Singapore’s success story – A model for Enterprise..

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Singapore’s success story – A model for Enterprise Risk Management


An article by James C. Wong, April 23, 2015 in The Business Times, entitled “A study in enterprise risk management” took an in-depth look at Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s governance of Singapore. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s journey of leading Singapore through uncertain times and without the normal political and business partnerships from regional players shows the dogged determination of his leadership.
Lee Kuan Yew was born into a wealthy Chinese family that had resided in Singapore since the 19th century. After World War II, Lee studied law at Fitzwilliam College, in Cambridge, UK. In 1950, he was admitted to the English bar, but instead of practicing law there, Lee returned to Singapore to do so.
During the turn of the 20th century many colonized countries were gaining their independence and exploring new governance models to grow their fledgling economies. At the time, Singapore was a British colony and held Britain’s main naval base in the Far East. The country was ruled by a governor and a legislative council, mostly comprising wealthy Chinese businessmen who were appointed rather than elected by the people, according to one biographers account.
In the early 1950s, Singapore buzzed with talk of constitutional reform and independence, and Lee banded with other like minds to challenge the governing structure of the country. Soon breaking from this group and taking a more radical stance, in 1954 Lee became secretary-general of his own party, the People’s Action Party. Mr. Lee, Singapore’s Prime Minister, from 1959 until 1990 became the longest serving Prime Minister in world history.
Singapore’s stunning success story has been the subject of business books and studies of how Singapore Inc. was accomplished. The term “Singapore Inc.” was coined to describe how Mr. Lee and his close team changed a third-world country in a first-world economy which was considered improbable at the time. Singapore and Malaya were governed as one British territory until 1959 and was completely dependent on the relationship with its colonial benefactor. After independence was won Singapore was a separate country and in need of a plan to diversify its markets, address persistent unemployment and a host of other threats to its survival.
Not unlike many small emerging businesses, Singapore had to address the risks it faced as a small country with a small market. This is the unlikely story of an improbable journey of growth, cunning, collaboration and risk management that helped Singapore succeed.
Singapore faced many risks but the most pressing one was sustainability of economic growth. Recognizing the strategic opportunity to grow a common market with its neighbors Singapore’s leadership joined with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to for an ill-fated and short lived Malaysian Federation. Singapore soon separated from the Malaysian Federation after three years of feuds and internal bickering.
On its own again, Singapore faced the uncertainty of going it alone to compete in a region where close business and political ties were critical to success. A new model had to be created to attract investment and capital outside of its close sphere of regional influence. Singapore’s answer was based on several factors that Mr. Lee and his leadership team saw as factors that limited growth. Mr. Lee’s model focused on good governance, enforcement of the rule of law, strong internal controls for monitoring compliance and honest dealings. In short, Mr. Lee decided to stake the future of Singapore on it being an honest and safe place for investment and business dealings which in turn engendered trust.
Singapore’s success did not come overnight. It took four decades and a transformation from a low cost labor market to a skills based and technology oriented economy. Mr. Lee is now considered a visionary for the legacy of growth and prosperity experienced by the Singapore Inc. Singapore’s future is based on a foundation of risk management, good governance, strong internal controls and honesty. These values are valuable lessons for business and government leaders alike.
Singapore is a model of success because of the decisions Mr. Lee and his leadership team made about the kind of country they wanted to become. Building trust, developing certainty in a market of uncertain conditions, and developing sound business practice so that everyone knows and understand how to succeed is good business and good enterprise risk management. [Accessed 25 Apr 2015]

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