Singapore’s Mouse-Catching Cat Part 2

8 Min Read
Singapore's Mouse-Catching Cat Part 2

A Singaporean cat that catches mice

Many experts believe that the key to Singapore’s success lies in the implementation of a single golden principle in the field of country management. What are the principles that the non-democratic government of Singapore has put at the forefront? Does Singapore’s success mean that other non-democratic governments can also use this path to achieve sustainable development?

How did Singapore, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, transition from a poor and underdeveloped city-state to joining the group of countries with the highest per capita income? Singapore is the only non-democratic government that has been able to take very important and influential steps in the path of development. What is the reason for the success of this exceptional country, and can Singapore be considered as a model for the growth and progress of developing countries? This report attempts to answer these questions by exploring how Singaporeans have navigated the challenging path of development and whether we can use this country as a model for development.

A glimpse into life in Singapore

As mentioned in the previous section, the quality of life in Singapore has significantly improved from the 1960s and 1970s to the present day. For example, the unprecedented and impressive reduction in the unemployment rate from 14% in 1959 to 2% in 2020 is worth noting. Additionally, the proportion of private housing owners has increased from 9% in 1960 to over 86% in 2020.

The government expenditure on education in Singapore has also increased more than 200 times during the mentioned period. Specifically, it has risen from 63 million Singapore dollars in 1959 to 12 million Singapore dollars in 2016.

Studies on administrative corruption indicate that despite its non-democratic governance structure, Singapore has the lowest level of corruption in 2019. Research shows that the policymaking of the ruling party in Singapore has been highly influential, and people are significantly satisfied with this impact.

However, Singapore has another side that should not be overlooked when studying the living conditions of its citizens. For example, the income inequality gap in this country is the highest among all Asian countries. Additionally, Singapore is among the top ten countries with the highest number of millionaires. These millionaires have achieved success at the expense of a small portion of the country’s population, who have become poorer due to Singapore’s economic structure.

The International Labor Organization has also published reports of mistreatment and violations of workers’ rights in Singapore. Some sources even declare Singapore to have the most difficult conditions for construction workers. There are also examples of harsh treatment towards workers’ unions in Singapore, including a deliberate fire in a food factory and the intentional imprisonment of a large number of workers in this industrial complex, allegedly carried out by the Singapore police according to some media outlets.

However, the combined criteria and factors of living conditions indicate that the quality of life for Singaporean citizens currently has one of the highest values among countries worldwide. Of course, the largest criticism brought up by the free world media is related to the violation of democracy and consequently the violation of human rights by the Singaporean government. However, surveys show that the citizens of this country express relative satisfaction with the living conditions in Singapore.

What is the secret of Singapore’s success?

According to most experts, the reasons for Singapore’s success can be summarized in one fundamental principle. Although these principles can have extensive details, overall, all specialists agree on this one point. Almost all opinion leaders emphasize the pragmatism and proactive approach of Lee Kuan Yew’s government and agree on it. But what is the most important golden principle of Singaporeans?

Pragmatism, the golden legacy of Lee Kuan Yew

As mentioned, the pragmatic approach of Singaporean leaders is the most important factor that has been widely publicized in the media for its effectiveness in the country’s development. To better understand this concept, it may be helpful to consider the speech given by Goh Chok Tong, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, in November 1992. During a recent summit of non-aligned nations in Jakarta, the Prime Minister of Nepal asked me about the secret to Singapore’s success. I smiled and replied that Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, had emphasized only one thing: pragmatism and the absence of insistence on a particular ideology.

For example, during the ethnic and racial tensions that peaked in Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s, Lee, despite being of Chinese descent, did not prioritize the interests of the Chinese Singaporeans. Instead, this renowned Asian leader solely focused on the development of Singapore and it was precisely this approach that led the people to believe in the government’s willingness to resolve ethnic and national conflicts and encouraged them to engage in dialogue with the government.

Mohammad Fadeli, a well-known Iranian sociologist, uses an interesting interpretation about activist governments. He quotes Deng Xiaoping, the former leader of the People’s Republic of China, who said, ‘Cats are meant to catch mice. It doesn’t matter what color the cat is, as long as it catches the mouse. A cat that fails to catch mice will die of hunger.’

One could argue that Singapore is the best example of a cat that has managed to catch mice. It is possible that they have employed non-democratic and inhumane methods in certain cases to achieve development. However, referring to public opinion in this country shows that the majority of Singaporean citizens are very satisfied with their current situation. Perhaps the story can be summarized as follows: citizens expect their governments to catch mice, regardless of the color of their cat.

Singapore: The Cats that Catch Mice – Part 1


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