The unknown helper in development: the case of Singapore

International donors especially the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development-Donor Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) have always made the news or even the front line news over their aid activities or their aid disbursements to International Organisations (IOs). Non OECD-DAC members like China have in recent years, also made the news. However, this is not the complete list of donors. One such often-unmentioned helper (rather than “donor”) is that of Singapore.

Singapore of course has been classified as one of the many development successes and one of the “Asian tigers” by politicians, academics and economists, most notably Ha-Joon Chang and Joseph Stiglitz. It’s GDP, given its geographical size of 710 .3 sq km and its population size of over 5 million, has a rather impressive GDP of 52,839.641(IMF estimate). This is comparable and even surpasses some of OECD-DAc members.

Given this prominence, Singapore HAS added to the global work of development. Firstly, it has an agency, the Singapore Cooperation Programme. I wouldn’t (and I don’t think the Singaporean government does) name it a bilateral aid agency as in the case of the UK’s DFID or the US’ USAID. The SCP does not actively disburse ODA like these other aid agencies. Rather it adds to “human resource development training through technical assistance” (taken from the About Us section of the website). Of course donors like Germany give technical cooperation but skimming through the SCP, its activities of course are no where near that of major bilateral aid agencies. SCP’s reach also is not so global–it mainly targets the Asia-Pacific region and partners with larger donors such as Japan.

On the multilateral level, Singapore is a member of a number of IOs including theWorld Bank Group and has contributed to the Bank’s poor countries arms–the International Development Association (IDA). Singapore’s addition to the latest few IDA replenishment can be viewed on this website–Aid Flows (just select Singapore under the Donor section).

Of course, the amounst given in that website is a very minute amount in terms of Singapore’s GNI/GDP, especially if we compare it with the UN (not ratified) target of giving 0.7% of GNI in aid. Singapore of course does not have to fulfil that target especially not being a member of the OECD. How much Singapore as a “rich” country should give in terms of ODA (multilaterally or bilaterally) or whether Singapore should join the OECD are questions for another debate.

So that’s my snippet of an unknown “helper” (definitely not a donor in the OECD-DAC sense) in the global arena or development.

PS. This was roughly searched information off the web and I have no connection whatsoever to the Singapore government or the Singapore Cooperation Programme. This post as you read does not give any active indication of the work of the SCP.


This entry was posted in Ha-Joon Chang, International Development, Joseph Stiglitz, Poverty Reduction, World Bank and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The unknown helper in development: the case of Singapore

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