20 May, 2022


Singapore At 50 Ready To Reach Next Level; Can Sri Lanka Follow?

By W.A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

Singapore celebrated its Golden Jubilee on 9 August. The event was marked by a month-long public discussion on what it had attained and a debate as to where it should go from here.

According to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the next destination for the city state is to go to the ‘next level’ where it would be a smart nation. A smart nation will have more intellectual workers than simple labour spenders. Such intellectual workers would, instead of copying from others, imagine and create new things for the world.

Smartness, therefore, does not come free. It needs a massive investment in upgrading the brainpower of its workforce by putting them on a continuous learning curve. That quality will come from increased investments in research and development in the first place. Then, what is developed has to be marketed to entrepreneurs who would use it for economic gain.

This is nothing but entrepreneurial application of inventions, called ‘innovation’ by Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter as far back as 1942. As such, the Smart Singapore will invent new things and innovate them at home as well as elsewhere. To prepare the nation to acquire this capability, Singapore has allocated some S$ 16 billion or US$ 12 billion, according to reports.

A country awed by both peers and superiors

Singapore, a backward port city 50 years ago, awed the rest of the world by becoming a rich nation within two generations. Its achievements were the subject of praise not only by its peers who were left behind by Singapore, but also by the rich world which it surpassed.

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew

This was eloquently pronounced by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott when he proposed the vote of condolence on Lee Kuan Yew in Australian Parliament. He said that in 1965, Singapore’s per capita income was a third of Australia’s. But today, it is two times higher than that of Australia’s.

Singapore viewed as a role model

Many developing nations, therefore, looked at Singapore as a role model for emulation. If Singapore, devoid of natural resources, could become a rich nation so quickly, why not us with all these natural resources around us?

That was the argument put forward by politicians and policymakers in poor countries. Sri Lanka too, after it opened its economy in 1977, declared openly that it wants to become the Singapore of South Asia. But even after four decades, Sri Lanka is nowhere near Singapore with respect to economic prosperity, development of brainpower and the use of an effective Government.

Hence, it is useful to examine how Singapore made its achievements, why Sri Lanka’s dreams were shattered and what Sri Lanka should do to follow in its footsteps.

No one owes a living to Singaporeans

The credit for Singapore’s economic success is shared equally by its forefathers who are called the old guard. Among them, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister, and Goh Keng Swee, its first Finance Minister, stand out prominently.

Swee, on the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Singapore’s Currency Board, revisited the rationale of the economic policy they adopted in an article entitled ‘Why a Currency Board?’. Singapore was a British colony for more than a century. Hence, it is natural for leaders of colonies to blame their colonial masters for all the economic ills they were having. But Goh Keng Swee says that they believed that no one owed a living to Singaporeans. Their destiny was in their own hands and they had to work hard for that.

Blaming colonial masters for economic ills even many years after independence

This viewpoint of a newly-independent nation is in stark contrast with those uttered by leaders of other such nations. They always blame the colonial masters for the economic ills they are experiencing. The latest such Colonial Master bashing was done in a speech delivered by Indian legislator Dr. Shashi Tharoor at Oxford Union recently. Tharoor boldly announced to an applauding audience that Britain should compensate India for the destruction of its economy during colonial rule.

At a subsequent meeting, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi too praised Tharoor for his Oxford Union speech endorsing what he said there. Thus, even after 68 years of independence, India’s leaders still believe that the rest of the world owes it a living. In holding this view of blaming others for the economic woes of the country, Indian leaders are not alone. Sri Lanka’s political leadership has been conveniently and liberally throwing a jab at the British colonial masters for the country’s chronic economic ills. What the leaders of these countries are doing is telling their people what they want to hear. On the contrary, what Singapore leaders tell them is what they should hear.

Hard work is the key to prosperity

As Swee has revealed, the economic policy followed by the old guard was based on one premise: if people wanted better public services, they should be prepared to pay for them. Thus, in the words of Swee, people should keep in mind that there was no such thing as a free lunch. The prosperity should come, not by giving things free or by printing money through the Central Bank. Prosperity comes when people work hard.

Hard work should be practised, according to Swee, by students at schools, undergraduates at universities and workers at workplaces. The incentive system in Singapore was designed right from the beginning for people to work hard and get remunerated accordingly.

Swee says that having such a policy, the old guard wanted to deliver three important messages to people, future politicians and foreigners. To the people, as mentioned above, they should be ready to pay for public services.

To the future politicians, if they desire to go for vote-catching expenditure programs, they should bring money from homes. They cannot use moneys paid by taxpayers or moneys printed by the Central Bank for that purpose. To the foreigners, they could lend their savings to Singapore and Singapore would guarantee that their moneys will be returned on the due dates with proper interest.

Discipline on both money printing and budgetary expenditure

Thus, right from the beginning, it was discipline across the Government that was practised by Singapore. To have discipline on the creation of money, Singapore decided to retain the currency board system which was inherited from the colonial masters. In a currency board system, the Government cannot print money according to its wishes. That is because the issue of currency is tied to the holding of an equivalent amount of foreign exchange assets.

Thus, if the country earns a net amount of foreign exchange through its international transactions, it can increase money supply to that extent. In the opposite, if the country loses foreign exchange, it has to cut down the money supply. This monetary discipline imposes discipline on the government budget as well. That is, since the budget has to be financed entirely out of taxpayers’ money, it cannot arbitrarily increase the level of government expenditure.

Accordingly, it forced Singapore to carefully balance the budget. That balanced budget brought in two salutary developments. It created an inflation-free world domestically, while strengthening the external value of the Singapore dollar. The budget discipline helped Singapore to spend a large amount of money on education, research and development and improving healthcare facilities. People were encouraged to save for their old age through a very stringent provident fund scheme.

Cheap money spoils a nation

Singapore did not join the IMF, World Bank or ADB in the first 40 years of independence. As a developing country, it could have used the concessionary funds available from the World Bank or ADB for long-term development projects.

Instead, it borrowed money from commercial markets to meet such expenditure. To a policymaker in any other developing country, this may appear to be an absurd decision. However, Singapore did so with good economic logic. If it had raised concessionary funds, it would have used them loosely without following strict economic criteria. But, when it borrows from commercial markets, it has to ensure that the funds are used in projects that would bring in adequate return to repay those loans. So, unlike in other developing countries, politicians in Singapore could not start their pet projects out of concessionary funds so raised.

It joined these three institutions only in the early 2000s to facilitate Singaporean firms to become eligible for bidding for contracts in other countries when they are funded by either the World Bank or ADB. This is because, according to the requirements of these two institutions, services could be obtained for projects funded by them only from their member countries.

Politicians too have to undergo rigorous training

Singapore developed an effective public service led by an effective team of politicians. Public servants and politicians were paid good remunerations. The rationale for this, according to Lee Kuan Yew, was that if one pays peanuts to one’s servants, one could get only monkeys. The capacity development of public servants was given the highest priority with support from the best schools of business and government in the world. As for politicians, there was both a selection and election process in use.

In terms of the selection process, prospective future political leaders were identified, handpicked and lured into politics. Once they have joined politics, they had to undergo a rigorous training and learning program. For instance, a politician identified as the future Minister of International Trade had to learn everything about trade theories, trade agreements, multilateral trading arrangements and bilateral trade negotiations. This apprenticeship period ranged between three to four years before they became ministers. If one examines the current profile of the Cabinet Ministers of Singapore, including its Prime Minister, one may find that almost everyone of them has completed the Master of Public Policy and Administration degree offered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government affiliated to Harvard University.

With this professional strength behind, Singaporean Ministers do not speak nonsense in public forums or TV interviews. Thus, a Singaporean Minister is unlikely to identify a ‘megapolis’ as a police force covering a province or an ‘eLibrary’ as an iPad.

Eliminate corruption at all levels

Singapore fought very hard against bribery and corruption at all levels of public life. It paid high salaries to public servants and politicians to kill the temptation to make extra money. At the same time, it was tough on those who were found to be engaged in corrupt practices. That applied to the children of the first family as well.

As mentioned by Lee Kuan Yew in his autobiography ‘From Third World to the First’, there was a public charge that one of his children had got involved in an improper land deal. This has happened when he had retired from active politics. Hence, Lee had asked the Prime Minister to make an independent investigation immediately. The inquiry had revealed that there was not any impropriety in the deal at all. Yet, Lee imposed the rules of the family good governance on his daughter and asked her to reverse the land deal.

Such an exemplary act cannot be expected from Sri Lanka’s political leaders today, though there had been some instances in good old days. An example for similar statesmanly act is found when Dudley Senanayake was the Prime Minister during 1965 to 1970. The daughter of his Minister of Education had got a scholarship from the Indian Government to study in an Indian University. When the Opposition charged that there was foul play, Dudley wanted to clear the good name of his party. He gave two options to the Education Minister: Either resign from the Cabinet or bring back the daughter from India. The Minister opted for the latter. But today, Sri Lanka is infested with political leaders who admit later that they have protected corrupt colleagues or go on defending top public officials who have been charged of committing improper acts.

Planning for the future instead of living in the past

Thus, the secret of Singapore’s success is the pursuit of good economic policy governance supported by an effective and incorrupt political system and public service. Discipline was maintained throughout the system with no exception for selected people. Even Ministers had to sweep the streets as punishment if they committed traffic offences. Education system was developed to international standards to produce smart workers. Courses were designed and introduced taking into account the future requirements of manpower.

That was how Singapore became world famous for genetic sciences, nanotechnology and Information and Communication Technology – the drivers of future economic development. Universities were encouraged to team up with universities of repute in the world.

English was made the medium of instruction at schools as well as at universities. The result was the elevation of some of the universities in Singapore to a high world ranking. The best example is provided by the National University of Singapore. Forty years ago, it was an unknown institution of higher learning. Today, it is ranked within the top 25 universities of the world.

Develop brain power along with infrastructure

Singapore’s success story is marked by correct choices, sacrifices and integration to global economy. It developed its infrastructure on modern lines and brainpower to match the world requirements. It always chose policies that are to take Singapore to the future. Its plan to become a smart nation is in terms of this accepted vision.

On the contrary, supported by its political leaders, Sri Lanka continues to rejoice at its glorious past. Presumably, it may be in the belief that the past may be repeated automatically in the future as well. No wonder that the country has a shattered dream.

What Sri Lanka should do

If Sri Lanka is to emulate Singapore, it has to make a lot of sacrifices. At political level, all those seeking political office should undergo rigorous training and acquire political know-how.

Ministerships should not be allocated on the basis of seniority or the loyalty to the party leader, but on the basis of competence, efficiency and delivery capacity. Education should be forward looking taking into account the brain requirements of the future. In that context, the balanced development of brains with science and mathematics on one hand and arts and literature on the other is a must.

Hence, the current downgrading of mathematics as unnecessary by even Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education should be a cause for alarm. Sri Lanka will get a good opportunity to rectify its past mistakes at the forthcoming general election. If it fails to choose the correct path, Singapore will move into the smart age, while Sri Lanka will recede back to the old age.

*W.A. Wijewardena, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, could be reached at waw1949@gmail.com 

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Latest comments

  • 5

    No we won’t, we had every advantage in 1948 and we didn’t make it and now we have every disadvantage we can have so what chance do we have? NEVER EVER !

    • 3

      Frankly, we do not want to be. Just check their unhappy index – it is one of the highest in the world!!

      Just take a drive around our country and experience the joy of just looking out of the window. You think our politics are restricted – try to be there where the opposition is in jail and the media is shackled for the last 50 years.

      • 1

        I’d rather be a unhappy rich man with the knowledge that my family is safe, there’s a roof above my head and my leaders are not corrupt rather than be a smiling poor man wondering how to feed his family. Regarding the shackled media – I think you’re referring to Sri Lanka’s previous regime where journalist deaths were comparable to Afghanistan and Iraq. I suggest you extract your head from the sand, open your eyes and take those rose tinted glasses off.

  • 4

    Sri Lankan cannot reach the peak of Singapore’s model because of idiotic people surrounding the government. The high-level corruption will never help to retain the country’s economy to grow faster than Singapore. Unless if the people are smart enough then it’s always possible to become model of rich lifestyle examples like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia!

    If the country had been ruled by United National Party for more than 25 years (till today), then by today, the country would be closer to Singapore’s GDP growth because UNP is known to expedite the economy and giving more opportunity to people than what UPFA is doing. If you compare the economics during Ranil Wickremesinghe, you’ll clearly notice the difference between UNP and the UPFA as during that time Ranil managed to turn the country into fastest growing economy which was halted when Rajapaksa came into power in 2005 after fall of UNP government (dissolution of Parliament by Kumaratunga). If she didn’t dissolve then the country would have gotten a lot better than nepotism ruled government today.

    During J.R, the country was a lot better than Malaysia and Singapore and it was the one of fastest growing economy in Asia at the time, When Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by Eelam Terrorist the economy started to decline slowly due to a rise of the Northern Province civil war.

    • 7

      LOL stop making up stories just because you are a die hard UNPer.

      It was already too late to catch up Singapore by the 80s. Lee khan yew was asked to help with setting up Air Lanka by JR and he advised against it and called it a “vanity” project not fit for a developing country. Look where the old Air Lankan ended up until Emirates saved it.

      Let us also not forget how UNP “developed” the country by burning thousands of Tamil shops and killing thousands in 83. Or how UNP killed more innocents 89/90.
      Stop talking through your backside.

      Yes, the economy was doing very well, I am sure LOL

  • 4

    Singapore ministers have million dollar salaries to prevent corruption.
    Sri Lanka ministers would still be thieving even with million dollar salaries so we will never be like Singapore in a thousand years.

  • 3

    Dr. W.A Wijewardena

    Singapore At 50 Ready To Reach Next Level; Can Sri Lanka Follow?

    “According to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the next destination for the city state is to go to the ‘next level’ where it would be a smart nation. A smart nation will have more intellectual workers than simple labour spenders. Such intellectual workers would, instead of copying from others, imagine and create new things for the world.”

    Very Difficult, and very unlikely for Sri Lanka, until, a) English, the current International Language for science, Technology, Commerce and Communications oi given a prominent place, and the religious nationalists and racists are contained AND Law and order is established, AND the IQ of the populace improved along with their education and skill levels.

    One Language, especially a World language proficiency certainly helped Singaore along with the absence of religious and racial fanatics, and of course Mahawansa lies and imaginations.

    You did miss one crucial pint, the processor speed of its people, generally measured as IQ scores. Singapore average IQ is 108, whereas the average IQ of Sri Lanka is 79. Of course it is not an absolute measure, however crude it is, it is also a factor.

    43% of the MPs in the Sri Lanka parliament have not passed the GCE OL even in their mother tongue, let alone in English. So, it is likely it is the low IQ. What do the Sri Lankans, Tamils, Sinhala and Muslims have in Common? Para-genes from South India. Para-Genes.

    If The people from Mozambique ( IQ 64) spoke and learned only English, will they be as successful as the Singaporeans? Will the Sri Lankans ( IQ 79) be as successful as the Singaporeans?

    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings


    Rank ——– Country ———————– % ————-

    1 Singapore 108

    4 Italy 102

    7 China 100

    28 Sri Lanka 79

    28 Zambia 79

    41 Mozambique 64

    42 Saint Lucia 62

    43 Equatorial Guinea 59

  • 4

    Dr. W.A Wijewardena

    RE: Singapore At 50 Ready To Reach Next Level; Can Sri Lanka Follow?

    Sri Lanka can follow with difficulty, but Sri Lanka suffers from many structural problems, like many other countries. Can you do an IQ score of the general population based on ethnicity, profession, education level, field of study, religion, etc. along with a DNA analysis study. It will be very revealing.

    Amarasiri wants to focus on one such problem, the National Intelligence, IQ score.

    Singapore Sri Lanka

    National IQ 108 79

    Standard Deviation 15 (approx) 15 (Approximate)

    Z Score Needed =(108-79)/15 =29/15 = 1.933
    for Sri Lanka to
    get to IQ 108 =0.50 -0.4734 =0.0266,
    or 2.66% of Population.
    Population 5.4 Million 21 Million

    Population with
    IQ > 108 2.7 Million 0.0266×21 Million= 0.56 Million

    So, Singapore has 5 Times as many people with IQ >108 than Sri Lanka has.

    So, Sri Lanka need to focus on areas where it has a comparative advantage, and is not penalized because of a lower IQ score.


    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings

    The intelligence scores came from work carried out earlier this decade by Richard Lynn, a British psychologist, and Tatu Vanhanen, a Finnish political scientist, who analysed IQ studies from 113 countries, and from subsequent work by Jelte Wicherts, a Dutch psychologist.

    Countries are ranked highest to lowest national IQ score.


    ——– Country
    ———————– %
    1 Singapore 108
    2 South Korea 106
    3 Japan 105

    28 Guatemala 79
    28 Sri Lanka 79
    28 Zambia 79

    • 0


      IQ is a new construct of science. If done 100 years ago, Singaporeans would have had an IQ of 50.

      IQ’s can change in one generation. If Sri Lanka has adequate teachers, and spends tax-payer money on basic education, we too will have high IQ.

      But instead, Sri Lanka focuses on showing off her tertiary education. She spends gross amounts of tax-payer money on teaching mathematics and other sciences to a niche-set of students to show the world : “See how clever our people are. We indeed have come from another planet like stated in our legends.”

      Then the shameful truth of our overall IQ comes out. :(

      Better to teach basic mathematics and other skills at lower school level, and our country IQ will jump up very high in 18 years time.

  • 7

    Sri Lanka is still not ready to follow Singapore as long as Sinhala Buddhist racism is prevalent in the society, and rampant in the state institutions and others.

    Sri Lanka never had a true Sinhalese leader since independence who rose above racism to build a nation, let alone prosperity.

    Sri Lankan Tamils driven out by periodic anti-Tamil pogroms contributed significantly to Singapore’s prosperity, while Sri Lanka lost the talented Tamils, simply because they are Tamils.

    As long as racism is not eradicated with equality all races/religions Sri Lanka will never be peaceful, and as a corollary never be prosperous.

  • 9

    The author cleverly avoids the most important point mentioned by Lee Kuan Yew himself for its prosperity: He ensured fairness among the three races; Chinese, Malays, and Indians.

    Without racial equality, fairness and harmony Sri Lanka will continue to be a paraya state.

    • 3


      “Without racial equality, fairness and harmony Sri Lanka will continue to be a paraya state. “

      Sri Lanka, Illankai, will continue to be a Para-State as it was populated by Paras from India.

      However, by joining the other civilized states, it may be able to shed its Paraya State status, but not Para Status.

      To shed the Para status, the Paras need to get back to India.

  • 4

    I found this on the internet: This was around 1956 before the Sinhala Only act was introduced:

    “Sinhalese nationalists, apparently agitated over the Tamils being over represented in the coveted civil service, began to adopt a communalist posture and demanded that swabasha mean Sinhala-only. This demand was the first real indication that the informal rules governing Sinhalese-Tamil coexistence could be undermined.What is important to recognize is that the socio-economic structures that encouraged government employment, given the security and prestige such employment afforded during an era of economic scarcity, were a major reason for the call for Sinhala-only.

    In resorting to chauvinistic rhetoric, Bandaranaike was well assisted by numerous lay Buddhists and activist Bhikkuhs, who together organized emotive and impressive processions demanding a Sinhala-only policy. Such bhikkus anathematized the Tamils as “parasites,” argued that linguistic parity was undemocratic and unjust, since 80 percent of Ceylonese spoke Sinhala, and claimed that the failure to institute a Sinhala-only policy “would be the death-knell of the Sinhalese”. These monks evidenced no desire for compromise and instead suggested that Sri Lanka was for the Sinhalese only. For example, one leading monk thundered: “The Dravidians want parity or Tamilnad. We will give them neither. This country belongs to the Sinhalese. We can’t give even an inch it to the Tamils.” Other monks claimed that not just Sinhala but Buddhism too would disappear if parity was instituted.”

    Today 59 Years later after 3 insurgencies,bloodletting,death,destruction and losses has the above rhetoric changed? I wonder whether the above rhetoric will change even in another millennium.

    The idea that Sri Lanka will ever become a Singapore,Hong Kong, Malaysia is a just a dream.It will never happen.

  • 5

    LKY always say that he saw Sri Lanka as an example and not to repeat the mistakes made by Sr Lanka.When we had idiotic prime ministers like Banda,MR no way we can reach even the current Singapore status.I think people have to change their mind sets,then only we can prosper.I notice in coffee shops which are run by old Chinese ladies,will chase and give you back even a small change as little as 10 cents.if we elect some body like MR,we would be lucky if we don’t go down any further.LKY placed high emphasis to education and in the fifties most of the teachers were from
    Sri Lanka.if you see the encyclopedia published in the sixties,it says few interesting things.It says that Sri Lanka enjoys the highest standard of living in South Asia and civilization was brought to Malaya by Jaffna Tamils.SEE HOW FAR WE HAVE GONE DOWN WITH IRRESPONSIBLE LEADERS.

  • 3

    Dear Dr. W.A.W,

    When Sinhalese Buddhist intellectuals and political leaders like Dr.N.M.Perera, SWRD Banda, JRJeyawardne, Dr.Colivin R De Silva, Dr.Wickramsinghe could not get together and implement the BBC pact in 1958, do you still believe Mahinda or Rani , & Maithiri can resolve the fundamental problems related to economy, society ( politics related race, language, religion, corruption etc and law and order and peace ) , desirable international standing can be achieved in SL ?
    Even that to happen the majority of the Sinhala Buddhists particularly from the rural areas must vote wisely on 17 th August GE.

    Will majority from the South vote for JVP on the 17th and reject MaRa, GoRa and the gang of 4 for better SL? Since 1948 majority of the Sinhalese Buddhist voters decides who governs SL.

    Why our PhD holder Dayan Jayatilleke is silent and has not responded ? At least his former friend an expert on MaRa terror and PhD holder has become a citizen of a South East Asian country by renouncing his SL citizenship some years back .

  • 3

    In this age, all these smart nation new technologies are coming to a standstill, with the globe figuring out how to associate newer technologies with creation of currency. Smart-Nation concept in area of technology and research is becoming outdated.

    This smart nation concept in Singapore cannot come from a group of automons, however much they try to instill cultural and naturalness into the society. It will not be original creative brain power that can only come from humans that come from countries that have long historical diversity.

    Smart nation concept in Singapore will be like creating some small component for a rocket part, or a component for splicing a g-nome that some other major country thought of in the first place.

    Singapore was not devoid of natural resources. Singapore had the South East Asia region with her plentiful amounts of oil and natural gas. These countries did not know how to handle their new found wealth, and Singapore created itself as the financial hub of the region. It was quick thinking on their part, however. But that glitch of quick-thinking opportunity can never persist definitely.

    Naturally they do not care about the after-effects of colonization. Singaporeans were mostly poor and illiterate immigrants from the Chinese mainland. Hierarchy that established older countries had, kept their societies functioning for many millennia. Singaporeans naturally have no concept of this.

    It was rather like the USA, where they were able to create livelihood at opportune moments when other parts of the world were blundering. But not without first doing their own spree of killing innocents and damaging the environment of their original inhabitants!

    When one sees India in this age, Britain should truly compensate India for the destruction of its economy during colonial rule.

    While India’s caste system is bad, at least their lower castes had some healthy occupation and environmentally friendly dwellings prior to colonization.

    Now, on top of the caste system, low castes do not have homes or decent employment, because British threw them off their lands to build up their tea, rubber, cinnamon, and other estates.

    No one knows what to do about the low-castes congesting the cities with no adequate livelihoods and sanitation (although their bodies will adjust and thrive in suffering within all kinds of bacterial and viruses infestations).

    The fiscal discipline Singapore had is very easy to control, with Singapore having the share of wealth from the oil and gas proceeds of South East Asia. They do not have a peasant population to whip-up to, in line with the rest of the city-population. Singapore is one huge money-making commercial metropolis!

    To balance out their metropolis, is the rural habitats of the surrounding countries that make a natural aesthetic and homeostatic balancer for super-metropolis Singapore. However, the rest of the region is looking at Singapore with uneasiness, wondering that when their oil and gas runs out, that Singapore will invade them, destroy their environment, and force their people to work for Singapore, to uphold Singapore’s unnatural mega-city-structure.

    S’pore borrowing from commercial sector was a good thing. However (as continually said), in the first place, they had money for commerce from the S.E Asian region rich in oil and gas.

    They borrowed from the World Bank, IMF and ADC, because member countries (oil and gassed ASEAN), would have been there to dilute any mishaps.

    Therefore there was plenty of money to pay politicians and public servants alike. Money went back into the economy, and the ball kept rolling. Very few Singaporeans, of course, took their money and bunked to the West. Those who do so are scorned.

    S’pore has just one political party (probably in accordance with its small population). But when the population is of 4 times Singapore’s amount, and considering the long and ancient tradition of politics, then there will naturally be more political parties and more possibility for corruption.

    It is good for Sri Lanka to quit harping a bit on the glorious past, because it invokes some embarrassing racism at times that has little bearing on the actuality of the present Lankan population. It cannot take us to a new age of global interaction, and truth of history that will help us proceed better as a nation (it was strange to watch a documentary recently where a Sinhalese man is in the forefront of historical research to show that certain human DNA came from other planets- out of all the other research we can be doing).

    However glorious past is very good for tourism, and that is something Singapore can never have. It is a good thing to teach world history also, at early level, although updated Lankan National history should instill patriotism.

    Dr. W.A Wijewardena says: “At political level, all those seeking political office should undergo rigorous training and acquire political know-how.” That is a good thing. I think we already do that. However, how do we get rid of dynasty politicians- starting with CBK? We can’t simply chop their heads off, can we?

    Dr. W.A Wijewardena says: “Hence, the current downgrading of mathematics as unnecessary by even Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education should be a cause for alarm.” Truth is, GOSL should not spend gross amounts of taxpayer money at tertiary level for niche-learners to go abroad to show off superior intellect, but for even half that amount of tax-payer money be spent for Mathematics-basics island over.

  • 3

    As a Singaporean,reading the article gave me a sense of pride and humility.
    We achieved all this because our leaders told us that we can achieve which is positive thinking.
    Every country has its plus points and minus point but we were able to utilise our plus points to our advantage.
    Sri Lanka can do it if they have a mindset change.The young educated lot may lead the way hopefully.

  • 1

    Dear Dr WAW,
    I write this with great respect, while appreciating your services to the nation and the contents of your article , which you wrote with much feeling. I rarely come to this forum; it was by chance that I read you for the first time when you put the record straight with an explanation, concerning the appointment of Mr AM as GCB was discussed.
    The JVP has mentioned many a time in the past that Singapore is a corrupt place, where even counterfeit money comes in to circulation.

    Unlike you , I am a Civilian and you can remember me as Aubrey Collett drew me- bespectacled, wearing a white shirt,coat, trousers, black shoes and sporting the khaki hat , before his departure to Australia. I always wondered whether a family,a village or a country must be rich to have the label of “SUCCESS.” What is the status of the word “CONTENTMENT” then? Do not everybody in Singapore live under stress? Does everybody in Singapore has to join a rat race, act underhand , as alleged, to do well and be successful in that country like the GCB Mr M who came from Singapore? When Mrs Bandaranaike was in power, at the UNO, why did LKY mention to the entire world that he wanted to make Singapore in to another CEYLON? What criteria did he see as special in the little country, with a small cabinet, and a novice Lady P.M. who listened to the CCS officers and others ,who knew everything better than her, ran the country ? I am sure he was aware of 1956 changes ,which were not simple, the racial tensions after 1958 Riots and the 2 elections that we had to have in 1960 simultaneously, due to the unstable situation and the coalitions amongst parties etc.
    When one compares the population and the area of SL, with that of Singapore, the cultural diversity, the high positions that each religion holds and SL as a leading Theravada Buddhist country with a history of 2550 odd years do you think that its management is as easy as managing Singapore? Further, as suggested by Jim O’Neill, by 2050 AD if BRIC or BRICS- with South Africa, become the dominant economies of the world, like the way EU tried and failed/is still trying to do is it certain that the economic stability that you present in Singapore will not collapse…say if the investments are withdrawn ?

  • 0

    This article of Dr. WAW on the success story that Singapore has been over the past 50 years, discussing reasons for its success in the economic and political fronts, is quite enlightening . However, I wish to point out certain matters which have not been highlighted or are out of place.
    Singapore does not have a long history and culture which has had a sustaining impact on it, unlike in the case of Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations. This can be considered a blessing for Singapore somewhat, when taken in the context of economic development and political setup. The strong influence which history, religion and culture and their diversity continue to bear upon these SA countries, whilst having its positives, have had a negative impact where politics and economics are concerned. Politicians have been indulging in vote bank politics by using these very divisions unscrupulously since Independence, resulting in religious and communal chauvinism, discrimination and the resultant strife. Unless a sincere and honest effort is made to promote a national identity by all sections of society (politicians, clergy, civil society), rather than encourage communalism, economic progress will remain a pipe dream. This remains a herculean task by itself.
    The importance given to the English language has never suffered in Singapore and it has become the sole medium of education since 1987, whereas in Sri Lanka this aspect suffered with the promotion of Swabasha, mainly for political reasons. The Singaporeans have not neglected their mother tongues (Chinese, Malay, Tamil etc.) just because of this.
    In regard to the issue of blaming colonial masters for economic ills, Singapore had very little to blame and the colonial powers held onto to Singapore more as a strategic point rather than for any resources. In fact Singapore were net gainers by way of whatever infrastructure developed and left behind by the British, unlike in the case of Sri Lanka, India and other SA countries. As pointed out by Sashi Tharoor in his brilliant speech Oxford Union recently, supported by facts and figures, he proved that the British were the net gainers and Indians the net losers as a result of the British rule. The natural and cultural resources they looted, far outweigh any infrastructure which were developed for their purposes and left behind. It must be stated that Tharoor made his speech as a part of a debate team from various countries and there were arguments for and against, with Tharoor’s team winning hands down. When he stated that Britain should compensate India for the ill doings, it was to press a point and not really to seek compensation. WAW has taken this out of context and inappropriately shown it as if India is seeking a living from Britain and elsewhere. This is a misplaced statement. The indigenous developments in India, in various fields, in recent times and its increasing International presence, despite its multifarious problems partly caused by the British Raj, is proof enough that India is not seeking any hand outs. This is not so in Sri Lanka.

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