Weekend Roundup: Singapore at 50 Shows Why Governance Matters


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

While many countries in what used to be called the Third World remain stuck in the same poverty and ethnic strife that characterized them in the immediate post-colonial era, Singapore stands out for its rapid rise to prosperity and peaceful embrace of diversity. From the day it became independent on August 9, 1965 to 2014, Singapore’s GDP per capita has soared an astonishing 3700 percent. Above all, Singapore’s lesson for the world is that governance matters.

Writing from Singapore, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Kishore Mahbubani, reveals the open secret of the city-state’s success: meritocracy, pragmatism and honesty in government. Unabashedly, he argues that Singapore is the world’s most successful society. The country’s former Foreign Minister George Yeo compares Singapore to a bonsai and nanotechnology, emphasizes its unity in diversity and analogizes the recent lightening up of hierarchical authority to “pruning” a banyan tree.

Harvard’s Graham Allison says Singapore’s achievements as a soft authoritarian regime challenge the conventional view that democracy is necessarily the best form of governance. Ali Wyne writes that Western democracy could learn two things from Singapore’s success: the importance of quality leadership based on merit and the lack of ideological predisposition in tackling problems. Anthony Saich points out that “voice and accountability” measures show where Singapore’s lacking, and that a model built upon paternalism and high growth rates must now yield to rising demands for more pluralism and equality.

Nobel Laureate Michael Spence argues that China’s expanding market economy is outpacing the capacity of Chinese authorities to manage it politically. They should let the stock bubble burst, he says, and allow markets to allocate resources. In my comment titled “The Communist Party Rubber Hits the Capitalist Road,” I similarly argue that China’s hierarchical system rooted in its ancient “institutional civilization” is challenged as never before by the “democratization of information.” Today retail investors and social networks are creating an autonomous civil society that marks a departure from the traditional unitary state. From Chengdu, WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan chronicles a day in the life of “China’s first cyber dissident.” Social media is also helping reveal the harassment of women in Saudi Arabia, as we show in these two videos.

Writing from Stockholm, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and chairman of the Global Commission on Internet Governance, outlines the coming battle between those, including China, who want state control of the Internet versus those who believe control should remain in the “multi-stakeholder” hands of global civil society.

On the environmental front, Greenpeace International’s Executive Director Kumi Naidoo worries that we are depleting the tuna population in the Pacific. In a deeply troubling assessment, glaciologist Jason Box writes from Copenhagen that the cascading effects of the great polar ice melt have reached a point beyond which nature can regulate the climate. Al Gore reflects on how the new stream of Earth “selfies” being beamed back home from satellites is changing our perspective on the fragile planet that provides our sustenance.

Amal Clooney, the attorney for the Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy on trial in Cairo, laments yet another postponement of the verdict in his case and calls on Egyptian President Sisi to set him free. Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa, Stephen Peel says the route to development in that continent is building a tradable goods manufacturing sector. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden report on how China has far outcompeted America in trade and investment in Africa. They also examine the “nefarious side” of China’s presence in Africa.

Writing from Mumbai, C. Christine Fair says the recent Gurdaspur terrorist attacks can be squarely blamed on Pakistan’s “militant popular” hostility to India. As the debate over the Vienna nuclear accord with Iran kicks into high gear, we publish a definitive guide to the terms of the deal provided by Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

On the anniversary of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, survivor Setsuko Thurlow calls on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to forthrightly acknowledge Japan’s past so it can reconcile with its neighbors in Korea and China. Student reporter Takeshi Inomoto writes about a young girl who survived the blast and campaigned to preserve the famous “Hiroshima dome” as a memorial.

World Reporter Charlotte Alfred examines the “17 holes” in Mexico’s official account of the missing students from Iguala.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel writes that immigration should be seen as an opportunity for Europe, not a threat. HuffPost Germany talks to nine refugees about why they fled to Germany. World Reporter Nick Robins-Early takes us inside “the jungle” camp in Calais, France, from which desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East are trying to make their way across the channel to Great Britain. Journalist Robin Lustig looks at the facts behind what Prime Minister David Cameron has called “the swarm” of migrants menacing British borders from Calais. Mohamed El-Erian defends former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis whose confrontational style nonetheless embodied the truth that Greece’s debt is unsustainable and can’t be paid through pursuing more austerity.

Writing after the first U.S. Republican presidential debate on Thursday night, Howard Fineman says that while Donald Trump stumbled personally, his populist bluster is shared by all the other candidates in one form or another.

In this week’s “Forgotten Fact,” we turn to Canada, where the election is arguably actually interesting this time around.

Fusion assays Hollywood’s obsession with “white guy biopics.” Our Singularity series questions whether consciousness really directs our actions. Finally, we look at 10 top images from Nat Geo’s 2015 photo contest and, in another photo essay, see how color is livening up a neighborhood in Gaza.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

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