That a successful national housing policy generates political legitimacy for the ruling government should be a truism that defies challenge. Yet in European countries where there has been extensive state-provided social housing, such provisions have been in retreat since the early 1980s as part of the attempt to reduce the rising costs of social welfarism—and this in spite of the political legitimacy that such provisions have generated for past and present social democratic governments.
In the British case, because the current general restructuring and shrinking of the welfare state coincides with the so-called post-Fordist restructuring of both national and global capitalism, it has been argued that the retreat of the welfare state is caused by the latter process. However, as pointed out by Pierson (1994), co-incidence of restructuring is not tantamount to a causal relation between the two. The example of Singapore’s relatively successful universal provision of public housing would certainly increase scepticism regarding the post-Fordist thesis.
As a very late entrant to industrial capitalism, Singapore was never burdened with a Fordist economy. Indeed, its economy is one of the more celebrated by-products of global restructuring of capitalism that began in the 1960s. Its economic growth has been largely fuelled by transnational capital engaged in non-traditional industries. For a very brief period, between 1960 and 1970, Singapore may have been a labour-intensive manufacturing platform for foreign capital under the new international division of labour, but the service sector began to overtake the manufacturing sector by 1970 (Castells, Goh and Kwok, 1990:167). Since 1985, when the government initiated what was called Singapore’s Second Industrial Revolution, labour-intensive industries have dwindled further and, correspondingly, service and high-tech industries have expanded, as reflected in the aggressive promotion of Singapore as a location for multinationals’ regional headquarters for