India’s growth and development - Lessons from Lee Kuan Yew

India’s growth and development – Lessons from Lee Kuan Yew

Question - Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kwan Yew recently passed away. Discuss the lessons Yew has for India’s growth and development in the right direction.

Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore’s first PM in 1959; he transformed the nation from having a per capita income of USD 400 to USD 55,000

Lessons from Lee Kuan Yew for India

• Even as Singapore performed well, India continued to ask for foreign aid and the number of poor persons in the nation doubled between the 1940s and the 1970s

• Foreign trade and investment were taken on as vehicles for India’s re-colonisation via economic means; Singapore also choose the economic route but focused on self - sufficiency instead

• While Indian leaders such as Nehru were introspective and public sector oriented, Yew was outward looking and private sector friendly. He saw global trade and investment as vehicles of neo-colonial domination and a pathway to prosperity

• Another lesson Kew has for India is that the key blessing of globalisation is that it converts poverty from a problem into a solution provided there is enough infrastructure and favourable investment conditions

• Lower the wages in a poor nation, the higher is its competitiveness in exporting and attracting investors, according to Kew. He also understood that productivity would then rise as wages rose, through good governance and market friendly schemes and policies which is also worth emulating for India

• Yew also equated globalisation with more than just neb-colonisation as what was crucial was the quality of internal governance

• Yew also carved out an important lesson for India that the biggest threat to freedom as well as wealth and job creation was not western imperialism, and communist imperialism was actually the culprit so he chose US over the Soviet; the collapse of the Soviet only vindicated his stand

• Another lesson for India is that Asian tigers like Singapore were miracle economies progressing at a growth rate of 10% per year while India was stuck at 3.5% growth

• Path would lead to poverty and neo-serfdom, Indian analysts felt, but the reverse happened

• Yew also had another lesson for India in that he did not follow laissez faire and he choose creation of public, social as well as physical infrastructure of world class standards enhancing productivity

• Singapore’s social infrastructure encompassed universal health coverage and education, mass public housing and old age security, which was far more impressive than socialist India

• Yew also created a quick and effective police and judicial system for cornering corrupt officials whereas Indian fell back

• Yew also ensured that the salaries of bureaucrats and ministers was comparable with the private sector unlike India; this gave less incentive to Indian bureaucrats and ministers many of whom fell to corrupt ways

• Singapore has a reputation of being a well run island state while India has yet to achieve the same level of governance and transparency; India scores high on nepotism and corruption till now

• Modi’s maxims such as minimum government and maximum governance are a good way forward to ensure India treads on the same path as Singapore; this includes creation of physical and social infrastructure
• India should also learn from Singapore to have an efficient judicial system and a police force that can work just as effectively; influential people and the elite should not be above the law

• Policies of India should not have a protectionist touch, or they can undo growth and development if Kew’s lessons on policy formulation and implementation are taken into account

Facts and Stats

• Under Yew’s management, Singapore became one of the most prosperous states in the world

• ASEAN became a strong regional force due to Kew’s efforts

• Lee Kuan Yew and his economic minister were the chief architects of growth and development in this island nation

• Lee Kuan Yew spent 25 years as the PM of the island nation; he stepped down in the 1990s
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