Singapore’s economic success and recognition as one of the world’s impressive developments has been as a result of deliberate investments in its social foundations.
These key investments may hold useful lessons for Ghana which is oftentimes compared to the Asia giant in terms of development.
According to the Senior Minister for Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the most important decision Singapore took that has ensured the height of development it has currently reached was focusing on developing its social foundations that directly influenced its economic development.
Speaking to Citi News’ Bernard Koku Avle, he said, Singapore paid particular attention to education and primarily decided to unify the different educational systems that were existing at the time the British left that country around the 1960s.
“First and foremost our education involved unifying different education systems that the British left us with the Chinese schools, English language schools, Malay and Tamil. Unifying people through education is critical,” he said, stressing that “Education has been the pillar of Singapore’s social and economic development.”
Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted secondly that Singapore focused on developing its housing infrastructure.
Unlike Ghana, the majority of the residential housing developments in Singapore are publicly governed and developed and are structured in self-contained satellite towns with schools, supermarkets, clinics, hawker centres, and sports and recreational facilities.
He said Singapore, beyond making the buildings affordable for the poor to purchase, they focused on ensuring integration of the various ethnic groups.
“Our public housing has been a very important part of our social strategy, creating a sense of ownership among people and also integrating people of different ethnic and social backgrounds because we designed housing neighborhoods deliberately so that every neighborhood is mixed,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.
Singapore’s shinning example in this regard may explain Ghana’s recent engagement of famed Singaporean architect, Dr. Liu Thai-Ker, who was the master planner for modern Singapore to review the structure of Accra and remodel it.
While a 2017 data from Ghana’s Ministry of Finance showed that 48% of the adult population in Ghana were financially excluded, Singapore is mentioned among the few countries in the world that has high per capita savings.
According to Tharman Shanmugaratnam who is also an economist, a good savings culture is extremely important to the development of any country in the long-term.
“No country has succeeded over a long period without raising its savings rate in order to be able to invest, to invest in future growth and not be too dependent on the big inflow of foreign capital.”
“We have relied heavily on foreign capital but that comes on the base of [our] national savings…. We did this particularly during our early development years, and that was fundamental to our strategy,” he noted.
Corruption, according to Tharman Shanmugaratnam is another essential key Singapore focuses on to ensure its development.
He said Singapore has ensured an uncompromising stand on corruption especially in government.
He said one of Singapore’s founding fathers, Lee Kuan Yew gave prominence to the culture and that has been maintained by successive leaders of the country.
“I will say Singapore’s uncompromising attitude towards corruption in government has been central to our achievements. This began early, because Lew Kuan Yew stressed on it and it continues until today.”