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Discuss with relevant examples the best way to sustaining long run economic growth for a small country, such as Singapore, with an aging population. [25]

Economic growth is defined as an increase in the real output of an economy over a period of time. Positive growth means that real output has increased while negative growth means that real output has fallen. Sustaining economic growth means long-run growth, defined as the rate of growth in real output of a country over a extended period of time. For long-run growth to occur, productive growth capacity needs to rise which means that there should be potential growth. Therefore, a sustaining economic growth needs not only actual growth but also potential growth. This essay attempts to explain the impacts on the economic growth due to small country with aging population, various methods to counter these problems and discuss about the best method to achieve a sustaining economic growth.

An aging population in a small country results in two major problems: shrinking labour force and decreasing national income. When there is a shrinking labour force, the burden on the productive workforce in supporting non-productive residents would rise. This means the number of new entrants into the workforce is smaller than the number of people retiring from it. Shrinking size of the workforce results decrease in labour supply. As a factor production, shrinking labour force leads to AS curve to shift left. Therefore, the potential growth slows down. Meanwhile, more retirees have lower income than the time when they work. They feel poorer to consume. Hence, consumption decreases. Shrinking workforce means that firms have more difficulty finding workers, so they might downsize, close down or relocate. They will not want to invest anymore. A decrease in consumption and investment results a decrease in AD as AD = C + I + G + (X – M). Hence, actual growth is reduced. Both AD and AS are likely to decrease due to an aging population; the economy would contract and economic growth would be negative. Hence, there is a need to raise AD and AS. 

[Insert diagram on increase in AD and AS]

From the diagram above, when the AS curve shifts to the right, at full employment level, an increase in AD will not cause demand-pull inflation, hence, a sustaining economic growth is achieved. 

To increase AD, there are several methods, namely, expansionary fiscal policy, expansionary monetary policy and exchange rate policy. 

Expansionary fiscal policy involves raising government spending on infrastructure like transportation, public utilities and telecommunication and on merit goods like education and healthcare. Cutting direct taxes can also have beneficial effects on long run growth. Cutting personal income taxes raises the monetary returns to work thereby increasing the incentive to work harder. Furthermore, more disposable income generates greater savings thereby increasing the funds available for investment. Lastly, cutting corporate taxes raises firm’s post tax profitability and hence their incentive to invest. As AD = C + I + G + (X – M), a increase in C and I and G will then raise AD.

The first limitation of expansionary fiscal policy is that it results in government debt as the government has to borrow to finance its budget to finance a budget deficit. Hence, future welfare is actually being sacrificed for the sake of raising current welfare. Secondly, in a small country with small multiplier (k), expansionary fiscal policy is very costly and not very effective. For instance, Singapore has a high MPS as we have compulsory savings like CPF and also a high MPM due to our dependence on imports. Since k = 1/(MPW) and MPW = MPS + MPT + MPM, Singapore has a high withdrawal and therefore a small multiplier. Thirdly, there is crowding out effect. Expansionary fiscal policy involves running a higher budget deficit that is probably financed from increasing borrowing. The demand for loanable funds rises and hence raising interest rates. This deters consumption (C) and investments (I) and also causes the currency to appreciate, thereby curbing net exports (X – M). As AD = C + I + G + (X – M), AD decreases due to decrease in C, I and (X – M). The expansionary effects of the budget deficits are therefore negated by a reduction in consumption, investments and net exports. Fiscal policy also has limitations like time lags and tax insensitivity. 

Expansionary monetary policy refers to increase money supply by Loanable Funds Theory, hence boost borrowing for consumption and investment. Lowering interest rates also causes hot money outflow, which causes the currency to depreciate because the demand for currency decreases hence boosting net exports. As AD = C + I + G + (X – M), AD is increased due to increase in C and I or (X – M). 

One of the limitations of expansionary monetary policy is the liquidity trap which refers to the situation where interest rates are already so low such that the further cuts in interest rates are unlikely to have any impact in stimulating borrowing. At the extreme, when interest rates hit zero, this means that there is no more room for further interest rates cuts and expansionary monetary policy stops being a viable policy tool. Meanwhile, small country such as Singapore is usually trade dependent. With free capital mobility, and fixed or managed exchange rate, small countries find it hard to implement monetary policy because of the economic trilemma. 

Exchange rate policy can be used to increase AD by depreciation of the currency. When the exchange rate is lowered, consumers find imports more expensive compared with domestic products, hence consume fewer imports. With lower exchange rate, country’s exports are more competitive and the quantity demanded for its exports increases. Hence an increase in net exports results in an increasing AD as AD = C + I + G + (X – M).

However, depreciation of currency will cause imported inflation which is very harmful to import-dependent small countries. These small countries prefer to have fixed or managed exchange rate, hence exchange rate policy may not be used. 

Governments can also use supply-side policies to ensure long-run economic growth. To counter the decreasing AS due to shrinking workforce, governments can choose to increase the quantity of labour or improve the quality of labour. 

The first option is to increase the size of the population with higher birth rates. i.e. pro-natal policies. Tax rebates and subsidies can be given to encourage more births. The labour market can also be regulated to allow for more flexible work arrangements so that parents can better balance work and family commitments. The size of the working population (labour force) can be increased by raising labour force participation. This can be done with policies to encourage non-working women and retirees to re-join the labour force. One way to do so is to increase the retirement age. Policies should also create more flexible and less intensive work arrangements which make jobs less demanding for older workers, hence encouraging them to remain in or to re-join the workforce. 

Besides trying to raise birth rates, a faster and easier way of increasing the size of the labour force is to allow more inflow of foreign labour. i.e. increase immigration. Allowing more inflow of higher skilled foreign labour like doctors, managers and engineers usually does not face that much social and political resistance. Being more educated and generally small in numbers, it is arguably easier for such foreigners to integrate into the local society. To improve the quality of labour force, governments have to increase labour productivity and occupational mobility. This involves two main elements. i.e. education and training. 

However, these supply-side policies have limitations as well. It is very hard to increase birth rate due to the fact that the opportunity cost of having children in terms of the sacrifice in consumption, leisure and career advancement is often too high. Re-joining the workforce is not easy as this cannot prevent people from getting old and retiring early. Immigration creates social tensions and depresses the wages of domestic low skilled labour, thus worsens the country’s income distribution. Education programs typically take many years to implement and their effects are felt only much later. Most of the labours and companies are reluctant to take and set up workshops for training. 

In conclusion, to achieve sustaining economic growth in a small country with aging population, the best way is to use supply-side policies to increase AS which is the root cause of slowing economic growth. Expansionary fiscal policy can be considered as one of the better choices if the small country has a relatively large multiplier hence it will not be so costly to use fiscal policy. Monetary policy is usually not a good choice due to the fact that small country is usually trade dependent and is limited by the economic trilemma. Small country which is usually import dependent will not choose to depreciate its currency. Therefore, supply-side policy is considered as the best way to sustaining economic growth for a small country with an aging population. 

JC Economics Essays - H2 'A' Level standard essay on the Singapore macroeconomy: Economics Tutor's comments. Macroeconomics essays covering the various macroeconomic aims and goals of governments, as well as the demand management policies and supply side policies are important. Often, macroeconomics essay topics will focus on either the goals as a standalone topic, or in conjunction with economic policies. Economics policies often come accompanied with some economics issues or economics news in a preamble, but economic policies can be assessed also on their own theoretical merits. (In a way, that's the beauty of macroeconomics - it can be quite theoretical and while often macro is in the news, and often catches attention with the headlines, in economics examinations macroeconomic policies can be considered theoretically too. The thrill of theory is often too beautiful for economists to ignore.) In any case, the usual economics tutor's questions apply: what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses of this economics paper? Does the student develop her arguments cogently, clearly, and build on theory and real world economic examples? Think about how you could help this student write an even better essay, or how you could help the student to get the highest marks possible. Having said that, this economics essay is very well written for a variety of reasons. The materials presented are wide ranging and very well applied to Singapore's context. There is a lot of economic theory, but also examples as well. The conclusion is nuanced, evaluative, and generally very well written. Note: this essay was written under examination and timed conditions by an actual A level student in a class Economics H2 test (not an economics assignment). Special thanks for AG, SS, and other students for their kind feedback and invaluable contributions and suggestions. 

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