The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) held its annual flagship Singapore Perspectives (SP) conference on 23 January 2017. The theme of SP2017 was “What If?” and it considered alternative scenarios of Singapore in the year 2065. Panel II considered how we can balance the priorities that we can and should have as a nation in 2065, and how we may want to assess our progress and success.
Presentation & Charts
What if non-economic indicators become the measure of a country’s progress?
This question was posed to Quad.sg. This was our answer.
Measure the important
Parents raising their children do not assess their children’s growth through growth in income, but through the richness in their lives. We know that wealth is an outcome of personal growth at the individual level, but lose track of this insight when we see Singapore a whole.
We use GDP and other economic measures due to ease of use, consistency across years and comparability across nations. However, economic measures fail to capture all the dimensions of how a country progresses, and whether people feel that the country has progressed.
Ho Kwon Ping called for a “uniquely Singaporean Human Development Index"
By measuring the entirety of Singapore’s progress, we can improve. In Singapore, we understand this intuitively due to our focus on our global rankings on various dimensions. However, these one-dimensional rankings are also inadequate, because they only measure a solitary facet of Singapore’s progress, and always relative to other countries.
Across the world, leaders are pushing for improved measurement of social impact at the micro and macro-level. 3 years ago in 2014, Ho Kwon Ping called for a “uniquely Singaporean Human Development Index which would measure our overall “well-being””. In fact, at his last lecture, we actually stood up to ask him what the index would comprise. He politely answered that he would leave it to others to define the Index. Since noone has done so since then, here’s our answer.
The Singapore Development Index is based on the National Pledge
The Singapore Development Index (SDI) would have to be
1. Based on values that all Singaporeans value
2. Take into account that the perception of reality is just as important as reality.
3. Be objectively measurable.
Starting with the National Pledge, we can disaggregate the values into societal unity, racial and religious harmony, democracy, justice, equality, happiness, prosperity and progress. Using Gallup World Poll data, we can use proxy indicators that show how Singaporeans as a whole believe that Singapore is at.
In 2016, the SDI was 80%. Across the years, we can see how Singapore has improved or lost ground. We can also see how other countries perform against our scorecard. As a result, the SDI not only better measures Singapore’s progress, but is also universally aspirational across Singapore and is objectively measurable internally and benchmarkable
We can now measure our progress, and better see how we can improve
Critics may say that economic indicators should be the only metrics, others would say that it should not be there. What is important is whether Singaporeans believe that they are feeling better off.
By using the SDI, we can not only measure our progress, but better see how we can improve. We can use it to score policies on their projected impact on the SDI. We can start a national dialogue on how everyone can rally around this index. We can also generate novel ways to involve the community to improve Singapore, where both economic and non-economic measures serve to complement each other.
Jeremy Au spoke at the Institute of Policy Studies’ flagship Singapore Perspectives conference in 2017. A proven entrepreneur, he co-founded Conjunct Consulting which has channeled over $5M of impact consulting services to over 100 social sector organizations in Singapore. Jeremy received his honor B.A. and B.S. at UC Berkeley and MBA from Harvard Business School. Honors include Forbes "30 Under 30" and he podcasts at www.jeremyau.com
Cheryl is a director in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from LKYSPP and Bachelor's Degree (Honours) in Economics from University of Melbourne. She has prior experience in the government and education sectors.