Atanu Dey On India's Development

A Man of Practical Genius

Visiting Singapore is both an exhilarating and a depressing experience for me. To observe the transformation of a mosquito-infested swamp full of poor people into a vibrant developed nation of prosperous people in a brief span of 40 years is exhilarating. Comparing Singapore to India from an Indian’s perspective is depressing: how did we–given all the advantages we had in 1950 compared to Singapore–squander it all and end up being a poor misgoverned over-populated country? That is the depressing bit.

There are lessons by the score that one can learn from the Singapore experiment; lessons that could be arrived at through simple logical reasoning in the abstract but made all the more compelling to see it actually work out in practice. The fundamental lesson to my mind is this: policies — well thought out, rigorously implemented, and single-mindedly enforced — have the power to transform.

Where can these well thought out policies come from? From at least two sources at the opposite ends of a spectrum: the mind of a single intelligent person, or the collective wisdom of an enlightened majority of the population. The latter is possible in theory of course just as it is possible that all the atoms of your body will simultaneously jump two feet vertically in unison (physics does not disallow this) so that you spontaneously levitate momentarily but it is so unlikely as to be dismissed unconditionally. An enlightened majority is in the realm of the possible but not in the realm of the probable.

The other extreme — a single person or a small set of people evolving rational policy — is imaginable. Even given the short history of civilization, some examples of this type exist. The founding fathers of the United States, a small group of people, wrote a constitution that lays the foundation for enlightened policy. More recently, it was one person who formulated rational policies and implemented them with single-minded dictatorial vigor. His name is Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee Kuan Yew is one of the most intelligent leaders in contemporary history. The man is a practical genius. The people of Singapore got lucky when in the random draw from which dictators are drawn, they drew Lee Kuan Yew. India, I cannot but note with sadness and grief, drew from the same random draw and came up with Jawaharlal Nehru. Both dictatorial but one a practical genius and the other . . . well, the less said the better.

There are deep contrasts between India and Singapore. Take for instance the degree of corruption that permeates both public and private sectors. According to Transparency International, India ranks 90th (in the company of such nations as Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Russia, and Tanzania) while Singapore ranks 5th (led by Finland, New Zealand, Demark, and Iceland) least corrupt country.

The corrosive impact of corruption on economic development and growth is not a mystery, nor was it unknown fifty years ago. Lee Kuan Yew decided on a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. Corruption at all levels of society had to go. The task was to re-invent the whole culture so that corruption had no place in it. That was the first bit: deciding that corruption was history. The next bit is implementation and enforcement.

To root out corruption you can use all sorts of means. You can lecture school children to take an oath to eschew corruption (as in here), you can prosecute a poor milkman for diluting milk (as in here) — that is, basically you can start at the bottom and implement an idiotic policy of targeting marginal players while shielding the really corrupt. Or you can do it by catching the big fish and handing out exemplary punishments and — this is the important point — publicizing it so that anyone who is even minimally aware understands that corruption is not tolerated by the society no matter how powerful the person is.

This is what I heard. A certain minister, very close to Lee Kuan Yew, in charge of housing (or some such) was involved in some kick-backs. The word went around that the guy will surely get off easy since he was in the inside circle. Lee asked the minister to see him. The meeting was brief. Two days later the minister blew his brains out. The message was clear: zero tolerance.

In India we hear of some high-level bureaucrat or politician robbing the public purse blind with sickening regularity. But we have never heard of even one high-ranking corrupt public official or politician ever being punished for his misdeeds. We have a free press of sorts and people get to know about how the most corrupt get away with murder. The notion that it is OK to be corrupt is internalized and soon enough we justify our own petty corruption by referring it back to those high and mighty whose corruption is legendary and who are never punished. We grow cynical and the society suffers as a whole. Our culture erodes and standards of probity and justice fall until we are a nation of petty thieves ruled by mega-robbers.

To re-iterate once again (as they say in the Department of Redundancy Department), you have to have intelligent policy, rigorous implementation and no-exception enforcement to bring about a radical change. Most policies in India don’t meet the intelligence criterion, and those that do suffer from indifferent implementation and half-hearted enforcement.

Crimes other than corruption are also a brake on economic growth. Singapore controls these without a too visible police force. I only saw a couple of cops during my three-day visit. One of the most impressive people I met while in Singapore (who is an alien in Singapore but runs a very successful business) told me of his informal theory about how they keep crime low. He said that he imagines that in the police headquarters they have a huge wall chart where each crime has a schedule of enforcement. So, for instance, “vandalism” may be scheduled for the week of 15th of August. That week they go out and catch a vandal, prosecute him to the utmost, and plaster his picture on the papers and in the write-up use the word “shame” a dozen times.

Prospective vandals, however irregular they may be in keeping up with current affairs, get to learn about the punishment and decide to curb their impulses. But public memory fades with time. So after a suitable span of time, the police will once again catch a vandal and make an example of him. They repeat this same formula with other routine crimes.

The important bit is that you don’t have to have zillions of cops watching every corner for vandal all round the year. You just catch the one every now and then to put the fear of god into the others and thus prevent vandalism from happening in the first place.

Lee Kuan Yew (I like using his full name because there is a certain something, a rhythm to it) must be a remarkable man. My meeting with him did not happen. I am kidding you, of course. But he is someone I would have liked to meet him and bow deep as a sign of my respect for what he did for Singapore.

Apparently little things, things that one may not consider very important or significant in the grand scheme of things, they too have a transformational impact on the society. Litter and garbage on the streets depresses the spirit and instills a sense of hopelessness and helplessness in the society. Lee Kuan Yew fined people who littered so vigorously that Singapore became clean but earned the reputation of being a “Fine City.”

Of course, the litterbug loses significant freedom in the society. He cannot litter to his heart’s content. But if there is a negative externality of following your heart’s dictates, then you have to be made to stop. Not just littering, but religion as well. They have what I call the “Freedom to use, but not the freedom to abuse.”

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Singapore but freedom to proselytize is not. Proselytizing essentially says that my religion is better than your religion and that if you don’t accept my god as the One True Savior(TM), you will rot in hell that my god has specially prepared for you. This sows seeds of discord in society and soon the newly converted start asking for special treatment and handouts and in the limiting case, when the bunch grows sufficiently large, ask for a separate state of their own because they cannot bear to live with the other people who are destined to go to hell.

So Singapore is strict about proselytizing. In keeping with their policy of discouraging that anti-social behavior, they caught a meek little Catholic lady who was going door to door peddling her religion and threw her into jail after she was found guilty by the courts. Then they publicized the event. This sent the message to all religious bigots who follow the dictates of their own hearts that bigotry is not ok.

They took care of the mullahs as well. Got them together and told them that if they even make a peep in their weekly religious sermons promoting killing and terrorism, they will have their butts in the sling. Live and let live was the message they got and as rational humans, the mullahs got in line. The last time they had communal unrest was sometime in the late 1960s.

No such luck in India, of course. We have Christian missionaries from all over the world having a grand old time converting heathens and soon enough you have the neo-converts pissing on Ganesh idols to show their new-found faith. News gets around and finally out of desperation and plain old brutality, a few missionaries get roasted and this gives the country an ill-deserved reputation of being intolerant. Madrassas funded by Saudi money flourish by the thousands where apparently the mullahs teach the young that killing kuffars is a pretty practical way of arranging society.

In reaction to this ocassionally, a few of the normally tolerant Hindus band together and retaliate. This hits the international press and India is tarred as a society full of murdering morons.

As I was saying, Singapore does not have those problems because they have the enlightened policy of making proselytizing a crime and then enforce it. Lacking the essential bit that leads to religious disharmony, they avoid the entire series of unwelcome consequences.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The essential important faculty that gives rise to good policy — which our leaders lack — is imagination.

Humans, I imagine, are different cognitively from other things in the universe in their capacity to imagine. We can ask “What if” and think through the consequences of a set of actions that are not yet set into motion. We have to be able to foresee the consequence of our present actions to reach a desired future state. Or by backward induction, we can start at a future desired state and work our way back to what we should be doing today to obtain the future state.

Every chronic persistent shortage you see around you in India is the result of a failure of imagination. (I think that this statement should be elevated to the status of a principle. Here is the one of the first axioms, then.)

In Pune, we have power cuts for about 4 hours a day on average. Pune is a city with a population the size of New Zealand’s population — four million people. It is certainly not an obscure little village in the middle of some god-forsaken forest. Power is not a new-fangled fad whose demand could not be foreseen. The growth of the size of the city and the consequent demand for power could have been easily foreseen and actions taken. Power generation is not an esoteric undertaking which the private sector is incapable of doing. Yet there is a shortage and the economy suffers because some idiot in charge did not have the imagination to realize that more power is needed.

Not so the Singaporeans under Lee Kuan Yew. They learnt to use their imagination. They build capacity before they hit shortage. I hear that they have started building the third terminal at the airport even though the second one is not even up to full capacity.

Compare that to India. First a road gets choked with 10 times the number of vehicles than it was designed to handle. Then the realization dawns on people that the capacity has to be increased. On an already congested road, they start making some changes — for instance a bridge. This take about four years to complete (whereas the same work in a different place would have taken four months). By the time the capacity is in place, the traffic has also increased so that once again it is 10 times what the road can handle.

This reminds me of my email inbox. For the last year or so, I am constantly falling behind — the number of messages sitting there increases monotonically. I am forever trying to catch up.

But enough of my woes. I was going on about how smart Lee Kuan Yew was. He has the best imagination of them all, I guess. Take for example his insistence on air-conditioning. Singapore is a hot and extremely humid place around the year. Without AC, you are bound to be less productive than with it. Air-conditioning makes sense if the cost is lower than the increased income from a more productive workforce. He saw the benefits of AC and implemented it.

I don’t know why but some people just draw good cards from the random draw that is life. Singaporeans are lucky. I am sure there are those who will immediately retort that the Singaporeans don’t have the freedoms that are normally associated with a liberal democracy. And I am also sure that the person making that statement is sitting comfortably well-fed in his nice office or home accessing the world wide web for knowledge and entertainment. For the average schmuck in a third world country, he would any day trade in his imaginary freedoms for a decent shot at a full stomach, a roof over his head, and a chance to get his children educated. After the average schmuck has achieved those basic necessities, he would ask for all sorts of goodies that a liberal democracy provides. And that is when the society should become a liberal democracy.

The sequence is important.

{More about Mr Lee Kuan Yew here.}

  • chandrashekar

    Hi Atanu,
    Perfectly agree with you. It certainly requires some foresight and planning to take a country forward and Lee Kuan Yew has excelled at it. But again, size and scale matters. Can what is implemented in Singapore apply to India ?
    Starting from a clean slate is, I hope u agree, more easier for a dictatorial state than for a glorious Free-For-All democracy like India where Every dog has his day.!!
    Again publicising the state’s approach to crime is a point to be noted by Indian adminstrators.
    More importantly, the press should be more regulated in India and asked to respect the verdicts of courts rather than simply comment on their veracity.
    The case in point is the hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in bengal, when a huge hue and cry was made regarding clemency and death sentence penalty as a effective mode of punishment.(http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/sep2004/indi-s30.shtml)

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    Size and scale do matter in the case of what we call “private goods” but not in the case of “public goods.” Policy is a public good and size is irrelevant in a certain way. More about this later.

  • Uday

    I’m waiting for a TrackBack “Atanu says size matters, but not where you think” :-)

    Seriously, illuminating information on Lee Kwan Yew. Your article motivated me to check the cabinet of the Singapore government. What immediately struck me was their educational qualifications, each and every one of them. I enumerate the first 10 listed below (the remaining 10 are as strong):
    1. Prime Minister Hsien LEE: First class honors in Math/CS Cambridge, Fellow at the Kennedy School in Harvard with a Masters in Public Admin.
    2. Senior Minister GOH Tong: BA Economics Singapore U (First class), MA in Developmental Economics from Williams College.
    3. Minister Mentor LEE Kuan Yew: Fitzwilliam, Cambridge Law (First class honors), Middle Temple (Barrister at Law).
    4. Deputy PM, Security/Defense Minister Tony TAN: Bachelors in Physics from Univ of Singapore (First class honors), MS Operations Research (MIT), Ph.D. Applied Math, University of Adelaide.
    5. Deputy PM, Law Minister JAYAKUMAR: Bachelor of Law (with honors) U of Singapore, Master of Law, Yale Law School, Dean of Law School U of Singapore.
    6. Home Affairs Minister WONG Seng: BA (honors) U of Singapore, MBA London Business School.
    7. Minister of Transport YEO Tong: BE Mechanical Engg U of Western Australia, Staff Engineer, Manager and Director in multiple engineering companies.
    8. Minister of Foreign Affairs George YEO: Bachelors of Engg (Cambridge), MBA Harvard (Baker Scholar).
    9. Minister of Information/Arts Lee YANG: Veteriny Doctor (Honors) University of Queensland.
    10. Minister of National Development MAH Tan: First class honors in Industrial Engg and Masters in Operations Research Univ of New South Wales.
    [continued]

  • Uday
  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/true_it_is Vikram Aditya

    Compare and contrast with Bangalore.

  • http://tarunsblog.blogspot.com TTG

    Because, of course, it makes sense to compare a country with 5000 years of history with a microsopic dot.

    After the average schmuck has achieved those basic necessities, he would ask for all sorts of goodies that a liberal democracy provides. And that is when the society should become a liberal democracy.

    The sequence is important.

    Is that the sequence America followed? Did it start out as a dictatorship?

    They build capacity before they hit shortage.

    Could that be because there are only 4 million people living there? Is that due to miraculous use of contraception and education about over-population? Or just the fact that their location is such that it wasn’t very useful to people before the 20th century?

    It is possibly the stupidest thing anybody can do, comparing a tiny independent little island against a large country which was bloodily divided into two parts.

    The last time they had communal unrest was sometime in the late 1960s.

    Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that maybe they weren’t invaded for a 1000 years with all the churn and empires that followed. I mean that’s all just irrelevant isn’t it.

  • http://chennaikaran.blogspot.com plus ultra

    I agree with Atanu that Singapore picked the right card, in electing Lee Kuan Yew as their Prime Minister. Lee, in turn, can be given the credit for picking the winning formula for Singapore’s prosperity .

    Whether dealing with defiant kids at home or with recalcitrant employees at work, we have seen that ‘deterrents” work much better and quicker than “ incentives” . “Fear of punishment for bad behaviour “ is anyday a more powerful driver than the “promise of incentives for good behaviour”. True for nations, as well, and Lee understood this simple psychology.

    Moreover, such deterrents cannot remain dormant or as fallback mechanisms.. Their existence must be periodically advertised and re-injected into the public memory, if their shelf-life has to be prolonged. A thrashing in public, a well-publicised execution, etc help the cause of keeping the deterrents alive and fresh in the minds of the people.

    The policy of ‘zero-tolerance” and “non-negotiability”- be it on corruption-related charges, traffic violations, petty offences,or any form of wrong-doing – further lends credibility to these powerful deterrents, completing the cycle of good intention, strong implementation and public acceptance. I am not surprised when you say that you hardly saw any cops in Singapore. The discipline is so well-embedded in the collective pscyche of the citizens as to make ‘policing” redundant.

  • Ananth

    Your blog is titled “Deeshaa – Directions for India’s Development” But all one reads nowadays are constant bitching about what is not right in India. We all are aware of that, we don’t need a phd in economics to tell is what is wrong. If you can do something constructive to change the wrongs, do it and write about it. Otherwise how different are you from the typical western media who just can’t get enough of writing about the negatives in India.

  • deep

    i agree with TTG that we may be comparing apples and oranges here. singapore’s development occurred at a time in history when the world economy was far less globalized, and consequently, its emergence did not pose a threat to the industrialized world. the political economy of growth stories is often overlooked when making such comparisons. let me also add a personal anecdote. when i was in cambridge (uk), i met many singaporean students, and became good friends with them. one particular conversation i had has always stayed with me. over lunch, i was describing the festival of holi to a few singaporean friends. they were completely dumbstruck by the idea of people spraying colors and generally creating a ruckus on the streets. actually dumbstruck is the wrong word, excited would probably be more correct. if only such freedom was allowed in their country, was their repeated refrain. the fact is, singapore has sacrificed a lot to get to where it is. and young singaporeans are ambivalent about whether these sacrifices are/were worth it.

  • http://chocolateandgoldcoins.blogspot.com/ Michael H.

    Hi Atanu
    I think your point about corruption and the fact that Singapore doesn’t condone it even among the top politicians is interesting. I think there is something there.

    But I also think it is very difficult to compare the progress of a nation of over a billion to what is a just a city state. I think it is a whole lot easier to run a city than a major nation. It raises a question: if every city in India were allowed to run independently of the center, would one or more become like Singapore?

  • Pradeep

    One man fixed the society … or a man in power … or a politician … over and over again we hear the same stuff. Social issues reflects the politicians (leaders?) its got, but the irony is, our best brains stays way from it. Why are we not in POLITICS?

  • deep

    pradeep, the answer is at least in part the following. the singapore government has a very good progam which funds an education for many of its students who travel abroad, at the best institutions in the west. the funding comes with the requirement that students who avail of it must return to singapore and join the government. this requirement is strictly enforced. indeed, this is the reason why the qualifications of government officials (per uday’s comment) are so excellent. this system could certainly be reproduced in india, where, instead, the brightest students have always had to fight hard internationally for scholarships so they can study abroad. of course, the payscales in government jobs in singapore, i suspect, are comparable to the payscales in the private sector (in real terms at least). also, the money which funds the western education comes from a forced savings program (singapore has a very high savings rate), which is not that scaleable, in my opinion. so it works for a population of 4 million, but may not for a population almost 300 times its size. moreover, singapore is a very different kind of economy (with a negligible industrial sector) from india’s, so much of those savings dont actually get invested in domestic projects. the country therefore has had to set up an investment bank (gic) with the express mandate of investing those savings in foreign countries. all in all, apples and oranges, like i said.

  • http://www.samudai.org piyushgupta

    Pradeep, and others,

    Well for a new breed of politicians in the making, please visit Samudai Bharati. This new political party will launced on March 22, 2007. If interested in doing something so that people in office are able to implement policies based on the principles of open society, free economy and limited government, or to simply exchange views on how this can be done, please email me piyushgupta.pg@gmail.com or at info@samudai.org.

  • http://blogontheweb.com/navin Navin

    Comparision with Singapore makes it easy to understand few things. We are really muddled in deep problems. Bihar is a classic case. No Education –> people chose bad leaders –> leaders bent upon keeping people illiterate so that they are chosen again. ITS A VICIOUS CIRCLE.

    POPULATION, CORRUPTION, ILLITERACY, POVERTY all are entangled, as each day passes by its becoming hard to set it right. With all the above problems, the politicians are focusssed on problems totally different like Ram temple etc.

    Uday, nice post on the educational qualifications of the ministers of SG. Thanks to coalition govt here, they had to give few seats to each of the constituent party regardless of the qualifications of the minsiters.

    Ananth – I humbly disagree withyour view point on Atanu bitching etc. Its also a form of education I feel. Pls check out Atanus post on improving indias rail network. Do you want him make posts like that ? Its makes me feel more worse than this one. Sure I am saddened to see “what is possible NUT not being done” (rail post).. rather than to see “what is happening wrong” (this post)!!

  • Sukumar

    I agree with Atanu. People in Singapur are not corrupt as us. The judicial system in India doesn’t work. It takes sometimes 30-40 years to convict a criminal. The criminals who have money or contacts will never be punished. Some of us don’t like to hear any negative things about India and they criticise you. But you are doping a great job exposing the truth. They will like to hear false but great news like an Indian stood first in an examination conducted by NASA which appeared in leading Indian newspapers. But I don’t think even if the politicians were educated, it would have made much difference. The more educated you are, the more selfish, greedy and corrupt you become in India. Even IIT or IIM education will not help. This is due to lack of moral and ethical education in India’s school, curriculum. What a pity! No nation on earth has produced great teachers like Buddha, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Krishnamurthy….India is a storehouse of philosophy. But we don’t make use of it. Look at today’s India. You can read in today’s newspaper that drunkard students from one of the top engineering college in India went on a rampage. It’s just a shame. read the link:
    http://www.telegraphindia.com/1050901/asp/bengal/story_5182951.asp

    You must have moral, ethical values and a certain level of honesty for development. On the top of that you need scientific and technical knowledge. It seems that so-called educated Indians don’t understand this. We are crabs. We are selfish creatures. We pull each other’s leg. We can’t work in a team. I clean our own house and put all the dirt in front of my neighbour’s house, not in front of my house. We go to temple, but we don’t even worship there. We pay the priest to perform the worship so that my family gets more wealth or better health. Let me enjoy all the comforts of life, I don’t even care for my neighbour who doesn’t even get two square meals a day. How can we develop India with this sort of people ?

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  • http://sillysod.blogspot.com Aditya

    Excellent post, Atanu, and very well-written too. (I especially liked the (TM) and the “concrete examples”, as people love to call them.)

    To the commentators:

    Perhaps it isn’t fair to compare India and Singapore, but surely you’re not suggesting we shouldn’t even take hints. Applying ideas word-for-word doesn’t usually work, but we can, of course, contextualise. (That, after all, is what imagination, which Atanu mentioned, by the way, is for.) And we should admit the possibility that if a nation with 5000 years of history has such problems, a rethink might be required, rather than a simple attitude of looking at the symptoms.

  • http://sun-bin.blogspot.com/ sun bin

    The more curcial measure in Lee Kuan Yew’s strategy to fight corruption this: pay them at market rate (as if they would serve in private sector) so that there was no need to take bribe.

    Without paying them well, his work would not have succeeded. LKY is not only a ploitical genius, he also knows human nature and business very well.

  • http://www.srijith.net Srijith

    Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t compare Singapore with India after walking around Changi Airport (and maybe a bit beyond).

    I don’t have the ability to write as convincingly as you so this may come across as dull, but there is a point in here. Somewhere.

    You gave “concrete examples” as one commenter puts it. Now my turn – Riot police to disperse a crowd of 4 (as in here or here), the NUTS of Singapore, “To Catch a Tartar : A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew’s Prison” (ignore the excessive whinning for a moment), the “demise” of Devan Nair and Jeyaretnam, the on going “demise” of Chee Soon Juan, where the government and the institutions are in the “serious fun business” and on and on.

    Now that the seat warmer Goh Chok Tong is out, you can see another contribution of Lee Kuan Yew – nepotism. Not just in government, but in companies like Singtel, Temasek Holdings, NKF etc. I don’t want to list names, but do a Google search on Board of Directors and CEO/CTO of Singapore companies and their family tree and you will see what I mean.

    You speak of absence of corruption. I say, eyewash. Case in point NKF fiasco. When you don’t have corruption, you don’t need to have a supressed media – remember The Ecomonist defamation case? More here. You don’t bankrupt dissident by filing defamation cases against them in courts that kiss government ass.

    Before you judge Singapore, take the time to go live there, not on an expat package, mingling only with the elite technopreneur class, but as a common man. I had, for 8 years and when given a chance I gave it all up (and a very possible “citizenship”) in the blink of a eye, while still holding on to my blue passport which gives me visa hell every other day!

    Do you know why there is such a big “push” towards creativity in Singapore these days? Because they don’t know what that word means! You can’t expect citizens indoctrined in the need to obey laws by the letter, every day of their life for the last 30 odd years to switch on their creative side of the brain when hit with a crises. You can’t switch creativity on and off.

  • http://www.srijith.net Srijith

    Two more points – did you know that the Singapore government brands people who left Singapore for other more free places (like Australia, US and Canada) as “quitters”?!

    The other point I just had to add was in response to your last paragraph:

    By your definition of right sequence, all the freedom fighters of India were stupid to fight for independence – yours and mine. They should have waited for all Indians to have a “decent shot at a full stomach”.

  • http://apusworld.blogspot.com apu

    I liked most of your article – Fairly thought provoking, though I think the sheer size makes a big difference.

    What I disliked – “News gets around and finally out of desperation and plain old brutality, a few missionaries get roasted and this gives the country an ill-deserved reputation of being intolerant.” a rather heartless way of dismissing the Graham Staines murder and such – so it was out of “desperation”, is it?

    And “Madrassas funded by Saudi money flourish by the thousands where apparently the mullahs teach the young that killing kuffars is a pretty practical way of arranging society.

    In reaction to this ocassionally, a few of the normally tolerant Hindus band together and retaliate. This hits the international press and India is tarred as a society full of murdering morons.” I am hearing a new version of the Gujarat riots here…”a few” i.e. a mob “retaliates” i.e. kills a few hundred odd people…Fair game, is it?

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  • http://www.writing-onthe-wall.blogspot.com Nam

    “I am sure there are those who will immediately retort that the Singaporeans don’t have the freedoms that are normally associated with a liberal democracy.”
    As cliched as it might sound, you only realise the importance of something when you are deprived of it. In India, this democracy and the choices that come with it are so much embedded in us, that we hardly notice its existence. Its easy to say, well, why care about which moron is the Prime Minister, as long as we get our basic amenities. But trust me, there are times when the “authoritative” democracy in Singapore comes back to bit you in the ass, even as a common man. For instance, in 2003, when SARS hit Singapore, they decided to impose a restriction on all foreign students from leaving Singapore. The government decided you cant step out. Thats it. You really wanna? Deposit $1000. Where does a foreign student in Singapore, at the end of a semester, have a $1000 to spare? And how can he/she voice out his/her disagreement? This was the first time I realised the meaning of free speech.. the meaning of a nanny government.
    I agree there is a sequence to follow in maturing a democracy. But in a country like India, with people at different levels of intellectual and social development, the one-size-fits-all will just not work. The author has only seen the touristy glam and glitter view of Singapore. There is a lot of muck beneath that I assure you.

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  • Calvin

    To know Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew runs it, don’t just look at the surface but read a bit about this man. Then maybe we can learn something and hope that can change India to what is good…not necessarily to become Singapore.
    Interview with Lee Kuan Yew – on his personality and ability to change the country with comparison to Western nations.

    Lee Kuan Yew’s Socialism reconsidered – How he bought welfare to Singapore.

    Lee Kuan Yew: Race, Culture and Genes – His view and approach to manage the diversity in Singapore.

    http://www.sfdonline.org/Link%20Pages/Link%20Folders/Human%20Rights/barr2.html

  • http://prahalathan.blogspot.com/ Dr. Prahalathan KK

    Without any doubt our politicians past and present are to blame for the current status of our country.
    Population explosion, Squandering Public Money, Bad policy decisions… name it they’re the source of it.
    The general population too… How will a country develop if Fuel prices are subsidised for the sake of votes?

  • dada

    see the hell that is happening now to hang a convicted australian nguyen drug mule! if you still think he is real genius, where has his intelligence paved way for barbaric acts of hanging.

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  • police statist

    Your theory about how the police prosecute crimes here is certainly plausible. The press, quite helpfully compliant it must be said – plays along and does its bit of civic duty by naming and shaming the perpetrators at regular intervals. I’ve always noticed that aspect of criminal stigmatization but have never explicitly articulated it to myself. As with so many insights, it takes an outsider . . .

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  • Jevaughn G. Clarke

    Lee kuan Hue is a man seprate and apart from other men. This is true not because he implemented novel new ideas , but , rather because he implemented what all other leaders know to be the right thing to do, but fail to implement.

    Therefore the fundamental argument is, why cant other leaders find the “GUTS” to follow lee kuan’s path.

    Another question that lee kuan’s actions in Singapore stimulate or bring to the fore,is: Are dictatorial regimes necessarily/inherently bad.

    Kudos to Lee Kuan and all Singaporians!

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