WITH LESSONS FROM SINGAPORE
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I have been in Singapore in the last week attending the Global Leadership Prayer Summit organized by the Full Gospel Global Forum and hosted by the FGB Gatekeepers Singapore, where among other things we have been praying for our Nations. In between our sessions, I have found time to move around Singapore and I have been awe stricken by the simple sophistication and splendor of a Country that got its Independence in 1965( 5years after Nigeria) and that was a third world country like Nigeria in the 70s, now a thoroughly advanced Nation in the First World, in the same league as The USA, Uk, Germany and France. The transformation is mind boggling.
Singapore is one of the four Asian Tigers- Hong Kong, South Korea , Taiwan and Singapore that transformed within three decades of purposeful leadership anchored on sound economic policies and a Spartan work ethic to achieve consistent high growth rates, high income levels and high quality of life. Today Singapore is a global industrial and international financial centre. It has become a major gateway to many parts of the World with one of the World's greatest Ports and aviation operations. Per capita income of $55,182( fifty five thousand, one hundred and eighty two US dollars ) in 2013 is one of the highest in the World and it is about 27 times Nigeria's 2013 REBASED Per capita income of $2200( two thousand, two hundred US dollars).
Last week in this column I opined that oil has failed in Nigeria and it was certain that we have finally arrived Nigeria without oil. Thinking of our current economic situation, I realized that Singapore did not have and still does not have any natural resource which it can exploit and export and that like Japan it has become a first world country without oil or such natural resource. I then began to think that perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB) and his troupe who have been on a kind of extended World tour since he came to power should visit Singapore soon and see if they can learn a few lessons on how to run Nigeria without oil and in the longer run seek to move Nigeria away from chronic underdevelopment. But as for me I took away a few lessons which I wish to share with my readers.
Singapore runs a neoliberal free market economy that actively promotes enterprise development. In Singapore, the Private sector is in charge. The government is in the background providing policies that support private initiatives and endeavor. Evidence is provided by the fact that Singapore is one of the Easiest places to do business in the World. The industrial estates and service companies are export oriented and there is a clear understanding that Singapore needs the World to succeed and they are very humble about this and therefore welcome opportunities to do business with The World.
They are focused on maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment and therefore run an economy with minimum deficit, minimum or near-zero external borrowing, market determined but stable exchange rate mechanism. This creates a pull for foreign investments. Total trade in 2013 was 818, 800 million dollars with Export at 432,100 million while Import was 386,700 million dollars, thereby having a favorable balance of payment without any commodity export.
Also the economic management is strategic and focused to the future. It is clear that the Country has a strategic Economic Vision. They want to continue to make Singapore attractive for Business, not resting on their oars, clear in their minds that investments flow only to where they are consciously invited and attracted by policies, incentives and actions, not by bland declarations and inconsistent policies. They believe that the more people that come to Singapore or use Singapore as a transit to else where in the World, the better their economy. As we were driving out from Terminal Three of the CHANGI International Airport, my taxi driver informed me that the Terminal Four would be opened next year, but meanwhile, work has started on Terminal Five. Talk of Strategic planning!
Singapore is spick and span with plenty of high rise buildings. The place is neat and decent. The streets are adorned with flowers and well manicured grass lawns. Though it is close to the Equator like Nigeria, it has a harsher climate, with minimal rain. According to a Singaporean acquaintance, Singapore has three seasons- hot, hotter and hottest. Yet when you drive through the city in air conditioned cars you are regaled with stretch of lush ornamental vegetation on the streets. The houses looked neat and well looked after. I did not see refuse heap anywhere. Of course as a first World Nation, there was constant and unbroken electricity supply and the tap water is portable.
TOURISM AS INCOME EARNER
Singapore is designed to attract tourists. The clean environment, the multimodal and functional transport system, the iconic Buildings and water fronts, and friendliness of the people sign post a Nation that has realized that today Tourism- leisure or business has become a major foreign exchange earner. When you are in Singapore, you have a feeling of near absolute safety- in the hotels and in the streets. Yet except at the airport, I do not remember seeing any policeman, not to talk of soldiers. There must be a high level of intelligent security in the Country. They are welcoming and hospitable.
There are four distinct groups that make up Singapore. The Chinese, the Malay, the Indian and the Euroasian. Except by their looks, nothing else showed the difference. I was intrigued that they translated every official document in the four languages- Mandarin, Indian, Malay and English. Though English is the official language for conducting business in Singapore, effort is made to promote the other three. Though the Chinese are in majority, the minorities are treated equally. I am told that their late great Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew built a nation and enshrined equality of citizenship where fair play, Justice and equity reign supreme. The sense of National unity is palpable. In Singapore you can feel a people with National cultural values of Honesty, Hardwork, Time-consciousness and Service.
ANTICORRUPTION AND JUDICIAL CERTAINTY
Corruption and criminal activities are minimal in Singapore. I was told that it was not always like that. There was a time Singapore was like Nigeria, where anything goes or should I say where everything went. I was told that their Judiciary was as bad as ours but I met and heard Judges who as gate keepers assumed the power to reform the judiciary and today Singapore's judiciary is the second most efficient in the World as acknowledged by the Word Bank. Lee Kuan Yew established zero tolerance for corruption and this seems to have been engrained into the National DNA. The court processes are swift and judicial pronouncements can be quite harsh but certain and predictable. Many people are inclined to stay on the right side of the law,because the same law applies to their own equivalent of our own APC and PDP.
RESPONSIBLE LEADERSHIP & FOLLOWERSHIP
It is often said that a people deserve their leadership. And I had said that leaders deserve their followership. To achieve the Nation of our dreams, we need both responsible leadership and responsible followership. Without both, not much will be achieved. But which comes first?From what I heard and saw in Singapore,it is certain that Leadership must come first. And Prime minister Lee Kuan Yew provided that leadership in an extraordinary manner. Some leaders are disciplined and incorruptible but they have no clue on how to run a modern economy. But Lee Kuan Yew was incorruptible and an extraordinary economic visionary. Some leaders are bold, courageous and Patriotic but they have problems rallying an entire Nation to buy into their Vision. The late Prime minister was bold, courageous, charismatic and a nation builder per excellence. Above all, he gave every Singaporean a sense of belonging and ownership, hence they all rallied to support his vision. Though he had long retired from office before his death last Year, his legacies are as fresh as morning dew, helped by the next generation of leaders whom he groomed through mentoring and personal example. Nigeria needs this kind of leaders to turn our Nation around. The opportunity is beckoning.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR