Free «Government-Owned Enterprises from Singapore: Lessons Learned» Essay Sample

The management of government-owned enterprises in Singapore has become a model for efficiency management of public institutions across the world. Since its independence, the government of Singapore has proved to the world that public institutions can effectively be managed and that they can contribute to the economic and social development in the country. This is contrary to many public institutions which are poorly managed or have had to be privatized so as to achieve a meaningful contribution to the economies of their respective governments.The growth of privatization trends has led to a growing number of political leaders giving way to the establishment and growth of increasing number of private-sector enterprises as opposed to the public one. This had a profound impact on the development of the global business administration. A good example is that of Multi-national Corporations like General Motors, Samsung, and Sony. The comparative efficiency of the private and public sector enterprise in the age of globalization, as well as concerning the capacity of public enterprises to compete effectively with the private ones would be of great importance to the field of public administration. This is based on the expectation that the management of the government-owned enterprises would constitute a significant aspect of the practices in this area. Equally, unlike the initial period when globalization had not taken its roots, efficiency was not a major issue since competition was not that stiff as it has been since the beginning of globalization. This dissertation explores the strategies and approaches that the government of Singapore uses to control and manage government-owned enterprises for efficient delivery of services.

Key words:Singapore, government-owned enterprises, public-private partnerships 

Introduction to Research Topic

According to scholars like Nejati & Shafaei (2008) and González-Páramo et al (2005), the growth of privatization trends has led to the widespread conviction as to the inherent efficiency of the private-sector enterprise as opposed to the public one, which had a profound impact on the development of the global business administration. However, the trend towards greater privatization was dramatically reversed with the onset of the post-2008 Great Recession and subsequent developments in the field of financial derivatives and sovereign debts. The Recession came with many hardships with the attention of a number of nations including the United States being shifted to the provision of basic needs/social security for their citizens. Equally, the then prevailing liberalization of the market was affected by the fact that the political class had to step in and make decisions that though were favorable to the common citizens, negatively affected the market. This caused a decline in a number of people who were interested in privatization (Moffitt, 2012, p. 1). Accordingly, a question may arise as to the comparative efficiency of the private and public sector enterprise in the age of globalization, as well as concerning the capacity of public enterprises to compete effectively with the private ones. Such issues would be of great importance to the field of public administration as the management of the government-owned enterprises would constitute a significant aspect of the practices in this area (Nejati & Shafaei, 2008, p.110).

While a lot of studies point toward the greater potential of state-owned enterprises to cope with the globalization risks and demands, the case of the Singaporean developmental state and its sweeping success in transitioning the nation to the ‘First World’ position in the global economy has attracted a special attention from the public administration scholars. Therefore, it would be necessary to dwell on the exact nature of the forms of public management utilized in the Singaporean government-owned enterprises so as to connect them with the broader risks and concerns undergone by the public sector at the global level (IBP USA, International Business Publications, USA, 2009).

Accordingly, the task of dwelling on the exact nature of the forms of the public management utilized in the Singaporean government-owned enterprises shall be the major focus of this thesis. The need for evaluating the reasons for the Singaporean public enterprises’ alleged greater efficiency shall be expressed and contextualized within the framework of the theoretical treatment of the factors that have an impact on the operational management and overall functioning of such enterprises within the Singaporean institutional climate. The question of how Singaporean government enterprises create public value will be taken into account and presented in the course of this Chapter analysis. This will help in the comparative evaluation of their role and significance for the financial and commercial efficiency of the Singaporean government-owned enterprises.

It is essential to note that the public sector reforming and the pressures of globalization that came into force after the 1980s increasingly compelled various governments to “become more entrepreneurial”, with the concept of entrepreneurship increasingly applied in the public sector management. According to Chong (2010) and Zu (2009, p. 56), corporate entrepreneurship has increasingly been seen as capapable of enhancing the performance of business organizations. Equally, increasing number of organizations have considered entrepreneurship as an efficient way of managing change. In case of Singapore, the respective process was further reinforced by the entrenched legacy of the Government linked corporations (GLC) and statutory boards, with the governmental officials taking upon the entrepreneurial function (Chong, 2010; Zu, 2009, pp. 172-219). Hence, the greater level of exposure to the entrepreneurial practices, values, and modes of thinking emphasizing the value of generation, as well as the conservative emphasis on expenditures limitation as noted by Chong (2010) may be considered to be the most important aspects of the Singaporean public enterprises’ superior financial performance and efficiency. This thesis will center on the empirical testing of a connection between this greater efficiency and the entrepreneurial orientation of the Singaporean public sector, with the available data on Singaporean economic policies and their applications to the public sector field taken into consideration.

Let’s now define efficiency in the context of this paper. The term means the extent to which a business is able to maximize its output with the available resources. These would include; time, labor, and money. The concept is thus used in determining the productivity in any given business. Efficient management thus entails various modules like resource supply, planning, management of contracts, as well as management of finance. To ensure efficiency for their businesses, managers must therefore plan for their company’s business as a whole. This entails aspects like coming up with sourcing strategies as well as the identification of what the company needs and its resources’ units then seeking to achieve such goals using the available resources (Wiley, 2012).


Accordingly, this section will proceed in accordance with the general objectives of the research at large. The next section will connect the hypotheses of this study with the core elements of the stakeholder analysis, taken with respect to its application in the field of public administration and state-owned enterprises’ management. The section main objective is to offer the compelling account of the problems and perspectives inherent in the stakeholder analysis as a methodological tool, as well as to trace its more specific application to the Singaporean institutional and policy climate.

Subsequently, the provisional conclusion on the efficiency of the stakeholder analysis will be suggested, in order to connect it with the larger concerns of research. The next section will present the study’s research design. Following Singh, Maung & Maung (2008), the selection of a research design will proceed in accordance with the latter’s relevance to the methodological concerns of the study. As the current research topic is equally concerned with both qualitative and quantitative factors that may have their impact on the Singaporean state-owned enterprises’ efficiency, the use of the mixed-research design with the mixed methods techniques implemented should be recommended. In general, though, the major approach toward this study will broadly correspond to the tenets of a case study methodology, it is rather necessary in this regard to make the references to the case study approach.

Finally, the research questions and general hypotheses of the study will be presented and outlined in the concluding sections of this chapter of the study. Four main hypotheses will be discussed:

  • The persistent efficiency of the Singaporean public sector is fundamentally connected with its managerial personnel’s entrepreneurial thinking and policy actions;
  • The monetary policies of the Singaporean public sector are specifically conducive to the profit-making goals;
  • The institutional structure of the Singaporean state-owned enterprises is intentionally based upon the modern private-sector corporate structures, emphasizing competitiveness;
  • The confluence between the interests of state administration and private sector’s stakeholders (including foreign-owned ones) contribute to the maintenance of the Singaporean developmental state in the contemporary times.

Thus, the testing of the hypotheses included in this study will enable the researcher to reach the scientifically valid conclusions with regard to the Singaporean government-owned enterprises’ administration. This will help in conceptualizing the limits of a traditional developmental state’s model in the globalized world. This would contribute to both greater theoretical elaborations of the role of the public sector and to the study of the Singaporean economy from the perspective of the stakeholder analysis. 

Literature Review- Contributions to the Literature

The concept of the stakeholder analysis is commonly applied to the issues connected with the public administration studies. The key problem, which should be considered in this regard, is whether the interactions between the respective stakeholders have a significant impact on the development of the organizational structure of the Singaporean state-owned enterprises, and whether the specific interactions between such stakeholders would influence the overall efficiency of the Singaporean public sector. Given the complexity of the subject under consideration, a particular emphasis on the linkages between stakeholders’ interests and the enterprises’ institutional structure may be suggested. The definition of a ‘stakeholder’ would, generally speaking, depend upon the approach utilized by researchers in question. For instance, Singh, Maung & Maung (2008, p.439) define ‘stakeholders’ as “all parties who will be affected by or will affect” the strategy of the appropriate organization. On the other hand, Genzberger extends the definition of a ‘stakeholder’ to “any person, group or organization that can place a claim on the organization’s attention, resources or output, or is affected by that output” (Genzberger, 1994, p.27). Finally, Singh, Maung & Maung (2008), regard the stakeholders as the “individuals or groups who depend on the organization to fulfill their own goals and on whom, in turn, the organization depends”. Hayllar & Wettenhall (2010) note that public management of the government-owned enterprises in Singapore is directed by a system of values that are embraced by both the management staff and the employees creating the work environment that does not only foster the functioning of public institutions in a vibrant and dynamic economy, but also fosters creativity and innovation in the work. The Singaporeans who work in the public institutions are also given incentives to come with new creative means of implementing their work in a most efficient way. For example, the culture of rewarding for the work culminates in greater job satisfaction for employees that help to run the institutions that they work for. In a couple of years ago, as noted by Kapur (1999), as well as Negandhi,  Thomas &  Rao (1996), the government of Singapore did embark on a program that mainly aimed at connecting the staff in the government owned institutions with the broader risks and concerns not only in Singapore but also in the global world. For instance, Negandhi,  Thomas &  Rao (1996) noted that the program led to the birth of the idea of recycling water after it became apparent that Singapore could supplement its water needs with the one imported from Malaysia by recycling its water. This program was started after it was realized that Singapore had problems with the water supplied from Malaysia. In any case, the treatises that bound Malaysia to supply water to Singapore would expire in 2011 and 2016, and Malaysia was not bound to extend any of these treaties. Eden and Ackermann (1998) and Du Plessis, Bagaric & Hargovan (2010), argue that the combination of the efforts in the government-owned enterprises and the financial and technical support from the government thus led to the increase in the supply of water from the locally recycled water, known as NEWater, which has always exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) standard. In the last ten years, Singapore has been used as the model of efficient public management at the global level. However, there is nothing so peculiar about management in Singapore, but instead, a focused system that is supported by the government will always find a way into the public. Therefore, the leadership and efficient management of public institutions in a country is a live point for the analysis (Heracleous, 2003).

Simultaneously, within the business strategic management literature, stakeholders are treated in various ways, provided that each researcher would choose to emphasize the allegedly relevant aspect of their essence. For instance, Eden and Ackermann (1998) define stakeholders as “people or small groups” (1998, p.117) which dispose of the capacity to directly influence the decision making procedures of the appropriate organization so as to change the course of the latter’s strategic development. On the other hand, Du Plessis, Bagaric & Hargovan (2010), would seek to integrate all interested parties within the concept of ‘stakeholder’, shifting the focus from the allegedly powerful decision makers to the rank-and-file focus groups that may be affected by the organization’s decisions. Hence, the traditional ‘top-down’ approach would be increasingly substituted with a ‘down-to-top’ one, within the context of the new organizational science (Du Plessis, Bagaric & Hargovan, 2010).

Thus, Ramamurt & Vernon (1991), argued that the concept of ‘stakeholder’ may be treated within the three sub-dimensions thereof: (a) as that of a contributor to the organization’s development; (b) as that relating to actors that may dispose of the organization’s resources; and (c) that of inter-dependence between the organization and the actors pursuing their own goals within the former. In the course of the further discussion, all these sub-dimensions will be implicitly incorporated within this study’s conceptualization of a stakeholder. This will allow the sufficient breadth of the research object’s coverage. Accordingly, a number of stakeholder analysis techniques and methodologies should be outlined, in order to situate this study’s discussion within the grand theory methodological basis (Ramamurt & Vernon, 1991; Heracleous, 2003).

Lian & Tong (2008) suggest a number of critical approaches and classifications that may  be applied to the definition of the stakeholders in particular policy contexts. Thus, in the situations involving government bodies/agents, various economic (suppliers, customers) or political (parties or interest groups) actors that would interact with the government’s policies in their respective fields may be considered as the stakeholders to the governmental authority (Lian & Tong 2008, p.134). Within the more general framework, the stakeholder's identification may be predicated upon the presumed stakeholder’s power, legitimacy, and attention-getting capacity that would influence “managerial perception” of the stakeholder’s claims as valid (Carlos & Tan, 2003), p.64). Therefore, a stakeholder’s position would be generally correlated with the latter’s ability to attract and focus the organization’s attention thereon. 

Gap in the Literature

In case of Singapore, the stakeholders involved in administration of the publicly owned enterprises would include several groups of actors that may be situated within the peculiar managerial networks structure. Heracleous (2003) asserts that the research on the Singaporean public sector management cannot proceed adequately in the absence of the proper understanding of the inter-organizational networks in which the respective actors frequently find themselves. The emphasis on inter-organizational networks is concomitantly shared by Bidgoli (2010). The scholar believes that an urge to participate in the firm-level inter-organizational networks may be further spurred by such factors as the industry structure, inter-industry structure, resources and capabilities available to the firm in question, coordination and contracting costs, as well as certain path dependent constraints and benefits.

All these factors exist in the state of the inter-dependence on inter-organizational networks, leading to a further importance of the relational factors in the field of strategic management (Carling, 1995). Several types of such inter-organizational networks may actually be distinguished in Singapore’s case. These may include networks based on the Burt and Coleman's rent principles. On the other hand, if viewed from an organizational perspective, the public-private partnerships (PPPs) may be similarly associated with the inter-organizational networks, having attained a significant level of organizational maturity (Hayllar & Wettenhall, 2010).

Accordingly, Carling (1995), suggests that in order to evaluate the effects of inter-organizational networks upon the development of the Singaporean public sector and the role of private stakeholders therein, the proper understanding of the PPPs should be introduced, as well. Nevertheless, given the scope of this study, the emphasis on the PPPs would be eschewed to the greatest degree possible (Pillai, 1993). The public sector in Singapore has two types of the government-owned enterprises - those managed by statutory boards and institutions which are partially or wholly government-owned (Bidgoli, 2010). These two types of enterprises are mainly used to implement the government objectives despite the variance in the ownership. They are mainly aimed at stimulating the economic growth through promotion of exports, attraction of foreign investment, and generally assuaging the problem of unemployment, as well as ensuring a diverse economy. Most of the state-owned enterprises, which are government-owned, were started as joint ventures with private investors (Lim & Pang, 1991).

However, the key shareholder is the government, and thus, it has controlling powers over the activities that the enterprises engage in and also the way they use the funds that they get from their operations (Heracleous, 2003). Some of the wholly government-owned institutions in Singapore receive government grants mainly because their services do not bring in any revenue. Thus, the government provides all the funds for their operations. These types of enterprises engage in diverse sectors of the economy, ranging from manufacturing, repair and shipbuilding financial services, trading, hotels, tourism, construction, to petro-chemicals, aeronautics, and farming. Some of the earliest enterprises to be established included The Prima Flour Mills (1961), Jurong Shipyard Ltd (1963), and Sugar Industry of Singapore Ltd (1963), Chemical Industries (F.E.) Ltd (1962.

In the same manner, the government as the key stakeholder in many enterprises in the country mainly controls the administration and management (Becker & Huselid, 1998). It is the reason why the government decided to own most of the strategic enterprises in the country as a way of bringing flexibility in the management of these enterprises. For instance, infrastructure and goods and services which, in most countries, are left in the hands of the private investors are provided for by the government-owned enterprises like the Public Utilities Board, Housing Development Board, Telecommunication Authority of Singapore, and NEWater among other enterprises. The government of Singapore also sought to take risks during industrialization, a step that private investors did not want to venture into (Krause, Koh & Tsao, 1987).

As the key shareholder in most of the enterprises operating in the manufacturing sector, the government’s venture in business was primarily caused by the need to meet the new expectations of the Singaporean society brought about the economic growth. In this regard, an enterprise such as the Development Bank of Singapore came up in the country. The government took up majority of the shares in the institution because it was projected that the bank would play a crucial role in the economic development of the country (Brigham & Houston, 2007). The trend for the government investment in a private controlled economy has been on the rise with the realization that the government would strategically control the growth of the economy by holding influential positions in most of the essential enterprises in the country. For this reason, the government rose from only two statutory boards and two partially owned companies in 1961 with a market capitalization of 3.4 million dollars to more than 41 statutory boards and 505 partially government owned companies with the equity capital of over 8.7 billion dollars in 1988.

As the key shareholder in the many public enterprises in the country, the government of Singapore has nurtured a culture that aims at maintaining the sovereignty of the country through honest work. Employees in the government owned enterprises are taught the importance of building a nation that meets the needs of its people while ensuring that there is stability in the governance structures and contentment in the general public. Thus, as argued by Haas, M. (1999) and Krause, Koh and Tsao (1987), the cultural environment in Singapore emphases the importance of good leadership, as well as the need to remain relevant with the national and global needs by anticipating changes. In this regard, the Singaporean work ethics puts a premium on the understanding of the four official languages to enable Singaporeans to work efficiently within their boundaries, as well as in international markets. The government owned enterprises in Singapore, like the Singapore Airlines, have managed to penetrate beyond the boundaries of their own country and become international stars, thanks to the policy from the government that encourages diversity and globalization (Kapur, 1999; Haas, 1999).

Moreover, the society in Singapore has made everyone, including government-owned enterprises, to appreciate the role that they play in building their own country and also a spirit that emphasizes a stake for everyone either the in private or public institutions (Tan & Lam, 1997). Those government-owned enterprises that perform well are rewarded for their work, which literally makes them to work for the reward (Kohli, Mody & Walton, 1997). The other element, which is highly emphasized in the management of the government-owned enterprises, is honest and good leadership with ethical courage and integrity. It is worth stressing that Singapore’s government-owned institutions have the lowest rates of bribery and corruption in the world. This has been achieved through an emphasis on the role of the public servants in the management of the government-owned institutions and cultivation of a culture that rewards good and honest leaders (Haley & Tan, 1996). There is also a continuous process of looking for good leaders with innovative and creative minds to manage public resources in the government-owned institutions (Breton, 1996; Tan & Phang, 2004; Tipton, 2008). Moreover, the culture in Singapore encourages students to nurture leadership qualities when they are in schools. Such qualities include taking of risks as one way of developing creative and original ideas (Doganis, 2002). The employees in the government-owned institutions are also given the opportunity to sharpen their skills through annual work on the job training sessions and sometimes continuous training sessions that make them to improve their skills in the management of the public resources in the government-owned enterprises throughout the country (Lay-Hong, 2005).

Furthermore, through international partnership, the government creates an environment that fosters and nurtures tourism, which is a great support to many government-owned institutions in the country (Lay-Hong, 2005; Roche, 2005). For instance, Singapore Airlines thrives much on the high number of people who visit Singapore annually, and this is the case because the political, social and economic conditions allow tourists to come from many parts of the world to Singapore. Once in Singapore, their stay there definitely impacts the performance of the many government-owned institutions in the country, contributing to their tremendous success in the efficiency and performance (Krause, Koh, & Tsao, 1987). 

Research Design

The importance of a research design as the basics of each and every empirically relevant study is well underscored by Johnson & Scholes (2010). The scholar remarked on the importance of bearing in mind “public administration research often takes place “in the field” rather than the laboratory” (Johnson & Scholes, 2010, p. 56). Accordingly, even non-experimental research designs in the field of public administration would have to deal with the need to situate the findings derived from their application within a more or less experimental context. Hence, elaboration of an appropriate research design would be an integral part of the current study. In deciding upon the relevant research methodology, one of the most pressing issues to handle would involve the determination of a research paradigm, i.e. whether qualitative or quantitative methods should take precedence in the course of the study. Johnson & Scholes (2010) term the controversy involved in selecting either of these strategies “paradigm wars” (Johnson & Scholes, 2010, p. 14), focusing on the respective parties’ limitations.

The ontological debate between the supporters of the purely qualitative or quantitative methodologies would appear to be centered on the issues of the very capacity of the researcher to eliminate his/her biases in the course of a scientific inquiry. While the proponents of the qualitative methodology proceed from an assumption of the characteristically constructivist nature, emphasizing the relativist and hermeneutical nature of the vast majority of social science subjects, partisans of the quantitative approach stress on an objective and context-free nature of the relevant study’s subjects. While these two lines of argument are clearly incompatible, there are still other scholars arguing in favor of combining quantitative and qualitative methods within a synthetic research paradigm.

Research Questions and Research Objectives

Research Questions

How does efficiency of the Singaporean public sector intrinsically connect with the managerial personnel’s entrepreneurial thinking and policy actions?

Singapore’s government-owned institutions provide a model for efficiency and entrepreneurship in the management of the public sector. A good understanding of how efficiency is achieved in the government owned institutions is a better starting point to evaluate the best practices in the management of the following institutions. It is important to note that specific areas in which the government owned institutions in Singapore has perfected are identified and analyzed with the purpose of documenting best practices in the government owned institutions.

How do fiscal policies of the Singaporean public sector contribute to the conducive environment in Singapore that permeates the achievement of profit-making goals in the government owned institutions in Singapore?

Each country has fiscal policies in the management of the public sector institutions. However, not every government has been able to achieve such results that Singapore has achieved in the management and control of the government owned institutions in the country. The available data indicates the higher shareholding of the government in the institutions has been a contributing factor in the creation of good fiscal policies to manage the public institutions in Singapore. However, evidence indicates that small governments have been unable to manage institutions that are wholly owned. This indicates that the governmental fiscal policies are not dependent on the percentage of shareholding in the institution but rather an intrinsic realization by states officers on the crucial role that the government owned institutions play in the economic development of the country.

Research Objectives

i. To examine the impact of government ownership on the management of public institutions in Singapore;

ii.  To examine the impact of differences that exist between management of the government owned institutions and privately owned institutions in Singapore;

iii. To give recommendations on ways of improving the efficiency in the privately owned institutions in Singapore and government owned institutions elsewhere outside of the country.

Proposed Methodology

Philosophy of Research

This research study will employ an interpretivism philosophy. According to Samonis (1998), an interpretivism philosophy will allow the researcher to take a central position in the process of gathering data, especially when a large number of primary and secondary literary sources are to be studied, analyzed, interpreted, and incorporated in the study findings. Creswell and Clarke (2007) point out that an interpretivist approach is based on the psychological position that researchers assign meanings to phenomena by taking a central role in the unfolding of such phenomena.

Arguably, this philosophical approach was selected because it will allow for the objective collection of the crucial secondary data from authentic sources, such as peer reviewed journals, professional websites, and text books (Easterby-Smith, Thorp, and Lowe, 2008). Furthermore, Thomas (2011) notes that an interpretivism philosophy will also allow the researcher to give the collected data a “human” meaning that is acceptable across a wide socio-cultural and business setting. It is very crucial since different studies are based on different business settings (Creswell and Clarke, 2007), and therefore, there is a need to review and harmonize the findings of these studies, especially in arriving at a universally acceptable position regarding the linkages between a firm’s strategy and its overall performance.

Research Approach

In line with the interpretivist philosophical approach, this study will employ an inductive research approach. According to Creswell (2009), this research approach is compatible with an interpretivist approach because it entails drafting broad knowledge strands from the gathered evidence and using these broad knowledge strands in making sweeping conclusions applicable in a broad range of situations. Since this study will collect evidence from the existing relevant literature to support the research objectives, it is only wise that an inductive research approach that will allow for the objective generalization of individual ideas into broad postulations should be utilized (Sauder et al., 2009). Arguably, this approach was selected because it will allow for the easy interpretation of the existing evidence supporting the linkages between a firm’s strategy and its overall performance (Creswell and Clarke, 2007). Furthermore, an inductive approach will allow the researcher to use his/her intuition as well as past professional and academic experiences when interpreting evidence. As Thomas (2011) and Creswell and Clarke (2007) argue this is a crucial element, especially in the business related studies because it frees a researcher from sometimes rigid methodologies that are inapplicable to the study situations.

Thomas (2011) as well as Creswell and Clarke (2007) point out to fundamental and procedural processes which a researcher must follow in the course of doing a research of a large magnitude. In carrying out this research, I will aim at using as little numerical data as possible because the main objectives of the research may be sidelined in the course of collecting numerical data and, therefore, hinder capturing the practice and management styles in the government-owned enterprises in Singapore. Nevertheless, this does not imply me to become a partisan by helping respondents to explain their responses but rather, as a way of ensuring accuracy of the data collected. One of the factors seen as the weakness of qualitative research is that the researcher can be swayed and become subjective, thus fail to maintain the neutrality approach to the information collected from the respondents (Thomas, 2011; Creswell & Clarke, 2007). To avoid such biasness, I will ensure that most of my respondents are educated people who will be able to explain their responses without my indulgence. The point is to separate objectively elements easily so that they can be counted and modeled analytically. The qualitative research will also aims at removing factors which are likely to distract the researcher from the intent of the research process (Tipton, 2007).

Mostly, the result of the qualitative research is a compilation of responses which are subject to various analytical processes to yield unbiased outcome. Furthermore, I realized that occasionally, qualitative research can become subjective in nature and allow the researcher to introduce his/her personal bias as a strategy to form a complete picture, especially where the responses are unclear and vague. It is mostly applicable in researches where it is not clear the exact information is researched. This means that I will have the capacity to select which data to use and discard those that are deemed unnecessary to the objectives and missions of the research. The major difference between qualitative and quantitative research is that in the former the researcher knows what he/she is looking for at the start of the research process while in the latter the focus of the study becomes clear as time progresses (Cho-Yee & Zuyi Du, 2000; Netten, Darton, & Bebbington, 2001).

The importance of carrying out a successful qualitative research lies in the fact that the researcher has expectations on the outcome of the research. The essence of choosing a particular kind of approach to research should be supported with evidence (Fernandez, 1998; Yeung, 2000). I also understand that whether a researcher settles on the qualitative or quantitative research, a number of conditions must be fulfilled as a way of understanding the process of research and also ensures that the research is scientifically sound. Research reports should be used as important tools of communicating research findings carried out for the purposes of providing a solution to a problem. A research finding, irrespective of whether the process was qualitative or quantitative, must possess certain characteristics if it has to pass the scientific merit test. For instance, Cho-Yee & Zuyi Du (2000) note that it is necessary that the information presented in the research process should be relevant, focused and objective to help in deriving the anticipated results. This can be achieved by presenting the information in the report using different formats, such as pictures, graphs, and charts. The ultimate purpose is to formulate proper strategies for solving the problem at hand (Netten, Darton, & Bebbington, 2001).

Evidently, the notable feature in the use of the qualitative research method in carrying out research is that the researcher needs to be prepared to engage in an intensive and time consuming process of collecting information from the respondents using tools, such as interviews or questionnaires. Some of the respondents may be located in far off places or may not be available during the time of interview. They may also fail to return the questionnaires or to answer some of the questions in the questionnaire. Moreover, it is also possible that the large sample of respondents may be required to have a rational representation of the phenomenon being investigated, and thus, this will require much time. This is unlike the quantitative research where a shorter time could be sufficient for a large research. The use of a mix of semi-structured and structured questions is also instrumental in collecting the qualitative data because it gives the researcher an ample time to seek for clarifications on what some of the respondents imply with their responses. The rationale for adapting a qualitative approach to the collection of data by researchers must be informed by a number of reasons, among them the need to have clarified information as to how different respondents react to the questions which are put across to them using different tools (Oldman & Quilgars, 1999).

Oldman and Quilgars (1999) noted that the qualitative research provides the researcher with a number of advantages, which are presented in the design of the tools for collecting information from the respondents. In using the qualitative research, a larger sample size can be reached (Fernandez, 1998; Yeung, 2000; Low, 2002). As the study normally uses a wide range of data from a number of different respondents, some of them may be located across the country. Reaching those respondents and collecting the necessary information may pose a challenge to the researcher (Netten, Darton, & Bebbington, 2001). However, with the use of surveys, the researcher will be able to reach a large sample within a short time and collect the necessary information for analysis. In cases where the respondents can be reached, the face-to-face interview can always be recommended as it allows the researcher to have extra hints by reading the facial expressions and other gestures from the respondent during the interview. Thus, Lapan, Quartaroli and Rieme (2011) and Marlow (2010) suggest that the qualitative research is a recommendable approach, especially where drawing of accurate information from a large sample is of the essence to the researcher. Additionally, there is a feeling of honest responses from the respondents because many people find it difficult to tell a lie either in writing or when facing the other person directly in the face (Johnson, Scholes, & Wittington, 2011). As such, qualitative tools, such as surveys, have always come about as the most trusted tools for collecting anonymous responses that then are translated to the honest data. Unlike in interviews where the respondent might weigh the kind of response, surveys guarantee the respondent that any other person will not know his or her identity. In addition, surveys will also be instrumental in addressing the problem of confidentiality that the researcher anticipates in the challenges (Lapan, Quartaroli, &  Rieme, 2011).

However, Lapan, Quartaroli & Rieme (2011) and Marlow (2010) noted that a researcher should always be aware that qualitative research can present a number of limitations on the part of the researcher. For instance, there is always a difficulty in selecting a representative sample size. I will not be able to monitor the respondents to the survey and will only depend on their honesty. Also, I will not be able to detect false responses, especially when it is not available to seek clarification on the information that is given by the respondent. For instance, in data responses where managers of the government institutions deny any governmental influence on the managerial decisions that they make. For questionnaires, which will be sent through emails, the researcher will not be able to make changes on them once they are sent out to the respondent, and this may limit the amount of data collected, especially in the event of new developments. Cho-Yee and Zuyi Du (2000) and Lapan, Quartaroli and Rieme (2011) pointed out that in most cases, issues of importance is likely to come up in the course of doing research. This issue cannot be included in the questionnaire unless the researcher is planning to make a follow- up with interviews, in which case, the respondent may not be available for the interview or not willing to repeat what was already said in the questionnaire. Surveys are designed to collect general information from the respondent. Equally, I will not be able to change the design of the survey to collect a certain kind of information that might have been just realized that is important to the results. As such, surveys are rigid and incapable of collecting afterthought pieces of information (Cho-Yee & Zuyi Du, 2000, p. 45).

Research Strategy

A desk research will be the most appropriate for this study. According to Thomas (2011), cross-cutting opinions regarding potential research strategies for studies falling within the social sciences domain, a desk research involves the objective analysis of past work done by other researchers in view of coming up with a balanced opinion that is applicable in a wide range of business areas. The reason why this research strategy was selected is that it will allow for the easy collection of a wide range of evidence from past studies unlike in a situation where data was only collected from a few respondents representing a very small fraction of the business world (Saunders et al., 2009). Furthermore, this strategy is time and cost sensitive as the researcher will only incur costs associated with the telephone, the internet, and the time spent reading through and analysing past studies related to the study topic. Arguably, Creswell (2009) posits that it is a very appropriate study for business topics that have attracted a lot of attention from past researchers. As a matter of fact, De Wit and Meyer (2009) and Johnson et al (2011) show that the relationship between institutional management and its performance has been widely studied in the past.

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Sample and Sampling Methods

Despite the fact that this study will not involve the collection of primary data from human subjects, it will undertake normal sampling activity common in the studies that involve human subjects (Cooper & Schindler, 2011). As a matter of fact, the study sample will comprise the objectively selected literature works done between the 1980 and 2013 that were published in leading peer reviewed business journals such as Strategic Management Journal, Prime Journal of Business Administration and Management, European Management Journal, and California Management Review, among others. Furthermore, the information collected from business books, Singapore government agencies websites and publications, professional newspapers and journals, as well as professional websites will be useful for the study.

I will carry out specialized interviews with the managers of the government-owned enterprises using face-to-face interview. In this study, I will seek to will narrow the scope of the study on managers who are currently working with the government-owned enterprises in Singapore (De Wit & Meyer, 2009; Johnson et al, 2011). The reason for selecting and targeting of managers is that they have a better understanding of the management and control of their respective enterprises performance, and thus, they are in a better position to provide the information that I will be seeking in this study. Moreover, the managers of the government-owned enterprises will be in a good position to clear an objective view of the government’s role in the controlling and management of the enterprises.

As a researcher, I only intend to incorporate 100 managers. My estimate is that due to busy schedules, about a third of the hundreds of managers managing numerous enterprises across Singapore can be used to represent their entire population. Therefore, a sample made up of at least 10% of the target population is realistic given the fact that potential participants may decide not to take part in the study, due to their busy schedules (Creswell, 2009).

To arrive at the appropriate sample, I will utilize a simple random sampling method. As observed by Yates, David, and Darren (2008), a random sampling method is a form of probability sampling that involves the blind selection of participants using random numbers generated by a random number machine. This same point is supported by Cooper & Schindler (2011) who add that the method is useful, especially because it helps the researcher to avoid biasness in the selection of the respondents. Thus, evidently, a random sampling method gives every potential participant an equal opportunity to be selected.

Data Collection

The data collection for this study will be carried out in a systematic manner that reflects what Creswell (2009) and Cooper and Schindler (2011) refer to as objective observation and the study “demographic” with a view of arriving at the most appropriate method of interacting with it. To this effect, all the accessed (and downloaded) works will be arranged according to their objectives and findings. In essence, studies with closely similar objectives and findings will be reviewed, and their overall postulations and respective purposes will be recorded (Saunders et al. 2009). This process will be repeated for all other commonalities among the downloaded works. Lastly, the findings of all the studies will be logged into a table for purposes of clarity and easy access to the gathered evidence. Here, as Creswell (2009) advises, I will apply my professional and academic experiences to classify the reviewed studies according to their purposes, methodologies, and findings. Further, as Cooper and Schindler (2011) argue the adopted methodology (interpretive philosophy, inductive approach, and desk research strategy) allows for this study. The data will be gathered through unstructured interviews. The primary data for the objectives set out in this study will be collected from the managers of the government-owned enterprises. I will make an attempt to reach out to all respondents who will be selected. In cases where they are not reachable, I have put in place alternative measures, such as using emails, to send them mails including the questionnaires. I also plan to make direct calls so that an online interview can be done whenever possible (De Wit & Meyer, 2009; Johnson et al, 2011). It is worth noting that the research data will be gathered through unstructured interviews. On the other hand, both the interview and questionnaire items will be subjected to a pilot study before the final interview and questionnaire instruments are constructed (Saunders et al, 2003). As pointed out by Cooper and Schindler (2011) and Yates, David, and Darren (2008), the main reason for the subjection of the data collection instruments is primarily to ensure that accuracy is maintained. It is the same as the main reason for subjecting the two data collection instruments to a pilot study which will be to ensure that I capture large and accurate data capable of fulfilling the research questions and objectives laid out in the study.

Data Analysis

As Easterby-Smith et al (2008) advise this study will utilise an inductive qualitative data analysis method. This approach will incorporate two independent measures to evaluate the two study variables, that is, government ownership in the public institutions in Singapore and the efficiency of performance and service delivery of the same institutions, as well as how the two are connected with each other. To measure the influence of competitive strategies (differentiation and cost-leadership) on the institutional management efficiency, the study will determine how past studies have rated the most influential individual attributes forming differentiation and cost-leadership strategies. These, according to Porter (2008), include the reduction of redundancy, new channels of distribution, hiring skilled employees, competitive pricing, procurement approaches, product promotion, product development, and customer care. On the other hand, to measure firm performance, a balanced score card will be used. Furthermore, the results of these two variables will be put into tables to make them easy to interpret.

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The reason behind the selection of an inductive qualitative data analysis method builds general knowledge strands from small chunks of the evidence gathered during data collection (Saunders et al., 2009). These broad knowledge generalizations will be made from the results of the evaluation of each of the two study variables. As Creswell and Clarke (2007) further affirm an inductive qualitative data analysis method may be selected because it will allow the researcher to subject the collected data to a thorough and objective scrutiny in order to identify commonalities and any inconsistencies before analysing it. 

Research Ethics

I will seek to observe all pertinent ethical requirements. These will include working within the stipulated copyrights regulations for all the past works that will be accessed and reviewed during the data collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of study findings to the intended audience (Creswell & Clarke, 2007). Specifically, I will seek permission from all the relevant authorities, including the administrators of both physical and online libraries before using their materials (Saunders et al., 2009). Even then, I will ensure that all materials accessed from these libraries will only be used for purposes of preparing the study and will not be shared, published or reprinted without the due permissions from the relevant authorities. I will also work within the known professional and academic frameworks, which include making conclusions that have matched vthe erifiable evidence.

Research Limitations

I will make a number of precautionary measures to minimize potential limitations associated with desk researches. Nevertheless, like many other management studies, the study may encounter a number of challenges related to the design and the validity of the information collected from the print and online materials. Specifically, and as Saunders et al (2009) provide, studies that employ interpretivism philosophy and inductive research approach are prone to the researcher's bias. This is because they normally accord the researcher a wide leeway to make generalizations based on the collected evidence. Further, as Easterby-Smith et al (2008) and Saunders et al. (2009) argue, the study could be criticized by the audience who may argue that, by failing to collect the primary data from the contemporary business, the study limits its relevance in an actual business since the reviewed studies were conducted in the environments that may be considered irrelevant or different to trending business world activities. Moreover, the number (300) of the reviewed works may be perceived by critics to be small compared to the thousands of past works touching on the efficiency and best practices of the government owned Singaporean institutions.


The exposition of hypotheses relevant to this study would require the researcher to evaluate the relative importance of the factors influencing the managerial efficiency of the Singaporean state-owned enterprises. With this in mind, a list of the following hypotheses is hereby presented, with the subsequent interpretation and substantiation of the claims inherent therein.

Hypothesis 1:

The persistent efficiency of the Singaporean public sector is intrinsically connected with its managerial personnel’s entrepreneurial thinking and policy actions.

The role of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking/psychology in the modern public sector administration has been underscored by several studies related to the subjects of the New Public Management (NPM) and concurrent aspects. In particular, Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) elaborated the term of the ‘entrepreneurial government’ when referring to the market-oriented practices of the American public sector enterprises that were subject to the stringent fiscal discipline and relative lack of funds under the Reagan's administration. In a similar way, Lichauco (1988) viewed the state as a potential entrepreneurial actor, with the bureaucrats and officials charged with the administration of state-owned enterprises being its fiduciaries. Such an interpretation would lead one to conclude that in the climate of persistent marketization of the public sphere, the state’s economic role, as a rule, shifted from that of the welfare provider to that of the entrepreneur and “operator of industrialized and commercial enterprises” (Lichauco, 1988, cited in Yu, 2001, p. 755).

In Singapore’s case, the development of entrepreneurial culture, as well as specific institutional innovations aimed at boosting state-owned firms’ performance and competitiveness may have led to the emergence of an ‘entrepreneurial state’ acting to maximize the future return on its capital investments. Accordingly, one of the studies, the major goals will be to present and analyze the practices and policies implemented and promoted in the Singaporean Government-Led Companies (hereinafter referred to as the GLCs). This will be done with the due attention being paid to both the history of their financial and competitiveness performance, and the phenomenological perceptions of the respective policy makers with regard to the differences/commonalities of managerial experiences at the privately owned and public enterprises in Singapore.

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NH1: The development of entrepreneurial culture has played no tangible role in boosting the Singaporean state-owned enterprises’ efficiency.This null hypothesis would be viewed as substantiated if no significant correlation between the entrepreneurial culture-oriented policies and the superior financial performance in the state-owned sector may be found. 

Hypothesis 2:

The fiscal policies of the Singaporean public sector are specifically conducive to the profit-making goals.

Anwar and Zheng (2004) place a special emphasis on the role of the Singaporean state in funding research and development (R&D) activities of both private and state-owned firms. it is the same what has been done in the case of the general infrastructure sponsorship in the field of innovative industrial/manufacturing applications that may be found to have contributed to the 1990s Singaporean economic surge. Furthermore, the issues of innovation-driven growth and that of ensuring locational competitiveness have been found to be playing an important role in the Singaporean government’s fiscal strategies, including the one aimed at the public sector enterprises (Anwar & Zheng, 2004). Taken together, this approach would stress the relevance of the state’s spending policies for the achievement of the higher performance and competitiveness goals in the Singaporean public sector.

The analysis of the impact of the Singaporean government’s fiscal policies on the superior performance of the nation’s public sector will take account of the government directives and regulations related to innovation-oriented spending in the public sector, as well as the one aimed at the general infrastructure development (Lichauco, 1988; Denhardt & Denhardt, 2007). The independent experts' opinion upon the efficiency of such spending will then be incorporated within the general picture. Finally, the results of the statistical data on the state-owned enterprises’ financial performance will be analyzed in the light of related spending data, so as to establish the presence of appropriate positive correlations between these variables.

NH2: The government’s spending policies bear no substantial impact on the Singaporean public sector’s financial performance. If no particular correlation between the Singaporean state’s spending policies and its enterprises’ financial performance may be conceivably established, this null hypothesis would be viewed as substantiated. 

Hypothesis 3:

The institutional structure of the Singaporean state-owned enterprises is intentionally based upon the modern private-sector corporate structures, emphasizing competitiveness.The importance of exploring the institutional framework of the Singaporean GLCs would be underscored by the relative lack of research concerning the roles assumed by the public administrators dealing with the functions of management in these government-linked corporations and similar companies. While such authors as Lay-Hong (2005) pay due attention to the importance of the government-influenced corporate governance code implemented within such listed companies, the role of public administrators in the exercise of the efficiency-oriented goals of the public sector policy makers has not found its relevant focus in the professional literature so far.

For instance, the domestic institutional climate is viewed within the Singaporean polity as ultimately secondary to the pressure of the international capital, as well as the geopolitical imperatives of meeting the challenges of neoliberal globalization. The scholar asserts that a GLCs restructuring is derived from the attempts of certain international actors to more fully integrate Singapore’s economy within their system of hegemony. Likewise, Haley (1998) and González-Páramo & DeCos (2005) described the relationship between the Singapore’s public sector and foreign capital as ‘Singapore Incorporated’: “the potent, regional, strategic alliance…between the Singaporean government, foreign MNCs, and Singaporean GLCs” (Haley, 1998, p. 338). While such a perspective may be valid, given the relevance of geopolitical factors for the region’s economic development, this geopolitical reductionism in exploring the dynamics of may be treated as a serious flaw of the majority of the scholarly literature on this subject matter.

González-Páramo & DeCos (2005) would seem to reach the closest to the attainment of this objective, but their attention is mainly captured by the peculiarities of applying the New Public Management-centered administrative and fiscal reforms in the city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore. This has been with an emphasis on the role of socio-cultural and political traditions in the course of this process. Given the importance of the Singaporean ‘exceptionalism’ thesis (Haley, 1998; González-Páramo & DeCos, 2005) in some of the recent literature pertaining to the subject of the interrelationship between the retaining of an authoritarian state and the continuation of the efficiency-oriented policy reforms, it is worth noting that an issue of the institutional basis of the Singaporean GLCs’ success in competing within the increasingly globalized world market would merit a particular attention within the framework of this study.

NH3: There is no significant relationship between the Singaporean GLCs’ competitiveness and efficiency, on the one hand, and Singapore’s institutional environment, on the other.This null hypothesis may be regarded as valid if no substantial association between the Singapore’s institutional climate and the business success of the nation’s GLCs is properly researched.

Hypothesis 4:

The joining together between the interests of the state administration and private sector’s stakeholders (including foreign-owned ones) contribute to the maintenance of the Singaporean developmental state in contemporary times. Provided that an excessive focus on foreign interests in shaping the current state of the Singaporean GLCs is prevented, the need to evaluate the respective interrelationship between internal and external stakeholders in driving the development and stipulating the efficiency of the Singaporean government-linked companies would still present itself in full entirety (Gonz&


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