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Is authoritarianism (e.g. China, Singapore) a prerequisite for breakneck growth?

2 April 2015 6:33 PM

From third-world hellhole to high-tech hub in the blink of an eye; does Singapore’s example prove the value of authoritarianism?

In 1970 Singapore was poor, with a GDP per capita of $950. Thirty years later it was one of the richest countries on Earth.

There is much to learn from Singapore’s speedy metamorphosis from a colonised, third-world country to a very wealthy high-tech hub, says Brenthurst Foundation Director Greg Mills in a Daily Maverick article on the late Singapore founder, Lee Kuan Yew.

However, says Mills, there is a danger that Africans might take the wrong lessons from Lee and Singapore.

Is an authoritarian government essential for transformative growth in a developing country? Can democracy deliver Asian Tiger results?

Listen to the audio (scroll down) in which Mills answers these questions and more.

Since 2000, only nine out of 85 autocracies have sustained economic growth and more than half of those suffered dramatic economic collapses during this period. The longer you are democratic the more chance you have of growing economically. Singapore grew despite their lack of democracy, not because of it.

Greg Mills

Singapore is NOT a yes-man society.

Greg Mills

We’ve already tried the non-democratic model in Africa and it was a disaster!

Greg Mills

We obscure the many components of Singapore’s success by focussing only on its authoritarian nature.

Greg Mills

2 April 2015 6:33 PM