In the opinion piece “Singapore and us”, one Biman Prasad notes the ways in which Fiji has fallen behind a Singapore that was once its peers. While Fiji is not as lucky as a Singapore placed in the middle of global trade routes, its ethnic conflicts definitely did hurt the island’s potential.
Certain commentators in this country tend to selectively compare Fiji with Singapore. They highlight that Fiji, like Singapore, is a multi-ethnic country and they claim Fiji needs to adopt similar restrictive policies to maintain stability and achieve economic success.
On the surface, these comparisons and justifications might sound reasonable. Singapore, after all, is the third-richest country in the world, ranking behind only Qatar and Luxembourg, according to Forbes magazine 2014 top 10 richest countries in the world.
Singapore’s rise to the top has been both rapid and spectacular. In the 1960s, Singapore and Fiji had a similar GDP per capita. Today Singapore is well ahead, with a GDP per capita of nearly $US55,000 ($F117,975) with Fiji’s about $US4500 ($F9652). The country turned 50 just recently and it is justifiably proud of its achievements.
Some political opportunists and journalists tell us that to emulate Singapore’s success, we need, among other things, a restrictive media law. This a pie in the sky theory. While there are many things that Fiji can learn from Singapore, there are some things our country does not need to emulate or adopt. This becomes clear when we look at Singapore in greater detail.
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It was able to transform itself from a slum with a per capita income of $US500 ($F1066) in 1965 to $US55,000 ($F117,975) today. This means that if one were to divide the total value of its output with the total population, every individual in Singapore today is worth $US55,000 ($F117,975). Singapore progressed faster than many other countries at a similar level of development in 1965. It has been able to improve living standards of its people through better health, better housing, better education and employment opportunities for all its people.