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18. The 'Lee' principle of development and its relevance to South Sudan

My life (put) alongside God's word. Section on National Development Issues.

by Alex Bolek Abuk

I was privileged in 2006 to visit Singapore to attend a training course. To provide some background about the nation, we were given a briefing about the island nation’s history. One of the striking things I will never forget from that briefing was the fact that such a well developed nation had not any natural resources when it got its independence from

Malaysia in 1965, except for the land and the sea around it. As someone who came from part of a country that was about to become an independent state (South Sudan), I became very interested in that and I listened with care because I wanted to know the secret behind their development. Here is what our host said: “When we became independent from

Malaysia in 1965, we only had the land and the water around us, no oil, no gold, no forests, nothing ... The only resource, and the most important one we had, was our human resource and with our human resource we built this nation”.

How important is our human resource? Do we place any value on it? Human resource is

the most important resource that brings all other resources to better exploitation and

utilisation. Nations like Singapore have placed great importance and value on their human resources, above anything else. Today Singapore is one of the most developed nations in the East Asian region. Their secret lies in what they called the ‘Lee Principle of

Development.’ The principle comprises three essential elements to development. Mr. Lee

Kuan, the first Prime Minister of the island after its independence, applied the three

alphabet letters of his name (L.E.E) as three principles for developing his nation. Here is

how His Excellency Lee did it:

L = Law and order (peace, tranquility)

E = Education (good educational system)

E = Economy (strong or stable economy).

As a result of the application of this principle as we shall see in detail below, Singapore

came up to a first world status. Here is what the Wikipedia website says about Singapore

during Mr. Lee’s term in office: “During Lee Kuan Yew’s term as prime minister from 1959 to

1990, his administration curbed unemployment, raised the standard of living and

implemented a large-scale public housing programme. The country’s economic

infrastructure was developed, racial tension was eliminated and an independent national

defence system was created. Singapore evolved from a developing nation to first world

status towards the end of the 20th century”.

Now let’s look at how those three indicators brought development to Singapore:

L = Law and order

Mr. Lee reasoned that for development to happen in Singapore, there must first be ‘law and order’ meaning that there must first be peace and tranquility in the whole nation as a first and foremost prerequisite. From the information I obtained at Wikipedia we see that Mr. Lee first eliminated ‘racial tension’. Singapore has many ethnicities – Chinese (majority), Indians, Malay and others. But it is peaceful everywhere. No ethnic or racial clashes are heard of or reported anywhere. In our South Sudan situation and context, this would mean the elimination of tribal fights, cattle rustling and any other sort of civil unrest. Before significant development happens in South Sudan (or Sudan) there must first be law and order. For when there are shootings and riots in the streets all these developmental activities come to a halt. Which investor would risk bringing in millions of his dollars to invest in a nation or city where there is turmoil and political instability? While writing this article I received the following text message (23rd September 2013), “Gunshots were reported this morning between Hai Cinema and Hai Malakal in Juba at around 06:45. Initial reports indicate that security forces engaged armed criminals near the All Saints Church, which led to several minutes of sustained gunfire. The situation is now reportedly back to normal”. This is happening right in the heart of Juba, our capital city, in the early morning hours when people are going to their works and businesses!

The relationship between ‘Law and Order’ and ‘development’ is clearly seen during the

era of King Asa of Judah reading 2 Chronicles 14:1-7. In this Bible text, ‘law and order’

(peace) clearly comes before ‘city, town (and nation) building.’ (See my other chapter here: The Importance of Peace in a Nation, chapter 19).

The Bible says that Judah was at peace for ten years and that no one was at war with King Asa during those years, for the Lord gave him rest. Reading the ‘ten years of peace’ during Asa’s era was of special meaning to me. It reminded me of our ‘ten years’ of peace in Sudan after the Addis Ababa Agreement from 1972 to 1982 before the civil war broke out again in 1983. The first civil war stopped when some of us were kids ready for school. We were the first generation to go to school right after the 1972 Addis Ababa peace accord between the South Sudan Liberation Movement (Any Anya) led by H.E. General Joseph Lagu and the government of President Nimeri in Khartoum. The fact that I am able to write these lines is a fruit of those ten years of peace. Most of the educated people resources, who are the workforce in offices today, came from the education dose injected during those ten years of peace (correct me if I am wrong).

How important peace is to a nation, especially when it is a true and permanent peace

enjoyed with genuine freedoms! Because of that peaceful time King Asa was able to come up with an initiative to build the nation. He urged his people to seize the opportunity of the peace they had, so they built and prospered, 2 Chronicles 14:7. Development and prosperity are things that we all talk and dream of but do we first work out the determining factors? Do we lawfully strive for peace, law and order? Peace first then building and prosperity.

It is also important to note that it is the Lord God who gives peaceful times and who removes all wars and turmoil. Although police and armed forces can enforce law and order, real peace can only come from God. Police can be everywhere but robberies and murder still go on, as we experience now in Juba. True peace and quiet come from God’s gracious hand. Nation building and national development cannot happen when there is shooting, bombing or riots of any kind in the streets, as already mentioned. A calm society is an ideal, conducive environment for development and growth to take place. This is why the apostle Paul in the Bible urges us to pray for political leaders so that we experience peace and live an honourable life, “I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”, 1Timothy 2:1-2. We need to pray as a Church, not for short periods of peace like the ten years of Asa’s era or in the then united Sudan, but for a constant, long-lasting, durable peace. It is difficult for citizens to lead quiet, peaceful, godly and honest lives under circumstances of insecurity and violence.

King Asa also removed the foreign altars and the high places in all the cities of Judah.

Idolatry brings curse to a nation because people turn their backs on Almighty God to

worship false gods. The removal of foreign gods with any form of idolatry and witchcraft in the land is a confession that as a nation we will worship one God, the true and the living

God. As we acknowledge and give God His right place in our nation, we will always

enjoy peace and prosperity. Nations that were founded on Christian values like the

United States of America have prospered because of God’s blessing. Their founding

fathers, like George Washington for instance, said: “It is impossible to rule this nation

without God and the Bible”. Hearing this, God lifted that nation to the level it is in today.

Let us give God His rightful place in our lives, in our families and in our nation and we will

see how blessed we are!

Another good example of a peaceful era was that of king Solomon. The Bible says,

“During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba (as we used to say,

‘from Nimule to Wadi Halfa’ when Sudan was one country), lived in safety, each man

under his own vine and fig-tree”, 1 Kings 4:25. I would love to live in such an era and in

such a nation where all the corners of the country are peaceful. I remember as a student at the University of Oradea in Western Romania, I always booked an evening train to the

capital Bucharest on which we travelled for twelve all-night hours, peacefully, without any harassment or looting on the way. As somebody who has experienced the bitterness of two civil wars I really long to see peaceful times and most importantly a permanent and long lasting peace. I hate to hear gunshots. Now that we are an independent nation, it is high time to build. Enough tribal fights and clashes, enough cattle rustling. It is time to

send our children to school, all of them, every boy and every girl.

E 1 = Education (good education)

The first E in Mr. Lee’s name stands for Education. That is Mr. Lee’s second element in

his development principle. Education is a powerful factor in the development wheel.

Education influences all the other factors, including law & order and a stable economy.

Good education produces quality human resources and quality people bring development. No nation develops without giving good education to its children. Nations that have no proper education depend on bringing in capable expatriates who have a better education. I am not ruling out the fact that expatriates are still needed, even in nations with a high education level. Experts and consultants in some fields are hired everywhere around the globe. But when expatriates are needed, they should come to meet a real need and not to fix simple things that nationals with an average education could and should have taken care of.

A nation’s development is not measured by how many skyscrapers it has built. A

nations’ standard of development is measured by what is known as Human

Development Index, (HDI), in which we see education as one of the core components.

HDI is a composite statistic used to rank countries by the level of "human development" and it classifies nations into developed (high development), developing (middle development), and underdeveloped (low development) countries. Three important statistics collected at the national level are taken into consideration: life expectancy, education and per-capita Gross National Income (GNI) as an indicator of the standard of living. Here we see education as a major component of Human Development Index.

Lee established a good educational system in Singapore that in turn brought development to the whole nation. Human resource development is the most important investment a country can ever make. All too often governments fix their eyes on ‘natural resources’ such as minerals, agriculture, water, etc., while forgetting their most important source of economic wealth, which is

human resource.

E 2 = Economy (strong and stable)

Mr. Lee finally reasoned that a strong and stable economy would contribute to

development. Good or strong economy, although it is a goal by itself, is very much a

product of peace, order and a good educational system. Law and order plus a good

educational system produce a strong and stable economy. (Our economists will know better than I do which other factors also contribute to this). We cannot expect any nation on earth to have a strong economy without having peace and a good educational system. Good and stable economy in turn leads to a peaceful society and hence good educational system. These three development factors directly and inversely affect each other. If we remove one of those indicators from the equation, the situation becomes chaotic!

Without law and order, there is turmoil, a lack of education and no strong economy. If education is removed, illiteracy or little education comes in with all that is associated with it, disorder and all kinds of evil, leave alone any dreams of having a strong economy! If strong and stable economy is taken away from that equation, what do we end up with? Think of it! Societies that have a good level of education and that have been in political stability for many years are flung into all sorts of civil unrest, confusion and damage to all of their systems including their educational system, when their economies crumbled!


The “LEE” principle of development (hyphen, –, = ‘leads to’):

Law and order – good education – strong economy – law and order.

Good education – law and order – strong economy – good education.

Strong economy – good education – law and order – strong economy.

We can also say that two factors can combine to produce one:

Law and order + good education = good economy.

Good economy + law and order = good education.

Good education + good economy = law and order.


In conclusion, the Lee Principle is a principle that is worth imitating in South Sudan. We are in a similar situation compared to Singapore after its independence. Although we have natural resources, we need to give priority to developing our human resources above anything else. We need a good educational system that produces quality and capable people-resources who can build a strong and stable economy. We need law and order as there is insecurity everywhere in South Sudan at present. Stable, strong and a

continuously growing and booming economy will come, once security, stability and good

education are in place. We need to be open to learning from other countries that have

gone through similar situations to ours, (Singapore, East Timor and others).

Let us all pray and work for peace in our beloved nation. If we do so, we will enjoy a long lasting peace and a much better future for our children.

First printed in The Citizen Newspaper, Juba, on 17th October 2013. Slightly amended here.

Discussion questions

1. How important is our human resource – our people development?


2. What role should prayer play in making and maintaining peace in society?

How is this best done? Be as practical as you can be.

Consider 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Philippians 4:6; Jeremiah 29:7-9.

3. Is the Book of Common Prayer (1662) right in restricting this prayer, “for all Christian



Why not?

4. What difference does it make when your nation has a non-Christian government or is not founded on Christian principles?

Does it become “Impossible to rule this nation without God and the Bible”? See USA /George Washington above.

What position should Christians take?

5. Dr Alex Bolek suggests “economists will know better than I do which other factors

contribute to” good development.

What do you believe is needed?


See E 2 above.


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