The Singapore School: technocracy or less

Crawford School of Public Policy | Arndt-Corden Department of Economics

Event details

ACDE Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 17 September 2019


Griffin Room, Level 1, #132 Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, The ANU


Michael Barr, Flinders University


Ross McLeod, Seminar Convener

The key to Singapore’s attraction as a model for the developing world is its technocratic system of government. Singapore’s form of technocracy is not just a matter of ‘rule by experts’; rather it is a system of public policy management that takes a whole-of-society rather than just a whole-of-government approach, founded on notions of meritocracy and high levels of professional administrative competence. Yet Singapore’s technocratic system has demonstrably failed. Indeed the period during which it had an impressive track record of governance closed about a decade-and-a-half ago.

This paper argues that the weaknesses of its technocratic system of governance are intrinsic to the system itself; that its weaknesses as a long-term system of government and its success as a short-term system of elite regeneration share a common foundation. This flaw raises serious doubts about the wisdom of treating Singapore as a model for governance.

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