SOCIETY 1- Public transport for Karachi




It has been estimated that a working class village woman in South Asia works from 12 to 16 hours a day

The author is Associate Professor, IQRA University, Karachi

July 14 - 20, 2003 



In January 2003 a delegation of Singapore's investors visited Pakistan and held meetings with Mr. Shaukat Aziz (Finance Minister), Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (Minister for Privatization and Investment) and Mr. Humayun Akhtar Khan (Commerce Minister) among others. The delegation stressed the need for activating Pakistan-Singapore forum for enhancing cooperation between the exporters of the two countries and also expressed its willingness to invest in service sectors. In his article, Professor M. Shafiq of IQRA University has reviewed the remarkable socioeconomic development of Singapore under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew and suggested that the leaders, development planners, social scientists and managers of the developing countries to benchmark Singapore and draw practical lessons from it.

Few countries have achieved Singapore's level of socio-economic development. Hardly any can match the breath-taking pace of her achievements. Economists regard the phenomenal success of Singapore as a 'modern miracle' which is exclusively based on human resource. In 1965 when it became independent after separation from Malaysia, the tiny city state was swamped with the problems such as lack of natural resources, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption and ethnic discord. The way Singapore with a handful of population about l/3rd of Karachi and an area about 1/5th of Karachi has managed to catapult from a 'fishing village' to a first world state evokes awe and admiration.

Today, Singapore is one of the cleanest, greenest, safest and richest places in the world. Transparency International has ranked it among the top corruption free countries in the world bracketed with Sweden. Its population of 4.5 million enjoys a per capita income of more than $20,000 up from $500 in a little over 25 years. Inflation rate based on consumer prices was a mere 1.5% in 2001. Literacy is 93.5% based on who can read and write, over the age of l5. The country has become an industrial powerhouse. It exports including machinery, electronics, disk drives, chemicals and consumer goods in 2001 were worth $122 billion. Singapore is also an important financial capital in Asia and houses about 150 banks. To top it all, the three ethnic and culturally diverse communities i.e. Chinese, Malays & Indians live harmoniously together.


The credit for the massive development of Singapore goes to the dynamic leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. It is hard to imagine how Singapore would have fared without the vision, pragmatism, determination and moral strength of this great leader. A barrister at law, Lee led Singapore to independence and served as its prime minister for 30 years. He was regularly re-elected till l990 when he stepped down and became a senior minister in the cabinet. Critics have accused him of authoritarianism but his admirers respect him for solving the socioeconomic problems of Singapore and transforming it into a model of efficiency.




Lee's philosophy of economic development is reflected in the advice offered to other Asian countries in an interview with Reader's Digest's Fergus Bondewich published in October issue of 2001.

"If you want to grow to your maximum or optimum potential, structure your society and your policies such that you can make maximum use of international capital, management skills, marketing skills, technology and knowledge."

And this is exactly what he did for Singapore. Whereas the leaders of newly independent countries in Asia and Africa mostly leaned towards socialism and were wary of multinational companies, Lee devised a policy to entice and embrace them. He also went all out to attract foreign investment and develop human resource. Economic Development Board of the country which has been responsible for formulating economic and industrial policies furnished Singapore with complete business capabilities for attracting foreign companies and encouraging local enterprise. Success of the Board can be gauged from the fact that the massive Jurang Industrial estate had over 6500 companies by 1996.

Singapore is one of the major oil-refining and distribution centers of the world. It's airlines is the largest in terms of market value and handles over 25 million passengers annually. Changi has been consistently voted the world's best airport. Its seaport is ideally located on the busy sea routes between east and west and is equipped with state of art docking and custom facilities.

As a result of providing first world infrastructure and business facilities ranging from law and order to modern banking, IT and communication MNC's flocked into the country and furnished capital, technology, employment and valuable training opportunities to its population.


Comprehensive measures have been taken to develop human resource through education, training and development. An educational system providing state education to children, adequate secondary schooling and tertiary education branching out into junior colleges leading to polytechnics or technical institute or university has been developed. Medium of instruction is English. National University of Singapore and Nauyong Technological University are known for quality education. NTU is strong in research and has collaborative links with world class universities including Cornell, MIT, Cambridge and University of Tokyo.

Appreciating the critical importance of management skills to run the country, Singapore Management University has been established in collaboration with Wharton school of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, Singapore Institute of Management, a professional organization trains over 11,000 executives and managers every year. SIM also offers 2 doctoral, 9 masters, 37 bachelors and over 30 diploma courses to more than 14,000 students annually.


The economic and industrial development of Singapore under the leadership of Lee has been remarkable. But even more impressive has been the massive social change led by him. His objective was to integrate a culturally diverse and multi-ethnic population composed of 78% Chinese, 14% Malays and 8% Indians into a nation of modern, responsible, productive and polite citizens. This involved a paradigm shift in the attitudes and behavior of people for altering their social relationships and cultural idea. Providing modern infrastructure for attracting foreign capital was easy compared to bring about a social change. Lee has referred to the complexity and intricacy of managing social change in his Fellowship Lecture at the Forum, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in October 2000 as quoted below:



"The hardware was easy part, getting people to change their habits to match the First-World infrastructure was difficult, slow and painful."

A lesser man would have buckled under the enormity of the problem. Lee, however, approached it with his typical creative pragmatism. He argued that to make people responsible and caring they should be made stakeholder by helping to own property in the shape of flats. Ownership of flats will help solve the national housing problem, as well as, give them self respect and consciousness of their rights. Consequently, a personal saving scheme was devised which allowed people to own apartments through installments in a 20 years period.

Today 95% Singapore households are proud owners of these well constructed apartments and have developed a strong sense of participation in national development. Random allotment of the apartments also provided excellent opportunities for citizens of different ethnicity to live together and interact, which in turn helped to create understanding and harmony among them. Measures like equal consideration of all minorities in sharing state benefits in health, housing and education and adoption of Chinese, Malay and Tamil as official languages of Singapore along with English also consolidated the national cohesion.

Special campaigns of courtesy, stop spitting and no littering were run regularly to improve standards of courtesy, inculcate cleanliness and civic sense. The country has strict laws to discourage littering and smoking in public places. Chewing gum is banned because of its potential cleanliness irritant.


The Afro-Asian nations who won independence in the last 50 years or, so entertained dreams of improvement in their living standards. The political, bureaucratic and the intellectual elite of these countries were mostly familiar with the building blocks of national development such as law and order, education, industrial development, upholding of merit and good governance. However, their development strategies and plans derailed on the way to fruition. Their mechanisms for implementation, control and follow-through of plans did not work. In stark contrast, Singapore which was beset with similar problems succeeded immensely. The remarkable success of Singapore's socio-economic development makes it an excellent role model for all developing countries.

No doubt Singapore has been endowed with a visionary, competent and morally upright leadership headed by Lee, but leadership alone does not transform nations. It is the dynamics of a number of factors which go into making dreams of development a reality. The four main elements or essential ingredients for successful national development seem to be quality of leadership, quality of followers, peculiarities of situation and quality of the system. Leadership has to have a vision, integrity, perseverance and trust of the followers. It should also have the ability to inspire and motivate the followers to cooperate willingly and vigorously in pursuit of the vision. The third element is the situation which is mostly determined by the national history and geopolitical imperatives.

The fourth element in the dynamics of development is the system. By this, I mean the assemblage of realistic strategies, objectives, policies, procedures, programs, budgets and schedules. The systematic integration of all these through meticulous planning and control mechanisms is critical for implementation and follow-through. Any flaw in the system can thwart the best of visions.

The system thus plays a critical role in effective implementation of plans. It is also most controllable and amenable to improvement. In view of this reasoning it is hypothesized that, the socio-economic development achieved by the brilliant leadership of Singapore mainly rested on devising an effective and efficient system of implementation and control of the development processes.




In business, management benchmarking is the practice of continually measuring a process against the best practice of the world class leaders. It involves an in-depth analysis by comparing business processes with the best for changing and improving the way we operate. The mechanism was formally developed by Xerox in 1979. It views it to be a learning experience by looking outside the organization through a structured approach. Benchmarking can help to establish realistic goals and identify the effective performance practices. The Strategic Planning Institute Council on Benchmarking defines it as 'A systematic and ongoing process for measuring products, services and practices against external partners to achieve improved performance.' The development of Just-In-Time (JIT) production management system by Toyota's Taiichi Ohno based on the way inventory was managed in an American supermarket is an excellent example of benchmarking.

The proven success of Singapore's socio-economic development, plans and processes makes it an excellent model worth benchmarking by the developing countries. While Singapore is tackling its problems of sustaining economic growth, managing water shortage through new desalinization techniques and completely eliminating SARS with its customary cool, developing countries will be well-advised to benchmark the socio-economic processes used by Singapore.

The third world leaders can benefit through study and analysis of Lee's pragmatism and highly motivational leadership style. The planners and development economists could learn from her socioeconomic strategies, plans and policies. The social scientists can concentrate on the techniques and processes developed and deployed by Singapore to affect massive social change and national integration.

The managers in developing countries may draw critical lessons from study and analysis of implementation and control mechanisms of planning strategies and programs. This is a critical area and seems to be the Achilles' heel in transformation process of plans into reality. Benchmarking of Singapore's implementation and control mechanisms is likely to pay substantial dividends in the shape valuable of do's and don'ts for the socioeconomic planning and development in the third world countries. Anyone harboring reservations about these prepositions is strongly recommended to have a walk down the Orchard Road, Singapore.