Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who's smart?

New Geography has just released a survey of the world's smartest cities and lists "the 'smartest' cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals". Singapore comes out on top with Amsterdam the only European entry, though the list is a little Americentric with seven cities (four US, one Mexico, one Brazil and one Canada) on the list.
  1. Singapore: The 21st-century successor to 15th-century Venice, this once-impoverished island nation now boasts an income level comparable to the wealthiest Western countries, with a per-capita GDP ahead of most of Europe and Latin America. Singapore Airport is Asia's fifth-largest, and the city's port ranks as the largest container entrepot in the world. Over 6,000 multinational corporations, including 3,600 regional headquarters, are located there, and it was recently ranked No. 1 for ease of doing business.

This country has an aspirational plan based around Building Ireland's Smart Economy. Maybe Ireland (population 4.45 million) should be having a look at what Singapore (population 4.75 million) is doing to smarten up. Reading Singapore's Success: Engineering Economic Growth would be a good start. This reveals that Singapore implements many economically efficient (though politically unpopular) policies so that Singapore:

  • has unilateral free trade
  • admits unusually large numbers of immigrants
  • supplies most medical care on a fee-for-service basis
  • means-tests most government assistance
  • imposes peak load pricing on roads, and
  • fights recessions by cutting employers' taxes

Brian Caplan offers three possible explanations of the paradoxes of Singaporean political economy.

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