Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 8 2016: The Singapore example for development and transformation

De Ole Dawg – Part 8 2016: The Singapore example for development and transformation

BRADES, Montserrat – In the early 1960’s, Singapore’s economic output per person was under US$320, an underdeveloped country level. Today, it is US$56,000 with double the population, now 5.5 millions.  Singapore is a successfully developed, globally respected country.GDP

How was this achieved?

In the 1950’s, there was unrest, rioting, radical agitation and instability as workers and students understandably protested oppression and discrimination. Housing was often grossly inadequate, unemployment was high and – in August 1965 – Malaysia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to expel the struggling city state.  Rejected, dismissed and ejected.

However, through an astute strategy[1] that started out by attracting initial industrial investments then branched into high technology and high knowledge services, Singapore triggered and sustained eight percent average annual economic growth for thirty years.  This transformed the situation to what we see today.[2]

Our challenge in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean is to learn from and adapt this success story to our circumstances. Without, Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarianism.

A good place to begin is to note that when Mr Lee Kuan Yew died last May, BBC took opportunity to draw a lesson[3] for the world by calling on several experts. Let’s take a peek:

Navnita Sarma: making Singapore attractive as a destination for investment . . .  world class manpower . . .  state of the art infrastructure and excellent air and sea linkages; a low and transparent tax regime; clean and efficient bureaucracy; a strong regulatory and legal framework.

Vishnu Varathan:  a universally accessible, top-flight public education system . . .  human capital as Singapore’s key competitive advantage . . .  meritocracy . . . little tolerance for complacency or corruption.

Ilian Milhov: Any policy can be reversed, any incentives for growth can be dismantled. Mr Lee built [up] . . .  the rule of law; efficient government . . .  the continuous fight against corruption; and overall stability.

David Kuo: Singaporeans had to be more welcoming to immigrants if the country were to grow  . . . it is the integration of foreign and home-grown talent that has allowed the country to enjoy decades of economic growth.

The common theme is educated and skilled disciplined people as the key – and apart from location on a key global trade choke point, the only – resource, in a governance climate that encourages stability, rule of law, clean and efficient government, high business confidence, innovation and investment. Closely linked, are good sea and air access, ICT infrastructure and a well-picked pattern of new industries. Nor should we overlook immigration as part of the growth strategy.

All of this sounds quite familiar, even obvious and simple.

It is. However, as strategic thinkers remind us, in war everything is simple – but the simplest things are very hard to actually do well and in good time. Because, there are ever so many conflicting and confusing factors, emergencies and urgent issues that tend to distract, side-track and roadblock. So, the real problem – especially in a situation where there may be a widespread dog- eat- dog, crabs- in- a- barrel, knife- in- the- back mentality –  is how to trigger a breakthrough to a sustained successful strategy. That’s why Milhov is so blunt: “Any policy can be reversed, any incentives for growth can be dismantled.”

Here in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean, we clearly need a sustained effective strategic focus and consistently capable, honest, effective, flexible execution – the right kind of resilience. (As the graph above shows, Singapore stumbled a few times, but rethought, regrouped and caught back up again.)

Maybe, a good place to begin would be for CARICOM, CDB, UWI, the OECS and ECCB  to jointly invite the Singaporeans to come sit with us, tell us their story, including learning from them how they learned from our own Sir Arthur Lewis of St Lucia on development. The summit’s key sessions should be regional, live broadcast events and our media should be there in full force.

Then, as a region, we should swallow pride and humbly ask the Singaporeans to partner with our region as long term advisors and partners on economic transformation.  (In a sense, that returns a favour. Right up to the turn of the 1980’s Singapore sent key people out to the Caribbean to study things we did right, to learn from what was working here in our region.)

While we are at it, we should also invite the Israelis to the same summit, both for high tech development and for world class counsel on agriculture.

For tourism, we need to partner with the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, as well as Hawaii or Tahiti from the Pacific.

And for Cricket (important for Tourism and getting good media coverage), maybe some of the Australians would be willing to help us out.

As a preview of what such a Singaporean presentation to our region’s leaders and thinkers would look like, perhaps a snippet from one made in the Czech Republic in 2004 may be helpful:

Singapore’s  fast  economic  growth  from  the  1960s  triggered  its  transformation  into  a modern  city-state  today . . . . Singapore’s  key  strategies  have  been  to  adopt  a  pro-business,  pro-foreign  investment, export-oriented economic policy framework, combined with state-directed investments in strategic  government-owned  corporations.  Without  the  presence  of  any  natural resource,  Singapore  has  long  relied  mostly  on  its  human  resources  as  well  as  its infrastructure . . . .  Singapore’s  economic  strategies  can  be  summarized  into  three  basic categories: (1) The government’s strategic role, (2) Mobilization of its human capital, and (3) Continuous development of infrastructure . . .  In the early period, Singapore used its sufficient physical infrastructure  as  well  as  the  semi-skilled  workforce  to  attract  foreign investors  to  the island. From the 1980s . . . Singapore switched its strategies  into  establishing  a  modern  ‘infostructure’  as  well  as  a  dynamic  high-skilled workforce to enable Singapore to become the financial and business hub of the region.[4]

So, yet again, we must ask: if not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who?

ENDS –

[1]           https://www.edb.gov.sg/content/edb/en/why-singapore/about-singapore/our-history/1960s.html

[2]           http://www.globalurbandevelopment.org/GUD%20Singapore%20MES%20Report.pdf

[3]           http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32028693

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BRADES, Montserrat – In the early 1960’s, Singapore’s economic output per person was under US$320, an underdeveloped country level. Today, it is US$56,000 with double the population, now 5.5 millions.  Singapore is a successfully developed, globally respected country.GDP

How was this achieved?

In the 1950’s, there was unrest, rioting, radical agitation and instability as workers and students understandably protested oppression and discrimination. Housing was often grossly inadequate, unemployment was high and – in August 1965 – Malaysia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to expel the struggling city state.  Rejected, dismissed and ejected.

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However, through an astute strategy[1] that started out by attracting initial industrial investments then branched into high technology and high knowledge services, Singapore triggered and sustained eight percent average annual economic growth for thirty years.  This transformed the situation to what we see today.[2]

Our challenge in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean is to learn from and adapt this success story to our circumstances. Without, Lee Kuan Yew’s authoritarianism.

A good place to begin is to note that when Mr Lee Kuan Yew died last May, BBC took opportunity to draw a lesson[3] for the world by calling on several experts. Let’s take a peek:

Navnita Sarma: making Singapore attractive as a destination for investment . . .  world class manpower . . .  state of the art infrastructure and excellent air and sea linkages; a low and transparent tax regime; clean and efficient bureaucracy; a strong regulatory and legal framework.

Vishnu Varathan:  a universally accessible, top-flight public education system . . .  human capital as Singapore’s key competitive advantage . . .  meritocracy . . . little tolerance for complacency or corruption.

Ilian Milhov: Any policy can be reversed, any incentives for growth can be dismantled. Mr Lee built [up] . . .  the rule of law; efficient government . . .  the continuous fight against corruption; and overall stability.

David Kuo: Singaporeans had to be more welcoming to immigrants if the country were to grow  . . . it is the integration of foreign and home-grown talent that has allowed the country to enjoy decades of economic growth.

The common theme is educated and skilled disciplined people as the key – and apart from location on a key global trade choke point, the only – resource, in a governance climate that encourages stability, rule of law, clean and efficient government, high business confidence, innovation and investment. Closely linked, are good sea and air access, ICT infrastructure and a well-picked pattern of new industries. Nor should we overlook immigration as part of the growth strategy.

All of this sounds quite familiar, even obvious and simple.

It is. However, as strategic thinkers remind us, in war everything is simple – but the simplest things are very hard to actually do well and in good time. Because, there are ever so many conflicting and confusing factors, emergencies and urgent issues that tend to distract, side-track and roadblock. So, the real problem – especially in a situation where there may be a widespread dog- eat- dog, crabs- in- a- barrel, knife- in- the- back mentality –  is how to trigger a breakthrough to a sustained successful strategy. That’s why Milhov is so blunt: “Any policy can be reversed, any incentives for growth can be dismantled.”

Here in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean, we clearly need a sustained effective strategic focus and consistently capable, honest, effective, flexible execution – the right kind of resilience. (As the graph above shows, Singapore stumbled a few times, but rethought, regrouped and caught back up again.)

Maybe, a good place to begin would be for CARICOM, CDB, UWI, the OECS and ECCB  to jointly invite the Singaporeans to come sit with us, tell us their story, including learning from them how they learned from our own Sir Arthur Lewis of St Lucia on development. The summit’s key sessions should be regional, live broadcast events and our media should be there in full force.

Then, as a region, we should swallow pride and humbly ask the Singaporeans to partner with our region as long term advisors and partners on economic transformation.  (In a sense, that returns a favour. Right up to the turn of the 1980’s Singapore sent key people out to the Caribbean to study things we did right, to learn from what was working here in our region.)

While we are at it, we should also invite the Israelis to the same summit, both for high tech development and for world class counsel on agriculture.

For tourism, we need to partner with the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, as well as Hawaii or Tahiti from the Pacific.

And for Cricket (important for Tourism and getting good media coverage), maybe some of the Australians would be willing to help us out.

As a preview of what such a Singaporean presentation to our region’s leaders and thinkers would look like, perhaps a snippet from one made in the Czech Republic in 2004 may be helpful:

Singapore’s  fast  economic  growth  from  the  1960s  triggered  its  transformation  into  a modern  city-state  today . . . . Singapore’s  key  strategies  have  been  to  adopt  a  pro-business,  pro-foreign  investment, export-oriented economic policy framework, combined with state-directed investments in strategic  government-owned  corporations.  Without  the  presence  of  any  natural resource,  Singapore  has  long  relied  mostly  on  its  human  resources  as  well  as  its infrastructure . . . .  Singapore’s  economic  strategies  can  be  summarized  into  three  basic categories: (1) The government’s strategic role, (2) Mobilization of its human capital, and (3) Continuous development of infrastructure . . .  In the early period, Singapore used its sufficient physical infrastructure  as  well  as  the  semi-skilled  workforce  to  attract  foreign investors  to  the island. From the 1980s . . . Singapore switched its strategies  into  establishing  a  modern  ‘infostructure’  as  well  as  a  dynamic  high-skilled workforce to enable Singapore to become the financial and business hub of the region.[4]

So, yet again, we must ask: if not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who?

ENDS –

[1]           https://www.edb.gov.sg/content/edb/en/why-singapore/about-singapore/our-history/1960s.html

[2]           http://www.globalurbandevelopment.org/GUD%20Singapore%20MES%20Report.pdf

[3]           http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32028693