Recently, I had the pleasure of joining Pacific leaders, Ministers and colleagues from the Pacific region in a study tour of Singapore at the invitation of the Government of Singapore.
Singapore is a truly remarkable success story. It has transformed itself from the third world to the first in one generation.
A small island with just over 700 square kilometres and no natural resources, it shares similar challenges with many small island nations of the Pacific. Yet somehow, Singapore has overcome these challenges and it now boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world (USD 55,000 per capita).
Singapore gained independence from Britain in 1965 and over the course of just 50 years, it has transformed itself from a highly labour intensive economy into one that is powered on technological advancement and innovation.
Singapore now boasts a modern inclusive multi-cultural society with low unemployment rates and high personal incomes. It has a strong emphasis on adding value and responding to global demands given its size. For example, Singapore operates the busiest port in the world with approximately one thousand ships in port in any one day. These ships concentrate on providing the most efficient trans-shipment services for the global community.
Much of the success of Singapore is attributed to political stability and vision of its first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The current Prime Minister is Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew.
The Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) was established in 1992 to serve as the primary platform through which Singapore offers technical assistance to other countries. Singapore’s assistance has focused on human resource development and economic development – with other countries in lieu of providing direct financial assistance.
To date, the SCP has trained over 100,000 government officials from 170 countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Pacific nations stand to learn a lot from Singapore.