Singapore was no fishing village half a century ago in 1964

I refer to the 10 May 2014 TR Emeritus article “Growth or no growth – what is the future Singapore should prepare for?” by Dr Tommy Wong.

Dr Wong claims that Singapore has miraculously grown from a humble Third World fishing village to a bustling First World cosmopolitan city over the past half a century and the credit goes to those who made it happen.

Half a century ago was 1964. How could Singapore possibly have been a humble fishing village in 1964 when we already had many high rise flats built by then?
• Three 9-storey SIT flats built along Upper Pickering Street in 1951
• Twenty-one 7-storey flats built at Redhill Close by 1955
• 14-storey Forfar House built in 1956
• 9-storey flats built at Kim Keat in 1958
• 10-storey flats built at Aljunied in 1961
• 15-storey Margaret Drive flats built in the 1960s
• 20-storey flats built at Selegie in 1963
[http://remembersingapore.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/from-villages-to-flats-part-2]

How could Singapore have been a humble fishing village in 1964 when:
• LKY had already declared in an Aug 1967 speech to American businessmen in Chicago that we were already a metropolis? (You can’t turn a fishing village into a metropolis in three years)
• Singapore had already staged a manned air flight in 1911
• Singapore had the finest airport in the British Empire in the 1930s
• The King of Thailand sent 20 of his sons to be educated in Singapore in the late 19th century
[Peter Wilson / Gavin Peebles, Economic growth and development in Singapore: past and future, Page 26]

• Singapore was already the estimated 5th or 6th most important port in the world by the early 1930s and the key port in the Straits region by the late 19th century
[Goh Kim Chuan, Environment and development in the Straits of Malacca, pages 107, 114]

• Singapore was already the world’s largest rubber exporter in 1960
[The History of Singapore, Jean E. Abshire, page XV]

• Singapore had become the trade focus for an immense, wealthy area stretching from the Bay of Bengal to China and embracing the whole of Southeast Asia by the 1930s
[Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55, page 14]

• Singapore had become the example par excellence of a colonial port that prospered on global trade and thrived as a trade intermediary between advanced industrial economies and countries with lower levels of achievement
[Abu Talib Ahmad and Liok Ee Tan, New terrains in Southeast Asian history, page 152]

• Singapore had become a global port that could rival any other in the world by the time the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and with the advent of the steamship revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century
[Derek Thiam Soon Heng, Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Singapore in Global History, page 57]

• Singapore was the most important communications centre in the Far East, not just for shipping but a focal point for airlines, telecommunications and mail distribution at the beginning of the 1950s
• Singapore was the biggest market in the world for natural rubber, an important international market specializing in tin futures and a major oil distribution centre in the inter-war period
• Singapore had extensive numbers of high quality entrepreneurs and substantial industry and a skilled labour force, not least in ship repair prior to independence
• The first estimates of Singapore national income in 1956 showed rapidly rising per capita income that was very much greater than almost anywhere else in Asia
• Singapore had already experienced considerable economic development before World War II
• Singapore in the mid-1950s had 30 people per private car compared to 70 for British Malaya and more than 120 for the rest of Asia
[The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33]

How could Singapore have been a Third World country in 1964 when:
• Our per capita GDP in 1960 was already $1,330 which gave us a middle-income status?
[Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control, page 166]

• We were already of Upper Middle Income status according to World Bank classification of our 1964 per capita GNI (in 2011 PPP USD)?

1964 per capita GDP / GNP / GNI GDP per capita (output) GDP per capita (expenditure) GDP per capita (average)
Real per capita GDP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 8.0 $5,989 $2,762 $4,376
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 7.1’s GNP to GDP ratio $6,151 $2,837 $4,494
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2011 USD) converted by comparing World Bank’s current GNI and 2011 GNI for 2005 $6,896 $3,180 $5,038
World Bank classification by income Upper middle income status Lower middle income status Upper middle income status
From US$4,036 to US$12,475 From US$1,026 to US$4,035 From US$4,036 to US$12,475

Quite clearly, our average 1964 per capita income of US$5,038 was already well above the Low Income or Third World level of US$1,025 or below. We were thus already well above Third World status by 1964 so Mr Wong is wrong to say that Singapore miraculously grew from a humble Third World fishing village to what it is today over half a century. The credit should therefore also go to those who built the outstanding foundation upon which independent Singapore stands.

I refer too to the 9 May 2014 Straits Times article “Drawback of selling flats to buy bigger private units” by Mr Frederick Ho. Mr Ho claims that Singapore has gone from Third World to First in lifestyle and wealth since HDB was set up in 1960 [1].

Once again, our average 1960 per capita income of US$4,287 was already well above the Low Income or Third World level of US$1,025 or below. We were already well above Third World status by 1960.

1960 per capita GDP / GNP / GNI GDP per capita (output) GDP per capita (expenditure) GDP per capita (average)
Real per capita GDP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 8.0 $5,075 $2,413 $3,744
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2005 USD) using PWT 7.1’s GNP to GDP ratio $5,184 $2,465 $3,824
Real per capita GNP (chained PPP, 2011 USD) converted by comparing World Bank’s current GNI and 2011 GNI for 2005 $5,811 $2,763 $4,287
World Bank classification by income Upper middle income status Lower middle income status Upper middle income status
From US$4,036 to US$12,475 From US$1,026 to US$4,035 From US$4,036 to US$12,475

[1] Straits Times, Drawback of selling flats to buy bigger private units, Frederick Ho, 9 May 2014

IT HAS been decades since the HDB was set up with the mission of providing affordable homes for Singaporeans (“Why condo units are shrinking” by Ms Chan Suan Yen; Wednesday).
Since then, we have gone from Third World to First in terms of lifestyle and wealth.

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