Some countries are unmade by the challenges of change; others, paradoxically, are made by them. Perhaps it was Singapore's unexpected independence, which overnight turned a city into a state, that created in its new citizens the mental agility to change with change. When an entire people feel this way, what is born is an ability to bond together in difficult times. That common spirit inaugurated better days for Singapore.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's New Year message highlights the psychological importance of the capacity to behave collectively in spite of the personal, economic and social differences that characterise Singapore, small though the country is. The economic project will be the main one for Singapore, forcing it to anticipate global challenges and respond to them before they become overwhelming.
It is crucial that the city-state avoid the political gridlock which paralyses decision-making and forces nations to play catch-up with market forces. Change that is forced upon societies from the outside is invariably more painful than adjustments made by a people themselves, and on time. These adjustments enable them to emerge stronger and make the most of their options. Weak governments are no answer to strong global forces.
No less important than economics or politics is social cohesion. The spectre of terrorism looms over the world, but whereas it has produced dissonance and distrust in some nations, it has given Singaporeans a stronger sense of their prized multiracial and multireligious identity. An attack may test the national fabric, but it must not tear. A blend of realism and optimism about the future will help Singaporeans persevere.