Embracing globalization to promote industrialization: Insights from the development of Singapore's petrochemicals industry

Debates about industrial policy reveal disagreements on three salient issues. The first is whether government can overcome its own failures, namely knowledge constraints and rent-seeking, to correct market failures. The second is whether government should go beyond horizontal policies to adopt more activist interventions such as “winner-picking.” The third is whether intervention should follow or defy the country's comparative advantage. Singapore's experience in developing a globally competitive petrochemicals industry, within only a few decades and through vigorous interventions, provides meaningful insights into these debates and offers valuable lessons for developing countries. The lessons drawn from this paper suggest three fundamental principles for designing a promotion strategy and a strategic action framework for implementation.

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