What are the Implications on the Role of the State? In response to these trends, we should consider what the implications on the role of the state might be. We will also highlight weak signals that suggest how the role of the state might evolve in Singapore. Broadly, the state faces two challenges to its role, as follows:
The first is the redistribution of wealth through taxation and the provision of public services. Globally, austerity measures have forced states to cut back on their fiscal spending and this has constrained their ability to supply public services. In Singapore, one of the fiscal challenges highlighted in the “Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review” is how to raise sufficient revenue to invest in the range of capabilities and infrastructure that Singapore needs to survive and succeed in the future. In this constrained environment, the state needs to find other ways to increase the “supply” of the state.
Secondly, governance is a competitive marketplace. There can be both private and public supply of social services and individuals are mostly free to choose which they prefer. For example, in a society where there is a widening gulf between rich and poor, the rich may live increasingly separate lives and provide for their own “public services”. On one hand, this could allow the Government greater focus in providing services for the needy; on the other, the rise of gated communities and privatised social services could signal the beginning of deterioration in the quality of public services as the rich opt out. The state also needs to consider what public services it has a role in supplying vis-a-vis other stakeholders, and how it might partner them to deliver better services. The provision of public services by the state may not necessarily keep pace with the increase in demand; in fact, sometimes the increase in supply of public services also increases the demand. In this case, the role of the state might be to play specific coordination functions, and allow civil society or private sector partners the space to grow as new providers of public services.