Almost 25 years ago, Jerry Rawlings, then President of Ghana, presented a document to parliament. In it, he outlined an aggressive long-term plan that would improve his country’s human and economic growth, rural and urban development, as well as the overhaul of its infrastructure. The aim was to follow Singapore’s example. The document was called Vision 2020.
According to Rawling’s vision, Singapore had transformed from a third world country in the 1960s to a middle income country in a short time.
Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawling’s 2020 vision not yet realized
However, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Singapore as the third richest country per capita on the planet, Ghana languishes at number 126. The vision seems to have gone wrong.
“We are in 2020, the time when we wanted to achieve a level of growth comparable to that of Singapore, [but] we have worse numbers, ”Ziblim Alhassan, a Ghanaian political analyst, told DW.
By the 1990s, Singapore, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, had grown into a global financial, commercial and industrial center. Its free market and economic growth over the years has inspired Ghana to emulate. Today, Singapore is considered one of the richest and most developed nations in the world.
Singapore has been credited with having a robust economy and modern infrastructure
Ghanaians like Ricky Kasisi, who previously worked in Singapore, recognize Singapore’s economic strength. “Very clean streets with carefully marked sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, cycle paths, the magnificent high-rise buildings and the pride they exude in the beauty and progress of their country. It cannot be missed,” he said. Kasisi told DW.
According to Alhaji Sulemana Alhassan, a former government policy analyst, who was present when Vision 2020 was proposed, the Ghanaian government’s target was too ambitious. “Singapore had developed so much that they had political stability and a growing economy,” Sulemana Alhassan told DW.
“We felt that if Ghana continued the path of political stability and economic progress, we could also achieve this status like Singapore.”
Ghana’s mixed results
The picture in Ghana is decidedly mixed. While the West African nation has succeeded in reducing its poverty rate over the past decades, the rise in living standards is not evenly distributed. Political analyst Ziblim Alhassan said the number of Ghanaians living in extreme poverty has increased.
The 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that although Ghana remains among the top 10 performing countries on the continent in terms of democracy and good governance, it is also among the 10 countries that have deteriorated the most economically over the past decade. of the last decade.
Despite solid growth in recent years, Ghana has failed to lift most of its population out of poverty
For Sulemana Alhassan, the main problem is that successive governments kept changing their development strategies before anything had a chance to work. When Rawlings retired in 2001 and ceded the reins of power, his successor, John Kuffour, dealt a severe blow to his plans. Kuffour chose to focus on food production and job creation at the expense of other growth sectors envisioned by Rawlings.
“In the year 2000, there was a change of government and they [the new regime] also came with their vision, ”Sulemana Alhassan said. “Some parts of our development [agenda] were implemented, so if they had been stable we would have continued and succeeded. But because we had an interruption in governance, many policies were dropped. “
Is Rwanda “the Singapore of Africa?” “
In fact, Rwanda is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that has come close to emulating Singapore’s story of poverty to wealth, albeit not in the same dramatic style.
The small, landlocked country in Central Africa boasts years of strong economic growth, pristine streets in the capital Kigali, and praise from donors for its fight against corruption. “Defying the odds is a challenge we share with Rwandans and Singaporeans,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame told Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew, during a visit to the Asian state in 2008. Kagame called Singapore “an inspiration for us in Rwanda,” Reuters reported at the time.
Critics say Rwanda’s Kagame has a good economic record but failed to respect human rights
However, critics of Kagame’s government argue that the economic gains have come at the expense of political freedoms, such as the crackdown on dissenting views and media rights. Kagame has been President of Rwanda since 2000. In contrast, Ghana has peacefully exchanged power during four presidencies.
Singapore may now be wealthy and has a strong healthcare system, but its government is also relatively repressive, limiting critical speech and peaceful gatherings. According to a 2019 Amnesty report on Singapore, activists and human rights defenders have been prosecuted for organizing peaceful assemblies and criticizing the government.
Maxwell Suuk and Kate Hairsine contributed to this article.