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THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN

Can Bio ‘fallamakata’ Lee ?

“Singapore” and “Lee Kuan Yew” not just fascinates me, I am in awe as I trawl the internet on information on those two subjects; I am entranced as I watch YouTube videos on Lee Kwuan Yew being lavishly praised by Singaporean and global luminaries in life and in death. BBC’s HARDTalk presenter, Stephen Sackur, who appears to take pride in being provocatively- combative to rattle or humiliate the powerful people on earth that he would interview, was outwardly deferential when on May 7, 2015, at the 45th St. Gallen Symposium of the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, on the theme “50 years after Independence of Singapore”, he interviewed the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Tharmon Shanmugaratnam, as he said of Singapore…”A small nation which knows it is small, but has proven that small can be very effective and beautiful”. Sackur called Singapore a “third world nation that was transformed into a first world power in one generation”. He unabashedly called Singapore as “ deserving of the phrase ‘Economic Miracle’… ”.

Singapore is touted today as the nation that has achieved the most meteoric economic surge of any country ever on earth. That feat has been made possible only because of the leadership of their founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who was born on 16th September, 1923, and died on 23rd March, 2015, at age 91. In 1954, Lee was co-founder of the People’s Action Party (PAP), the political party that has won every election since 1966. Lee led the PAP to win fourteen successive general elections, and was Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990. (Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, became Prime Minister in 2014). After surviving horrific massacres of Singaporeans during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during the Second World War, Lee initially attended the London School of Economics, but transferred to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, graduating with starred-first-class honours in law in 1947. He became a barrister of the Middle Temple in 1950, and returned to Singapore, and began campaigning for the United Kingdom to relinquish its colonial rule.

At around the time of Independence in the early 1960s, Singapore had a GDP per capita income of $428; by 1990, its GDP per capita has shot up to $11,862; by 2020, Singapore’s GDP per capita has spiked to about $60,000. To fully appreciate Singapore’s feat, let’s compare it with Sierra Leone.

Singapore had no mineral or agricultural resources; and was derided as a barren piece of granite rock. It had to import over 90% of its food and water. Corruption and gang violence were rife. Racial tensions among Malays, Indians, and Chinese led to frequent violence that got Singapore to be expelled from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965. Sierra Leone, on the other hand, was endowed in 1961 at Independence from Britain with some of the best jewelry diamonds in the world; some of the highest grades of iron ore and titanium, gold, bauxite; some of the most idyllic beaches on earth…. Yet, in 1964, Sierra Leone’s GDP per capita was $151, in 1985, it was $225; in 1992, Sierra Leone’s GDP per capita was $156; and in 2020, Sierra Leone’s GDP per capita was a laughable $485!! Sierra Leone’s GDP of about $4billion in 2020 can hardly be compared to Singapore’s GDP in 2020 of $340 billion. Sierra Leone’s developmental trajectory compared to Singapore is an absolute disgrace for Sierra Leoneans.

Singapore is the world’s most competitive economy, according to the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 141 countries; and it has the second highest GDP per capita income in the world. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations in Singapore. It’s a magnet for some of the most skilled workers in the world – 80% of its construction workers; and 50% of its service workers are foreigners. In terms of modernity, innovation, safety, and ‘green’ preparedness’, Singapore is regarded as more advanced that most European and American cities. How has Singapore become an Economic Miracle with ‘nothing’ and Sierra Leone ‘with everything’ has plunged again and again into the abyss of poverty?

Lee Kwan Yew Nar Bin Joke With Corruption Fet

“’…’Zero tolerance for corruption and the strong rule of law are two strategies Jamaica will need to utilise in its efforts to achieve economic growth and sustainable development’, according to Professor Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-
large in Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Professor Koh, who headed a Singapore delegation which attended a meeting of the International Seabed Authority at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston… He told The Sunday Gleaner that though Jamaica has lost its way economically since gaining political independence, it can still duplicate the Singapore miracle.
He offered this advice: ‘Get your fundamentals right, educate your people well, practise meritocracy (where) no one is appointed to a job because he knows somebody, and with the strong rule of law, zero corruption and business-friendly economy, you can do it’. Continuing, Koh said: ‘People don’t realize that zero corruption and strong rule of law are economic strategies. If I’m an investor I want to invest in a country where I don’t have to bribe everybody. If I’m an investor, I want to invest in a country where the judges are not corrupt, where if I have a legal case, I can expect justice in the courts”.
(Source: Singapore’s advice for development … STAMP OUT CORRUPTION FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH; jamaica-gleaner.
com). “Jamaica” there can be changed for “Sierra Leone” or most countries in Africa, and it would fit almost perfectly. As Sierra Leone’s President crisscross the globe in a desperate attempt to attract international investors, he should be made more conscious that successfully waging war on corruption at home would be a greater and faster magnet for foreign investors to invest in Sierra Leone.

Making his tribute to Lee Kwan Yew in the Singapore Parliament, Dr. NG. Eng. Hen, Defense Minister, Leader of the House, spoke of “the massive overhaul of what Singaporeans had become accustomed to, but could not afford. To stop the rot, Mr. Lee rooted out corruption, attacked the malaise that afflicted our society and economy”. The defense minister said that Lew Kwan Yew “rid Singapore of unsavory, unproductive, and unsustainable habits inherited from its past….”. He lauded Lew Kwan Yew for taking very tough decisions, even when he knew they would be highly unpopular. Lee persuaded Parliament in 1968 to INCREASE work hours weekly; and to slash public holidays. Why did Lee persuade Singaporeans again and again to do what was painful but right? .
Lee was a “conviction politician”. Lee “set up high standards for himself, and expected the same of other parliamentarians”, Hen said

In 1968, Lee Kuan Yew said: “We will be judged by results; these results would include among other things the morale and enthusiasm of the people, and the pace set by their leaders in Parliament and outside…”. Lee’s “abiding concern was the interest and welfare of the people”. “ People respected and followed him because of one very important element – that is trust. They trusted that he did not make decisions for his own personal aggrandizement and personal benefit, for truly the benefit of Singapore. He was deeply committed to Singapore. He was the leader per excellence” , said Halimah Binte Yacob, Speaker of Parliament of Singapore (2015), and the first President of Singapore (2017) who was of the Islamic faith.

Almost all the principles that Lew Kuan Yew strictly adhered to that stimulated Singapore being an Economic Miracle – Honesty; Meritocracy; Pragmatism – were principles which successive elected Sierra Leonean national leaders (starting with Albert Margai, Prime Minister – 1964 to 1967; President Siaka Stevens – 1968 to 1985; President
Joseph Momoh – 1986 to 1992; President Tejan Kabbah – 1996 to 2007; President Ernest Bai Koroma – 2007 to 2018) would turn on their head. They would make jokes about fighting corruption. They would rationalize about 1% of the tertiary-educated bureaucratic elite stealing most of the people’s money entrusted in their care. They would collaborate with foreign business people to fleece the country. They would enshrine mediocrity and murder meritocracy in the public service. Even after 20 years after independence resulted in the implosion of our economy in the 1980s, and the explosion of a nasty and brutish civil war in the 1990s, most of Sierra Leone’s leadership still firmly believe in pampering the corrupt, in not caring for the poor people they claim to serve – as presidents, ministers, parliamentarians. I have a glimmer of hope that the current President of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio, would be a tough and visionary and caring a leader as Lee was – or, as I have warned often, no matter how vociferous his fanatical supporters become, he would lead his party, the SLPP, into the trap of political suicide. The Lee Kwan Yew route will mean replicating the Lee’s PAP longevity in power for the SLPP. Retired Brigadier has to radically overhaul the governance mechanisms in Sierra Leone to survive. The avowed War on Corruption should not be just a peripheral matter delegated to the Anti-Corruption Commission; it must be at the heart of an exemplary leadership by the President. As man-made Climate Change gains momentum in the next decade or two, the socio-economic and political problems of nearly all countries in Africa are likely to increase a hundredfold; now, more than ever, Africa needs to end the culture of predication by its political and bureaucratic elite, and opt for that strong and loving leadership that Lew Kwan Yew epitomize. Can Bio fallamakata Lee and deliver?

I pause,

Oswald Hanciles, The Guru

+232-76-757634
WhatsApp Number

August 26, 2021
00:30 hours in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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