Thursday, November 1, 2012

Designer Singapore

Peter Harcher writes in The Sydney Morning Herald of the possibility that incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping sees Singapore as a model that China might usefully imitate. I believe Mr. Harcher has come late to the party.

It has been clear to me for perhaps a decade that China is attempting to model its economy and government on those of Singapore. That said, one is forced to also observe that China isn't too far along that evolutionary path.

China has caught onto the "capitalism creates wealth" part of Singapore's model. They haven't mastered the "corruption isn't tolerated" part of Lee's design for Singapore.

Do you see the reference in Harcher's article to most Singaporeans owning flats in government-owned buildings? Most places in the world, government housing turns into slums. Singapore is probably the only place in the world where government-owned housing is clean, well-maintained, and up-scale - a place where people want to live.

How does this happen? Mr. Lee's government won't tolerate slummy behavior. If you don't maintain your government housing, don't obey the law, they toss you out. Result - government housing is nice, people want to live there.

Singapore is a designer city state, designed and built by Lee Quan Yew. Behavioral, political, oratorical and economic freedoms are limited. On the other hand, those who follow Lee's rules live better than most people in the surrounding countries. Most Singaporeans are happy with their lot. Those who don't like Lee's little paradise leave.