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Singapore on my mind

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 8
With the new round of elections approaching Georgian media are having lively discussions around the problems and prospects of Georgia developing as a democratic country. Many analysts and politicians are convinced that the 2012 elections will be crucial for Georgia. As to whether the country will follow or deviate from a democratic path, much depends on how parliamentary elections are held next year.

According to the official position, a main target is European integration. The authorities see Georgia as part of Europe and its rightful place in the EU. Although no country will be admitted to the EU in the near future, this ideal will facilitate the development of European values, standards and way of life. Programs like the "Neighborhood policy" or "Eastern partnership" both envisage such steps.

However, it is very significant that whether we strive to be European or not, Georgian leadership has been actively promoting the idea of the "Singaporisation" of the country, a notion made popular by President Saakashvili who probably took up the theme of a well-known USAID consultant several years ago, who once made a comment that mentioned "Singapore".

Debates continue on the issue – how can a country move towards the EU while "moving towards Singapore"? The European direction is towards democracy. Singapore is a clear-cut model of Asian authoritarian governance, high technology, advanced economic know-how and specialized education. It is unlikely to move towards democracy, however. Saakashvili, would like to combine superficial aspects of these two formulas and try to build a "Democratic Singapore" or else a "Singporised Democracy". Trying to combine these two notions is not a viable model according to independent analysts and western advisers.

The authorities' idealization of creating another Singapore in Georgia would mean neoliberalism. This in turn would leave social welfare policies aside, which has been declared as the top achievement of Georgia's economic development. However, neoliberalism often goes hand in hand with authoritarian types of governance.

The formula proposed now would be for Georgia to move towards Europe. However, it won't be able to catch up with Europe through ordinary steps, therefore it wants to accelerate development—and this leads to the Singapore route, which they believe can bring Georgia on a faster track to the European target.

Rapid economic development in Georgia has not been achieved, and it is doubtful that it will do so in the near future. However, features of the "Singapore model" are being implemented (at least in the opinion of the authorities) and in a certain sense quite “successfully”. Some analysts think that Georgia’s Singapore dreams will be frustrated soon because the country has been unable to attract serious investments--it is unlikely to become a global financial center in the foreseeable future since its citizens are still far from achieving necessary educational or economic standards.