Is Montenegro the Next Singapore?

Singapore is a tiny island nation in Asia which boasts more millionaires per capita than any other country on Earth.

Montenegro recently celebrated it’s 5th birthday as an independent nation. Singapore has been an independent nation since 1965. Singapore has an almost 41 year head start on Montenegro. How does Montenegro compare with it’s older classmate?

Creation

Singapore split off from a coalition with a larger nation, Malaysia, in a mostly peaceful transition. Similarly, Montenegro’s departure from the coalition of Serbia and Montenegro was a peaceful transition.

Multi-ethnic Societies

Singapore is a nation of three major nationalities and a large number of expats. 76.8% of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, 13.9% are ethnic Malay, and 7.9% are ethnic Indians. 43% of Montenegrins are ethnic Montenegrin, 32% are ethnic Serbians, 8% are Bosniaks, and 5% are ethnic Albanians. 36% of the population of Singapore are permanent residents or foreign workers. Montenegro does not yet benefit from a large base of expat investors and workers.

Natural Resources

Singapore has extremely limited natural resources. Montenegro is blessed with extensive mineral resources, as well as the extreme natural beauty which forms the basis of it’s tourism industry.  Singaporean tourism was boosted recently with the development of two large casinos on the island.  Singapore is also doing great business as a medical tourism destination.  Both industries could be successfully replicated in Montenegro.

Ports

The Port of Singapore is the worlds busiest transshipment port.  Singapore acts as an intermediary port for both raw materials and finished goods. The Port of Singapore provides significant revenue to the Singaporean economy.  The Port of Bar is currently operating below capacity and losing money because of a lack of transshipment business.  The region has more limited requirements for ship-to-ship transshipment.  The development of a profitable ship-to-train transshipment business will depend upon significant investment in both new new track and repair of existing track.  This could lead to the Port of Bar becoming a n important transshipment port for the landlocked nations of Central Europe.

Size

Singapore is a small country with a large population. Montenegro is a much larger country with a significantly smaller population. Singapore is only 694km squared, with a population of 5,076,700. Montenegro is 13,812km squared, with a population of only 625,266. Montenegro definitely has room to grow.

Language

Singapore chose English as it’s national language. This decision gave the young country an incredible advantage over it’s competitors in the global economy. Many Montenegrins speak multiple languages. English is not as common as in Singapore, but Russian, German, Italian, and French are also spoken here. Singaporeans have earned billions of dollars arranging business deals between British and American companies and companies across Asia. Montenegrins have an opportunity to fulfill a similar role in Europe.

Leadership

Singapore’s first Prime Minister was Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew was 42 when he became Prime Minister of the new nation. He was a lawyer who had studied at the London School of Economics. During the war he operated a successful black market business selling tapioca-based glue. Lee Kuan Yew was the worlds longest serving Prime Minister and still acts as an advisor to the government of Singapore. Montenegro was led to independence by Milo Đukanović and is now led by Igor Lukšić. Both men are young economists. Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore to economic success by choosing free-market principles instead of implementing a state-run economy as most of the neighboring states were doing at the time. Milo Đukanović and Lukšić have both led Montenegro away from it’s state-run past, although the results are not yet as positive as those which Singapore currently enjoys. Singapore’s economy is ranked as the world’s most open, competitive, innovative, and business-friendly in the world. Montenegro has a lot of bureaucracy to destroy before it can compete with Singapore on these grounds.

Conclusion

It is too soon to tell whether Montenegro will be able to match Singapore’s impressive record of growth.  Our natural resources give us an advantage which Singapore never had, but our less dense population increases costs for infrastructure development.  What is certain though, is that we can learn from their experience to help accelerate our own.

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