Singapore is only a little Red Dot on the map but that did not deter founding prime minister late Lee Kuan Yew from dreaming big and making the country an economic powerhouse that the world listens to.
Not many will have credited it with a shimmering future when it became an independent nation on August 9, 1965.
The Golden Jubilee is time for us to sing hosannas for the young republic’s spectacular growth across all sectors – industry, education, technology, health and lifestyle.
If Singapore is today one of the world’s most affluent, developed economies, it can only be attributed to the visionary zeal of Lee Kuan Yew and his strong, forceful and stellar stewardship, helping build a meritocratic society and fostering multi-racial harmony.
As Singapore celebrates its 50th National Day tomorrow, he will be dearly missed and remembered for leading the country through tough times and transforming it into an intelligent island, now heading towards becoming the world’s first Smart Nation.
Not all Talk and No Action
- is the world’s fourth-biggest financial centre (after New York, London and Hong Kong) and a major commercial hub
- has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with studies showing that one out of every six households has at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth (excluding property)
- is one of the few countries with immense global clout and appeal with its citizens enjoying visa-free travel to around 170 countries, including to the U.S. and Europe
- holds a pre-eminent place in education with its National University of Singapore ranked as number one in Asia and among the 25 best universities of the world. NUS is also ranked as the world’s third best in Engineering (Civil and Structural) and sixth in the world in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Its Nanyang Technological University came in at number 7 in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
- Moreover, the Singapore University of Technology and Design was set up in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It represents “MIT’s most significant collaboration on education to date.”
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the preeminent medical institutions, has established a presence in Singapore.
- Duke University has also teamed up with NUS to form the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
- INSEAD, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and SP Jain School of Management are among the many with APAC campuses in Singapore
- is one of the world’s busiest ports (toppled by Shanghai about a decade ago when China burst onto the scene)
- a major transport and aviation hub with its Changi airport being consistently ranked as the best in the world
- …and lots more
My SG50 Wishlist
For me, Singapore must come up with a roadmap to trim its population. It is way too dense, affecting the quality of life for residents severely. It is around 5.5 million today, having nearly doubled in two decades.
I will want it to go back to 3.5 million and this should not be difficult as 50% of its population is made up of foreigners. Imagining that a low population will affect its economic prospects is a fallacy. The quality of its people is vital, not quantity, for success.
Economic Chest Not at Cost of Quality of Life
Even large countries such as the US and Australia are not going overboard filling their shores with foreigners. Let us not build our economic coffers at the cost of the high quality of life that Singaporeans enjoyed not too long ago.
Whether my wish crystallises or not, I will take solace from that enduring Beatles’ number, Let it be. If a city bursting at its seams is what Singapore wants, let it be, let it be!
I will also repeat some of my wishlists that I had put forth in my blog at the start of 2015 – https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/get-real-singapore/.
Jobs, Education and More
As we march ahead, past policies may no longer be relevant with Singaporeans being a more aware, more educated lot. There is a need to ensure that what has been achieved in the first 50 years is not frittered away with policies merely aimed at propping up the economy at the cost of a good quality of life. To me, the following areas will need attention:
- Jobs — Foreign talent is welcome if that is designed to fill in some gaps here, not at the cost of Singaporeans with the same skillset. Import of talent has to be need-based, not because of any “more-the-merrier” policy. Singaporeans, both fresh graduates and experienced professionals, are getting hit because of what appears to be a lax immigration policy despite efforts to apply some controls. If businesses want to pack up and go because of any imaginary labour crunch they will be the losers. They are here to make money, not serve the country! Going easy on immigration will also help tackle discrimination of all hues at the workplace.
- Education – Priority has to be given to Singaporeans in university admissions as the lack of it is forcing locals to move out of the country to study. Having some of the best universities here is of no meaningful value if prime courses are grabbed by “foreign talent” and Singaporeans have to go elsewhere in search of learning.
- People Friendliness – A people-friendly dispensation from the government will justify the name of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). In my view, it has so far been business-friendly which is welcome. But any people-related action must take into account that Singapore citizens also belong to the species called homo sapiens, not just foreign people!
- Openness / Dissent: I am no proponent of no-holds-barred free speech. I have seen Singapore embracing openness and being more tolerant of criticism than ever before. But I would like the government to be ready to listen to voices of dissent instead of seeking to suppress it with an iron fist by perpetuating a culture of fear.
- Xenophobia – Liberals warn of an anti-foreigner sentiment raring its head in the country. The government has to take some blame for it. The country is still not xenophobic but, if that happens, the biggest victims will be Singaporeans themselves as the minority races among them can be easily targeted.
- MediSave – This is one worthless policy that is keeping our funds locked with no meaningful way to use it. Worse, if your employer credits, say 10k, into your account, CPF unilaterally decides to put the bulk of it in your MediSave account if it was yet to reach the minimum balance.
My earlier posts on some of the above points:
- Get Real Singapore! – January 1, 2015, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/get-real-singapore/
- No SG50 Memorabilia in Market – August 6, 2015, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/sg50-no-memorabilia-in-market/
- Singapore moving towards overpopulation – my post in February 2007, ttps://joslinv.wordpress.com/2007/02/10/singapore-moving-towards-overpopulation/
- January 28, 2013 – Overpopulation behind all major problems in Singapore, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/overpopulation-behind-all-major-problems-in-singapore/
- January 30, 2013, Which is more dense, HK or Singapore?, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/which-has-higher-population-density-singapore-of-hong-kong/
- February 1, 2013 – Planning for the worst and hoping for the best is not good governance, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/singapores-overpopulation-issue-planning-for-the-worst-and-hoping-for-the-best-is-not-good-governance/
- February 2013, Overpopulation the great Singapore sellout, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/overpopulation-a-great-singapore-sellout/
- March 13, 2013, Overpopulation seriously dangerous, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/overpopulation-in-singapore-seriously-dangerous/
- June 8, 2014 – Catherine Lim’s Bold Letter to PM, https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/author-catherine-lims-bold-timely-letter-to-singapore-pm/
G Joslin Vethakumar