Singapore model of governance – Will Sri Lankan like it?

( August 05, 2012, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Singapore, described as city state, has population of just around four million people. The reputation that Singapore enjoys around the world for efficient administration, economic growth and quality of governance make several people think that Singapore model of governance could be the ideal arrangement for several countries. Any one who has visited Singapore for short or long period cannot but miss the fact that everything works in Singapore as per the plans and priorities. The incidence of corruption, violence and nepotism are least in the country compared to several other regions in the world.

From the point of view of the citizens in Singapore, the most significant feature is that the law abiding citizens in Singapore are well protected and they can lead a life of their choice peacefully and with dignity. This is not the condition for citizens in several other countries today. Obviously, unlike several other countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, law makers are not the law breakers in Singapore, as far as the governance is concerned.

Of course, just as there are many admirers of Singapore model of governance, there are also critics. A fair analysis of the plus and minus of Singapore form of governance would put things in proper perspective.

Political System:

Just like many other democratic countries, elections are held in Singapore at regular intervals and citizens are entitled to contest in the elections. The voting is compulsory for eligible voters.

However, there is criticism that large number of candidates winning the elections belong to ruling party and the strength of the opposition party in parliament are very thin. Same party have been ruling in Singapore for several years now. Some members of the opposition party are forced to live outside Singapore fearing arrest on some charges or the other , if they would return to Singapore.

However, there is no evidence that elections in Singapore are rigged or unethical practices are adopted.

Law and order :

Singapore is one of the very few countries in the world where the law breakers are severely and immediately punished such as with whippings. It can often be seen in Singapore news paper about the punishments of two whippings or five whippings imposed by the courts on offenders. Some critics think that this is a barbarian practice that should not be allowed in any civilized society.

By catching and punishing the culprits quickly, Singapore government has created sort of fear psychosis amongst the citizens and visitors to Singapore and everybody is forced to become extremely careful not to do anything that would be against the law of the land. Some critics say that such maintenance of law and order in Singapore is due to the draconian measures of the government in punishing the offenders and not due to self discipline amongst citizens.

Any casual visitor to Singapore would have seen that police men are rarely visible in the streets of Singapore, possibly due to the government successfully creating fear in the minds of law breakers and even others.

Economic Progress:

Inspite of many constraints such as limited space, inadequate availability of water, lack of petroleum resources etc. Singapore government has shown extraordinary level of vision , innovative approach and forward planning, appropriate to the needs of the country to forge ahead and sustain the growth. The success of efforts of Singapore government is extraordinary and unmatched in any other country in the world

Press Freedom :

There is only one English newspaper in Singapore which appears to be largely controlled by the government.

It is doubtful whether any article that would be highly critical about the political stance of Singapore government would be published at all.

Happiness Index of the citizens :

One aspect of worry for the Singapore government is the migration of citizens of Singapore to other countries in increasing number, particularly to USA, Canada and Australia. Some of the migrants have said in private discussions that they would desire to migrate to any country where there would be much more freedom.

There is no information that government of Singapore has carried out any study on satisfaction index of its people. Perhaps, it would not allow any private agency or non governmental organization to carry out any such study in Singapore.

Multiplicity of sects and religious freedom :

People belonging to several religions and sects like Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Bhuddhists live in Singapore with admirable amity.

In the same way , people from different countries such as Chinese, Malaysians and Indians live in Singapore without any conflicts. Singapore government gives freedom for religious and cultural practices amongst citizens and this is something that calls for high end appreciation.

Efficiency of the government :

Economic progress and social stability and amity amongst the citizens clearly show high level of efficiency of the government machinery and commitment of the ministers in the Singapore government.

Many of the Singapore ministers are well educated with good expertise with regard to the department that they deal with. Most of them function like professionals and not like politicians.

Overall view of the critics and admirers:

The critics of the Singapore model of governance say that Singapore is governed like a corporate undertaking and not like a country.

But, the admirers ask what if it would be so. The admirers compare the conditions in Singapore with several other nearby countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Pakistan . They say that all that the citizens want are peace and harmony for themselves and their families , security in public places and freedom to practice and excel in the field of their choice. Singapore government certainly meet these requirements of the citizens, very much better than countries like India , Sri Lanka, Thailand and Pakistan.

Would Sri Lankans prefer Singapore form of governance ?

A.G. Gardner said “Liberty is not a personal affair but social contract. It is an adjustment of individual interests”. Perhaps, this philosophy of the need to curtail personal freedom to indulge in indiscipline by a few including politicians , for the sake of overall social good is what makes Singapore form of governance acceptable to many people.

Perhaps, some countries like Sri Lanka and India would do well with little less freedom and more stringent and quick punishment for offenders , that may enable more orderly growth.

Will Sri Lankans desire to sacrifice the so called freedom to some extent to gain better growth and affluence ?

| by N.S.Venkataraman
Source : Sri Lanka Guardian – Singapore model of governance – Will Sri Lankan like it?

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