Friday, March 14, 2008

Revitalizing entrepreneurship in Singapore

In another reply to a YawningBread post about non-Singaporeans' grassroots-entrepreneurship:

Its all in the mindset; Singaporeans just have had it drummed out of our minds.

When we encounter a problem, instead of coming up with new solutions to the problem, we either fall back on past solutions that have worked, or wait for someone else to solve the problem.

In most other societies, people will step forward and take their chances with their own solution (however good or bad the solution might be). A Singaporean is likelier to stand still and wait.

Do we have a pro-business environment? Yes and no.
Strong regulation means the majority of startup costs are known, and hidden costs (such as 'influencing' bureaucracies) are reduced.

But, is it conducive to new ideas? NO. As Ducktours has shown, our bureaucracies are great at administrating the known, but haplessly unwilling to take any real responsibility for any decision that has not been decided before, resulting in that businessman needing a Prime Minister to give him the scissors for that Gordian knot.

With the mentality that anything new (and thus, a need to cover my ass from a possible failure) creating needless escalation of decision making, we have a bureaucracy that is efficient, but not effective.

If so, how can true entrepreneurship (new business concepts/ideas etc) flourish?

All we get is a rehash of someone else's existing business, and an open tender that means that someone with a great idea, WILL end up not being the one benefiting most from it.

What needs to be changed?
The whole mindset of taking responsibility. If an office bearer is in charge, than he/she has to take responsibility for a decision (eg: duck tours), not pass it up the chain of command because its risky to take a stand.

Taking the ducktours example, the least LTA or MPA could have done would have been for the heads of the registration offices to meet each other, and issue a joint license or something. That is an action that can be taken at the "xxA" level, not wait for a PM to say "wtf!"

When SG bureaucracy is able to make decisions that carry individual responsibility, then, yes, entrepreneurship may then have the chance to flourish in SG again. Until then, we will have to be content with very narrow bands of entrepreneurship restricted to re-offering existing market offerings.



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