Tag: Singapore

Lee Kwan Yew was first seen by @nytimes as a bit of a commie when he founded Singapore #OTD

He who is first is now last: real GDP per capita of the East Asian Tigers since 1950

Japan has gone first to be last having been just overtaken in the last year or two by South Korea on a per capita real GDP basis, PPP. The Lost Decade certainly has taken its toll on Japanese relative prosperity. Singapore overtook Japan in the 1970s – a testament to the Singapore miracle. Hong Kong too overtook Japan on a purchasing power basis in the mid-1990s followed not long after by Taiwan. Singapore is seriously rich.


Source: The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/

The Quantity and Quality of Japanese, Singaporean and Hong Kong Lives, 1965 to 1995

Figure 1: increase in real GDP and increase in real GDP plus life expectancy GDP increase equivalent, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, 1965 to 1995


Source: Becker, Gary S., Tomas J. Philipson, and Rodrigo R. Soares. The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality, NBER Working Paper No. 9765 (June 2003).

GDP per capita is usually used to proxy for the quality of life of individuals living in different countries. Becker and his co-authors computed a "full" growth rate that incorporates the gains in health and life expectancy.

Figure 2 shows that Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore started from similar levels of real GDP per capita PPP in 1960.

Figure 2: GDP per capita in 2014 US$ (converted to 2014 price level with updated 2011 PPPs), Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, 1960 – 2000


Source: The Conference Board. 2015. The Conference Board Total Economy Database™, May 2015, http://www.conference-board.org/data/economydatabase/

Why a country’s average height is a good way of measuring its development | The Guardian

I spotted this 20 years ago when I first travelled in Asia and then lived Japan for two years. In Japan in 1995, each generation of Japanese was head and shoulders taller than the last. In the Philippines, I could look over the crowd – it was great to be tall.

No more, no longer. In the Philippines, young Filipinos are often almost as tall as me.


When I visited Hong Kong recently, both the young Chinese men and women were a bit taller than me at McDonald’s. I am average height for my generation of Australian men.

via Why a country’s average height is a good way of measuring its development | News | The Guardian.

Both Venezuelan and Singapore were ruled by socialist strongmen

Singapore’s Peoples Action Party was expelled from Socialist International in 1976. There is widespread government ownership of businesses in Singapore. So much so, that a new term was invented for it:  Government Linked Corporations.

Singapore Campaigns of the 70s/80s

let's go the courtesy way 1983

Remember Singapore

us army post i want you 1917With intensive usage of media, campaigns are launched to achieve certain particular goals, usually in a political, social or commercial sense. Sometimes, a campaign represents an era, and some of its posters go on to become iconic representations that are even remembered after decades. One of the examples is the United States’ “I Want You For U.S. Army” poster in 1917.

china great sparrow campaign 1958Campaigns are meant to have a long term impact. However, human errors, wrong judgement or a lack of foresight during the introduction of campaigns can sometimes lead to failures or even disasters to the country. In 1958, the new China launched the Four Pests Campaign in a bid to eliminate rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. The sparrows were targeted because they ate the farmers’ grain seeds. In a short time, millions of Chinese were mobilised for the campaign. Sparrows, as well as other birds, were shot, with their nests…

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A tale of two cities – Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s different paths to prosperity

Hong Kong and Singapore had different parts to prosperity. Alywn Young found that Hong Kong had made real productivity gains, but Singapore grew by a massive dose of savings and investment, including foreign investment.

For most of the post-war era, the Hong Kong government adopted a policy of minimal intervention. the government of Singapore has pursued maximalist policies involving widespread state participation in economic activity and aggressive industry targeting policies.

The share of investment in Singapore’s GDP rose from 9% in 1960 to 43% in 1984, while Hong Kong’s remained steady at about 20%. Productivity growth in the aggregate non-agricultural economy was a miserable -0.3% in Singapore and 2.3% in Hong Kong.

What does this mean in practical terms? Real consumption, real consumer spending, per capita in Hong Kong is 20%  or more higher than in Singapore!

Hong Kong actually enjoyed their prosperity. Robert Barro explains this in a comment on Young’s paper:

In 1985, when Singapore’s per capita real GDP was 102% of Hong Kong’s, the consumption was only 70% of Hong Kong’s.

To put it another way, Hong Kong’s per capita real consumption grew by 5.9% per year from 1960 to 1985, about the same as for GDP, whereas Singapore’s grew by only 2.8% per year, much less than GDP.

In terms of output per capita and output per worker, the growth of Hong Kong and Singapore are equally impressive. Hong Kong does much better in terms of  productivity growth growth.

Hong Kong did not require as rapid capital accumulation as Singapore. Since capital accumulation is financed either by domestic saving or foreign saving, people in Hong Kong can afford to save less or borrow less from foreign economies. Saving less now means more consumption now.

In the case of Hong Kong, their living standards are far superior to Singapore’s. The government of Singapore wasted a good 20 to 30% of national income on industry targeting and compulsory savings.

Hong Kong experienced rapid total productivity growth, while Singapore  experienced no improvement whatsoever in total productivity during its East Asian Tiger years. Young (1992, 1994, 1995) demonstrated that from 1967 onward total factor productivity growth in Singapore was next to nil, and for significant parts of the period most likely negative. Only productivity allows a nation to support and enjoy high wages.

On independence, Jamaica was rated a better prospect for economic development than Singapore!

Upon Singapore’s independence in 1965—three years after Jamaica’s own establishment as a nation—the two nations were about equal in wealth: the gross domestic product (in 2006 U.S. dollars) was $2,850 per person in Jamaica, slightly higher than Singapore’s $2,650.

Both nations had a centrally located port, a tradition of British colonial rule, and governments with a strong capitalist orientation. (Jamaica, in addition, had plentiful natural resources and a robust tourist industry.)

But four decades later, their standing was dramatically different: Singapore had climbed to a per capita GDP of $31,400 (2006 data, in current dollars), while Jamaica’s figure was only $4,800.

Josh Lerner

Both countries were ruled by political parties that were members of Socialist International.

Both countries had a Prime Minister who held office for a long time in the period after independence. Both countries had a father and son follow each other in short order as Prime Minister.