Echaves: A leadership model

The world has only three city-states: Monaco, Vatican and Singapore.

Seeing and exploring Singapore stir emotions of admiration and envy. We’re struck by how litter-less and clutter-less the streets and buildings are.

Except for some areas in Chinatown where the ubiquitous laundry hangs visibly.

Lee Kwan Yew is still spoken in worshipful tones, though he died in 2015. They admit that 30% of Singaporeans may not like him, but 70% idolize him.

Ruling Singapore for 30 years as the founding prime minister and the former leader of the People’s Action Party, this world leader left them a country they are very proud of.

And they count the many ways.

Of the over 7,000 multinational corporations in Singapore, over 60% set up their Asian headquarters here. As Asia’s largest foreign exchange hub, its currency trading every day is US$291 billion, and that was in 2014 alone. Its GDP per capita that same year was Singaporean dollars (SGD) $71,318. At today’s exchange rate, that’s P2.6 million per capita in the Philippines; imagine that!

As the world’s top bunkering post, it can fill over 17,000 Olympic-sized pools. Every two-three minutes each day, a ship arrives at or departs from the Singapore port, thus making it the world’s second busiest container port.

And every aircraft takes off or lands at Changi Airport every 90 seconds daily. This translates into serving 150,000 passengers and processing 70,000 bags daily. Unsurprisingly, its 490 awards so far make it the world’s most awarded airport.

The people’s great pride is in the governance where corruption is considered an aberration, and the people’s willingness to sacrifice for others is both desirable and expected.

They talk of Lee Kwan Yew’s stroke of genius in uniting the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and other nationalities towards embracing the motto that “All of us are Singaporeans, whatever our culture.”

His success was principally because he governed according to his preachings. Because most people use public housing, the Housing Development Board distributes housing units equitably.

Since the population is dominantly Chinese, the HDB implements a 7-1-1-1 approach. Thus, for every 10 units, seven are for Chinese occupants, one for Malays, one for Indians, and one for the other nationalities.

Its distribution of power through leadership is admirable as well. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is Chinese, its President Halimah Yacob is Malay, and its Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon is Indian.

Whatever profits the government generates is immediately put into the reserves, and guarding its use and release requires three signatures, including the newly elected president.

The reserves are well guarded, allowing only 50% maximum for use. For example, of the SGD18 billion (approximately P666 billion) in reserves, SGD9 billion financed the medical and hospital benefits of all Singaporeans who survived the war but had no benefits to sustain them today.

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