The Plot to make Zimbabwe the next Singapore

By Darlington Nyambiya

As Zimbabwe’s Opposition leaders gradually find each other on the roadmap to form a Grand Coalition and plot the country’s economic revival; it is important to note that under Zanu PF long ruinous rule, the economy of Zimbabwe shrank significantly after 2000. In fact between 2000 and 2007, the national economy contracted by as much as 40%;  GDP per capita dropped by 40%, agricultural output dropped by 51% and industrial production dropped by 47%.

The Zanu PF government started crumbling when a bonus to independence war veterans was announced in 1997 and Zimbabwe’s participation from 1998 to 2002 in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo set the stage for this deterioration by draining the country of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Zanu PF Government’s mismanagement of the economy has resulted in widespread poverty, 95% unemployment rate, and suspension of the Zimbabwe dollar, hyperinflation and recently a cash crisis has emerged.


Zimbabwe officially known as the Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west and southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and northeast. Although it does not border Namibia, less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River separates it from that country. The capital and largest city is Harare. A country of roughly 13 million people, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages with English, Shona, and Ndebele the most commonly used.

A 2014 report by the Africa Progress Panel found that of all the African countries looked at when working out how many years it would take to double per capita GDP, Zimbabwe fared the worst and that at its current rate of development it would take 190 years for the country to double its per capita GDP. And recently in September 2016, the finance minister identified “low levels of production and the attendant trade gap, insignificant foreign direct investment and lack of access to international finance due to huge arrears” as significant causes for the poor performance of the economy

Economic Lessons From Singapore

It is evident from Zanu PF’s history of mismanagement of the economy and the ruling party’s infighting that only a new Government under a Grand Coalition administration can chart the best way forward for Zimbabwe’s economic prosperity if it wins the 2018 Elections. The Grand Coalition can mirror the shrewd economic planning of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew in plotting the future economic success of Zimbabwe.

Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades and is recognised as the nation’s founding father, with the country described as transitioning from the “third world to first world in a single generation” under his leadership.


Singapore is officially known as the Republic of Singapore, sometimes referred to as the Lion City or the Little Red Dot. It is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia, with Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2), and its greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens.

Singapore became a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence, and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce. Singapore is a global commerce, finance and transport hub. Its standings include: the most “technology-ready” nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with “best investment potential” (BERI), second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, and the second-busiest container port. The country has also been identified as a tax haven.

Singapore ranks 5th in the world and 1st in Asia on the UN Human Development Index, and 3rd highest per capita income. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of the homes are owner-occupied. 38% of Singapore’s 5.6 million residents are permanent residents and other foreign nationals. There are four official languages on the island: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. English is its common language; most Singaporeans are bilingual.

The five pillars of economic transformation

Lee Kuan Yew with overwhelming parliamentary control at every election oversaw Singapore’s transformation from a bustling British crown colony with a natural deep harbour to an Asian Tiger economy. The Grand Coalition will need to replicate Lee Kuan Yew economic planning and transform Zimbabwe’s economy into an African Lion by utilising the five pillars of economic transformation as follows:

1)      Meritocracy

Lee Kuan Yew believed and used the principle of meritocracy in government and the civil service. Meritocracy is a political philosophy holding that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent.  Advancement in such a system is based on performance measured through examination and/or demonstrated achievement in the field where it is implemented. Donald Low, in the recent book Hard Choices, Challenging the Singapore Consensus: has identified meritocracy as “a core principle of governance in Singapore” and that it is “as close as anything gets to being a national ideology”.

Donald Low refers to the meritocracy principle as one in which “we try to equalise opportunities not outcomes, and we allocate rewards on the basis of an individual’s merit or his abilities”. Everyone has an opportunity to succeed on the same tests and challenges, and the best is selected, regardless of who that person is. Similarly, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong once described meritocracy as a “value system by which advancement in society is based on an individual’s ability, performance and achievement”.

The Grand Coalition: Meritocracy Selection

President Robert Mugabe reportedly agonized in coming up with a new cabinet after the 31 July 2013 general elections as he battled with spirited lobbies and how to balance competing interests. He admitted party loyalty and long-service were critical in his appointments. This selection of Ministers and top government officials based on party loyalty and balancing of interests by President Mugabe has resulted in the recycling of ‘deadwood’ which has caused the underperformance of government directly linked to an economic crisis, since the best brains to assist  government are sidelined.

The Grand Coalition selection of Ministers, top government officials and civil service must be based on merit that is a value system by which advancement in society is based on an individual’s ability, performance and achievement. The Grand Coalition will have to put in place rational processes that will enable government to appoint only the best to work in the civil service regardless of political affiliation or other beliefs.

The Grand Coalition must use the idea of political meritocracy were the aim is to select leaders with above average ability to make morally informed political judgments. That is, political meritocracy has two key components:  the political leaders have superior ability and virtue; and the selection mechanism is designed to choose such leaders. In China and Singapore, meritocratically selected leaders have overseen an economic boom that has lifted several hundred million people out of poverty. The aim of political meritocracy is to select the candidates best qualified to lead.

Selecting political leaders based on loyalty and service has resulted in Zanu PF having an incompetent political leadership that has directly resulted in the country having an economic crisis. The Grand Coalition selection of ministers, top government officials and civil service must be based on merit and ability to enable the government to successfully implement its economic plans.

2)      Incorrupt and Highly effective government and civil service

Singapore had problems with political corruption. Lee introduced legislation giving the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) greater power to conduct arrests, search, call up witnesses, and investigate bank accounts and income-tax returns of suspected persons and their families.

Lee believed that ministers should be well paid in order to maintain a clean and honest government. On 21 November 1986, Lee received a complaint of corruption against then Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan. Lee was against corruption and he authorized the CPIB to carry out investigations on Teh but Teh committed suicide before any charges could be pressed against him.

In 1994, he proposed to link the salaries of ministers, judges, and top civil servants to the salaries of top professionals in the private sector, arguing that this would help recruit and retain talent to serve in the public sector.

The Grand Coalition: Incentives

 Last year, President Mugabe said he would not defend senior government and Zanu PF officials implicated in corrupt deals or abuse of public funds and vowed to let them face the full wrath of the law, provided there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations.

However despite numerous corruptions scandals, not even one government official has been prosecuted.

The Grand Coalition would need to give political support to law enforcement agencies to ensure that corrupt officials are prosecuted. It would also have to link government officials’ salaries with the private sector in order to maintain a clean and honest government. If the Grand Coalition pays top salaries to leaders and ministers, it would attract the best and brightest to public service and reduce the temptation to engage in graft. And as proven in Singapore when such initiatives are done properly, they make government more efficient and economy becomes more vibrant.

Transparency International has ranked Singapore among the world’s top five least-corrupt governments since 2001, and according to Worldwide Governance Indicators, an index supported by the World Bank, it has also been among the best governed.

In China, corruption is the common link between state-owned banks doling out billions of dollars to cronies; land grabs by local government officials; and the negligence that killed 40 people in a high-speed rail crash last July. If Beijing paid higher salaries, it would reduce the incidence of graft and rent-seeking that aggravates the lopsidedness of China’s development.

As seen in China and Singapore, in order to minimize corruption and ensure that Zimbabwe is best governed, the Grand Coalition would have to pay attractive salaries to ensure a clean government and attract the best brains.

3)      Political Stability

Since the day Singapore officially gained sovereignty on 9 August 1965, its politics has been dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP).  During the 2006 election the PAP won 82 out of 84 seats in the nation’s Parliament. Despite the PAP’s dealings with communists in the early days, its governing philosophy for the last several decades can best be described as Socialist Democracy.

Economic growth and political stability were maintained by the paternal guidance of the PAP. Thus, Singapore is not administered by politicians, but by bureaucrats, in a meritocracy where power is gained through skill, performance, and loyalty to the nation and its policies. In addition, rifts within the leadership in Singapore are rare. The mode of decision making is by consensus, and the leadership style is collective.

he Grand Coalition: Political Stability

ZANU PF factional and succession power struggles have negatively impacted on government service delivery and the ruling party has lost focus in solving the political, economic and social challenges that the country is facing today.

The Grand Coalition would need to ensure that there is political stability in Zimbabwe when it becomes the government of the day so that it can focus on successfully carrying out its economic vision for the nation. The Grand Coalition would need a political agreement in the united opposition that deals with how political parties would collaborate before the 2018 General Elections to guarantee a synchronized & successful election campaign strategy that would democratically wrestle power from Zanu PF.

And more importantly, the Grand Coalition would need a governing agreement between the political parties on how it would share power and how it would govern if it wins the 2018 Elections. These two agreements will warranty that the Grand Coalition would operate as one strong unit with minimum infighting: and decision-making would be made by consensus and the leadership style would be collective.

This show of strength in unity and team work in the Grand Coalition would ensure that the government would be focused on the challenges of the day. And as businesses do not exist in a vacuum they would need a supportive political infrastructure to grow and thrive. The political stability provided by the Grand Coalition would safeguard a stable and orderly government, whose vision would be taking Zimbabwe into the nations of industrialized countries within the next 50 years.

In fact according to the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, PERC, Singapore enjoys the lowest political risk in Asia and since Independence has enjoyed relative political stability, which has transformed into better business opportunities for the nation. In other words, as in Singapore, the political stability provided by the Grand Coalition would transform into better business opportunities for Zimbabwe.

4)      Foreign Direct Investments

One of Lee’s most urgent tasks upon Singapore’s independence was to provide stable jobs for its people, as unemployment was high. After years of trial and error, Lee and his cabinet decided the best way to boost Singapore’s economy was to attract foreign investments from the multinational corporations.

By establishing a First World infrastructure and standards in Singapore, the new nation could woo American, Japanese and European entrepreneurs and professionals to set up base. By the 1970s, the arrival of multinational corporations like Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric laid the foundations, turning Singapore into a major electronics exporter the following decade.

Workers were frequently retrained to familiarise themselves with the work systems and cultures of foreign multinational corporations. The government also started several new industries, such as steel mills under ‘National Iron and Steel Mills’, service industries like Neptune Orient Lines, and the Singapore Airlines.

The Grand Coalition FDI Attraction

Zanu PF’s empowerment laws have negatively affected the country by chasing away Foreign Direct Investment.The Grand Coalition would need to put in place policies, laws and incentives that are going to attract multinational corporations to invest and operate in Zimbabwe. One of the first ports of call would be for the Grand Coalition Government to revisit Zimbabwe’s infamous Black Economic Empowerment Law which has impeded foreign direct investment and transform the law into a ‘Zimbo’ Prosperity Law were all Zimbabweans despite race or tribe would have preferential treatment for access to business funding, training and advice.

And more importantly, the Zimbo Prosperity Law would make it lucrative for foreigners to partner with locals by giving both government and tax incentives to such partnerships. The Grand Coalition could also attract foreign direct investment by making Zimbabwe the tax haven of Africa. This could be done by attracting wealthy investors and inducing them with a low tax rate on personal income, a full tax exemption on income that is generated outside of Zimbabwe. The Grand Coalition Government could also sign double taxation treaties with other countries to minimise both withholding tax and capital gains tax.

The Grand Coalition Government would have to put its economic efforts into attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) and creating a suitable trade environment. The international expertise would be leveraged in creating a conducive environment were exports will be maximised through value addition of agriculture and mineral products. It would have to turn Zimbabwe into one of the easiest countries in the world to do business in. The Grand Coalition strategies would have to include: advantageous loans to foreign investors, tax incentives and exemptions, the pro-business legislation and the country’s banking stability.

The Grand Coalition would have to leverage on Zimbabwe’s natural resources attraction, agriculture potential, manufacturing resilience and educated work force to attract foreign investors and companies. A favourable tax system with one of the lowest corporate taxes in the region and the extensive number of double taxation agreements would convince foreign investors that it would be easier and more prolific to open a company in Zimbabwe, rather than anywhere else in the region.

The Grand Coalition would need to put in place a flexible immigration policy which would attract an impressive pool of talent from other countries to work in specialist areas and in the top industries in Zimbabwe. This wealth of local and international talent would attract companies to relocate to Zimbabwe and take advantage of a labor force that is one of the most educated and resourceful in Africa.

5)      Infrastructure

Singapore is the pricing centre and leading oil trading hub in Asia. The oil industry makes up 5 per cent of Singapore’s GDP, with Singapore being one of the top three export refining centres in the world. In 2007 it exported 68.1 million tonnes of oil.

The oil industry has led to the promotion of the chemical industry as well as oil and gas equipment manufacturing. Singapore has 70 per cent of the world market for both jack-up rigs and for the conversion of Floating Production Storage Offloading units. It has 20 per cent of the world market for ship repair, and in 2008 the marine and offshore industry employed almost 70,000 workers.

The Grand Coalition: Infrastructure Investment

Zimbabwe has inadequate internal transportation and electrical power networks; and maintenance has been neglected over several years. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority is responsible for providing the country with electrical energy but total generation capacity does not meet the demand leading to rolling blackouts and resulting in imports.

The Grand Coalition would have to put in place a sound infrastructure investment policy that guarantees world-class transportation and electrical power networks. Singapore is the most attractive market in the world for infrastructure investment thanks to its strong business environment, healthy pipeline of development work and growing economy.

The Grand Coalition will note the growing scarcity of traditional financing and would have to find innovate ways of attracting private finance for national infrastructure projects. The Grand Coalition would have to implement an integrated approach to infrastructure planning, which links big schemes to overarching business and social requirements. This approach would assist to attract private finance and retain a leading position in attracting investors in Africa.

The Grand Coalition government would need to provide more clarity on government infrastructure policy and be able to act on its promises to delivery major projects. It would also need to provide a highly efficient business environment with transparency in regulation and efficient legal systems.

The Grand Coalition government would need to have clear integrated strategies tying infrastructure development plans to business and economic objectives; and this would give long term clarity to investors and attract more private finance into infrastructure. Once world-class transportation and electrical power networks are in place, this infrastructure would form the base on which the Grand Coalition government would transform Zimbabwe’s economy into an industrialized economy.


In conclusion: and upon an analysis of  the historical factors of Zanu PF’s catastrophic economic mismanagement, the plot to make Zimbabwe the next Singapore can only be achieved under a new government in the form of a Grand Coalition if it wins the 2018 elections. The Grand Coalition can replicate the shrewd economic planning of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew in plotting the future economic success of Zimbabwe.

The Grand Coalition can rapidly develop Zimbabwe’s struggling economy into a roaring African Lion economy that will be anchored on:

a) Local Resources

b) External trade

c) Workforce

This economic transformation from a developing economy to an industrialised economy is achievable within the next 50 years if the government leverages on the five pillars of economic transformation: meritocracy, incorrupt & highly effective civil service, political stability, foreign direct investment and infrastructure.

The Writer: Darlington Nyambiya is the President of the Local Solutions Council (LSC) , a leading Zimbabwe Think Tank. The LSC is a Think Tank with members from diverse Zimbabwean communities in politics, business, religion and sports. He is also a Pro Democracy Activist, Political Strategist, Human Rights Defender, Social Media Commentator, Writer and a Business Executive. Contact Details ; Skype ID : darlington.nyambiya  , Twitter handle: D_Nyambiya,  Email : , Corporate Twitter Handle : lsc_thinktank  For more information on  Strategic Views on Zimbabwe log onto our website on :Website : Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved. The Article may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission


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