable to speculative attacks.
Seventh, globalisation could also potentially be harmful for employment. Singapore’s heavy reliance on exports means that she will experience high cyclical unemployment should her major trading partners enter recessions. Perhaps, even more worrying is the increase in structural unemployment because lower-skilled workers could find their jobs being outsourced. Even if their work cannot be easily shifted abroad, they face competition from foreign workers willing to work longer hours and at lower wages. Concomitantly, there is a shortage of workers able to take on high-skilled jobs created by the global economy. As such, Singapore has had to import “foreign talent” to fill this gap. Therefore there are many negative implications for the labour market.
In the final analysis, despite many drawbacks, globalisation has been largely beneficial for Singapore. This is mainly due to the way in which the government has managed to tap into opportunities offered by a globalised world. For example, by providing necessary infrastructure, low tax rates, and a highly-skilled workforce, the government created conditions conducive for international trade and economic growth. At the same time, the government has been able to mitigate some of globalisation’s downsides through her economic policies. Singaporecould and does use exchange rate policy. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has the discretion to allow the Singapore dollar to appreciate in order to mitigate the inflationary effect of rising prices. Hence, to a large extent, globalisation has helped Singapore achieve its macroeconomic objectives; however, globalisation also brings with it several downsides which have to be properly managed.
Strategies for Survival
Restructure the Economy
Nurture SME and encourage entrepreneurship
Expanding market reach through Economic Cooperation
Managing Resources Efficiently – Develop People, Attracting Talent