Lee Kuan Yew, Manmohan Singh, Amartya Sen, Sachin Tendulkar among world’s most influential people: Time

Lee_kuan_yew1 Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is on the 2010 Time 100 List — not as a leader but as a thinker."There is no better strategic thinker in the world today," says former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Time  entry on him. Wow!

Asians who make the Time list as leaders are Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama, United Arab Emirates President and ruler of Dubai Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Baidu founder Robin Li, Acer Group chairman JT Wang and Bo Xilai, boss of the city of Chongqing in China.

On the Time list of thinkers are the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen and social worker Sanjit "Bunker" Roy, both from India.

Among other Indians on the list are cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, writer Chetan Bhagat, eye surgeon Perumalsamy Namperumalsamy and Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Here's the full list with links to Time entries on these movers and shakers.

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Singapore 2nd freest economy, 1st in labour freedom

Singapore remains the second freest economy in the world but ranks first in labour freedom in the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Labour freedom is used by the index to mean freedom to hire and fire workers. Singapore, described as "a nominally democratic state" in the report, scored 98.9 out of 100 for labour freedom and got an overall score of 86.1.

Hong Kong remained the world's freest economy with an overall score of 89.7 but only 87.4 for labour freedom. Australia is ranked third followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, America, Denmark and Chile. You can download the full report here.

Singapore was ranked the second least corrupt country in the world, with a score of 92 out of 100, just one place behind New Zealand, which scored 93.

Economic_freedom_index

Singapore got its lowest marks for financial freedom, scoring only 50 out of 100, as "the government seeks to maintain the domestic bank share of deposits above 50 percent".

What the Index of Economic Freedom stands for is freedom for companies and investors to do business as they please — within the rule of law. The less the government regulation, the greater the economic freedom, according to the index, which supports limited government and freedom from corruption. It does not support heavy government spending. That is one reason why America dropped from sixth to eighth place — because of the economic bailouts by the Obama administration. The report says:

The U.S. government’s interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth.

Total government expenditures… are relatively high and rising rapidly. In the most recent year, government spending equalled 37.4 percent of GDP.

That is why America got a low score of 58 out of 100 for government spending.

Singapore, in contrast, with government spending equalling just 12.5 percent of the GDP, according to the report, got 95.3 out of 100.

The index gives each country a score of 0 to 100 on 10 counts — business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labour freedom. The 10 component scores are then averaged to give an overall economic freedom score for each country.

Here is the full report on Singapore:

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Singapore’s per capita GDP likely to top Japan’s

The Singapore economy is expected to grow by 3.8% this year and 4.5% next year, according to the World Bank. Private consumption after falling 3.1% last year is expected to grow 3% this year and 4% next year. Government consumption after rising 5.1% last year is projected to grow 3.4% this year and 3.2% next year. See this World Bank page for country snapshots. It opens on Angola but scroll through the search box and click on Singapore.

Malaysia is expected to grow by 4.1% this year and 4.8% next year — and Indonesia by 5.4% this year and 5.8% next year. Thailand and Hong Kong are expected to log slower growth — 3.5% followed by 4.2% for Thailand and 2.8% followed by 3.8% for Hong Kong.

The World Bank says:

Contrasted with earlier episodes of global downturns (for example the 2001–03 “dot-com” bust), the rebound and recovery path of GDP in East Asia is expected to be more muted, reflecting weaker global demand and less buoyant financial conditions…

For more information, you can download the World Bank's Global Economic Prospects 2010 full report here.

Singapore, however, is expected to overtake Japan as the country with the highest per capita GDP in Asia. Look at the charts.

Gdp_per_capita

Singapore's per capita GDP, according to the World Bank, fell from $41,654.70 in 2008 (when it was higher than Japan) to $39,112.40 in 2009 (when it was overtaken by Japan), but is expected to go up to $42,923.70 this year and $44,317.40 next year.

In Asia-Pacific only Australia has a higher per capita GDP — over $47,000 in 2008, down to nearly $43,000 in 2009, but expected to edge close to $50,000 this year and rise still higher next year.

But look at Norway, which has North Sea oil. Its per capita GDP was more than $98,000 in 2008! That fell to $80,000 last year but is expected to rise to more than $90,000 this year.

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Hope over fear, Singapore!

There is every reason to believe the Singapore government will choose hope over fear when it unveils this year's budget tomorrow.

The rose-coloured spectacles have fallen off at last that induced officials to think the economy might still grow this year, despite the global downturn.

Now the economy is expected to shrink sharply, by two to five percent, this year, says the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which only two weeks ago was predicting between one percent growth and a two percent decline in the economy.

It is astonishing how a smart government like Singapore's with a reputation for economic acumen could get things so wrong that it had to change its annual economic forecast only two weeks after making the prediction.

But the government has come out of denial now — and prepared to confront whatever the future holds, no matter how dark and uncertain it seems.

The hope now

And that gives hope. Bloomberg reports today:

Singapore said its economy may shrink an unprecedented five percent this year, fanning speculation the government will announce record spending in its budget tomorrow to help companies hurt by the global recession.

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam may outlay as much as 20 billion Singapore dollars ($13.3 billion), or eight percent of the gross domestic product, to help households and businesses survive the slump, Macquarie Capital Securities predicts. The government may also say it plans to tap into its reserves for the first time to fund its expenditure.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said long ago: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Singapore's leaders, who include scholars and meritocrats, will be familiar with the quote — and know, from experience, that it's the truth.

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