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News - The Economic Development Experience of Singapore: Lessons to be Learnt
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Labour News.

The Economic Development Experience of Singapore: Lessons to be Learnt

Written by Antonio Thompson

In July of 2005, I had the opportunity to visit the Island city-state of Singapore to attend a training course entitled “The Economic Development Experience of Singapore”. The course covered topics ranging from the role of Government in the new society to anti-corruption and macroeconomic policies and it was an interesting experience that offered a new perspective on development strategies.

Barbados is very similar to Singapore. Like Singapore, Barbados is a small island economy with limited natural resources. However, in the last thirty years, Singapore has recorded substantial economic growth and has maintained rapid industrialization. There are many factors which may have contributed to Singapore’s economic success. These include, but are not limited to, the culture as well as the geography of this impressive country.

However, five key factors which are evident and undisputable as underpinning the successful development of Singapore are as follows:

  1. Sustainable Social Security Policy

    The country has a sustainable social security policy which is embodied within the Central Provident Fund (CPF), the primary “social security” instrument used in Singapore. It is primarily a retirement fund which has evolved to include housing, medical and educational loans.

  2. Avoidance of Persistent Budget Deficits

    Singapore has managed to avoid persistent budget deficits, which is one of the hallmarks of any well run economy. Maintaining a fiscal policy objective of achieving a structural balance in the primary operating budget has allowed the economy to grow while ensuring that the society and labour force remains stable and productive.

  3. Effective National Training Scheme

    Through an effective national training scheme in the form of the Skills Development Fund, Singapore has facilitated the development of its human resources. Employers contribute 2% of their low skilled wage bill to the scheme. This encourages employers to train their workers whilst discouraging the act of poaching for trained workers.

  4. Macro-Focused Trade Unions

    Singapore has supported the development of trade unions which are primarily focused on the social and economic development of the country.

  5. Climate Conducive To Foreign Investment

    Finally, the creation of an environment conducive to Foreign Direct Investment has been a synthesis of the four elements mentioned previously. The government of Singapore also created the Economic Development Board (EDB) which has been importunate in the fulfillment of its mandate.

Like Singapore’s CPF, Barbados has the National Insurance Scheme. Furthermore, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council has an Enterprise Training Fund, which is very similar to Singapore’s Skills Development Fund.

In addition, our worker organizations have embraced the concept of Social Dialogue working in tandem with employers and government. Therefore, like Singapore, Barbados has macro-focused trade unions.

However, despite these similarities, Barbados has not managed to achieve the phenomenal economic growth and the level of industrialization seen in Singapore.

There are some lessons to be learnt for Singapore. Through a closer inspection of this small economy, perhaps Barbados can identify areas of improvement in our own development strategy. It is clear that Barbados has the capacity to position itself at the forefront of social and economic development in the near future.

Published: Monday, 15th May, 2006


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