Inefficient public (State) corporations were the second albatross in the neck of the United Kingdom. With advisers like Professor Milton Friedman of Chicago University, Margaret Thatcher went on privatising State enterprises. Thatcher gave as her reason that civil servants who were managing the public corporations did not have the abilities and motivations of ordinary business executives.
Hence, they were not operating the corporations profitably. Secondary, that because public corporation were rescued by the State when they were facing bankruptcy they had neither the profit nor the incentive nor motivation to operate with maximum efficiency.
At first, trade union opposed privatisation as they feared loss of jobs. One reason public corporations seldom operated profitably was that they were over-manned. On privatisation, the new owners got rid of the excess workers and this is what made Thatcher unpopular with the workers.
The third problem Thatcher identified the inefficiency and wastefulness in the civil service. She brought into her office an adviser on cost cutting, the chief executive of Marks and Spenser, a trading chain. This adviser examined departmental expenditures and pointed out more economical way of doing this. There had to be value for money.
Within 10 years, the British economy became one of the healthiest in Europe. Jobs had multiplied, Thatcher won three general elections. She left behind a legacy which the Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to perpetuate instead of reversing.
In 1958, the people of France through their political parties invited General Charles de Gaulle to come out of retirement and resume the presidency. Before that, there was too much indiscipline among political parties. Every year or two, there would be a new coalition government. Mendes-France and Chaban Delmas could not hold office long enough. Earlier in 1954, French armies had been defeated by freedom fighters in what is known as India-China later Vietnam.
On accepting office, De Gaulle decided to rewrite the French constitution to shield the presidency from the whims and caprices of coalition governments. The fifth Republic constitution provided for seven-year term for presidency. The referendum approved that constitution.
De Gaulle saw France’s involvement in colonial wars as unnecessary. He decided to give Algeria independence and sought the people’s wish. The French people told him to go ahead. In 1958, in December in Accra, Ghana, the African People’s Conference gave an ultimatum to colonial powers to scram out. Instead of resisting demands to independence, De Gaulle visited every one of the French colonies and said: “If you want independence you may have it today and France will assist you with its funds and army provided you accept these conditions.”
All French colonies accepted the condition with the exception of Guinea Conakry which preferred immediate departure of French rule. In a huff, the French left. De Gaulle went on managing French affairs in a style of his own.
Within 10 years, the French economy prospered and France paid the debts she owed the United States and adopted its own international policy instead of that of United States. During the period, France had its own atomic bomb. He left behind a legacy called Gaullism. France was now strong enough to influence the progress of the European Economic Commission (ECC) which later blossomed to the European Union (EU).
Lee Kuan Yew revolutionised his island city State Singapore to the first world State envied by many countries both developing and developed. As a member of the Malaysia Federation, Lee objected to the legislation which gave privileges to the Malays at the expense of the hard-working ethnic Chinese. Singapore left the federation.
Tiny with no natural resources of any kind for its livelihood, Singapore depended on expenditures of a British army stationed there. Trying to develop Singapore was a gargantuan task. But Lee rose to the challenge. A former trade union leader himself, Lee admonished workers of Singapore not to run their union on adversarial lines like those of the west but to cooperate with the government in trying to transform the economy.
He appealed for extra hard work, 20 to 25 percent salary savings, devotion to education and unity. For his economic advice, he consulted both domestic and foreign experts. “I don’t hire anyone except those with above average abilities who can contribute to success,” he said. n