Is Singapore an example for Russia?
Therefore, the methods used by this one of the most famous political long-livers of the twentieth century to achieve their goals are scrupulously studied. They try to understand whether he has made mistakes. They peer into the glittering “Singapore showcase” and want to see what is behind it.
For our fellow citizens, this is also of quite practical importance. After all, a significant part of Russian liberals elevated Lee Kuan Yew to the rank of a great economic guru, whose experience must be applied without fail in our country. I will cite at random one of the panegyrics addressed to the former prime minister: “Effectively functioning government, capable of managing the socio-economic transformation and development of the country, developing the necessary infrastructure, ensuring political stability, predictability of the situation, fair legal system, conditions for business development.”
Liberals clearly see Lee as a like-minded person, and therefore they call on the leaders of our country to become his Russian “avatar”. So it was, for example, at the end of Dmitry Medvedev's presidential term in the autumn of 2011. Then the newspaper Vedomosti, complaining that our “political system remains only“ slightly ”ajar, while“ a market has emerged and a middle class is being formed ”, called upon the future president to lead Russia along the way of Singapore. The hint is quite clear: give more power to businessmen, remove the legislative rules restricting them, and everything will be in order. Then we will definitely become, in the words of Alexander Vertinsky, a "banana-lemon" state. After all, Singapore, with virtually no natural resources, could achieve unprecedented prosperity.
It is easy to read between the lines: let’s give hydrocarbons, iron, wood and precious metals to foreigners, because we don’t know how to manage all these riches ourselves.
Alas, the idea is not new, we were tried to “push it” back in the late perestroika times — at that time, it was true, little Holland was taken as a role model.
In the case of Singapore, everything is more complicated and simpler at the same time. It’s simpler because all the praise to Lee Kuan Yew is based on his autobiographical book, The Singaporean History. More difficult - because every time we are poked into the eyes of pictures of shining skyscrapers and data about the high standard of living of this state.
Perhaps the most favorite thesis about Singapore says: this country started from scratch, without natural resources, and managed to achieve a lot. True, there was practically no natural wealth in this former British colony. However, the absence of the latter overlaps with several factors, about which the liberals either keep silence or suggest that they should be considered insignificant.
The most significant advantage that played into the hands of Lee Kuan Yew is the very geographical position of the city-state, the second such unique place on the globe can hardly be found. Singapore is located in a narrow strait through which a substantial part of all world trade goes - almost all sea transportation from Asia to Europe or Africa is necessarily carried out through this “power”. Even in ancient Rome, they noted the presence in the place of this island state of a trading point, where there were goods from both western and eastern countries. It means that the matter is not at all in the hardworking Chinese who form the backbone of the population of this country: the descendants of Confucius in those days had not yet had time to settle in the states of Southeast Asia. Extremely favorable geographical location this place enjoyed later in the Middle Ages.
Then came the "economic" British, who, in addition to Singapore, were able to take a few more advantageous points around the world - Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, the Bosphorus, which they often overtook Russia controlled through Turkey subject to them.
The business here is simple: just charge money for sailing ships in your waters. There will be a good comparison here with the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, who for many years in a row tried to reclaim money from Russia for the fact that our vessels pass through the Kerch Strait.
Singapore’s unique location allows brisk transit trade. Large-tonnage vessels from Europe that deliver cargo to several customers in Asia can simply leave it in this city, then it will be sent from here by smaller ships, for example, to some port in the region. There is a time saving for Europeans, and earnings for Asians.
Putting a full stop here means intentionally simplifying the situation. The good location of the city-state does not boil down to these factors alone. Since the fifties of the last century, they began to receive solid dividends, acting as a transshipment base for military goods for Americans who were trying to establish themselves on the Asian continent. Enormous sums came there due to large-scale rubber supplies during the Korean War 1950-1953. The role of this former British colony increased even more during the years of US aggression in Vietnam. This is understandable: Singapore has become almost the only transport hub through which the Pentagon had the opportunity to carry out the transfer of weapons and military equipment. This circumstance, of course, did not escape the attention of Hanoi. When the talk of normalization of relations between the two states was addressed in 1977, the Vietnamese leadership even demanded compensation from Singapore for actual participation in the war that claimed millions of lives. It is clear that Lee Kuan Yew rejected these proposals with “noble indignation”.
However, the geographical advantages of the former British possession are not limited to this. If you dig deeper, you can find a lot of interesting facts. For example, according to the confessions of the same Lee Kuan Yew, in the seventies numerous small vessels from nearby Indonesian territories arrived in Singapore, where they exchanged seafood and raw materials for consumer electronics, clothing and other consumer goods that this city-state could offer in large numbers. How legal was such a trade, Lee does not report. We can only confidently say that this order of things brought considerable dividends to Singaporeans, who unexpectedly borrowed a large market for their consumer goods. How profitable this exchange type of trade can be judged by the Finns, literally shocked by the fact that in the late eighties, Moscow suddenly, instead of barter, switched to the generally accepted rules of trade in freely convertible currency.
Nor should, despite all the assurances of the liberals, believe that Lee Kuan Yew was impoverished and ravaged by the state, and he, as a great politician, turned him into an "Asian paradise." Australian researcher Rodney King, who lived in this country, wrote the book “The Miracle of Singapore. Myth and reality. So, he proves: a city-country would become a thriving business center and without Lee Kuan Yew, any educated statesman in his place would also be able to use a favorable geographical factor to attract foreign investment. After all, even after independence, the city was not a beggar, it was the largest port in Asia with the most modern infrastructure at the time. So, when the former prime minister talks about how he created a prosperous state, he should, first of all, talk about the “merits” of the British colonialists.
In this case, no one is going to detract from the merits of Lee Kuan Yew, who pursued a very tough policy. And - a clever person, by the way, has carefully studied the experience of the Soviet Union. Therefore, as the former prime minister himself writes, he encouraged his eldest son, the current prime minister, Li Xianlong, to learn Russian.
And Lee Kuan Yew himself admitted: "I can say that our economic development and industrialization proceeded successfully, because we were engaged in planning."
A clever and far-sighted politician tried to skillfully use the wealth inherited by Singapore. For example, after the departure of the British in the early seventies, the economy of the island state significantly subsided, perhaps by twenty percent, because a large part of the GDP was given by the British military bases.
In these difficult conditions, Lee found a magic wand, it became container transportation. The positive effect exceeded all expectations: due to the accelerated cargo handling, it was possible to dramatically increase the port capacity. This simple trick helped the inhabitants of the island to overtake in aggregate indicators a number of the largest Soviet ports.
It is worth making a reservation: the rich infrastructure inherited by Singapore from the British can be considered as another gift of fate. First of all, it is the largest port and the adjacent infrastructure in the form of docks, warehouses, access roads, and a railroad going inland. New owners were able to use the docks as shipyards, extracting from this a very good profit. Moreover, these production facilities were used by new authorities and as collateral in obtaining loans and loans: Singaporeans were able to attract foreign investors so that they could start implementing production development projects at former British military facilities in the early seventies. Another legacy is the air force base of the Royal Air Force, from which the Changi airport became famous all over the world.
This is how you begin to understand that a “rich heritage” is a far more attractive starting point for economic development, rather than the possession of natural resources. After all, the development of mineral resources requires money. So there can be no question of any survival that Lee Kuan Yew is talking about.
Moreover, the country has a good level of education of the population. The rich Chinese, who eventually dominated Singapore, managed to force the British colonial authorities to open several schools. “During British rule, Singapore was the regional center of education,” Lee writes. In the city, even the University of Malaya acted, giving education in English. In contrast, Nanyang University taught in Chinese. “The Chinese in Singapore looked down on the Malays,” admits Lee Kuan Yew, himself a native of this privileged ethnic group.
An explanation is required here. All the benefits of enlightenment were intended mostly for ethnic Chinese, who began to settle on these lands with the hands of the British in the early nineteenth century. They held the overwhelming part of the trade and tax collection functions among the indigenous people. This led to a concentration of capital in their hands and an increase in clashes with the local population, which eventually became increasingly dependent on the Chinese.
The city-state has become one of the few, if not the only place where the Chinese could almost completely subjugate the local population. A common stereotype of the first decades of Singapore’s existence is that Malays always play the part of servants.
Probably, a high educational level has become one of the prerequisites that have played a role in choosing the largest US transnational corporations. Take, for example, Hewlett-Packard, a company that placed innovative semiconductor manufacturing in Singapore at the very end of the sixties. Perhaps the arrival of American corporations has become a payment for using the country as a transshipment point for US forces. On the other hand, the Americans didn’t have any particular choice: such a disciplined and relatively cheap labor force can hardly be found in other parts of the world. In any case, already since the beginning of the seventies, the tiny island-city was almost equal in terms of investment with Malaysia, which was much superior to its territorial and human resources.
Another measure that allowed the country to rise is the policy of protectionism. Lee bluntly writes about the introduction of measures "to protect cars made in Singapore, refrigerators, air conditioners, radios, televisions and tape recorders." However, this measure was applied flexibly. For example, when the leadership of a city-state decided that foreign banking capital needed to be summoned to the local financial market, “sparing” measures were immediately taken.
One of the secrets of the Singapore "cuisine" was the close interaction with the Americans in their global game of weakening competitors. In the 1975 year, as a result of the abolition of protectionist barriers by the authorities, an assembly plant owned by Mercedes-Benz was destroyed. In the eighties, the high-tech enterprise of the German company Rolley went bankrupt ...
Another famous Singapore "chip" - offshore. You can register a company here rather quickly, and, I must say, quite a large part of our business community resorts to such services. And in the past few years, rich citizens of the world's most populated country have been hiding their “hard-earned” wealth. But again, the case with Dmitry Medvedev, who, during his official visit to Singapore, having entered his data into the electronic system, thus registered his company, should be considered only as a PR action. In fact, everything is somewhat more complicated, although, anyway, this business brings considerable profits.
There is one more, not too hidden source of wealth of the island state: giving a strong, dodgy dubious operation to attract foreign assets. This is not about encouraging foreign deposits; most of the world's banks are engaged in this. It's about something else: in the late nineties, Jakarta complained that city-state bankers “encouraged Indonesians to keep their money” in Singapore. At about the same time, a group of fugitive Indonesian bankers found refuge there, and they were refused to be returned to their homeland for trial. Perhaps such exercises with other people's money were one of the reasons for the large-scale financial crisis that broke out in Southeast Asia in the 1997-1998 years and began, oddly enough, in Indonesia.
Singapore made money wherever possible. In December 2002, it became known that Baghdad was able to receive from Singapore’s Kim Al-Haley more than 4500 tons of V-X, sarin, mustard gas precursors and production equipment.
If sanctions interfere with earning, so much the worse for sanctions: the state continues to maintain active ties with North Korea. Some companies registered in this metropolis, buy goods in third countries "for themselves", in fact, the goods are redirected to the DPRK.
Another brick of stability in Singapore is its military policy. The island-state is also a fortress at the same time. Military doctrine is similar to the Israeli one: to manage through the use of a well-trained army, and in the X hour and with the involvement of trained reservists of up to half a million people, repel the onslaught of much more powerful hostile neighbors. No wonder: Israeli military advisers, whose presence was not initially advertised, all contributed to the creation of the Singapore military machine, made no small contribution to Mexicans. It is precisely in the possession of a disproportionate military power - in proportion to the size of the population - that lies one of the reasons why Singaporeans allow themselves “liberties” in relations with their neighbors. As has been demonstrated in the case of the claims of Indonesia.
Here it is, the sum of the factors that ensured the rapid development of Singapore, launched the social programs and the creation of tourism infrastructure. Now there are six to eight million tourists annually, this figure is even higher than the population of this whole small "power." The main thing in these conditions is the methods of governing the country.
Here, to the chagrin of our liberals, it should be said that the “grandfather Lee” style in places looks like an authoritarian one, implying strict responsibility for the offenses committed.
We will not focus on the prohibition of chewing gum or practiced corporal punishment, this is just a slight "roughness" of a political monolith. Its foundation, as Lee 1991 recognized in the fall, is political stability, without which "political reform is impossible." Incidentally, the legendary Singapore politician fired Mikhail Gorbachev precisely because the last General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU began to transform the economy after he stirred up a political hive.
This stability is achieved by various means, the most important of which is control over the media. Any person holding the main newspaper of the Straits Times in his hands will immediately understand that he is dealing with a typical officialdom absolutely loyal to the local authorities. Lee admitted that almost from the very beginning of his time at the helm of power, he intended to "pursue a decisive policy towards the press, which defended foreign interests." “Foreigners should not have owned newspapers in Singapore, it was our policy, and we stated it openly,” these statements by the Asian political longevity were put into practice in the form of legislative restrictions on the “privatization” of the press. And this is the whole point of Lee Kuan Yew’s policy with regard to “publicity” and the right to receive information. Russian liberals, praising the creator of the “Singapore miracle”, simultaneously demand some kind of abstract “press freedom” in our country, calling it “totalitarian” ...
So, the power-controlled media allows it to drop all accusations against it from the very beginning. A significant role is played here by the judicial system, which decides every time in favor of the authorities. But Lee himself was accused of corruption repeatedly, since the seventies.
He is also credited with the following answer to the question about the methods by which he managed to overcome corruption: “Start by planting three of your friends. You know exactly why, and they know why. ”
Several ministers convicted of corruption were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, committed suicide, or fled the country. Among them were longtime associates of the Prime Minister. So the words about “three friends” were not shaking the air. For example, Minister of National Development, caught red-handed, after a serious "debriefing" at the Prime Minister, returned home and hanged himself.
Now in Russia it is customary to speak about Singapore with aspiration. This is a paradise on earth, where all social problems are solved, laws are strictly followed by super-conscious citizens, there is no crime at all, in one word - not life, but an endless colorful laser show, interspersed with shopping ...
Yes, penalties for minor transgressions cannot be called anything other than draconian: for crossing the street in an unauthorized place, you can get a Singaporean 500 fine (one Singapore dollar is about 28 rubles), there are a few more dozens of measures for such minor offenses.
Now - about social issues. Immediately striking is the very large gap between the upper and lower limits of remuneration for the work done: the manager in not the largest company can receive about seven thousand "green", and skilled workers - almost seven times less. In other developed Asian countries, things are quite the opposite. According to analysts, in terms of the uniform distribution of national wealth, Singapore has very close to Mexico, which is famous for its contrasts.
A lot of compliments can be heard about the pension system of this country. But tell me how it turns out that the average pension in this “edem” does not exceed two hundred and fifty dollars (the amount, quite simply, is ridiculous for the transcendental price level there).
Against the background of statements about the complete and final solution of problems with crime, bewilderment is caused by the announcements of recruiting girls with beautiful appearance to work in Singapore: they are taken to bars for the so-called consumption. Speaking more clearly, their salary will depend on how much alcohol they impose on the clients of the establishment, enchanting them with their appearance. It is probably unnecessary to talk about the fact that such activities are often combined with the oldest profession. The goal is to attract tourists, and here they are forgetting about violating the laws of power.
They are actively trying to prove that the scourge of modern society — drug addiction — has been virtually eradicated in Singapore. Arguments are also made that the presumption of guilt is automatically applied to the accused - the poor fellow should be proved that he is not a distributor of “dope”, otherwise the highest measure is guaranteed. It is also alleged that punishment can follow even a very small dose. They make two facts doubt it. First: the city-state is located at the intersection of the main drug trafficking routes. The second: the use of "dope" is a kind of cultural tradition of Chinese society. Perhaps, therefore, people who have visited Singapore, no, no, yes, they also talk about not very pleasant meetings with drug addicts, as well as the fact that in many public places there are posters warning of the harmfulness of self-indulgence in the potion. All this is a clear sign that in the empire Lee this evil is still not sent to the dustbin of history.
Another stone in the garden of the state created by Lee Kuan Yew is interethnic contradictions. According to the official version, in this area peace and quiet. But the true state of things is becoming more and more difficult to hide. Just recently, in December 2013, there were clashes between Indian workers and local law enforcement forces. You can, of course, present it as a single phenomenon, but in fact, twenty years ago in the city there were violent battles between Chinese and Malay gangs.
The example of Singapore confirms biblical wisdom: do not make yourself an idol. Growing quickly on the “benefits” left by yesterday’s colonizers is apparently not so difficult if, as they say, there is political will.
Lee Kuan Yew personally proved that firm power only contributes to the rapid development of the state.
And the fact that Singaporeans live comfortably is eloquently demonstrated by the fact that, according to public opinion polls conducted there, more than half of the inhabitants of this country would like to leave it forever. Living in Singapore is simply expensive. The price of staying in the "Asian Paradise" for many of its earthly inhabitants is too high.
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