Condolences to Singapore, looking at simple lessons


Caribbean Times is firstly compelled to offer the deepest condolences to the people of Singapore on the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, the architect and shaper of modern day Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew, globally respected for his bold initiatives that saw the rise of an industrialised Singapore, has left many lessons across Asia and the developing world in Africa, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Yew’s passing, and indeed the final departure of any outstanding leader, bears lessons for that particular nation, as well as for the many nations around the globe.

Caribbean Times recognises the significance of Singapore and its developmental model; very often the Singapore model has been cited as arguably the leading developmental course for achieving sustainable economic growth, making best of the full utilisation of the country’s resources, and the path from which to accomplish the type of prosperity that redounds to the population at large. For example, sitting in an audience towards the end of last year, it was easy to understand the admiration that our own Sir Dwight Venner had for Singapore’s rapid growth.

It is for more than four decades, that economists, Prime Ministers, and the multilateral agencies sang praises about the levels of autonomy that Singapore maintained while Yew charted the development course of that country. It gave potency to the view that “development is about improving the quality of peoples’ lives and, expanding their ability to shape their own future.” So that even with criticisms coming out of some quarters against Singapore’s tight and no-nonsense approach to maintaining government control on many aspects of every day productive life, the country as a result has done economically better than most, if not all former British colonies.

In fact, one speaker has stated emphatically that: “the island of Singapore has experienced dramatic rates of economic growth since 1961- 91. Its, policies have been influenced by a perception of political and economic vulnerability which is not dissimilar to our own circumstances [in the Caribbean]. The authorities have stated categorically that without national resources their survival is entirely dependent on its human resources.” To what extent in Antigua and Barbuda have we zoned in on truly developing and maximising our number one resource – the nation’s people – so that our number two resource and natural plant could achieve by far better results?

Perhaps, tradition has said we have the sun, the sand, and the beaches, so people will visit us, without realising that there has to be a synchronisation with the people wherein they are better informed, better trained in relation services provision, and that our human resources are always – not sometimes – at the top of the priority lists in our developmental economics. Governments have to be pragmatic and not bend to every utterance that comes from some in the developed world; clearly that is a lesson for us in the Caribbean. We must set our pace and our goals, and do not be sidetracked by the intricacies of the mighty USA and others seeking gain without ample give back to lift these countries in the OECS and CARICOM.

Clearly something worked for Singapore that has not necessarily worked for us here in Antigua and Barbuda, and the islands in the region. We know that Singapore happens to be one of the wealthiest small countries of the world with a population just less than 5 million people. The country has attained levels of per capita income and excellent social indicators that actually can give most or all countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean much to strive for, even in the context of this region’s democratic traditions.

Caribbean Times, will seek to identify and explore possibilities emerging from Singapore’s success with a view of presenting these analyses for discussion from time to time. As Sir Dwight once said in a lecture, “the story is that there is no room for complacency, an urgent need for fundamental improvement in education and health and the real possibility that under performance in the economic arena can pose a real threat to the maintenance of our social indicators.” It is about time that we draw on alternatives apart from those being handed down by Washington, Brussels, and Geneva. With the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, the developing world must try to find out the fundamentals in Singapore’s development, and adapt same to our situations. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and our development must get going with haste. The world thanks you, Antigua and Barbuda thanks you Singapore for being a good example of lifting yourself as a small nation.

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