as singapore turns 50 a look at its astonishing economic success 962312015

Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, says the MPH formula did the trick

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By :  ,  Financial Analyst

Singapore improved the living standards of its people faster and more comprehensively than any other society says Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, in his article published today in The Huffington Post.

In 1965, Singapore was a typical Third World country having been jettisoned by Malaysia, and trying to find its feet as it struggled with a sudden and unwanted independence.

Yet, empirical data shows that from those humble beginnings, Singapore rose, phoenix-like, to a position today where it is the poster child among global economic success stories.

Consider this. From only US$476 in 1959, Singapore’s per capita GDP has risen to US$55,000 in 2015, the fourth highest in the world, and the biggest increase any fledgling nation has achieved. To compare, Singapore’s real GDP grew 3700% between 1965 and 2014, while the United States clocked 300%, the Philippines 600% and Zimbabwe 217%, observes Mr Mahbubani, quoting figures from the World Bank.

The island republic’s infant mortality rate plunged from 35 per 1,000 live births in 1965 to 10.90 in 1985, a surefire indication of an improving social ecosystem, and the fastest reduction in infant mortality across the globe.

Singapore boasts of one of the best education systems, and has the highest home ownership of any country in the world. About 90% of Singapore residents live in their own homes, and high home ownership is a feature across all income levels.

“Even amongst households in the lowest 20 percent of incomes, over 80 percent own their own homes,” observes Mr Mahbubani. “Rapidly rising salaries and strong compulsory saving schemes, through the Central Provident Fund, led to this incredibly high home ownership.”

What was the magic formula that led to this transformation?

Mr Mahbubani attributes Singapore’s success to its exceptional leaders such as Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding prime minister who passed away in March this year, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, the architect of Singapore's economic forward-looking economic policies, and Mr. S. Rajaratnam, Singapore's thinker and philosopher.

But perhaps the foundation of what Singapore has achieved lies in the three policies (the “MPH formula”) that the above team used to chart the future of the young nation: Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.

The principal of meritocracy ensures that the country’s leaders are chosen on the basis of being the best qualified citizens, and not the relatives of the ruling class. Pragmatism refers to the policy of adapting the best practices and solutions that other countries have used to solve similar problems – copy and adapt that solution, saving time and money. Honesty, is of course, self-explanatory, but according to Mr Mahbubani, corruption is the biggest reason for the failure of the typical Third World country.


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