Singapore fails to stump up promised cash

December 1, 2000

One of the richest members of the Commonwealth has failed to contribute to a flagship distance-learning project for the 12th year.

The Singapore delegation left the Commonwealth Ministers' Education Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this week without pledging any money to the Commonwealth of Learning. Singapore citizens are among the highest earners in the Commonwealth, with a $42,256 (£29,690) per capita gross domestic product.

CoL president Raj Dhanarajan said: "Singapore has never made any contribution." But he received a raft of pledges from other member states.

CoL has completed 150 projects in the past three years, mostly in the developing world, thanks to contributions of C$29.9 million (£13.6 million). This week, approximately C$5 million was handed to CoL from tier one countries (essentially the developed Commonwealth, plus India).

Singapore is one of a group of tier two countries - the Commonwealth Asian Tiger states, South Africa and Nigeria - set to pledge C$1.5 million a year, but failing to meet expectations.

Nigeria has provisionally pledged $1 million for one year. South Africa is expected to contribute C$70,000 and is hoping to increase this to C$100,000 a year. Malaysia did not speak at the pledge session, but has contributed C$60,000 for 2000-01.

Nothing was heard from Singapore or Brunei, a major donor. "With the tier two countries, I have some anxiety," Professor Dhanarajan said. He is trying to secure long-term stability, but he said: "For an international organisation, there is no such thing as stable long-term funding."

The UK tripled its pledge this year to £3 million over three years. Professor Dhanarajan said: "When Scottish education minister Jack McConnell tripled his pledge I nearly fell off my chair."

Professor Dhanarajan is particularly proud of a C$1.7 million investment in Mozambique that should improve the lives of 1 million children.

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