Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Removing National Service (NS)



Relook national service
On a related note, if Singapore faces different national security challenges than it did in the 1960s, is there still a need for mandatory national service?
Singapore is possibly the only modern state that has never been embroiled in a major military conflict but still insists on maintaining a conscript army. Yet there are many reasons why Singapore should immediately shift from a conscript to a professional army.
Perhaps the most important is motivation. Anybody who has gone through mandatory national service knows that the typical Singaporean soldier is about as motivated as a Resorts World dolphin. Aside from the “regulars” (professional soldiers), it is unlikely that Singapore is training very dedicated and proficient soldiers.
On a related and more sombre note, when a person is forced into rigorous exercise and discipline for an amorphous cause he cannot fully grasp, there is a chance he can be emotionally and psychologically affected. This may partly explain the Singaporean soldiers who commit suicide because they just can’t take it any more. Just as horrific are the stories of soldiers who die in the course of their training.
A separate reason is a very pragmatic, rational one—the opportunity cost of every Singaporean male losing two of the most productive years of his life. This loss is severe in today’s globalised, high-technology world, where cutting-edge companies are being created overnight in garages by dynamic, pubescent teenagers.
Consider that in 2004, when 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg was founding Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, almost every Singaporean male his age was busy firing a rifle.
From a fiscal point of view, the money could be better spent elsewhere. The Ministry of Defence gets more tax dollars—almost a quarter of total government spending—than any other. IHS, a research house, forecasts that this will rise from S$12.28bn in 2012 to S$12.32bn by 2015.
If Singapore spent only one-third of the current defence budget, its per capita spending would fall in line with the likes of Canada, Monaco and Switzerland. That would free up roughly S$8bn every year. If the S$8bn were redirected to the bottom 10 per cent of citizens by household income—about 0.33m people—that would equate to social spending of S$24,000 a year each. (This is a gross simplification of a complex economic trade-off. Nevertheless, the comparison serves to highlight the relative potential of that money.) It is sobering to note that Singapore, which is trying to build a knowledge economy, currently spends more on defence than on education.
Finally, there is the issue of responsibility for security in a global city. Given that fewer than two out of three people in Singapore are citizens, and that first-generation citizens do not have to serve in the military, is it fair to expect male citizens alone to shoulder the city’s national security burden? Singapore has essentially been targeting a demographic that comprises less than a quarter of the country, and insisting that they defend the rest. Is that fair?
Put another way, the argument here is that in a global city state with a high proportion of foreigners, foreign capital and foreign firms, national integration can be improved by levelling the national security responsibilities of the locals vis-à-vis the foreigners.
Each of these reasons on their own might warrant the end of mandatory national service. Together, they make for a compelling case.

 Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh is a senior editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The views expressed here are purely his own. Sudhir is the author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore, a socio-economic narrative on the two countries.


  1. ..."when 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg was founding Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, almost every Singaporean male his age was busy firing a rifle"

    WRONG! We were busy CLEANING our rifles. We do not get to fire much at all...

  2. i agree with you sir but i cannot do much. im enlisting soon, who can help me. i really want to say FUCK NS OPENLY but i cant. im really stressed out because im just watsing this two fucking years like that.

  3. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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