Economy anchors people to Singapore

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has often been asked about the problems Singapore will face in the next 50 years ("Fault lines growing beyond those of race, religion"; Aug 3, "PM Lee sees Singapore moving forward confidently after 50"; July 24, and "PM paints stark reality of challenges in 3 critical areas"; July 1).

One that he mentioned is of Singapore running the risk of "dissolving into globalisation", with no sense of a distinct identity as the country grows more cosmopolitan and as Singaporeans are increasingly well travelled.

To deal with this, we have to consider what anchors people to the country. The strongest anchor is national identity, which takes time to develop.

We need to raise our people, from a young age, to be patriotic.

We are on the right path, but it takes many generations to achieve this.

In the meantime, what other ropes will tie our people to the nation?

What everybody wants are good jobs, good homes and good futures for their children. To be able to provide for these, the bottom line has to be the economy.

Currently, we have to balance the growth of the economy between foreign labour, business competitiveness, employment and infrastructure facilities for the local population. This is a very delicate balance and the bottom line must be adequate economic growth.

This is what draws people, even foreigners, here. Singapore is a good place to work and live in, and a safe place to bring up children.

Without a strong economy , Singapore would melt away.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Economy anchors people to Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe