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That Singapore ‘model’ redux September 5, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Hugely depressing to read the following from Charles Woolfson is Professor emeritus of Labour Studies at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University, Sweden on the Singapore model (‘an ultra-business-friendly environment with low or zero corporation tax, low wages, weak trade unions, vestigial welfare provisions’) the UK appears to be reaching for in a post-Brexit context.

Questions of the downside of globalisation are not new but much accentuated by Britain’s current precarious political and economic conjuncture as it departs from the EU. In short, Boris Johnson’s ‘UK-apore’ can only be realised in a ‘race to the bottom’ to the significant detriment of existing standards. If the business model of labour and welfare devaluation in a ‘Singapore scenario’ is the pathway towards Britain’s economic salvation, then such standards now become integral to the democratic politics of post-Brexit Britain.

As always the single greatest problem of the Singapore ‘model’ – putting aside its content of is that it applies to a city state as is, as against a large nation of many millions. How anyone thinks that it could be scaled up escapes many of us. Woolfson thinks that the following offers a route:

Johnson has now proposed the creation of free economic zones or free ports, offering lower import taxes and customs tariffs, favourable manufacturing locations, and looser regulation to lure investment in up to 10 ports around the country. These free ports will be situated mainly in declining and ‘left-behind’ areas such as Teeside. Such zones are not specifically precluded by EU regulations, although it is true to say that they are regarded by the Commission as potential havens for counterfeiting goods and money laundering. In fact, over 80 exist within the EU, the majority in the newer member states of Eastern Europe. Besides providing free-enterprise zones where capitalism can be let loose to do what it does best, their attractiveness for employers is that they are typically insulated from employment protection and minimum wage legislation, while collective bargaining and trade union representation are generally non-existent. Free ports are ‘the Singapore scenario made real’ in the UK context. They will be the forward positions in a greater national project of wholesale deregulation accompanied by comprehensive labour subordination, UK-apore as one big free port.

In part or whole this would be catastrophic for workers in Britain.

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