Almost every political leader in Nepal has referenced Singapore's success story during his/her political career. The political leaders have constantly boasted of an ability to tow Nepal out of the political and economic abyss and transform it into a prosperous nation like Singapore. However, as the adage goes it’s easier said than done. A simple observation would affirm that Nepal is very far from replicating the Singaporean success. A progressive overhaul of the political leadership is the most exigent need of the nation and it is the first step towards emulating the Singaporean success model,
What makes Singapore such an appealing example for reference amongst Nepali leadership is the country's speedy road to success. In merely three decades, the world witnessed a tiny forsaken island transform itself from a languid laid-back British colonial outpost to a vibrant economic powerhouse. Given the outstanding pace at which economic growth and development progressed in Singapore, it became a preferable exemplar.
Ironically, when Nepali leaders conveniently reference the Singaporean benchmark, simply to sway the constituents, a majority of them have very little understanding or knowledge of the formulas and processes that contributed to Singapore’s success. Rather than just fixating on its speedy progress, it is prescribable to concentrate on the host of salient contributors to the country’s success - amongst which, the astute political leadership stands pre-eminent. Its geographical location, meticulously crafted policies, a highly educated and ethical populace have all blended together to effectuate a brilliant recipe of success. But above all, the main credit must go to the political leadership. It was the visionary and robust leadership of Lee Kwan Yew and his associates that propelled Singapore from a small impoverished island to a prosperous paragon among nations. The leadership's dedication to develop the nation, their incorruptible demeanour, and their knack for crafting meticulously effective public policies are unprecedented. It was Lee and his associates in the government that formulated all the policies--from international trade to trash collection--thus controlling and regulating all aspects of the society.
Albeit critics find the heavy regulation and control strikingly similar to the communist societies, the Singaporean government is at variance because it persevered by very effectively delivering services to their populace. Unlike the communist regimes that crumbled on their own weights, the Singaporean leadership was able to fortify its legitimacy and strength by adequately delivering basic amenities like housing, employment, healthcare, education and physical security. Additionally, under the stewardship of the leadership, the country was able to cultivate a highly educated and disciplined workforce, enhance social cohesion and ensure physical security. Also, it was able to attract substantial foreign investment by providing political stability and ultimately developed a model society.
Another aspect of the Singaporean model noteworthy of mentioning is the educational level attained by the leadership. Almost every top leader holds a high academic degree from a renowned academic institution. It is not just the degree they hold but also the spectacular academic achievements they have made in their academic careers. Most of the leaders were academic prodigies with distinction grades. Negligible exceptions aside, for a majority of them, their ascendancy to the top was based on merits rather than familial linkages.
However, antithetical to the Singaporean Model, the Nepali political leadership is widely accepted to be the supreme inhibitor of growth and success of the country. Although the history of parliamentary democracy is very brief, the stint has adequately exposed the true colours of the Nepali leadership. In bitter contrast to the Singaporean leadership's commitment and dedication that propelled Singapore towards prosperity, the Nepali leadership's ineptness and indifference has plunged the nation into despair and disarray. While Singaporean leaders receive global veneration for their impressive leadership, the Nepali ones are critically loathed even by their own constituents. Furthermore, what succinctly reflects the status of a leader in Nepal is a synonymous term used to characterize it--a crook. Unlike the Singaporean leaders who are garlanded with accolades of morality, integrity, and competence, their Nepali counterparts are labelled with inescapable tags of malfeasance, corruption, nepotism and incompetence.
The incompetence is further compounded by the Nepali leaders’ low levels of education. Others aside, there is no better example to reflect this reality than the example of the current supreme leader, the Prime minister. Few might doubt his decades of involvement in politics but many are highly sceptical about his academic credentials. There are claims that he never even completed his high school. But what gives more weight to this scepticism is the fact that there has never been any mention of his academic degrees anywhere. Even in his biography on the government’s webpage, there is no mention of any academic career. Regardless, Nepal's leadership has never been gauged by the academic credentials or leadership abilities but more by particular affiliations and involvement in political activities. Furthermore, the system of meritocracy is almost inexistent. And it is the political leadership that is alleged of establishing and entrenching a culture where credentials are superseded by nepotism.
So what quality of deliverance can be expected from the leadership whose credentials are gauged either by the number of participation in political protests or by the decibels of their shrieks during those rallies? How is Nepal supposed to move forward when those who are entrusted with the steering wheel of the nation are directionless and are incessantly wrangling for control? More so, what kind of progress can a nation anticipate from those who were in the past heavily involved in plundering and destroying the nation's assets and have now thrust themselves into the leadership platform?
Quintessentially, leaders are role models for a society. Their values, ethics and public responsibility are supposed to set a precedent for the society. Since they are bestowed with power to influence, their every action has great impact. It is an accepted truth that not everyone is a born leader; most acquire and develop the trait. Nonetheless, a leader must possess the ability to lead and motivate, should have a guiding vision and a passion for public service but above all must hold high integrity. Additionally, the globalized era has not only necessitated a global interaction but has also made the process of policy-making even more complex. Given this reality, proper education plays a cardinal role. However, despite holding the reins of power for more than a decade, Nepali leaders have clearly failed to acquire and develop these virtues. On the contrary, their portfolios are tainted by decadence and empty promises.
Hence, given the prevalent deficiency in the current leadership's abilities, the prospects of emulating a Singaporean model under this leadership are highly suspect. As long as there is an impotent authority presiding over country's decision making process, the possibility of the country gearing forward towards prosperity is slim.
Today, given those bleak prospects, there is a growing demand for an overhaul in the leadership. For the sake of the country's progress, it has become imperative to replace the old faces with new ones. Clearly the old-guards have been unsuccessful in meeting the aspirations of the Nepali people. Therefore a fresh, energetic, dedicated and educated group of leaders should be allowed to step in for the task. Inevitably, this emerging generation of young leaders that have so far been sidelined and compelled to operate under the shadows of the old-timers will emerge and take charge. The old leadership can still make good of their promise to transform Nepal into Singapore. Step down with honour, make way for the new generation of leaders, and let them engineer their “Singaporean model.”
(Note from the Nepal Horizons Editorial Team: The views and opinion expressed in this article are that of the author and not of NHC. We request individuals with interest in Nepal to submit their views on contemporary Nepalese issues to the following e-mail address: email@example.com. Pictures of contributors or images that relate to submissions are welcome)