How Best Can India Emulate Singapore?
Some major indicators for Singapore which as of now seems mirage for India are as under –
- Singapore has the per capita income of USD55000, the third highest in the world.
- It has sixth highest purchasing power in the world.
- It has one of the lowest rates of unemployment at just 2%,
- It is world’s third most literate country
- It is probably the healthiest nation of the world with life expectancy of more than 80 years.
- Singapore has world's highest percentage of millionaires in the world with one in every six households having a millionaire.
- 90% people in Singapore have their own houses which are mostly built by the government.
- Crime level is lowest in the world
- According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
- There is perpetual surplus government budget ranging from 0-20% of GDP.
- On ease of doing of business too it is among top most countries.
- With 0.902 Human Development Indices, it was ranked 9th in 2013.
- Only Asian country to receive AAA credit ratings from all three major credit rating agencies: Standard & Poor's, Moody's, Fitch.
- Its Changi Airport was ranked world’s top airport in 2014
- Port of Singapore is the second busiest seaport after Port of Shanghai
Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, is credited for changing the fortunes of Singapore. He was the longest serving Prime Minster from 1959-90. He had explained the factors for transforming Singapore from a third world country to a first country in his book ‘From Third World to First’. The two most significant factors which Lee Kuan Yew has hailed as the pillars of Singapore growth story are education and infrastructure. While on one hand, government ensured to provide the best infrastructural facilities to attract businesses, it also made sure to provide best education to its citizens to provide them gainful employment.
Areas for India to Emulate
Right after the independence, Singapore tried to use trade as a major tool for development of the country. In contrast to Singapore, India after throwing away the yoke of subjugation to a foreign power, it preferred an inward looking foreign trade policy. Though we can’t complain about the decisions taken 65 years ago because we were in different frame of mind at that point of time, now India can emulate following policy measures of Singapore which are the major architect of its growth story –
- In order to attract businesses, the business taxation in Singapore is comparatively lower.
- Generous allowance is provided to the start-up companies.
- Local law favours employer more than a employee.
- Unlike India where a new company needs to have multiple clearances to start operations, Singapore has only one agency namely International Enterprise which actively supports the establishment and development of new businesses and also helps them to become global.
- Education is mostly supported by the government.
- Along with education, health is another factor determining the quality of human capital. Health standards in Singapore are quite higher than India as it had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world for the past two decades.
- Good health facilities have placed Singapore at 4th position in the world in terms of life expectancy.
- The government's healthcare system is based upon the "3M" framework. This has three components: Medifund, which provides a safety net for those not able to otherwise afford healthcare, Medisave, a compulsory health savings scheme covering about 85% of the population, and Medishield, a government-funded health insurance program.
The socio-economic indicators in Singapore undoubtedly make it one of the best countries to live and do business; however, some of its policy measures are not in conformity to the postmodern era and they should not be emulated by any nation, whatever be the rewards. Some of such measures are –
- Singapore is criticised for its tight controls on media and freedom of speech.
- It has worst income inequalities among the developed countries.
- Singapore don’t have any minimum wage
- Although the elections are clean, there is no independent electoral authority and the political process is dominated by the People’s Action Party, which has strong influence on the media and the courts hampering opposition campaigning.
- Singapore has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning.
- There is a mandatory death penalty for murder, as well as certain drug-trafficking and firearms offenses.
- It has the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population.
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Now on the question of how best can India emulate Singapore, the best for India would be to selectively emulate its policies. Since freedom of speech is an important attribute of Indian political system, it must not be traded off to ensure economic growth. For instance, government in India is fighting tooth and nail to pass the land acquisition bill which is important to give a boost to the manufacturing activity. But to get the bill passed, it could not stifle those who are opposing the bill.
Without compromising the political freedom, what India can learn from Singapore include how to achieve a corruption free environment, attracting foreign investment, healthcare system, education system, providing a business friendly environment, providing single window clearance system etc. And last but not the least, India is a large country where its constituent states also have some say in policy making while in Singapore, there is only one legislative body to get the acts passed. It is for that reason Goods and Service Tax (GST) could not be imposed in India. Thus even the economic policies of Singapore could not be implanted in India in a one go without affecting other sectors.