One good reason why it makes far more sense to seek your fortune in a dangerous rather than a ‘safe’ country.

August 17, 2013

Less competition. Sometimes to win an argument, you do not require ten bullet points. All you need is ONE compelling reason.


“Singapore in my humble opinion ONLY appears to be safe and secure. But in truth you can be maimed and killed anywhere. Well being or for that matter the crumbly idea of feeling safe is after all at best only a state of mind and at worst it’s just a happy illusion.

Now if you don’t believe me – consider this, imagine if I put you in a bubble wrapped business environment where IF you are confronted with even the merest hint of violence and threat – and all you need to neutralize danger is to pick up the phone and call the police.

Then HOW can you possibly learn to manage danger? WHY for that matter do you even NEED to acquire the skill sets to interdict threats?

Do you do see from this simple illustration – how the whole idea of feeling safe is not only relative. But often we even allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security, thereby exposing ourselves to danger. As since we are lulled into a false sense of security, we can only let our guard down – but the worst thing about living in a bubble wrapped society is NOT that you have allowed yourself to buy lock, stock and barrel into the happy dream state that you are safe – rather the real solvent is, as time goes by, all your natural instincts of survival, such as the capacity to adapt and thrive in a harsh and dangerous business environment can only fritter away. Till you become so risk adverse and intolerant of danger that your threshold to manage conflict is reduced to virtually zero. When that happens how the fuck can you succeed in business – all it takes to send you packing is a bunch of two bit gangsters to send you a bullet with your name engraved in it – and you’re a nervous wreck. Or for them to give you a hard time only for you to throw in the towel and sell your lands to them at a fire sale prices. When that end point is reached, you can work in no other business environment except a place like Singapore. That’s just a polite way of saying you have painted yourself into a corner – or worst still cut off an entire field of possibilities and reduced it all to a miniscule island.

That is well and fine if you happen to believe Singapore is the alpha and omega. The beginning and end etc etc etc.

However if you have to regularly work in a business environment where everyday when you switch on the TV or read the papers only to be informed that so and so has been shot by a gun man etc etc etc – then what you would have to do is learn HOW to be effective in a highly volatile, uncertain and dangerous business environment – that is to say, you will have to develop a very high tolerance to risk and even danger – you will even be able to step outside your comfort into the discomfort zone and manage whatever dangers come your way – but the best thing in my opinion is not that you learn to remain calm and composed in the face of danger – rather what is often discounted in the business case and even elided in the Harvard Business Review is that it’s remarkably easy to succeed in a dangerous business environment – first of all, you have virtually no competitors – as since the polite crowd who are usually addicted to air-conditioners and gated communities (do you notice they are all fat) consider that country you are turning the wheel of life in a basket case – that simply means you would probably need to ONLY put in one tenth of the effort to carve out competitive advantage in your business. That means you can get a very good return on your energy and your capacity to materialize a profit is incredibly efficient. To me having less competition is one big headache that more than compensates for whatever grief you may have to put up with when you work in a dangerous business environment.

I would for example consider the business plan to mine gold in Sierra Leone a far better business proposition than let’s say undertaking the same in civilized Alaska or New South Wales in Western Australia – as although there are armed tribes in the darkest reaches of Africa who are all seem to like pointing their AK-47’s at foreigners – and they have absolutely no qualms in killing and putting people in a pot with a diced carrots just to fill their stomachs.

At least, I don’t have to regularly lose sleep on how to procure the financing to out flank juggernaut firms like Rio Tinto, appease pesky environmentalist, deal daily with anal fixated officers from department of environment, having to regularly make up excuses that I am not pumping affluents into the river or putting up with really stupid things like getting a summons for shooting grizzly bears during the off season just to fill my stomach when I am out in the field.

In Africa, all I need to do is get a couple of bad ass cheiftains to sit underneath a tree without killing each other and sharing with them my business plan which probably sounds like this something you probably read at the back of a chewing gum wrapper, “Hey instead you people trying to hack me into a thousand pieces, let’s make money man! What do you all say?” – even if all fails, what is to stop me from declaring my own sovereign state by setting up my private army – my point is you need to focus on the cogent and disregard what I can only term as distractions – as when you boil it all down to crud –  business really comes right down to only one consideration – return on investment. Everything else is negotiable.

Understand this! What I am trying to say is your chances of discovering El Dorado in a country where people regularly try to kill, kidnap or put you in the ICU will ALWAYS be dramatically higher, as compared to let’s say, if you decide to do the same in a bubble wrapped society like Singapore – as in those countries where foreign investors dare not tread – you have very few competitors and since everything is up in the air or in a state of anarchy, that by itself gives you so much room for improvisation that it can only confer a competitive advantage that you can NEVER ever get anywhere else – least of all a place like Singapore – where if you just step out of line a bit, you’re toast lah. Besides Temasek controls everything under the sun, so what scope of improvisation are you talking about – did you know that in Africa or in certain places where businessmen don’t even dare to go in South America, you can even set up your own currency and bank. I bet you didn’t know that – to me the entry cost for doing business in countries that is so fucked up that not even General Electric or Temasek wants to touch it with a barge pole is so compelling that you have to be either stupid or so incredibly scared of your own shadow just to dismiss the merit of the proposition on the trivial basis that you may get shot – just because you make a few enemies in business who may decide to put out a contract on you. 

So don’t buy into the propaganda that Singapore is a safe country. Or for that matter, you should only turn the wheel of life in Disneyland – after all how safe can you be, if you have to work like a Duracell rabbit 24/7 and the cost of living keeps chipping away at your pay check? How safe is it for that matter if you can’t even afford to get sick as the cost of healthcare is so prohibitively high? How safe can you really be, if you have to pay ten times for a van or car even before you start turning a profit on your enterprise? How secure can you be, if the cost of renting business premises is so bloody high that it even requires to be a millionaire even before you start materializing your first million? – the way I see it, your chances of dying of a heart attack, insomnia and high blood pressure presents far greater risk than getting shot in a traffic light in a country where the crime levels seem to be high.

I hope you are all internally persuaded now that all this talk about Singapore being a safe and secure place is illusionary.

Trust your hopes, not your fears. Life is too short to do otherwise. The ancients were right, where there is adversity, there is always loads of opportunity.”


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