From a story in The American
. . . we can contrast Jamaica and Singapore. Both are relatively tiny states, with under 5 million residents apiece. Upon Singapore’s independence in 1965—three years after Jamaica’s own establishment as a nation—the two nations were about equal in wealth: the gross domestic product (in 2006 U.S. dollars) was $2,850 per person in Jamaica, slightly higher than Singapore’s $2,650. Both nations had a centrally located port, a tradition of British colonial rule, and governments with a strong capitalist orientation. (Jamaica, in addition, had plentiful natural resources and a robust tourist industry.) But four decades later, their standing was dramatically different: Singapore had climbed to a per capita GDP of $31,400 (2006 data, in current dollars), while Jamaica’s figure was only $4,800.
What accounts for the amazing difference in growth rates? There are many explanations: soon after independence, Singapore aggressively invested in infrastructure such as its port, subsidized its system of education, maintained an open and corruption-free economy, and established sovereign wealth funds that made a wide variety of investments. It has also benefited from a strategic position on the key sea lanes heading to and from East Asia. Jamaica, meanwhile, spent many years mired in political instability, . . . Dramatic shifts from a market economy to a socialist orientation and back again, with the attendant inflation, economic instability, crippling public debt, and violence, made the development and implementation of a consistent long-run economic policy difficult.