Key lessons South Africa can learn from Singapore’s government

William Gumede, professor at Wits’ School of Governance (and author of the much-acclaimed Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC), is one of our country’s more delicate thinkers.

He recently prepared a document for the ANC in which he sought to highlight how the People’s Action Party (PAP), Singapore’s liberation movement, reinvented itself after independence into a modern, forward-thinking political party. And his advice, though sage and on-point, isn’t exactly rocket science.

Respect the rule of law and ensure accountability, reward skills and merit and focus on ensuring quality education. Get these things right, and more often than not, you’ll have a winning nation. But Gumede’s main thesis is that if a model of a developmental state is a country’s preference, its establishment should be led by the private sector, and private business.

South Africa, by contrast, is a country where the governing political class believes that the state should be in charge of everything. That should not be the case, argues Gumede.

“The PAP, after coming to power, ditched the rigid ideological view that almost all independence parties of the Left, whether in Asia or Africa had during their independence struggles, that only the state should lead development,” he writes.

The point is: South Africa can work, if we get things right. Which at the moment we mostly aren’t. The single biggest problem we have in this country is unemployment, and there doesn’t seem to be an urgency from government to address it.

We should be wholly focused on encouraging entrepreneurship, getting rid of red tape, and doing all in our power to make it easy for private enterprise to make money. But we’re not.

Gumede offers a compelling argument why Singapore can be a lodestar for South Africa.

By Pieter du Toit – Assistant Editor News24

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