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Economia Politico Critical Thinking

The statesman and nation-builder Lee Kuan Yew died this week. I had the great privilege of getting to know him during my time as ambassador to Singapore 25 years ago. Since that time, I consulted him regularly across my service as Governor of Utah, trade ambassador, and as ambassador to China. Along with generations of other American policy-makers, I always benefited from his keen insight—insight which the world has now lost.

Among the consistent themes I will remember most were these three core lessons:

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One, the power of culture in shaping policy. America has a Constitution, we have guiding documents that shape who we are, but we are a nation of multiple cultures. It doesn’t dawn on most Americans that strong singular cultures really do shape policy in places like China, India and in other corners of the world. Lee Kuan Yew was eloquent in helping American policymakers and leaders understand that culture plays a very central role in the worldviews of those in many of the countries with whom we were trying to forge relationships.

Indeed Lee Kuan Yew’s own formative years were far different from what we can imagine in the West. He grew up learning the national anthems of four different countries—the UK, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. As a result, he employed a governance model very much based on Asian values: the wellbeing of the collective, the community before the individual.

Two, the power of strategic thinking and looking around the bend. Lee Kuan Yew always stressed to his leadership team the importance of planning for the next lap of development and in thinking in terms of the next big thing. Singapore couldn’t afford to remain the same as everyone else in their neighborhood. They had to be faster, sharper and more creative in considering their approach to economic development.  

With strong leadership, he was uniquely able to bring a team together that got Singapore through its early vulnerable days, where its very existence was in question. Equally important was his willingness to assume risk—something that is completely foreign to today’s politics where you go by polls and public opinion surveys.

Lee Kuan Yew’s emphasis on the power of strategic thinking, having a plan, and looking around the bend, were things I tried to incorporate when I was elected Governor. I imagined myself surrounded by very competitive states and if we couldn’t somehow stand out based on our geography, population, institutions of higher learning, and work ethic, then we would lose. Lee Kuan Yew would often say if you’re not attracting brainpower and maximizing it, and if you’re not bringing in capital, the seed for economic growth, then you are losing—because someone else is gaining at your expense.

And three, a better understanding of the critical balance between security and economic development. In the United States, we take for granted the fact that we have the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, or as Lee Kuan Yew used to call them, the two most impenetrable barriers possessed by any country in the world. For most Americans, it isn’t until you travel abroad, particularly in corners of Asia, that you discover that providing and maintaining security are critical parts of economic development and growth.

Lee Kuan Yew was consistent in almost every meeting I had about the need for the presence of the United States, our forward-deployed Seventh Fleet and our indispensable role in fostering regional prosperity and growth. It provided an insurance policy by keeping the sea lanes open for trade and commerce, which has given economic lift to the region since World War II. Without this insurance policy, all bets were off. Less benevolent actors would fill that vacuum and, without a doubt, impact economic growth and prosperity and result in regional security complications.

He would school every American he met on understanding the balance between security and economic development. In the United States we just don’t think in those terms. We think about growth, we think about technology, we think about the next new thing coming out of Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, or Ann Arbor, Michigan. We don’t have to stop and consider the security implications of where we are. It is much different in Southeast Asia and it was certainly different for during the nation-building years for Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr. Lee created an ownership society at a time when the rest of the world was moving in the opposite direction. His visionary leadership, based on the rule of law and a clean government, generated the world’s most recent example of a country going from third world to first world under a single generation of leadership. 

Along the way, mistakes were made. By his own account, he regretted some of the decisions taken but also argued that everything was done for “honorable purposes” to keep Singapore stable during those early years. With today’s secure economic foundation, I suspect Singapore will further expand its creative class and existing civil society and people inevitably will demand more of a representational government.

The lessons of Lee Kuan Yew’s formidable leadership and success will be a case study for generations to come.

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., is chairman of the Atlantic Council, the former governor of Utah, and the former ambassador to Singapore and China.

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Postscript

What I Learned From Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

By JON HUNTSMAN

Marcus Thulio Rocha Bezerra, analista comércio exterior do Ministério da Fazenda, publicou recentemente o livro intitulado “Por uma Política de Seguro de Investimento Brasileiro no Exterior: Uma Análise Jurídica da Política Econômica (AJPE)” (editora Viseu). O trabalho é fruto de pesquisa apresentada no mestrado em direito da Universidade de Brasília em 2017, e de discussões havidas no Grupo Direito Estado e Sociedade (GDES), do qual o autor é membro.

O livro analisa parte do sistema de apoio oficial brasileiro à internacionalização de empresas. Com instrumentais fornecidos pela AJPE (ver aqui, pp. 41 e seguintes), o autor discute, sob perspectiva jurídica, desafios que se apresentam ao esforço de criação de um seguro para investimentos brasileiros realizados no exterior, como forma de reforçar a inserção de empresas brasileiras na economia internacional.

O trabalho é dividido em três capítulos. No primeiro, Marcus discute os fluxos de investimentos diretos de e para o Brasil. Sua linha de raciocínio parte da premissa de que os investimentos externos diretos, de um modo geral, são objeto de diversos instrumentos de apoio público, enquanto os investimentos brasileiros no exterior são pouco fomentados pelo Estado. O autor faz uso de relevante bibliografia econômica para mostrar por que o Estado brasileiro deveria incentivar a internacionalização de suas empresas capazes de realizar investimento direto brasileiro no exterior.

O segundo capítulo propõe-se a discutir mecanismo jurídico-financeiro ainda inexistente no Brasil: o seguro de investimento. Essa modalidade de apoio estatal, ainda não regulada internacionalmente, é praticada por diversos países com importante inserção econômica global. Marcus Thulio discute o papel das agências de crédito à exportação na prática desse apoio e a relação delas com o Estado de origem da empresa apoiada. Ademais, Marcus Thulio apresenta as racionalidades jurídica e econômica que justificam a atuação do Estado nessa modalidade de apoio.

O terceiro capítulo destina-se à instrumentalização da metodologia da AJPE ao tema do seguro de investimento. Marcus Thulio faz uso de ampla compilação de dados sobre as características desse seguro em diversos países e, com a contribuição da AJPE, consegue unificar as linguagens dos diferentes programas de apoio para mostrar ao leitor, de forma clara, a dimensão da fruição dos “direitos de produção” das empresas apoiadas por cada país analisado. Para discutir a realidade brasileira, Marcus Thulio faz uso da mais recente proposta nacional acerca do tema, um projeto de lei vetado pela presidência da República em 2016. Segundo o autor, a AJPE demonstra que o projeto de lei, mesmo que houvesse sido sancionado, não cumpriria seu objetivo de oferecer à empresa brasileira um patamar de competitividade suficientemente nivelado com o dos concorrentes internacionais. Para endereçar esse problema, Marcus Thulio propõe algumas reformulações no projeto original, as quais aumentariam a fruição dos direitos de produção das empresas brasileiras.

A obra é inovadora por três razões:

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