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
HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
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
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.
DYNAMICS OF DEVELOPMENT
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
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.