An unfair comparison

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Dear Editor,

Interesting reading the letter about Singapore and Samoa in your paper.

But let’s take a look at Singapore.

Singapore already had a thriving rubber industry in the 19th century and was the centre of free trade for all the ships coming from the east on their way to and from China. 

It was also the headquarters of the British Far East naval fleet in the first half of the 20th century. The Singapore naval base was similar in size if not bigger than the American naval base in Pearl harbour in Hawaii. 

This meant that there was constant foreign capital coming into Singapore as a colonial outpost for its one million people (at that time). Chinese and Malay merchants flocked to the place to conduct trade.

Upon independence, that massive Singapore naval base was handed over to Singapore free of charge. 

This was then added its existing massive port to attract more shipping. Singapore has always benefited from it’s geographic position. It is right smack bang in the middle of one of the busiest trade routes in the world. Singapore (by being a free trade port) benefited from the growth of the surrounding SE Asian economies and also of the Chinese economy because as those economies expanded, trade with them increased, and foreign shipping companies chose to use the free trade port at Singapore (which the departing British government handed to them on a plate) as their base in the region.

The excellent leadership of Lee Kuan Yew is one thing but his authoritarian style of leadership is something that the Samoa Observer would not approve of if they took a closer look. 

Opposition MPs who criticised him and his government were thrown in prison. Media laws there also force huge censorship on not only individuals but the media themselves. 

Singapore was essentially an authoritarian state from the 1970s onwards. It did not broker any opposition to Lee Kuan Yew’s rule. He was much more of a “dictator” than Tofilau or Tuilaepa were ever and can ever be.

Singapore is a great country but let’s not kid ourselves that they came from nothing to be where they are today in 50 years. They did not come from nothing. They were still way ahead of Samoa when they became independent in 1965. Samoa didn’t even have it’s own port. 

Matautu port was only built after independence. Samoa also did not have the luck of Singapore’s geography right in the middle of the world’s busiest trade routes. Neither did Samoa get given a massive free infrastructure boost of a huge port when the colonial power departed. 

Samoa is far from the world’s busiest trade routes and it had very limited infrastructural investment from the New Zealanders as opposed to the infrastructure that went into Singapore by the British as a result of it being the headquarters of the British Far East naval fleet. 

It also benefited from over 100 years of Chinese and Malay and then Indian merchants who flocked to Singapore to make money. Samoa would not stand such an influx of Chinese or Indians to make money. 

Every couple of weeks we have people in Samoa writing to the paper moaning about the “new chinesse” coming in to set up businesses, but that was one of the key reasons why Singapore’s economy grew in both the colonial period and afterwards.

 

Petelo Suaniu

© Samoa Observer 2016

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