I’m sure that’s a quote from someone, perhaps an old politician, perhaps a wise old football manager – if you fail to plan, you might as well plan to fail. It goes along with – the harder I work/practise, the luckier I get – which was Gary Player, the golfer, I think. For now, the pithiest wisdom I have gleaned from nearly six weeks in Singapore is the importance of planning, by governments, from above, perhaps for the benefit of the wider people. And, it seems to me, that Britain is the proof of the reverse, ie thirty or more years of denying the importance of government planning, of shrinking the state, of worshipping the so-called free market, of trusting that somehow all will be for the best if we bow down to the demands of private profit in all areas, above any other consideration. In the name of austerity, the current Conservative government has joyously forged ahead with outsourcing more and more responsibilities to private companies – education, prisons, healthcare, social care, probation, the post office, on and on the list goes – so that all of these services are managed by companies whose first duty is not to provide a decent service, but to provide profits to their shareholders. We need to have the confidence, the vision, the self-belief, even the self-esteem, to say that we, as a country, as a people, are worth ensuring that these services are provided to each and every one of us fairly, generously, and that the only organisation that can ensure that this happens is the state – not profit-seeking private companies. Will anyone stand up in this election and argue for this?
Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore’s first Prime Minister, for thirty years, then remained in government for another twenty years – his son is now Prime Minister (coincidence?) – in fifty years of independence, opposition parties have won a total of about twelve seats in parliament. He was able to plan unashamedly, fifteen-year plans, in a small geographical area, but with undeniable results. Debates after his death: was he in any sense a democrat? A benevolent dictator? Or not so benevolent? A founding father of a nation? Clearly the wealth of Singapore is in international financial trading (above and below board) – not so different to the City of London then – symbolised now by the casino-funded Marina Bay Sands complex, and thus at the heart of rapacious, conspicuous capitalism, surrounded day-to-day by all-pervasive vacuous consumerism, shopping centres full of unaffordable luxury goods.
So now I’m arguing against myself – Singapore is a city-state distinguished by aggressive government planning to provide a centre for international capitalism – I’m looking for aggressive government planning in a large but fragmented islands-state to promote social justice/fairness/equality and education/culture for their own sake – a centre for international socialism, if you like. That’s looking a bit optimistic, even in Scotland. But I think there’s something to argue for there, still, even now, in 2015. But who might argue for it?