Open economy is the only way to go – the Singaporean Way

posted October 30, 2017

Suan Hiang Lee

We already count the hours before the official start of the Macedonia2025 Summit 2017. Yet, some speakers decided on some extra fun before the official start. Suan Hiang Lee, current president of the Economic Development Board Society in Singapore, decided to come to Macedonia a few days earlier and spend those days in an exploration of the Macedonian culture and cuisine, as well as share some of his experience to some local events. One of those events was the Rotary Skopje Centar club event, where Mr. Lee shared some of his background and beliefs:

Singapore is a smaller country than Macedonia in terms of geographic size and has no natural resources. However, since independence, Singapore has increased its per capita income over 50 times. That is the result of Singapore making productivity a way of life, educating the population as to why productivity is important. Once that is in place, people receive the required tools, and individual workers are empowered to be responsible for the quality of their final product.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Singapore had to transform from a low-cost producer to a knowledge economy, so looking for best practices was common. But now, Singapore is in a new era where they are at the front, societies look at them, so they have changed their education to focus on innovation.

“Competition is relative, we cannot stand still otherwise we will be overtaken. However, in the process of focusing on innovation, we cannot forget about efficiency. We must work smarter but also continue to work hard. Singapore believes in an open economy. And in the world economy, you have to offer the best conditions to attract investment. There is no prize for being second” Mr. Lee commented.

There was an open discussion about the possibilities for economic growth and development, a topic on which Mr. Lee has a great experience. He shared his vision for the future:

In the new era, it is not about resources but about imagination. And imagination is unlimited. Moving to higher wages is never easy. It has to be done in a holistic way. In Singapore’s case, the leadership had to make sure that the workers were more productive so companies are better off. It had to provide a system of training for workers - skills development fund.

We dared to dream and had clarity of vision. We used consultants to guide us, but we also knew our own strengths and weaknesses. We had to improve to survive. Macedonians are driven and have enormous potential, but you need to get your systems right. And strategic pragmatism is the way”, Mr. Lee added.

Macedonia has a lot to learn from the leading countries of the world. And that is why Macedonia2025 created the Summit, so every year we have leaders from all around the world who will share their best experience and practices.