Chosun Ilbo (South Korean paper): Singapore’s economy too dependent on exports
Nothing new here, it’s something we’ve known all along.
On his first trip to the United States in 1967, former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew attended a lunch gathering in Chicago hosted by American businessmen. One participant asked Lee how Singapore, once just a small fishing village, became a metropolis that houses two million residents. Lee offered a clear explanation: Singapore manufactured products that were the cheapest in the world, yet were of top quality. He said if Singapore was unable to do that, it would not survive. Word spread throughout corporate America: “Keep your eyes on Singapore.”
When Lee was inaugurated as prime minister in 1959, Singapore’s per-capita Gross National Income (GNI) was just US$400. The landscape was so barren that Singapore had to purchase even tap water from its neighboring countries. Singapore’s economy, which had depended on its colonial ruler England for 80 percent of its support and trade, fell into panic after British troops pulled out in the mid-1960s. Trade with neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia also dropped sharply. Singapore resorted to opening its markets and attempting to boost exports in order to survive.
Singapore emerged relatively undamaged from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which impacted more severely in Korea and other countries in the region. At that time, Lee boasted that Singapore was still the leader of Asian values and the Asian manufacturing model. But he probably has little to say this time.
Don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.