Friday, February 6, 2009

Evidence-based Policy Making

While there has been ongoing "debate" in Parliament in Singapore on the Jobs Credit Scheme, I have just a few thoughts.

The local media engine has gone into overdrive in promoting the jobs credit scheme and how it purportedly saves jobs. We all know this from the incessant pages of coverage each and every day in the Straits Times, several spin-doctoring columns by Chua Mui Hoong (which I automatically flip past, since I have a policy against reading crap), and regular chime-ins by the various PAP politicians.

None of us really know how the ongoing economic crisis will continue develop, and whether counter-cyclical measures undertaken so far will "work". While I think we should give some credit (no pun intended) to the Government for being quick and responsive, it's way to early for the government to pat themselves on their collective backs and presume that measures like the Jobs Credit Scheme will be "successful" (I wonder what their KPIs are in this case). 

I believe in an evidence-based approach, acknowledging my bias as a researcher. And it seems that the Jobs Credit Scheme is an original idea, rather than following some other model approach that some other countries have tried. If it is based on the experiences of other countries, then the government should clearly indicate which model they are following.

If I'm charitable, I would say that while it's ok to try something original rather than hew to a previously used formulaic approach, it seems premature to conclude that the Jobs Credit Scheme is superior to other policies and that it is exactly what Singapore needs. How well the policy works will only become evident in the months to years ahead.

If I'm less than charitable and just being my regular hard-nosed self, I'd say that government is being fatuous in praising itself for what it considers to be a job well done, and is just managing sentiment on the ground by putting the best possible spin on its policy work. 

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