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Public Sector and Governance

The Singaporean Economy: Lessons for Post War Sri Lanka

Chathurika Hettiarachichi's picture

“There was no secret, we had no choice but to take chance and sail into rough waters”- Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is an inspiration to Sri Lanka and other developing countries in terms of economic development, political stability, and good governance. Since 1967, it has increased its per-capita purchasing power (PPP) 10-fold to $44,600 in 2007, surpassing countries such as Switzerland’s PPP ($37,300) in 2007. Singapore also has high demographic development compared to Sri Lanka even though both countries were about even in 1960s. The President, Lee Kuan Yew, navigated the Singaporean economy after gaining independence in 1965. With a population of over 5 million, Singapore maintains a market driven guided economy with diversity in cabinet and government.

What was their secret to success?

At independence in 1965, the economy was met with unemployment problems, an unskilled workforce, few entrepreneurs, no domestic savings, wretched housing conditions, militant labour unions and racial riots. They devised a strategic economic plan; developing entrepot (commercial) trading, export driven manufacturing, and then creating a service based knowledge economy.

Fiscal Story of Bangladesh: Not There Yet, But Can Get There?

Abul Basher's picture

The current budget (FY10) expects a significant increase in revenue collection, a perennial problem in the country. The target revenue was set at 610.00 billion taka ($8.8 billion) with 261.10 billion collected in the first half and the remaining 348.90 billion in the second. The realization of this target requires a year on-y growth of 16.15%, which, being a notable departure from the trend growth rates was received with sheer skepticism from the economic observers of the country. However, about 33.67% more revenue has to be collected in the second half of the fiscal year as compared to the first half which seems realistic in the light of the fiscal performances of the last 5 fiscal years.

They Shall Overcome; Some Day…

Naomi Ahmad's picture

They looked up shyly as I entered the class room. Curious eyes focused on me, as I bend to sit on the jute mat on the floor, careful not to step on all the books in front of us. They were learning about the difference between "ship" and "sheep" – the difference in pronunciation, spelling and meaning.

I stole a look around the classroom – it was a small dingy room with bamboo walls and a thatched roof – but in spite of the surroundings, the children had put in their best efforts to liven things up. Colorful paintings of flowers, fruits, trees and birds were hung up all around – vivid splashes of red, green, fuchsia and sky blue. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a painting of a woman in an orange sari, balancing a pitcher of water on her hips, a plump mango in her hand, a wide grin on her face framed by long flowing black hair.

These must be the images and colors of their dreams, I thought. They were the children of Ananda Schools - Learning Centers known as the Schools of Joy.

Should South Asia Emulate the East Asian Tigers?

Joe Qian's picture

When thinking about development, I always look for opportunities for cross learning between regions. Having lived in and traveled extensively in East Asia and having worked in the South Asia Region for over a year, I often compare and think about prospects between the two regions. One question in particular is whether South Asia should aim to emulate East Asia’s manufacturing and export driven development model. Japan began using this model starting in the 1950’s and most East Asian countries particularly, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently China have used manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

According to the World Development Indicators, manufacturing accounted for over 30% of GDP in East Asia and Pacific while it is around 15% in South Asia. Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG’s) industry is one example of manufacturing success as it has proven to be exceptionally competitive in the global market. However, holistically, I found that South Asia has distinctive characteristics and quickly moving towards an East Asian export-led model may not be most effective.

Empowering Local Leaders for Sustainable Development in Bangladesh

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

The Bangladesh Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) was initiated in 2005 when local leaders voiced their demand for discretionary funds among others to serve their constituencies at a meeting. Union Parishad (UP) is the lowest tier of rural local government has a history over 170 years and held regular elections, however, UPs never received direct funding.

Funds were previously allocated by line ministries at the Upazila (sub-district) level for certain activities; neither the local government (UP) nor local people had a say on their own development priorities. The UP act of 1983 designated 38 mandates on the UP, but made no fund provision for carrying out those mandates. The average population of an UP was about 35,000 and UPs are the closest service delivery institutes to citizens. In 1998, an UP amendment ensured direct election of women in three seats.

While the Minister of Local Government was supportive of the project, most of the national political leaders (ministers, members of parliament) and bureaucrats were against autonomous local governments. Nationwide consultations were organized between local leaders and communities, supported by civil society, for mobilizing a united voice of local needs and incorporating these in the project design. It was a challenging time with episodes of violence.

Employment Programs By Any Other Name...

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture

Is it an employment program? Is it an anti-poverty program? Is it a safety net? Is it a disaster management program, is it…..? Actually, it’s all of these. Public works programs are both good development and good politics. India’s National Employment Guarantee Scheme (now called the Mahatma Gandhi EGS) , despite its implementation challenges, is fast becoming the stuff international lore is made of.

Demographers talk of the diffusion effects of ideas of low fertility and other behaviors. And while South Asian countries have a history of public works programs as safety nets – a history that actually goes back to the Maurya Empire in circa 3rd century BC - the diffusion effect of NREGS across South Asia is apparent. This is as much due to the urgent employment needs in all countries in the region, as due to the fact that the Congress victory in India was purported to have hinged significantly on NREGS.

International Women's Day: Why Aren’t We More Concerned About Women’s Physical Safety?

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture

Fundamental rights in most South Asian countries include freedom of movement – you can go where you want, when you want within a country. But for the majority of South Asian girls and women the reality is very different – they need permission to go almost anywhere. Now, does this stem from norms of patriarchal control or a rational response to threat of physical harm? I like to believe the two are mutually reinforcing. When families are afraid of what will happen to their daughters when they go out alone, they tend to be over-protective or over-controlling. This is certainly what happened to me and my peers as we grew up in Delhi in the 70s and 80s. While many more women are out in public spaces now, the very fact of this visibility is often a trigger for violence. Fewer than half of married women surveyed in Pakistan or Bangladesh feel safe moving alone outside their village or settlement, even during the day (World Bank 2006, 2008).

Safety and security of women in public spaces is seen often as a right, which indeed it is, but, lack of it is also a huge impediment to accessing a range of services and markets – for instance, health care, education and employment. In Pakistan and India, one of the reasons why girls drop out of school after puberty and especially when secondary schools are located a long walk away, is the fear of violence en route.

What Can be Done About Conflict in South Asia?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

What can be done to reduce conflict in poor regions? A speech given by Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on Internal Security and Law and Order in 2005, sums up the story of conflict and development: “…development, or rather the lack of it, often has a critical bearing, as do exploitation and iniquitous socio-political circumstances. Inadequate employment opportunities, lack of access to resources, under developed agriculture, artificially depressed wages, geographical isolation, lack of effective land reforms may all impinge significantly on the growth of extremism...Whatever be the cause, it’s difficult to deny that extremism has huge societal costs. Investments are unlikely to fructify, employment is not likely to grow and educational facilities may be impaired. Direct costs would include higher costs of infrastructure creation as contractors build "extortions" into their estimates, consumers may be hurt due to erratic supplies and artificial levies. In all, the society at large and people at large suffer. Delivery systems are often the first casualty. Schools do not run, dispensaries do not open and PDS shops remain closed.”

Reducing conflict and violence is a prerequisite to political stability, which, in turn, is the prerequisite for implementing pro growth policies. Even in a best-case scenario, the presence of low-level conflict constrains the policies governments can implement to promote growth. Policy makers in South Asia have tried various policies to reduce conflict.

Involving Afghans for Success

Nancy Dupree's picture

Current rehabilitation and development rhetoric calls for listening to the Afghans and giving them the lead. Sadly, actions too often defy these wise words. The challenge is to make way for genuine in depth Afghan involvement at a time when the problems inherent in a lackluster government beset with corruption are so complex, and, particularly, when the aid-dispensing agencies so often disregard coordination and cooperation.

Politics within the prevailing environment of conflict imposes a sense of great urgency, no doubt, but many basic development principles are being set aside when they are most needed. Plans that rest on massive projects designed by outsiders lavishing too much money and demanding instant implementation are bound to be ineffective. Quick fixes never have worked. Throwing around money indiscriminately just compounds problems and raises new dilemmas. Sustained development, as has been established for decades, requires patient on the ground interactions over time.

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