Fri 23rd Dec 2016
We need to emulate the extraordinary vision of Fidel Castro & Lee Kuan Yew
In its early years of self-governance, Singapore was in economic and social turmoil. There was high unemployment and most of the population lived in dilapidated slums and on dingy boats, without a sewer system, among rats, cockroaches, mosquitos and flies. Singapore was a swamp overridden with prostitution and crime.
With a GNP per capita of less than US$320, Singapore was a third-world nation with poor infrastructure, limited capital and a high level of poverty. Ivan O’Neal had lived in Singapore with his wife and three children from 1963 to 1965 and witnessed first-hand the destitution and social decay.
Pre-revolutionary Cuba was consumed by gambling, the Mafia and prostitution. President Batista and the Mafiosi lined their own pockets, skimming the casinos’ proceeds, cheating investors and trafficking drugs.
There were massive inequalities in Cuban society, between city and countryside and between whites and blacks. In the countryside, some Cubans lived in poverty. Sugarcane cutters were perpetually in debt and barely surviving. Many poor peasants were seriously malnourished and hungry. Neither health care nor education reached rural Cubans at the bottom of society. Illiteracy was widespread, racism was rife and private clubs and beaches were segregated.
Cuba, before Fidel Castro’s intervention, was similar to Singapore. Fidel Castro of Cuba and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, both saw that the system of governance in their respective country was destructive and propagated inequality. They believed that the social decay and poverty had to be replaced by a system of governance in Cuba and Singapore that created equality and opportunity for all their people.
In Singapore, it was the extraordinary vision of Lee Kuan Yew that changed Singapore from a country of prostitution, poverty and squalor in to the world-leading nation that it is today. In Cuba, it was the extraordinary vision of Fidel Castro that changed Cuba from a country overrun with gambling, poverty and corruption to the country it is today – a country with high literacy rates and excellent medical care for all of its people.
Cuba and Singapore adopted similar paths to structural change and macro-economic development. They used import substitution to allow their weak economies to grow, they invested almost half their annual budget in very high-quality education (free from pre-school to university) to educate their people and they banned the sale of land to foreigners.
In the Castro government's first agrarian reform law, on 17 May 1959, the state sought to limit the size of land holdings, and to distribute that land to small farmers in "Vital Minimum" tracts. This law was used as the pretext for seizing lands held by foreigners and redistributing them to Cuban citizens.
Sadly, since independence from the UK in 1979, SVG’s incompetent leaders have adopted the opposite path to Cuba and under Fidel Castro and Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew. They have led our country down a path of ruin, poverty and destitution.
They have allowed Taiwan and other foreigners to suck the economic life-blood out of our country, by using our resources and not paying any tax. They have failed to invest in our people and our content to let them struggle to survive.
In the 1950s, the children of Cuba and Singapore were gifted visionary leaders Fidel Castro and Lee Kuan Yew respectively. The Christmas gift the children of SVG deserve is a law that taxes the foreigners in our country, so that we have enough revenue to properly invest in their education and future and provide free education from pre-school to university.
We must preserve and protect our country for our children and grandchildren by urgently banning the sale of land to foreigners.
Visionary leadership is needed in SVG to create prosperity for our people. We should emulate the extraordinary vision of Fidel Castro & Lee Kuan Yew.
Hold the faith – a change will come.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Ivan O’Neal BSc (Hons), MSc, MBA
Leader and co-founder of SVG Green Party