The Political Economy of Singapore


The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore
Christopher Tremewan


Singapore has been widely seen as an economic miracle, a veritable and contentment.’

The Singapore state is the exclusive or major provider of infrastructure (utilities, communications, media, industrial estates, port and airport services) and of social services (housing, health and education). It is the country’s largest employer, it sets wage levels, regulates labour supply and controls all unions. It is the main actor in the domestic capital market, runs giant state enterprises, a trading company and joint ventures with foreign capital. It also directs the apparatus of state coercion: the police and the internal security organizations, the courts and the prisons and a large military force.’

‘..many people are constantly aware of the political limits on personal behaviour imposed by the state.’

‘..the singular characteristic of social control in Singapore is its success in producing political loyalty and cooperation among the majority of the population.’

‘The wealthiest ten per cent of Singapore households take approximately 30 per cent of total income, while the poorest 10 per cent are left with 2 or 3 per cent of total income.’

‘Neither the inequality nor the comprehensive system of social control in Singapore are obvious to the casual observer.’

‘The increased consumption of the services and consumer goods has had the ideological effect of Singaporeans believing that they have more control over their lives rather than less.’

‘the main political effect of the housing policy was the production of a working class dependent on wage labour to pay for it. The former was achieved through the physical destruction of all other forms of cheap housing and through forced settlement.’


Though Singapore has achieved great growth rates, I wonder if there is ‘freedom’ in that country. Or are high growth rates alone sufficient’ Read this book to know more.

Further Reading

1) Singapore Diary-Part 3 By E Pradeep

2)On Singapore-Binu Ninan

Author: Alex M Thomas

A passionate student of economics!

4 thoughts on “The Political Economy of Singapore”

  1. Alex, it may be a valid point that the disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest in Singapore is very high but this is not a country specific issue. Isn’t this a problem across the entire world? Which country can boast of a practically socially vaible state which can be a role model for the rest of the world to emulate.Just trying to understand if there’s any model which has successfully ensured a reduction in inequality and led to a parity between the haves and the have-nots??? Maybe we need to wait for the Latin American experiments being carried out by their political class to see if socialism and state-supported economies can actually work.

  2. Pradeep,

    You are right. Inequalities will never cease to exist because human beings are differently talented and brought up. But, i stand for ‘equality of opportunities’.

    Moreover, the more serious problem in Singapore is that of ‘social control’.

  3. Alex, but has “social control” caused any problems? If with all the controls, the country is doing reasonably well and the people are ok with it, does it matter? Maybe for you and for me, it does but we need to understand if there are any negative repercussions of such a control. After all, even now, Lee Kuan Yew is the most popular leader in the country and will win any elections hands down. Unlike China, Singapore has also managed to provide its people with a great deal of safety, security and universal housing – all important parameters. I was there in Singapore for a month recently and have written briefly about it. May or may not give some insights; you can check under the “Travel” tag in my blog.

  4. Pradeep,

    I agree. If the people in Singapore are happy; why bother! I posted this to give an insight into the Singapore Economy. Some might not have a problem with ‘social control’ but others might. It is for the reader to decide.

    Your post on Singapore is great!

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