an Sri Lanka achieve economic growth and development without a significant reduction of corruption – sans good governance and rule of law?
These goals need to be achieved primarily for the government to ensure delivery of numerous promises made by the President and the Prime Minister during their election campaigns. Are they sincere about the need to reduce operational costs of the government in carrying out governance reforms as promised?
Shouldn’t we however be happy about the existence of a large group of citizens and their keen political vigilance towards the role played by the elected representatives.
Shouldn’t we think that we have a long way to go because we are far behind times? If we did not think of our future seriously, we could all perish.
We need a leader who is ambitious, pragmatic and a visionary, who could take us out from the tangled web.
We need to concentrate on strategies based on foreign trade and expand our national borders in a global village. We also need to work with countries like India and China and build up relationships for a balanced bilateral trade and commerce.
We also need a leader who will be dedicated to root out corruption and institute institutional and political reforms to sever the collusive links between politics and business – to firmly establish the rule of law, which is fundamental for a democracy.
In my view, it is of paramount importance to create a suitable business friendly climate which would ensure an open, effective, efficient, transparent and fair competition in building up a strong economy.
Lee Kwan Yew became Singapore ‘s first Prime Minister on June 5, 1959. After nearly six decades, where are we compared to Singaporeans? Why? Having formed the Cabinet, what was his message to his Cabinet of Ministers?
As we know, unlike our leaders, LKY had been incorruptible financially. He had therefore demanded that all Cabinet Ministers should be totally incorruptible, straightforward, honest, dedicated, hardworking, efficient and transparent. LKY had asserted that he would not tolerate corruption.
LKY had taken great pains to establish discipline in the country. We could see even today, due to these traditions and practices established by LKY, after nearly six decades, there is zero tolerance for corruption, abuse of power and indiscipline. The Singapore government pays the highest salaries to their elected representatives and government servants, probably in the whole world.
Our economy, at the time we became independent, based on three main crops – tea, rubber and coconut which brought considerable amount of foreign exchange to the country.
We enjoyed the third highest per capita income then in Asia after Japan and Malaysia. Singapore had been nowhere near!
Our rulers thereafter failed to pursue meaningful and progressive plans for industrialization to take the country forward. They had destroyed the plantation economy too after ‘nationalisation’.
They abused international aid received for development purposes. Pompous ceremonies and numerous other rituals including luxury vehicles became more important than economic development for them. Even to-date they continue to plunder tax money. They have not yet been able to prioritize investments with a view to uplift the living standards of the citizens. Why do we maintain a huge fleet of vehicles including SUVs at a massive cost as security vehicles, when the war is no more?
They wastefully destroy enormous amounts of government resources for exhibitionism and bumptiousness.
Governments elected to power after 1970s failed to recognise intellectuals. They began politicisation and destroyed the Public Sector. They disregarded academics and failed to develop industry and education.
On the other hand LKY had always believed that the success depended on these two areas. LKY had said that he achieved growth and development in Singapore purely based on industry and education.
We had failed to catch up through the acquisition of new technologies and to use these technologies to upgrade the quality of services rendered to the citizens.
"If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, suffering follows him just as the wheel follows the hoof-print of the ox that draws the cart"
We have so far been unsuccessful to consider the reforms needed to ensure how the public officials break laws for their personal benefit and to deal with them in terms of the law.
LKY is one of the rare type of political leaders in this century. We did not have leaders like LKY, Mahathir Mohammed. Did we only have corrupt tyrannical dictators like Ferdinand Marcos? Our leaders too had caused untold misery and destruction like Marcos.
The majority in Philippines therefore live far below the poverty line under unhygienic conditions without proper housing, latrines etc. It has been reported that even teens engage in prostitution for existence.
They do not get clean drinking water and sometimes live next to steaming garbage dumps.
Marcos and his wife Imelda had robbed approximately ten billion dollars from a country, where people were so poor. The Guinness Book of World Records had named Marcos and Imelda as the foremost thieves of the planet earth. They had not only robbed dollars but they had robbed lives of people too.
Marcos too had announced a snap presidential election. A housewife without any experience ran head-on into the Marcos election campaign. Corazon Aquino successfully charmed the Philippine people and overthrew a corrupt cynical dictator.
We should now be cautious that our present rulers too could drag us further down to a place worse than former Korea in the early seventies.
Thanks to good political leadership Korean progression is a miracle. A senior politician in Korea had said that they had achieved the rightful place as a major global economy with speed and had succeeded in uplifting a population of 70 million, who were hardworking and disciplined.
The per capita income which had been less than USD 80 has now gone beyond USD 10,000.
If so, how had our leaders to-date miserably failed to achieve growth and development? LKY had said “I say without any remorse that we would not have made the economic progress if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or where you spit, or what language you use. It was fundamental social and cultural changes that brought us here”.
LKY had also said that it was the multinational corporations, plus the government owned corporations, which have built the dynamo of Singapore’s modern economy. LKY government avoided creating a welfare state. It operates with a broad free market paradigm and support strongly re-distributionism. They had always defined the directions of the economy and intervene to promote an egalitarian social order.
The difference is our politicians intervene for personal aggrandizement. Nevertheless, in Singapore, they made it a competitive place. In Singapore, therefore even the MPs contribute to the Central Provident Fund as in the case of ordinary citizens. MPs in Singapore are not entitled to a Parliamentary pension, which is non-contributory.
They do not greedily demand special perks and privileges for MPs. The Housing Development Board has built thousands of good quality homes. Most Singaporeans are quality home owners.
LKY had always taken steps to promote conservative social values. It is therefore easier for a married couple to obtain a housing loan than an unmarried person. LKY had emphasised the need that the citizens should always cultivate the desire to be educated, to acquire knowledge and to be useful to the country. LKY ensured citizens were provided with the services they require with utmost efficiency. In Singapore, MPs too like the citizens are provided retirement incomes from the Central Provident Fund. In the 1970s economy grew consistently by more than nine per cent per year. By the end of 1980s Singapore ‘s per capita income had risen to USD 10,500 having made the Singaporeans the richest people in Asia after the Japanese, having excluded the oil-rich statistics of Brunei for this purpose. Consequently, LKY became one of the most powerful and independent voices in Asia. LKY’s legitimacy therefore grew enormously with Singapore ‘s economic success. Governments which had reviled him, such as China and Vietnam began seeking his advice.
Several decades of uniquely successful leadership, combined with a penchant for speaking bluntly, people like Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, George Shultz, Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan and many more had referred to LKY as a true statesman par excellence.
LKY had said “I do not believe that democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy. The exuberance of democracy leads to indiscipline and disorderly conduct which are inimical to development”.
If so, why is that our so called ‘great leaders’ cannot practise LKY theories?
How can they fail to fulfil the promises made to the countrymen before the elections? Unless our leaders follow LKY as a guru, I have no doubt the present leadership will never be able to take the country to growth and development. How can they allow tax exemptions running into billions of rupees to MPs and impose taxes on essential food items to the masses?
Do you think masses could live without dhal, sugar etc. when MPs need luxury vehicles to carry our motherland to reach growth and development? It is only arrogance and pomposity. The Buddha had preached “If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, suffering follows him just as the wheel follows the hoof-print of the ox that draws the cart.”