Tantalising Lesson from Singapore

Singapore has declared bagging money in excess of what it targeted in her 2017

budget.

Figure the international media quoted as the surplus was 9.61billion Singaporean

dollars, or 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product. As such, that country has

decided to give back to her nationals the surplus, with 2.7million out of the

country’s 5.3million people targeted to benefit.

It is news because it is rare for an economy to make more revenue than it targets. It is

rarer to see a nation redistributing incomes it has collected from its nationals and other

residents. But, what makes the story of Singapore even stranger is yet to come.

 

Humble beginnings

This is a nation that was poorer than Ghana when it attained independence from Britain in 1959 – three years after Ghana’s sovereignty. A country that was considered not

viable at the dawn of her independence just about 60 years ago. This is probably the

only colony that did not seriously want the colonial master—Gt. Britain – to leave, but,

prayed England to remain to colonise her when the wind of liberation was blowing in the late 1950s and the1960s across the colonies. Singapore is, perhaps, the only colony

the imperial master wanted to quickly get rid off, even as it held on fast to all other

colonies to the extent that those other colonised nations had to shed blood and tears to earn their liberation. The strange things about this nation are many and interesting.

At one stage, she joined Malaysia in a federation; the bigger nation soon spewed out

Singapore without any address or signpost as to where the tiny seaport was going. That was August 09, 1965, to be precise.

Singapore was a British colonial trading post. A city-state that can otherwise be

described as a marshy country; that is the country that is now having more money than

it needs. In 2014, her Gross Domestic Product was US$307,860,000,000 about US $308 billion; whereas the income per person was US$52,600.60 in 2016. If you consider the fact that, by the early 1960s, Ghana was richer by every definition than Singapore; if

you know the fact that Malaysia that came to pick palm nuts from Ghana to go cultivate was the same Malaysia that Singapore virtually begged to lodge with, you further

appreciate the journey that this southeast Asian country has travelled. Make the picture crystal clear by recalling that the FPSOs we have proudly acquired recently were rigs

built or refurbished in Singapore. To cap it, whereas the marshy country stands at US$52,600.00, Ghana’s highest is US$1,707.70 income per capita (2016). And our GDP? US $42.78billion approximately.

 

Disparity causes

Enough of the lamentation!  Let’s settle down to answer some of the critical questions. How did it all happen? How did we find ourselves where we are? How did Singapore so swiftly zoom past us? Is it too late to recover the lost years and take our place among

our peers?

 

Agenda continuity

It is a fact that in her 58 or 59 years, Singapore has enjoyed continuity of economic

policy and even continuity of government. That contrasts sharply with Ghana that

suffered four successful coups d’états, an undisclosed number of failed coups and has

formed four republics over the last 60 years. What did that do to the economy?

Development plan after development plan has been thrown overboard, with even the

very promising ones initiated under the Kwame Nkrumah, Abrefa Busia, and Kutu

Acheampong regimes not being spared.

Even under this Fourth Republic, bitter partisan politics underpinned by a phantom

ideological differences has meant that the National Democratic Congress starts a

development plan, it is changed by the New Patriotic Party on its arrival in government, only for the NPP to tumble for the NDC to return and pay the rival in her own coin. A

complication occurred in 2009, when the supposed socialist NDC proclaimed it had

metamorphosed into a social democratic party.

Even when some continuity appeared being injected into the planning of Ghana’s

economy; i.e., the Senchi Consensus of about 2015, things were so haphazardly done

that the main opposition NPP boycotted all the consultations, leaving about half of the

population unrepresented at the all-important consensus forum.

 

Resource dissipation

How do you become a true middle-income economy aspiring to become a first world

member like Singapore, when about a third of your earnings must be used in treating

sanitation-related diseases,  automobile accident injuries etc? Yes, disease breaks out anywhere, yes auto accidents are absent in no country; but, if you have a special place on the league of filthy cities, you are bound to remain at the lower echelons of the

league of economies. Just as a healthy mind lives in a healthy body, so a healthy nation is wealthy nation.

It is a sad observation that when Nkrumah and his contemporaries envisaged

integration in the 1960s, what is today the European Union was just at its embryonic

stage. That is why it is sad to see how all-16 countries in West Africa are struggling to

evolve two or three monies as their common currencies and at a time when the Asian

tigers have surmounted similar challenges.

Logical lesson

Not just Ghana, but the sleeping giant, Nigeria, and, indeed, the whole of West Africa

and the entire continent for that matter must arise to their responsibilities. The heights

great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their

companions slept, were toiling upward in the night – Henry Wadsworth. If we admire Lee Kun Yew’s Singapore today, it is not because they were endowed, blessed specially or assisted genuinely by so-called development partners.

Singapore worked for it. Against all odds. Let’s take a cue. And, arise!

 

Ghana Today
…with A. C. Ohene

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