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  • Michael N.

From Poverty to Economic Miracle: Singapore’s Sixty Year Journey

From Poverty to Economic Miracle: Singapore’s Sixty Year Journey



Singapore was once a city plagued by poverty and characterised by slums, a state similar to a lot of cities around the world. But what makes Singapore stand out, is that recently it has been thriving: Tourist hotspot, financial hub and home to 5 million residents, Singapore is one of the most advanced countries of the 21st century. How did this come to pass?

In 1768 it was occupied by the British Empire after separating from Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign state. It served as a shipping port like Dubai. For a brief period during the Second World War, Japan occupied Singapore. Once the war ended, the British took back control again. In 1963, Singapore gained its independence from the British with intent to join Malaysia. However, only two years later, Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia due to an economic and political dispute and became its own country after being part of three different ones.

Besides Singapore being a port, it was extremely poor with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of 500 dollars. The UK at that time had a GDP per capita of three times that amount, meaning that per person the economy in Singapore was three times as weak as that of Britain. With the help of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, the Singaporean government was able to buy land easily and house the homeless. This achievement was aided by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore, one of the country’s statutory boards. Singapore was a state capitalist government with different divisions called statutory boards. Together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (another statutory board) they have housed 550,000 people and built 23 new towns in Singapore.

But what is state capitalism? This means that a large amount of corporations in a country are owned by the state. As the Singaporean government is in control of Singapore Airlines, rather than its profits going to some multi-millionaire or billionaire, they go to the Singaporean state. This does not mean that Singapore is a communist state. In fact, it is actually a capitalist state, owning state corporations such as the state housing, Singapore airlines and a few more. In 1960, only 9% of the Singaporean population lived in public housing but this has risen to 85% in 1985, where it is still roughly at. The Economic Development Board (EDB) started building factories or work spaces to produce garments and electronics, and started receiving foreign investment. By 1987, the Singaporean government had owned 87 companies or GLCs (Government Linked Corporations). The government then started privatising sectors that they were successful in, such as shipping, and began working on smaller sectors that needed more help. The privatisation of the shipping industry led to larger investment in the sector and kept the economy strong. By 1992, Singapore had a GDP per capita of 16,000 dollars — 32 times what it had had 27 years prior. The government then focused more on financial services, technology and biomedical services. By this point in time, Singapore had also doubled its population due to immigrants coming to Singapore for work and business.

A big threat to Singapore has been climate change. Being an island nation surrounded by rising waters so close to the equator, Singapore has assigned great importance to their green plan for 2030. A look at the country will show you just how green it is and how it’s filled with trees. 90% of food in Singapore has come from countries surrounding it, because it is so small and thus has no space for farm land. In 2012, the Singapore Food Agency built a vertical farm with plants going upwards to save space. By 2030, Singapore wants to be producing 30% of its own food. Dependency on other states can be dangerous, as recently seen in Europe, where Germany and other EU nations were dependent on wheat from the Ukraine, as well as on oil and gas from Russia. This has caused wheat insufficiency, high gas prices and inflation, a damaging effect on the economy. Singapore also suffered badly from traffic, so it limited the number of cars, stopping climate change and making use of more climate friendly modes of transport such as trains. In addition to this, Singapore boasts the cleanest rubbish dump in the world. It collects its waste, burns it and from the heat used to burn the waste it can make energy. The ashes are then dumped into a man-made lake which does not damage the sea surrounding Singapore.

Singapore is a city and country of the future, with a GDP per capita of 72 thousand dollars. It has some of the best healthcare systems, high investment and tourism, and its future is looking even brighter.

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