Economic Affairs

The world's development czar

Helping countries deal with automation, inequality and climate change is one of the big challenges facing the United Nations Development Programme

In 1960, a year after the new People's Action Party government took office in Singapore, it called on the services of a United Nations agency to draw up a blueprint for industrialisation. The brief was simple, but daunting: How can Singapore succeed despite lacking natural resources, industrial skills or a domestic market?

After a lot of study and discussion, the UN team, under the leadership of a Dutch economist named Albert Winsemius, came up with a plan: ensure political stability, open up to foreign investment, adopt a liberal immigration policy and skill up the workforce. Against the odds, and the predictions of many experts, it worked beyond the wildest dreams of anybody at the time.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'The world's development czar'. Print Edition | Subscribe