The Gambia and Singapore both gained their independence from Great Britain in 1965. Both countries soon became members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Equally, Malaysia and Ghana both gained their independence from Great Britain in 1957. Nigeria, Africa’ most populous country gained her independence from Britain in 1960. These five countries have recorded different success and fail stories in terms of freedom from British colonial rule to socio-economic freedom and infrastructural development. It is a daunting task to compare these nations because of different continents, society, culture, organization, environment or human diversity.
Clearly, The Gambia can learn a lot from Singapore and Malaysia because these are two successful stories that need to be emulated to achieve economic growth, stability, infrastructural, development, health care, mechanised agriculture and education. Without prejudice Nigeria is a case where The Gambia can learn mistakes which is not bad at all. Singapore and The Gambia are at the same age as well as have many things in similarity when it comes to size, diversity and inadequate natural resources. But the question that must be asked is: how come Singapore attains success and The Gambia doesn’t.
Like The Gambia, Singapore was a very resource poor country in 1965. Why then Singapore became one of the world’s best economies while The Gambia has been lacking behind? This and many other questions I would endeavor to answer. What has Singapore done differently that the The Gambia fails to do? The answers to these questions will provide The Gambia to learn from Singapore if she wants to succeed. I will be pragmatic and say that not everything in Singapore is rosy and adoptable in the Gambian context. It has to be a cheery picking because The Gambia and Singapore are completely two different nations with two different people and cultures.
The following can be said about Singapore.
Official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin,
Tamil Ethnic groups: 74.3 % Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.1% India, 3.3% Others.
Government: Unitary dominant-party parliamentary republic.
Area: Total: 719.9 km2 (278.0 sq mi)
Population: 5,607,300 GDP Total: $537.447 billion
GDP Per capita: $55,231
Singapore’s success from Third World economy to First World affluence took place in a single generation. How did they achieve that? The first Prime Minister of independent Singapore Lee Kuan Yew’s in 1967 emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business, entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy shaped Singapore’s policies for the next half century. These limitations on internal democracy were challenged but that did not stop Singapore from achieving its vision. Further economic success continued through the 1980s, with the employment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% up until 1999. During the 1980s Singapore began to upgrade to high-technological industries such as the water fabrication sector in order to compete with its neighbors.
The Gambia in comparison to Singapore:
Official Languages: English
Ethnic groups: (2003) 34,4% Mandinka, 24.1% Fula, 14.8% Wolof, 10.5% Jola, 8.2% Serahuli 3.1% Serer, 1.9% Manjgo, 1.3% Bambara, 0.5% Aku Marabou, 1.5% others.
Government: Unitary Presidential Republic
Legislature: National Assembly Independence: 1965
Area total: 10,689 km2 (4,127 sq mi)
Population: 2,051,363 (2017) GDP $3. 582 billion (estimate 2017)
GDP Per capita $1,686
Singapore Changi Airport was opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlines was developed to become a major airline. The Port of Singapore became one of the world’s busiest ports and the service and tourism industries also grew immensely during this period. Singapore emerged as an important transportation hub and major tourist destination. These potentials are all in The Gambia today and we can start adapting these challenges that Singapore went through since 1965 and I believe they are feasible. The PAP (People’s Action Party) of Singapore was then term as authoritarian by some activists and opposition politicians who saw the strict regulations of political and media activities by the government as an infringement on political rights. Just as in The Gambia today with President Adama Barrow we are experiencing similar accusations and sentiments leveled against the coalition government.
The former leaders of Singapore were very focused, relentless and knew well where they want to take their country. The rest is history as they use to say. Singapore had its share of difficulties: problems of legal provisions, setbacks towards success just like all other nations. Their answer to all these problems and obstacles was that they had a responsible leadership and a recovery capability people. Singapore has been consistently rated among the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. Singapore’s unique combination of a strong almost authoritarian government with an emphasis on meritocracy and good governance is called as the “Singapore Model”, and regarded as a key factor behind Singapore’s political stability, economic growth, and harmonious social order. Here too, without hesitation The Gambia and President Barrow have something definitely to learn from Singapore.
Without stability, security and harmonious social order among The Gambia’s diverse society prosperity will be hard to achieve. Imagine in 2011, the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked Singapore among the top countries surveyed with regard to “order and security,” “absence of corruption”, and “effective criminal justice”.
However, the country receive a much lower ranking for “freedom of speech” and freedom of assembly. All public gatherings of five or more people require police permit, and protest may legally be held only at the Speakers Corner. These I believe, as we all are aware is because in a democracy there is responsibility too. Where ones freedom ends someone else’s freedom starts from there. Certainly these are some vital elements that can take The Gambia farther to the road of development if implemented with caution, consensus and dedication.
Singapore has a highly developed market economy, based historically on extended trade. Between 1965 and 1995, growth rates averaged around 6 per cent per annum, transforming the living standard of the population. The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, most dynamic and most business friendly. These are attributes we all should wish our New Gambia emulates if we all wish to live in economic prosperity and allow our children to inherit a nation worth living in. Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates advance infrastructure and zero-tolerance against corruption. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations from United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. That tells a lot why Singapore is what it is today. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the country´s economy.
Despite market freedom, Singapore’s government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 22% of the GDP. The Gambia can do the same but only with transparency accountability and probity. INDUSTRY SECTOR IN SINGAPORE Globally, Singapore is leader in several economic sectors, including being 3rd largest foreign exchange center, 3nd largest financial center, 2nd largest casino market, 3rd largest oil-refining and trading center, world´s largest oil-rich producer and major hub for ship repair services, world´s top logistic hub. If you want to succeed you have to think big and this is exactly what Singapore did and this what The Gambia has to try if we want to succeed. It has not been easy for Singapore because there were constraints and obstacles on the its road to success. These constraints and obstacles should be our strength. Besides, we should all put a collective desire to see the success through.
I want The Gambia to learn from certain vital sectors of Singapore’s success.
TOURISM SECTOR IN SINGAPORE
This sector forms a large part of the Singapore economy with 15 million tourists visiting the city-state. The government of the Gambia need to make Gambia interesting for both tourism and business.
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
Information and communications technologies (ICT) is one of the pillars of Singapore’s economic success. This also is a very vital sector for Gambia if we want attract foreign investment to our country. Singapore has been called in the 1990´s the “Intelligent Island” due its early adaptation of the internet. To be continued: Next time we look into these following sectors and see what Gambia can learn if any.
TRANSPORT, WATER SUPPLY AND SANITATION, DEMOGRAPHICS, EDUCATIONS AND HEALTH CARE.
Fellow Gambians let us come together and do as Singapore did. If Singapore can make we can make it. We have to start today by talking less and work hard just as President Barrow has been advocating since he came to power. The Gambian situation today is not conducive to any meaningful investment and we ourselves are the problem to that. We have to change our attitudes and see nation first rather than personal interest. Just like Singapore today, if The success or failure of The Gambia has direct bearing on all of us. This is not about President Adama Barrow personally as some people want to make us believe. It is our OUR collective responsibility. We will hold our leaders – I mean ALL leaders matter – accountable should anything wrong happens to OUR Gambia.